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Story Notes:

Something that might have happened. Self-harm triggers, if this bothers anyone.

Joey goes to sleep so quickly. How does she do it? I slide silently out of bed and rummage in my drawer. There’s a box at the back and I draw it out. For a moment I stand in the dark listening to Joey’s breathing. But she won’t wake up; she never does. I go to the door and turn the handle gently.

The moon is small, but it lights the corridor just enough that I can see where I am going. I walk, the bare wooden floor cool against my bare feet, to the window. The outside world is grey and blank-looking, and I turn away with a shiver. Anyway, it’s too dangerous here. Someone might find me.

I pad down the corridor to the bathroom and lock myself in.

I have waited all day for this moment, ever since I suddenly came to my senses and realised what a fool thing I’d done. What girl, just about to be Head Girl and practically an adult, gets so mad about an idea that she just shoots off without even telling anyone? Only me.

I sit down on the side of the bath and open my box. There are a couple of hankies in there. They used to be white, but although I wash them each time they’re quite badly stained now. I take them out and arrange them neatly on the side of the basin.

I am trying not to think about this morning, but it creeps into my mind anyway. I remember the look on Miss Maynard’s face when she sees me. Anger, mostly, and oh, how I deserve it. Why did I want to see the Falls and Schaffhausen so much? They hold no appeal for me now, at any rate.

I shake my head. This is stupid. There isn’t any point thinking and thinking over it. I won’t be Head Girl now, that’s for sure, and I jolly well deserve it. I’m an utter beast, as Joey pointed out. I should simply accept that I am a bad person, but the thought makes my chest hurt. I want to be a good person, so badly.

I put the thought out of my mind. I need to concentrate on what I’m doing or it won’t work properly. I straighten the hanky on the left, then open my box again. In the bottom is the third hanky, the one I always keep perfectly white and clean. I gently lift it out, set the box on the floor by my feet, and unwrap the hanky. A long time ago, I saved up and went to a shop and pretended I was buying a razor for Father. He always uses a safety razor, but I did not tell them that.

My heart lifts a little just from seeing the razor, and I begin to feel a little safer. This is old and familiar. It doesn’t matter how difficult school is, or home, or even how nasty and selfish I am, for I can always come back here. I roll up the leg of my pyjamas, and a moment later a deep red line swells at the very top of my thigh.

I close my eyes and savour the sensation. There’s the pain, and the warm, tickly feeling as the blood trickles down my leg. The tension, the guilt and the misery drain out of me and I know that things will be all right in the end. I might not be Head Girl, but however angry they are with me, I know deep inside that Madam and Joey love me and one day they will forgive me. I open my eyes again and smile slightly as I see the crimson, slowly making its way down my leg. I watch it for a few minutes until the trickle subsides, enjoying the feeling of peace, relaxing, very nearly happy.

Footsteps sound in the corridor outside and instantly my heart pounds so hard I cannot concentrate on anything else. For a moment my mind is blank with panic. But the door is locked. I am safe and the footsteps have already disappeared. I should go back to bed now, though. My hand shakes a bit as I pick up one of the hankies and, starting at my knee, carefully clean my thigh. Only now, finally, do tears prick the backs of my eyes. For a minute, I drop the hankies in the basin and rest my head against the wall and cry until my chest and throat hurt.

Then I bandage my leg and roll my pyjama leg down again. I wash the hankies but I will have to wait until we get back to school to let them dry properly. I clean the razor and wrap it in the clean hanky, put it back in the box and fold the bloodstained hankies on top.

When I return to our room, Joey is still sleeping, her arms flung out every which way. I tuck my box into the back of my drawer and slide back into bed.

I lie awake for a very long time.

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