Carbon

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Chapter 48

I stared at my ragged reflection, incredulous to the true severity of every injury that littered my mottled body. My fingertips brushed against my black eyes and my darkened jawline, gently undulating into the swollen flesh. My blue eyes pierced through all of the darkness amidst my alabaster glow and dull bruises. My brunette hair splayed out flatly from my roots. I squinted my eyes, changing the focus to blur my appearance.

I couldn’t bear to take it anymore.

I wish Ned’s mom never showed me the bathroom. I wished she never allowed me to see my homely progression from the attack, from the incident. I had been lost in my reflection for the past six hours, analyzing every imperfection and flaw, trying to appreciate that I wasn’t dead, but that sounded more appetizing.

I slid the strap of my bra off my arm, and then the other one. I shimmied through the opening and then out of my underwear. I continued to stare, nearly vomiting at the bite marks and bruising finally unveiling itself.

The hospital was so wary as to give me a mirror, afraid I would lose my senses. They couldn’t protect me from my reality forever. No one could do that for me.

My fingers brushed against the keloids forming from the man’s teeth across my breasts, flowing over the bumps sheepishly, timid to bare down onto the tissue.

A droplet fell on my hand, and I turned back to my reflection. Another tear trickled down my concave cheeks. I clenched down for a moment, tucking in a strand of unfamiliar tawny hair back behind my ear. I shook as I envisioned the whole episode again and again, remembering each little tear and scar. I forced myself to swallow a sigh and a cry, knowing that I couldn’t let this break me. I couldn’t let him win.

But I did.

I let him win.

I reached behind my back and touched the scabs covering my tattoo. The censorship burdened me more than any of my contusions ever could because it was permanent and because it was so symbolic.

I turned my gaze back to the door, staring at it intently. I pulled Ned’s t-shirt and a pair of his mom’s pajama pants on impatiently, tired of dodging stitches and scratches. I caught the silk pants on a pair of stitches and just ripped them out to deal with the frustration of having to abide by inorganic means. Blood trickled down my leg for a moment, but then the cuts clotted easily.

I strolled down the hallway to the guest room the family graciously allocated for me, but it felt like a prison—a prison dressed as a home. I slid into the bed next to a personal computer, the sheets crisp and cool—vacant. I buried my face into the tough mattress, feeling my stitches gently tug at the threads. I closed my eyes and then recognized I left the door open as well as the light on. I began to pull myself from my burrow, forcing my legs back out into the cold, pulling myself to the edge of the bed, but he gingerly walked in with a pile of blankets wrapped in his arms.

His blond-brunette hair and discolored eyes normally would have made me smile, but I was intensely saddened by it, knowing he knew everything. He knew how handled and destroyed I was. His eyes met mine, and he gave me a small smile. “Hey, I didn’t think you’d be up. It’s late.” I wished I could have faked an innocent smile or a giddy laugh. I wished I could have masked this terrible ache crushing my heart.

I wished I could be normal for him.

“Can you close the door?” I whispered.

His eyebrows peeked as he gently closed the door with his foot. “What’s up?” He strolled across the room, placing the blankets at the foot of my bed gently, and then he collapsed next to me.

I stared intently at the floor and turned to him. I stuttered to ask the question before I finally solidified enough courage to ask him. “Can you kiss me?”

He furrowed his brow critically. “What?”

“Please.”

He gave me a peck.

“No, a real one.”

His lips folded over mine gently, and then he pulled away immediately. He confided, “Look, we shouldn’t be doing that. I know I kissed you at the hospital, and I shouldn’t have. I was wrong.”

I pulled his face to mine and passionately kissed him the way he should have been by every girl he had ever been with. His hands fell on my lower back, and he kissed me back insatiably. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pressed into him, feeling a heat radiate from him. His fingers tangled in my hair as he pulled me onto his lap, breathing me in.

He tore suddenly away from me and gently pushed me off of him. “Dev, stop.”

“Ned, I know you want me to.” I reached out to his cheek, but he quickly batted it away.

“No, Dev.”

It was so finite, so official and irrevocable.

“Ned…”

“Look, we can’t.”

“Ned…”

“Devin, you are sick.”

“Ned…”

“No.”

“Ned, please.”

“Why is this so important to you?”

“Because I want to be normal!”

His eyes widened and then turned away from me.

“I want to be like every other teenager.”

“Devin, you know you can’t right now.”

“Ned, please.”

He leaned in and gently kissed my cheek. He leaned back on his hands on the bed and grimaced. “If what happened didn’t happen, I know you wouldn’t be talking to me right now.”

“I forgive you. I’ve forgiven you.”

“Dev, come on…”

“So what? I’ve been raped before. It’s no big deal. You weren’t the first and definitely weren’t the last. I’ve forgiven you. I shouldn’t have drank that much. It was my own fault.”

“Is that what you think about the other ones?”

I froze.

“Devin, listen to yourself talk.”

I fervently shook my head. “Kiss the hell out of me. Please. I just want to forget for one small moment how fucked up I am.” I heaved heavy breaths as I felt my heart rate increase exponentially. I couldn’t breathe. Tears rolled down my cheeks again, and I angrily wiped them away.

His eyes just fell on me pitifully.

“Say something, Ned! Say something—anything. Don’t abandon me like everyone else—my sister, my mom, everybody. Please don’t do the same thing!”

His brow furrowed intently, hiding his eyes.

“Listen to me, please. If you love me, you will do this. Just—“

His lips crashed against mine, and his hands slid up my shirt suddenly, resting on my mid-back. He fell atop my trunk, pushing me into the bed forcefully. My hands fell on the back of his neck, pulling him closer to me, sliding down his chest. My fingers slid underneath his waistband.

And then he shoved me off of him.

He sat up, dusted his hands against his thighs as if he touched something defiling and disgusting. He stood up mechanically and marched to the door without a word.

“Ned!”

He turned to me and put up his hands. “I can’t. I promised.”

“Who? Who did you promise? Huh? You never listened to anyone before the accident. Now you’re suddenly changing everything you have ever been because you simply feel like it? Dammit, Ned.”

“I promised myself.”

“No, it’s your parents, isn’t it? They think I’m damaged because I’m not a virgin—isn’t it?”

His eyes flickered for a moment. “No.”

“What did you promise to yourself? Once you found out I’m ranking highly on the sex partners list, I’m out of allure? I don’t meet your angelic standards? My head is full of all of this crap that you don’t want to hear? Or is it the fact that I fucked your best friend?”

“Devin, come on.”

“I’ve been used up, huh? That’s all I’m good for. That’s all I was ever good for. I’m an easy fuck, and everyone knows it.”

“Devin, stop.”

I pulled myself from the bed and angrily marched up to him. Our chests brushed against each other as we respired. I bared my teeth and hissed, “That’s not fair.”

He shook his head. “No, Dev, you’re not being fair.”

“You know what’s not fair?! Huh?” I slapped him across the face. “You coward. You freaking coward. Not gaining your trust; losing everything we had because you didn’t know how screwed up I am. That’s what’s not fair. Not getting listened to. Not getting understood by everybody who just walks in and out so nonchalantly in my life. And you, you, you just sit there and pretend I should be fine with this.”

He turned back to me and gave me a reassuring glance. “Go to bed, Dev.”

“Ned.”

“Go to fucking bed.”

“No.”

He grabbed my forearms and paraded me to my bed forcefully, my feet dragging underneath me as he controlled all of my movements like a puppeteer. I squealed as his hand wrapped around my cast, afraid to feel the pressure on my sore arm. He pushed me onto my bed and ripped the sheets from underneath me. He pulled the sheets across my chest and folded them tautly around the edges of the mattress. I gave up the fight and turned to my side, burying my face into the pillow as the tears began to cascade down my face.

I had no control over any aspect of my life.

I couldn’t control anyone the way they controlled me.

“Devin, I didn’t mean to hurt you, babe.”

I shook my head and clenched my teeth shut, choking back a sob as I felt his beautiful eyes absorb me falling apart like china. His hand combed through my hair, and I twisted away from his touch. His lips pressed against my ear before he peeled away. I whimpered at his touch, and then he patted me on the arm before sauntering across the room to the door.

I turned in time to see him stand in the doorway, his gaze falling over his shoulder. His hand perched on the lights softly and then began to flick the switch.

“Please leave it on,” I whispered.

His hand peeled away from the switch and fell to his side loosely. He fell away from the room and began to close the door.

“Please leave it open.”

His hand fell from the doorknob as he waltzed through the entryway.

My eyes turned to a tear droplet falling down my blackened nose, sliding down the curve and crook of the broken cartilage and bone. It fell into my nostril before dribbling down my lips onto the sheet, darkening the white fabric to grey. A tinge of red littered the liquid as I felt my nose begin to run from the tears.

I fell away into the depths of my mind as I twisted my face into the mattress, begging for God or anyone to give me one ounce of sanity that I had lost or one ounce of control I never had.

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