Fit For Fire

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The Marks that Made me.

Goosebumps crept over my arms as I shifted, uncomfortable in my hard-plastic chair. The waiting room was nearly empty. The clock ticked on tirelessly, and my fingers drummed out the seconds on my denim clad legs. After a quiet, and yes, awkward breakfast sitting across from Zach, who kept eyeing me cautiously, I was led back to the clinic by Jeremy for my physical and the rest of my paperwork.

After signing in I had been left here, waiting in this subarctic room trying not to think too hard about the day. Being an orphan and in the care of the state, I had always had a file. I was always cataloged in a way. We all were if you thought long enough about it. I was given a number the day I was born, my medical, school, and financial records are kept routinely. Why is this so different? Even thinking of it this way, I didn’t feel any better. Somehow this felt different. Wrong.

Trying to distract myself, I thought back to this past week. I had passed the time hiding out in my room, taking walks with Jeremy, and tip-toeing around Zach. The latter was exhausting. Turns out avoiding someone in their own home is no easy feat. To entertain myself, I visited the house’s small library. I decided that if I was going to be stuck here, I may as well get something out of it. Perusing Zach’s collection, I decided I would attempt to enrich myself by reading a classic. Selecting ‘Call Of The Wild’, I made it 46 pages in before I accepted that I was an uncultured swine, and I placed the book back in its place amongst its brethren.

Becoming more brazen, I ventured into the living room one morning, deciding that I would watch a movie. Looking through Zach’s DVD collection, I couldn’t help but laugh when I discovered ‘Teen Wolf’ and ‘An American Werewolf in London’, sitting next to each other on the shelf. Deciding on ‘Gladiator’ because I had never had the opportunity to see it, I snuggled up with a pillow on the couch. I was asleep by the time the ending credits rolled. Waking up from the best sleep I had in days, I smiled. Sitting up, my eyebrows crinkled and my smile turned into a frown when a navy-blue comforter slid from my body and onto the floor.

I didn’t remember falling asleep with a blanket. Did someone cover me while I slept? Picking it up, I realized why I had been so comfortable. It smelled like Zach. Hating myself for feeling this way, I put the comforter on the couch next to me. Wait, comforter? Running my hand over the soft cotton, I wondered; could this be from Zach’s bed? Standing, I bit my lip when I saw that the couch on the opposite wall had a blanket draped over it. So why had someone gone through the trouble of covering me with this blanket when there had been one nearby?

Later, I had caught Zach standing outside his bedroom door, comforter in hand. He brought the heavy blanket to his face before burying it into the soft fabric. Upon hearing my bedroom door open, he shot a quick glance my way before disappearing into his own room. Did my scent affect him the same way?

Looking at the large metal clock mounted on the stark white wall, I sighed. My thoughts had circled back to Zach. I had spent a week trying to distance myself from him both emotionally and physically. It seemed that the harder I tried, the harder something fought to keep him in the forefront of my mind. Thinking about Zach brought me right back to where I was. Trapped next to a fake fig tree, squirming uncomfortably under the fluorescent lights. Just trying to feel comfortable in this most uncomfortable situation.

Dropping my head into my hands I squeezed my eyes shut. There was no getting out of this. I should just accept it and move on. Zach was only doing what he had to. I should be seeing this as an opportunity to learn more about myself, to not be so alone. Being here has made me think of my last visit here, and what that led to. My cheeks burned with the memory of crying into his chest. Gods I was pathetic. I barely knew this man. How could I feel so comfortable around him? Especially with everything he’s done? Maybe I was more lonely than I thought. Perhaps I was willing to just throw myself at any hot guy who was willing to show me a little compassion. I groaned. This train of thought was doing nothing for what was left of my confidence at this moment.

“Adeline Harris.” A meek looking nurse called from behind the now open clinic door. Thank god. Getting up and walking towards her, I noticed she shied away from me the moment I got too close. I was confused for a moment and then I remembered. I’m a big bad rogue. Turning, I rolled my eyes. It was incredible how fast my mood shifted from vulnerability to agitation. Leading me into the same room I had sat in before, I sat in my same seat by the computer. Seeing me situated, the nurse nodded and scurried out.

A few minutes later, Joanne walked into the room, her long dark braid looking tidy, and a warm smile on her face. “Adeline! It’s good to see you again.” She said brightly as she sat down at the computer and started typing. I gave her a weary smile as she finished what she was doing. Pushing away from the screen she looked me over. “Today we are going to be taking more preliminary information for your file and you’ll be getting a physical. I need your height, weight, distinguishing marks, that type of thing.” Getting up she went to the supply cabinet and pulled out a gown. “I’m going to need you to wear this.”

“Is it necessary?” I asked eyeing the thin gown wearily, aware of how much colder I was going to be without my clothes. If I was cold, you knew this place was freezing. “For this physical yes. It is going to make it easier to discern any scars or birthmarks you may have.” “Why do you need that?” Joanne shifted uncomfortably. “Well it is routine and also since you have no next of kin it would make it easier for us to identify you in case of an accident.” She watched me in silence for a moment while I debated what to say. I didn’t want to do that for many reasons. Mostly just my own embarrassment. Handing me the gown she said “If I don’t get this done, I will have to call in Jeremy to help out, and I am sure you would rather keep this between us girls.” Taking the gown, I almost growled. Closing the curtain hanging around the exam table I started pulling off my clothes. I would definitely prefer to keep Jeremy out of the room today.

After taking my height, weight, blood pressure and finishing a preliminary physical, Joanne took the time to examine my shoulder. “This was pretty nasty when you first came in, but still I expected it to be completely gone by now.” She mumbled tracing the remnants of the injury. I had met her before. “Everyone keeps saying it should have healed. Why hasn’t it?” I asked, looking over to my shoulder. Joanne’s brows crinkled together as she thought. “It could be that the drug we gave you slowed the initial healing. It takes a lot to put us out and the drug that was used is experimental, so maybe it affected you differently.” She took another moment to think before asking ” Adeline how often do you shift?” Biting my lip, I looked down at my feet trying to remember when I had shifted last before I had been caught. “I don’t know. Maybe once every few months.” Joanne’s eyes grew large and I could feel her eyes looking over my face.

“Isn’t that difficult for you. To deny your wolf for so long?” She asked, her forehead creasing. Shrugging I looked up to meet her gaze. “I haven’t always been in a position where I could shift. There aren’t many places I can just change into a wolf. I’ve always held it off. It used to be hard but now it hardly bugs me.” She nodded. “Your wolf never tries to take control?” She inquired. Tilting my head back I looked at the ceiling while I thought. “When I was younger it did, but now I don’t have very many problems with my wolf. Though recently she’s been a lot more. . . vocal.” I said hesitantly. Nodding her head Joanne gave a small laugh “That’s understandable given how odd this experience must be for you, though I must say, I have never met someone with such a handle of their wolf before. I’m not sure if I should be impressed or worried.” Her eyes gazed into mine and she looked me over as if I was a medical mystery. I squirmed under her gaze until she broke it, suddenly writing something down in her file.

Changing pages and putting her file down Joanne clapped her hands, making me jump. “Let’s record your markings so we can finish up here.” I shifted, uncomfortable. This was the moment I had been dreading. It was odd for me to have someone look over my body, especially for something like this. Thinking about it I crossed my arms instinctively. Feeling the heat from my palms through the thin fabric made me feel more vulnerable. I had never been aware before how protected my clothes made me feel.

“Any birthmarks?” Joanne asked, snapping me out of my daze. “Ugh, yeah. I have one on my collar bone.” I answered dismissively. “May I see it? I need to measure it, and maybe get a photograph.” They needed pictures too? Tugging down my left sleeve, I exposed my collar bone. Joanne came forward with a small caliper and began measuring the mark. After she was done recording the measurements and drawing it into her chart, she snapped a quick picture. She moved onto the long scar I had on my forearm.

Looking down at the thin mark I smiled. I had received the scar the summer before my first shift. I used to sneak out at night so I could stargaze in the football field behind the high school. One night the cops had been called on some kids playing music and drinking under the bleachers. When I heard them shouting out to the kids I ran and hopped the chain link fence, scratching myself in the process. Joanne finished logging the scar. Tapping her pen on her clipboard she looked me over again.

“Any other marks I should be aware of?” My thoughts shifted from my happy memories to my back. “No.” I smiled tightly. “I think that covers it all.” Joanne frowned slightly and she started tapping her clipboard again, eyes focused on a spot on the floor. “That’s weird, for some reason I think I remember seeing other scars on you when I worked on you last. I need to check your stomach and back if that is okay with you.” Not wanting to cause a scene I merely nodded as Joanne moved to my back and started untying the gown.

Soon cold air caressed my skin and I felt Joanne’s hands tighten on the sides of my gown as she stared at my skin. Lightly she ran her hands down the length of my back. I tried not to be embarrassed by what I knew she saw there. Over a dozen small welt-like scars peppered my back from the electrical cord Mr. Lawson used to beat me with. Joanne silently began to catalog them. I could hear the scratch of her pen on paper and then the chime of her digital camera as she photographed them.

Having finished, Joanne came to stand in front of me. Her eyes were wet with the pity she had for me and I looked away, not wanting to see sadness lurking there. Not wanting to be looked at like a victim when I saw myself as just another person who has seen some shit and moved on. “If you need to talk to someone-” “I don’t.” I replied quickly, cutting her off. She merely nodded and started her work. “Joanne, if there is any way you could keep these photos as private as possible, I would be very grateful.” Looking up from her papers, she smiled and nodded. “These are for medical purposes, so think of these as being for my eyes only, unless an accident occurs. ” I shook my head in understanding and let her finish her work.

45 minutes later I was dressed and waiting in the room for an escort back to the house. The same skittish nurse as before showed Jeremy to the room and then handed me a small folder, stretching her arm out as far as she could while she did so, so she wouldn’t need to get too close to me. Taking the folder from her she flinched. Muttering a “thank you” to her she nodded before she spun on her heel and hot-footed out the door. Rolling my eyes at Jeremy, who looked amused by the exchange I said “Should I ask her if I have any of the children I ate for breakfast stuck in my teeth? Jeremy laughed slowly before saying “No, she would never believe it.” “Why is that?” I asked. Looking me over Jeremy grinned lazily before replying “You’re much too skinny, no one would believe you could eat more than one kid for breakfast.”

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