The Modern Day Juliet
Metal, steel, aluminum, plastic, glass: basically anything that can be sharpened into an enticing, yet dangerous object. Anything that I can use to help ground myself into this physical realm, this hellhole of a town called Scanterbury.
Scanterbury is one of those stereotypical small towns you hear of in country songs. Yet our town’s slogan is deceiving: “Scanterbury – a town of endless possibilities and opportunities.” Sure, everyone knows everyone here, but not in that cutesy country way they sing about. I could glorify all the good aspects of this town but they are scarce. Everyone here has their own dirty little secrets which aren’t so secretive after all. Scanterbury is what I like to call a ghetto town; full of drugs, sex, and gangs. There aren’t too many families in this town who haven’t had hardships and survived through them together. And the girls here are very well known, some more so than others.
This is how we’ve acquired the name “Skankterbury.” It sounds pretty stupid, but most of the high class rich kids from our neighbouring city, Redford, seem to think it is quite fitting. Redford City is the capital city of Kanahda, and Scanterbury is just the wasted piece of land beside it. Yeah, I secretly wish I could be one of those kids and live in the big city, but I won’t admit it to anyone who asks. I honestly do envy their lives; so simple with everything they could possibly need and want handed to them without hesitation. I don’t have much hope in ever getting to live that way though, at least not until I turn eighteen. Right now I’m only fifteen, so I have a few years to go before I can escape this place. For now, I try my best to stay within the so-called “safety” of the grimy shadows of this town. I keep to myself and generally avoid any trouble; except when it comes to my nineteen year old boyfriend, Dakota Smith.
Dakota’s middle name should be trouble. He absolutely loves danger; your typical rogue teenager, a rebel without a cause. He dropped out of high school in the tenth grade and didn’t bother going back to graduate and get a diploma. We’ve been dating officially for a few months, but we’ve been seeing each other much longer. I guess I’m just attracted to his bad boy attitude, even though I’m known to be far from bad. Like they always say, opposites attract. Although I’m sure my family wishes that saying wasn’t true.
Dakota is in one of the most popular gangs in Scanterbury. He’s taken over the position of the leader, since the previous leader was shot seven times in a fight with a rival gang. Dakota’s gang is called “The Rebels” and their biggest enemy is a gang they call “The Whitey’s” for short. Lance, the previous leader of Dakota’s gang, was killed by the leader of the Whitey’s. I try to keep Dakota’s gang a secret from my family – I guess I have dirty little secrets of my own. It isn’t hard to believe though, since it’s a small town. It’s not difficult to be accepted and get yourself in too deep before you know it.
To be brutally honest, I’m not too happy with the relationship. I try to keep myself out of the gang’s business, but it’s hard when your boyfriend’s the leader. The Rebels are his life, in his mind they’re all he has to live for. Dakota’s dedication to his gang scares me. The things I hear from him give me every right to be. But I know I can’t leave him, I’ve heard of gang-girlfriends who have tried. Let’s just say they didn’t succeed. And so I stick with him, not because I love him but because I’m forced to. And the stories I’ve heard from Dakota on top of the stress I’m under trying to keep him happy has actually brought me to inflict self damage.
I’m a cutter. But to Scanterbury, I’m just another sad case of the troubled teens that frequent this town. I’m sure Dakota knows I do it, although I haven’t told him. It’s kind of difficult not to notice the extensive scars on the inside of my wrists. I attempt to hide them from him as much as possible, just to keep him from freaking out. The last time he got angry with me isn’t something I want to experience again. We got into an argument because I suggested he leave the gang before he ended up like Lance. I guess that wasn’t something he liked to hear. He pulled out one of the multiple large hunting knives he carries on him and held the edge of the blade up against my neck. I still remember his chilling words: “Did I ask for any suggestions, Aryssa? No? Well it might be smart to keep your goddamn opinions to yourself next time.”
You might think it’s absurd that I feel the need to cut after something like that. And even though I was scared for my life at the time, opening the various blood vessels in my arms now makes me feel alive. It’s like a reminder – to come back from having my head in the clouds, to this harsh reality. I’m not sure why I would even want to leave the lovely, spacey thoughts in my mind, but when that cold, metal blade slides across my velvety skin, the feeling I receive is euphoric. My mother has the idea that I’m just obsessed with shaving, and that’s why I buy so many razors. She also thinks I’m really into crafting by the amount of X-Acto knives I buy. But what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her, right?
I guess that’s what my dad thought too, when he disappeared on my mom 3 years after I was born. She assumed he was cheating on her for a while, but she really didn’t want to convince herself of it. All the information she ended up gathering was that he was a lowlife loser who didn’t want to be bothered with raising me and that he fled to another country altogether. Sure, it’s a sad story, but there are unfortunately many like it in this town.
But that’s all in the past now, and I try not to think about it too much. If I did, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’d drive myself crazy. Some people might say that I’m already there, what with slitting my wrists and dating a gang leader. My mom and I managed to get through that together, which is all that really matters. Both of us act as providers for each other, since we don’t have a so-called “man of the house” to help us; if you could even consider my father one. There have been times when my own mother hasn’t been able to put food on the table. Because of this, I’ve been forced to grow up and mature fast. I try my best to do my part when I can so my mom doesn’t have to worry about taking care of everything. That’s why I decided to clean up around the house a bit and do some laundry one day when I was done school.
I had just started washing dishes when I heard the doorbell ring. Whoever it was, they were really impatient. They must have ringed the bell and knocked on the door about ten times before I had a chance to answer it. I hastily unlocked and opened the door to reveal Dakota standing there, barely. He was swaying back and forth. As soon as he spoke I realized why. Loudly, he suddenly said, “Hey baby. Give me some sugar, will ya?” He was drunk. I could smell the whiskey on his breath. I could also tell because as soon as he said that, he tried to lean in to kiss me and almost knocked me over. I had a hard time trying to steady him.
Once he was upright again I replied, “I’m not in the mood right now, Dakota. Go home, get some sleep. I’m busy doing stuff around the house for my mom.” Still, he insisted on coming in with me, so I let him in. But that didn’t stop me from going on with my chores.
I went to my room to put away some clothes and Dakota stumbled after me and said, “Come on Aryssa, please? It won’t take long, I promise. Just lay down for a minute.”
I avoided his outstretched arms and went to pick up the laundry basket. “I already told you I don’t want to do it, Dakota.” As soon as I said that he grabbed my wrists and pulled me in towards him. I tried my best to squirm out of his grip, now around my waist, but he was much stronger than me. I pushed him away from me and yelled, “Let go of me! Leave me alone!” One thing that Dakota hated was not getting what he wanted. He violently shoved me onto my bed and I kicked him as hard as I could in the stomach. He staggered backwards a few steps, long enough for me to get up off the bed. Dakota quickly regained his balance, despite the drunken state he was in. He advanced towards me and I could tell that something in him had finally snapped. With no delay, I felt his knuckles connect just under my eye socket, colliding with my cheekbone. Dakota’s fist felt like a freight train when it hit me, as it should. Being in so many gang-related fights over the years, he’s had practice. I couldn’t bring myself to get up. It’s like my brain could no longer send signals to my body to move. So I lay there motionless on the floor and was forced to hear Dakota’s last words before he fled the scene: “There. You wouldn’t lay down on your own, so I made you. Now stay there where you belong; you’re going to regret this, Aryssa.” As I helplessly watched him walk away, I touched my face. The last thing I remember is the panic I felt when I saw the horror of my bloodstained hand. That’s when everything went black.
I must have passed out because I woke up to my mother shaking me, demanding me to answer her; almost screaming as she asked if I was okay. I sat up, my head spinning. With tears running down her face she said, “What the hell happened, Aryssa? Who’s the bastard that did this to you?” In her hand was a bloody tea towel, wet with water, which she was trying to blot my face with. I pushed her hand away, cloth and all. I reassured her that I was okay, but she wasn’t buying it. To be honest, neither was I. It was a hollow, white lie and I knew it, too. “It was that moron of a boyfriend you have, wasn’t it? I swear to God I will go take care of that damn kid myself.”
Hearing her say that made me defensive of Dakota. “We just had an argument, mom. It’s not a huge deal. Dakota was drunk; he probably didn’t even realize what he was doing. He means well, he really does,” yet again, another lie.
“Yes, because the guys who mean well beat their girlfriends. I’m done letting this lowlife kid push you around. I’m calling the cops.” She threatened to do this many times before, but I could tell she was serious this time.
“Mom, just stop trying to take control of my life! I can handle this on my own. I’m done with this conversation.”
Without waiting for her to reply, I stormed out of the house. Fall just started, and there was a chill in the wind. I didn’t grab a sweater on my way out, yet my face was red hot with anger so I didn’t mind much. But once the bitter breeze reached my wrists, I felt the cold. I felt my scars ache and I noticed the bruises on my arms from Dakota. Harshly, the wind hit my face and I became aware of the sting below my eye. A slowly healing wound residing on my cheek; the continuous velvet of my skin broken open by the disruption of Dakota’s bony fist. I began to cry, out of frustration because I didn’t know what to do anymore. I was so torn and unsure. The cut on my face began to throb more as my salty tears washed over it. All of a sudden, I heard footsteps behind me. I didn’t think much of it, because there are always people roaming around the streets of Scanterbury in the dead of night. But the pace quickened, and burst into a run. That’s when I knew something was wrong. I increased my speed, but I didn’t want to run because I didn’t want to instigate a chase. If I could go back in time and change things, I would have run though; especially considering the outcome of the event.
Whoever was after me didn’t waste any time. They caught up to me and put me in a chokehold; shoving a cloth in my face, forcing me to inhale whatever substance it was soaked with. In a few minutes, I was unconscious. I awoke to being dragged down the sidewalk by my arm. I struggled to break free of the grasp, but it was of no avail. I could tell it was a guy who was dragging me, but I had no idea who he was because he wore a mask - one that you would wear in theater, in a play. I realized our destination was a parked car at the end of the street.
Once we finally got to the car, the door was open and I already knew where I was going. The guy dragging me shook me and yelled at me to get up. When I refused to stand and stayed quiet, he pulled me up by my wrists, exposing the scars from all the blades I’ve used on myself. “Oh, look what we have here boys, she’s a goddamn cutter! You’ll be lucky if I don’t use my own blade on you tonight.” With that said, he shoved me into the backseat of the car, getting in after me and locking the door behind him. There were two other guys in the car, both wearing those same white masks. Each of the three masks had different expressions, but all were equally as disturbing. Suddenly it dawned on me. These masks belonged to Dakota’s rival gang, The Whiteys. The only thing I could think of was how much I wished he was there to help me, because I knew I was in a life-threatening situation.
The guy in the driver’s seat seemed to be the leader – his mask with a twisted smirk. The guy holding my hands behind my back, pinning me to the seat, said to him, “What’s the plan? What are we going to do with her? Something fun, I hope.” As he said that, he pulled out a large hunting knife - the blade glinting in the stark light of the moon. He held it up to the side of my face, close to the slowly healing wound on my cheek. He chuckled as he whispered to me, “So you like knives, eh?”
The driver sped off and looked in his rearview mirror, “Hey! Cut it out, will ya? The point isn’t to kill her for Christ sakes. At least that isn’t your job.” With that, the guy pinning me down grunted and reluctantly removed the edge of his knife from my already disfigured complexion. He and the guy in the passenger’s seat were exchanging a few mocking comments about me, and I took advantage of his distracted state. I kicked backwards as hard as I possibly could, and I knew it connected considering the howling noise he made. He screamed at me, sounding as if he was sure to end my life, “You dumb, pathetic skank! Who the hell do you think you are?!”
I flinched as I saw him move to give me a finishing blow when the driver yelled, “Enough! Get out of the car, both of you! I’ll take care of her myself.” The two masked madmen quickly got out of the car and the driver locked the doors. He moved into the backseat as he whispered to me, “I told you you’d regret it, Aryssa.”
Why does this guy’s voice sound so familiar? I thought to myself. And why does he know my name? I just couldn’t figure it out. I couldn’t put a face to the voice; the mask blocked my sense of recognition. He crawled on top of me and attempted to remove my clothes. I tried to stop him, but he managed to hold my hands down against the seats. “Don’t even try to resist me. You’re doing this whether you like it or not.” He tore off my shirt and pulled my pants off roughly with one hand.
I was thinking last resort; I was at the point of begging. “Please, don’t do this to me. I don’t know what I did to you but I promise I will repay you. But please, just not like this.” My pleading was useless. He did what he wanted to do to me and all I could do was lay there, emotionless, hollow, and stare at the haunting smile on his masked face. I tried to see something, tried to find something familiar; some way to figure out who he was. But all I could see beyond the white mask were blank, hazel eyes, almost golden. But this kind of gold wasn’t something to celebrate; it was a fool’s gold.
I was too ashamed to move, once he was finished with me. I hadn’t the energy or willpower to attempt to escape. There was no reason to put up a fight anymore. So I lay there, naked, staring at my scarred wrists which wiped the silent tears from my face. The driver was back in his seat, with his pants loosely pulled on. The other two crazed guys once again in the car. I didn’t listen to a word they said, not to where they were taking me or what they were going to do to me next. Quite frankly, I no longer cared what happened to me. I was worthless and dirty anyways. But what I didn’t expect was to suddenly be lying on the cracked pavement of my driveway, cold and bare. They pushed me out of the car and threw my torn, bodiless clothes on the ground beside me. The three masked criminals yelled something at me and sped off, but I was too shaken up to understand any of the events that had just occurred.
Four days later, I had finally left my room for the first time. I hadn’t told my mother what happened to me. It would kill her just to hear such a thing. I didn’t have the heart to do that to her, no matter how alone and confused I felt. All I told her was that it was my time of the month and I just wanted to be left alone for a while. A while turned into a few days. To be honest, I didn’t get my period that month yet. Come to think of it, it was really late. But my mother would check on me every now and then, bring me meals and ask how I felt. I didn’t much have the desire to eat, and I also didn’t know how I felt. It was as if I felt nothing but distaste for my body. I felt disgusting, constantly dirty. I bathed countless times after that night I was raped. Still, I never got clean.
Considering how my time of the month was usually quite consistent, I decided that I should go out and buy a pregnancy test, just in case. I knew it was highly unlikely that I was pregnant, seeing as how I was taking birth control pills at the time. I borrowed the car from my mom though, because I was still too scared to walk the streets again. I took the test in the Co-op bathroom. It’s décor equally as grimy as I felt at the time. I paced nervously back and forth as I waited for the ink to appear in the middle of the stick. I hoped to God that it was negative, but I knew that there was always a chance it would be positive. After about fifteen minutes, I mustered up to courage to find out my fate. I tentatively stepped towards the test, and when I finally looked, I saw a little plus sign in black ink. I was pregnant, and it wasn’t the result of consensual sex. It was forced upon me by the guy who raped me. And I was determined to find out who that guy with the white, smirking mask and the fool’s gold eyes, was.
I racked my brain and forced myself to remember that night, as reluctant as I was to do so. I didn’t want to have to recall all the sickening things that they did to me, all the deranged things they said. I especially didn’t want to remember that hateful, perverted guy on top of me, but I knew I had to. It was the only way I could possibly find peace with myself, experience some relief. The first thing I remembered was those chillingly golden eyes. There weren’t many people whose eyes had such an overwhelming and haunting shade like that. The only person I could think of who had eyes like that was… wait. I thought to myself. What did that guy say to me before he started? “I told you you’d regret it, Aryssa.” I could have sworn I heard that before… Then it hit me. I denied it as soon as I thought of it; I tried to push that unthinkable idea out of my mind. But it all made sense. I finally put the pieces together. The only person with golden eyes like that was Dakota. And after he hit me that one day when he came over drunk, he said, “You’re going to regret this, Aryssa.” That’s where I heard it before. No wonder the guy knew my name. The criminal who raped me was my very own boyfriend.
Early the next morning, a news broadcast was aired over TV screens all across Kanahda; from wealthy areas, like Redford City, to less fortunate areas, like Scanterbury. Wherever there was a TV screen, people everywhere were bound to see it. The news anchor that appeared on the screen was a chiseled man, who looked very solemn as his face took over millions of TV’s. You could tell he was having a hard time getting out what he was supposed to report. “Late last night, fifteen year old Aryssa Anderson was declared dead after an anonymous call was made to the police reporting the incident. She was found lying on her driveway, with a handgun not far from her body. Police are still unsure whether it was a homicide or suicide. Aryssa’s mother, Theresa Anderson, spoke briefly about the case.”
The screen then cut to a distraught Theresa Anderson. “I came home from my night shift at the hospital, and when I pulled up to the house, there were sirens blaring down the street, coming in my direction; police cars surrounding the house. I panicked. I had no idea what was happening. All I knew was that I had to get to Aryssa. By that time they already had her on a stretcher and were trying to take her away from me.”
The screen cut back to the face of the anchorman. “Ms. Anderson wasn’t able to finish the rest of the interview. After the first half of the investigation, police found a poem that Aryssa left on her bed.” The anchorman then read Aryssa’s poem:
“She thinks that maybe if she cuts and digs down just a little bit deeper, she might find her true self. Because the skin she has unwillingly been put in feels as though it belongs to somebody else. Or maybe that's exactly what she wants, to be a different girl all together? If she keeps on cutting, the blade will free her soul and she'll float away in the wind like a beautiful feather. All of these theories and ideas seem to easily pop into her mind. But this only happens when on her wrist, she sees a bloody line. Her best friend will always support her choices no matter how much she might disapprove. She feels helpless as she stands by and just lets it happen, but she doesn't know what else she can do. As her blood stains her body that seems so full of hatred and doubt, her whole world crashes down and unfurls. Her stinging tears begin to fall down on to her face, and land on her newly dyed black curls. Her head suddenly goes blank and she passes out, due to all the blood she has lost. Finally she regains consciousness, her wrist has healed crisscrossed. The thoughts she tried to keep at bay now rush back to her all at once. No matter how hard she tries, she can never escape the screaming silence. Pools of colour, red and black, is what she sees when she looks around. This horror scene that she has created is like her own sick little playground. When will just a little more, just a bit deeper, ever be too much? She holds a blade in her hand, and she relies on it like a crutch.”