Trigger warnings: self-harm, suicidal thoughts
Aching, afraid, alone.
They’ve always been there.
I'm more than used to it.
But the actions?
They’ve only begun.
It stands there, so innocent, so peaceful, away from the hands of the immoral. Tall and impressive, unassuming, and naive. I've heard others calling it a beautiful work of art, and I have to agree. Vibrant, lush greens mixed with soft, gentle blues to create a stunning masterpiece. People would never believe it to be a dangerous, evil weapon, guilty of criminal deeds. I once assumed the same, but I now know otherwise. On the outside, it's a remarkable glass mural. Sophisticated and elegant, worthy of the most distinguished aristocrats.
The one thing people tend to forget is that it's fragile. Delicate and breakable. And when it crumbles, it can turn into the most deadly item. It is up to the one who wields its shards to either corrupt it or restore it to its former glory.
If someone had asked me a few weeks ago, I would have looked at them crazy. Who in their right mind would destroy a piece of art like such?
Apparently, I would.
I am about to become one among the many before me who have subjected an unwilling object to its evil fate.
I have no other choice. I know it's horrible and selfish, but it's the only refuge I have. They don't understand, they won't understand.
It wasn't always like this. Before the accident, I used to be the perfect one, the one everyone looked up to. Selfless, outgoing, intelligent. Beautiful, caring, strong. Nobody would ever suspect Alessia Finley to resort to this. Alessia Finley was the resilient one, the one parents would set as an example for their children. Alessia Finley was the one who saved 13-year-old Adrian Carson from taking his own life two months ago. Alessia Finley was the one who had too many friends to count and even more admirers.
Hah. This whole situation is ironic. I can hardly save myself right now, much less someone else’s. Even my name is a joke in itself. "Defender" and "hero"? Not a chance.
At least I look the same, as long as you overlook the eye bags marring my face and my skeleton-like frame. I can picture it in my mind. Auburn hair fanned out, circling a still face like a halo. I decide I will look like an angel. Ruby-red blood oozing out, contrasting with pale skin stretched over high cheekbones. A sharp jaw jutting out, matching the angles of my emaciated body. Steel gray eyes empty and cold, oblivious to the woes of this world.
Oblivious. What an extraordinary feeling. I want to live forever in oblivion. Unfeeling, careless oblivion.
These sound like the ramblings of a maniac.
But if I am not a maniac, then what am I? What have I left to live for? For what reason do I need to hold on to sanity?
No reason. I've lost everything that matters. Now, I’m finally going to release myself from this pain. I will be free at last.
“Come on, Lessie-bear, we’ve got to get going!” Dad’s voice echoes throughout the halls of our mansion. Mom was out with her friends as usual. Dad had gotten the ridiculous idea that the best way to spend the time was to bake cookies.
“Coming, Dad, gimme a minute!” I hollered back. I quickly dressed then slid down the handrailing of the stairs to where Dad was waiting for me.
“Finally! Honestly, you women…” Dad shook his head with an amused smirk. I punched him, laughing, as I put my sneakers on. “Like old times?” I asked, already knowing the answer. “You bet,” he replied with a wink. And we were off.
I managed to get to the car a split second before my father. He scowled, his gray eyes piercing into my own. “You cheated!” he accused. I stuck my tongue out and rolled my eyes. “You wish,” I countered, stepping into the passenger seat. As Dad got in, I turned the radio to my favorite station. Like usual, Dad started singing along.
“It's been too hard living, but I'm afraid to die
'Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon' come, oh yes it will”
(A Change is Gonna Come, by Sam Cooke)
I joined him, both of us singing off-key at the top of our lungs. I loved moments like these, where I could let go of everything and have fun. Nobody else understood me the way he did. I had to wear a mask in front of others, but Dad would always see through my act. I knew others thought I was perfect, and maybe I looked like I was, but on the inside, I was only human.
We were having so much fun, we didn’t notice the sirens outside. When we did, it was too late. The drunk driver was headed straight toward us at an alarming rate. It was evident that there would be a crash.
“MOVE!” Dad bellowed, reaching over to open the car door and shoving me out. I fell onto the road with a thump. “Lessie, get up! GO!” I had never seen my father like this and it frightened me. I scrambled up and ran toward the side of the road, my dad on my heels.
We weren’t fast enough. The car was only a few feet away, maybe a yard or two? I couldn’t think, I couldn’t breathe. Everything was happening too fast for me to process. Suddenly, my dad pushed me and I stumbled ahead, landing in the arms of a police officer. I turned around, confused, but realized what was happening a moment too late.
“NO!!” I screamed, trying to pry off the officer’s vice-like grip. His strong arms only tightened around my slender frame.
“GET OFF ME, THAT’S MY FATHER!!!” I bellowed. It was no use. He was gone.
And it was all my fault.
The officer let me go eventually and I raced to the lifeless figure on the road. Blood was everywhere but I could care less. I don’t know how long I sat there, clutching onto the cold hand, sobbing.
For the first time in my entire life, I was completely alone.
It wasn’t a good feeling.
I was like a glass doll, molded and shaped into the perfect girl people wanted me to be. The only person who could see me for who I truly was was my father. And now, he was gone, taking with him the only thing keeping me intact. With nowhere to turn to for comfort and protection, the fragile mess I was shattered. I was no longer the Alessia Finley the world knew, nor was I the Alessia Finley my father had died to save. I was a broken girl, destroyed beyond repair. I only had one person to turn to and now he was gone.
As the days passed, I changed. I wasn’t the same person anymore. Friends and school hardly mattered. Why should it?
I remember the happiness and relief pouring out of Adrian’s parents when I arrived at their door with their eldest son leaning on my arm. I remember seeing the three young children huddled in the corner of the room, stealing glances towards the tired boy their parents were now embracing. I remember TV news reports featuring me, the 16-year-old heroine. I remember strangers thanking me for what I had done. If I could save someone who I had no connection to, why couldn’t I have come to my senses in time to save my only companion in this dark world?
What was the point of being good at everything if you couldn’t do the one thing that mattered?
That was the start of my life as the monstrous creature I have now become.
A self-loathing beast in the shell of the girl I once was.
My past is a constant rebuke. A constant reminder of what I once was and how I have changed for the worse. A constant reproach that I am not worthy of my father’s sacrifice.
I suppose this is the only way to have a taste of freedom once again, now that he’s gone.
The mural on the wall shows his favorite memory, he used to say. It was the place where he was with Mom when they discovered they were going to have me. He thought it resembled Paradise on Earth and had the wall designed as soon as they returned to the family mansion. Every time I told him so, he would smack his head and say, “Lessie, the reason I had this made was that it was the first place the three of us were together. The place we became a family. Not because it looked like Paradise.” Before Mom became lost to us, she would roll her eyes and quip, “Am I not enough for you?” We would all laugh together and watch the sunset with our arms wrapped around each other.
Those were the good old days, I think, as I gaze at the glass art. It used to have so much meaning and love embedded within. Now, it’s another constant jibe that our family was broken. Nothing could heal us again.
I’m overcome by a rush of anger and scream in frustration. What happened to the family we once were?
In my anger, I grab one of my mother’s thick novels from on top of the dresser and hurl it at the wall. My anger doesn’t stop there. I grab any object I find near me and throw them at the glass with murderous screams, the blazing fire of pent-up rage within me never diminishing.
A thought passes through my mind. I broke Dad’s glass mural. I broke it.
All of a sudden, I could only focus on was how tantalizing the sharp glass looked like. How I longed to hold one powerful enough to release me from my prison.
I grin devilishly and let out a euphoric cackle.
The taste of freedom is ever so bittersweet.
The shattered glass litter the elegant rug beneath. Each sparkling glint draws me closer to that line that I know I cannot cross. If I do, there will be no going back. Had it not been for the accident, I would never have resorted to this. I would have looked for the chink in the armor and fought for a way out.
That doesn’t matter now. All rational thought has left me, leaving me with a hunger for freedom that I know only the glass can save me from.
As I look for the sharpest piece, I realize that the room looks as though it’s made of crystals as it hits the light. I smirk to myself. It seems fitting that I will leave this cage of a world a valley of diamonds, considering what people thought of me my entire life.
I run the tip of the glass along my wrist, relishing the sharp tingle it sends up my arm. I know I am being selfish, but now, I would like to do something for myself. It has always been about them, about what they would think, but now, they no longer matter.
For once in my life, I am sure of what I am doing. I know there is no going back, and I don’t want to go back. I know this is what I need.
I turn the blade, hitting my pale skin at an angle. I will let the flowing scarlet ink drown my pain, my sorrows, my anger. I will bask in my newfound freedom until I no longer can’t. I’m finally going to loosen up and let down my walls. I will be myself, if only for a moment. The world is not ready to deal with someone like me for longer than that, and I don’t mind. I will be long gone before they even realize what happened, much less learn how to respond.
I push the glass deeper. I hope I will be reunited with Dad. But does killing yourself permit you to go to heaven? The thought of being alone once again relaxes my grip, but I clutch it right away.
If I couldn’t be with Dad, no matter. I’ve never been religious anyway. At least I would be free from this world.
I press the edge into my skin. A thin stream of blood flows out. A flame ignites within me and I know that now that I have begun, there will hardly be anything strong enough to pry me from the corrupted glass I now hold. Yes, the glass will never be innocent again. It’s days as a pretty mural are gone.
The mural represented us, a close-knit and loving family of three. When Mom chose her friends over her family, the purpose the art stood for was lost. I suppose it lost its naivety a long time ago, way back then.
I shiver and take a quick breath as the cold glass comes into closer contact with my untainted skin. Despite my irregular breathing and racing heart, my mind is calm. I have accepted this fate and I will not cower in its wake. I will be strong, if only for the last time, and will approach my end with as much dignity as I can. People will shudder in disgust when they hear about what I did — and I hardly care — but at least I will not leave a coward.
I push the glass harder into my skin. The small trickle intensifies into a running flow of dark sticky fluid and I sigh in satisfaction. There is slight pain but I’ve dealt with worse in the past. Granted, it was emotional and mental pain before, but it doesn’t matter. The promise of freedom is stronger than any pain.
My first mistake is glancing toward the chest of drawers on the opposite end of the hall. There are three photos there: one for each member of my family. My second mistake was finding my father’s.
The hand holding the glass falls limp by my side as I am faced with a sudden rush of memories. My father’s proud smile as I told him how I stopped Adrian from jumping over the bridge. His playful banter to cheer me up. The serious look in his eyes when he told me that he’d always be there for me. The ridiculous ideas he had and his horrible off-key singing. His fingers stroking my hair, telling me stories. The fierce determination in his eyes and urgent in his voice as he told me to run. The sure way he pushed me to safety and took the full blow of the car himself.
I fall to my knees. Sobs rack my body and it’s suddenly hard to breathe. I feel hot fluid moving down my arm and tear my shirt to wrap around the gash. Had my father been here, he would have been disgusted with me. He would have hated the woman I have become, full of self-loathing and anger. He would have been horrified at the idea that he sacrificed his life for a monster like me.
I freeze as the thought occurs to me. He had chosen to die to protect me. He chose me over himself.
It wasn’t my fault.
I couldn’t have saved him even if I tried.
He would still die. He wanted to die for me. Me.
And this is how I repaid him.
What had I done?
It feels like hours before I stand up, now a different person. I can sense the change in myself. I radiate confidence and determination. I am not the naive Alessia Finley, oblivious to the horrors of the world, nor am I the Alessia Finley who cracked under pressure. I will make the most of my father’s sacrifice. I will be a girl my father would be proud of.
I walk over to the chest of drawers. This time, I am careful of the glass surrounding me. I thought them to be beautiful only a while ago. Now, they represent all the hurdles I had to face. I am determined to not let them get to me.
I set the shard I used to cut myself next to my father’s frame. I will not throw it away. It will always be there, under my father’s watchful eye, as a reminder to myself to not let the darkness overcome me.
I am about to turn away from the dresser but freeze. I could almost swear my father’s smile grew and his head tilted slightly forward in approval. I blink and it’s gone, but that moment was enough. I know my father is watching me from wherever he is and he’s proud of me. I am determined to keep it that way.
As I walk away, I hear the blood trickling from the shard onto the piles of glass on the ground. I am tempted to turn around but decide otherwise. Let it drip for all eternity. I am not that broken girl anymore. No, I am stronger than her. I will not let her defeat me with any temptations, not even this.
I am ready to move on. Whatever happened in this room, stays in this room. I won’t ever come back, except to occasionally remind myself of what could happen if I am not strong.
With that in mind, I set my shoulders back, raise my chin, and leave the shards behind, my blood still staining the carpet.