Finally, the piercing bell signaled that fourth period was over.
“Sara, Could I please have a moment of your time after class?” Mr. Estes asked.
Sara looked down at her hands. She could feel the other student’s eyes boring into her. After all the students had exited out of the classroom, she slowly walked to stand in front of the teacher’s desk.
“It hurts me to say this Sara, but if you don’t pull up all your grades to C’s by the end of the year; you will have to finish 12th grade in summer school. While the other teachers and I sympathize with your tragic loss, Maple-Oak Christian High School requires a certain minimum grade point average in order to graduate. We have already contacted your parents regarding this matter.”
“You don’t understand; I can’t.” Sara sobbed as she ran from the room.
The anxiety was crescendoing as Sara ran into the women’s bathroom. She reached into her handbag and pulled out a sharp piece of Coke bottle. Slowly, she rubbed it across her fair skin, careful not to go too deep. As the blood flowed to the surface, her mind flashed back to the image of her brother’s Ryan lifeless body. Metal fragments and shards of windshield glass stuck in him like a pincushion. The sensation of pain, even if only momentarily, assuaged the guilt and emptiness she felt.
Sara quickly pulled down the sleeve of her Aeropostale sweatshirt and went to the bathroom sink to wash away any evidence of tears. Her secret ritual needed to remain buried, not dredged up to the surface where the rest of the world could see it.
Over the PA system, Sara heard that she needed to meet her ride out in front of the school. Sara had forgotten that her neighbor, Mrs. Markham, was picking her up early today for an eye appointment. Sara rushed to her locker, threw in a couple of textbooks and notebooks, and slid out the door to the waiting car.
“Sorry, I’m late.” Sara said. “I had a lot on my mind.”
“That’s okay. I was running a couple of minutes late myself,” Mrs. Markham replied.
“Sara, I need to run by the post office on our way over. Before we pull off, could you please reach in the visor and grab those two envelopes?”
Before thinking, Sara lifted her hands to pull out the letters, and her sweatshirt fell halfway down her arm revealing the ugly scars. Mrs. Markham didn’t look away or rebuke her; instead, she pulled her into a huge hug. “Honey, I’m so sorry you’re hurting so much. You’re not responsible for the accident.”
“But I feel guilty, I was driving after all,” whispered Sara.
“Some things just happen, and nobody is responsible.
“My friend, Ally, has a daughter who has been a cutter for three years”, continued Mrs. Markham. “She recently went to see a Christian psychologist, Dr. Vanco, who has been teaching her new coping skills. She still has moments she wants to cut, but has been clean for 5 months. There is hope, Sara. Really there is.”
“Sometimes I wish it was me who died. If Ryan had lived, our family would not be in the same mess. Mom buries herself in church work to appear to be the ‘perfect Christian’ and Dad’s anger is always smoldering right below the surface.”
“We can’t change other people; we can only change ourselves,” Mrs. Markham said as she stroked my hair. Point of Grace has a song, Heal the Wounds but leave the scars / A reminder of how merciful you are. It talks about taking our pasts and leaving them at the feet of Jesus. After all, he is the true healer.”
“Do you really think I can stop? I want to, but I don’t know how.”
“That’s why I think you need to talk to a therapist. They have training in getting to the bottom of your problems and dealing with your emotions.”
“I’m scared, but I don’t see any other way out.”
Mrs. Markham pulled out her iphone and asked for Dr. Vanco’s number. Afterward, she punched in the number and handed the phone to Sara.
“This is Dr. Vanco’s office; how may I help you?”
“I need to see the Dr. Vanco right away. I’m a cutter” Sara replied, as a couple of tears rolled down her cheek.
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