She brought the match to the smooth pale underside of her forearm. The pain was wonderful, a feeling of justice adjusted somewhere in the scales of heaven. She had used pins to streak trails of blood along her thighs or the undersides of her arms, or the insides of her ankles. But fire had its signature release, a charred scaring that said so much more clearly than cutting, “I deserve to burn in hell.”
She was sixteen and ninety pounds. The girl she saw in the mirror was hideously overweight. If only she didn’t have to hide the cutting away or burning away of the fat, the layers of shameful corpulence that contained her.
That morning, as her parents sat at the breakfast table trying hard to ignore how she meticulously separated the items on her plate, her father pulled a paper from his shirt pocket, unfolded it, and read it to her. “I find my parents repugnant,” he read from the paper. “Is this what you think of us?”
The heat rose up from her stomach, flowed through her chest, and flushed her face, but she said nothing. She glared, but it was the stark stare of a starved holocaust victim. “Can you say something?” her mother asked.
“Stay out of my room, stay out of my things, and stay out of my life,” she said, slamming down her unused fork. They heard the door to her room slam. You’re the reason she’s like this, the man said to his woman. “As usual,” she said, getting up to remove the full plate of expertly organized eggs and potatoes, tossing them into the sink.
In her room the girl dressed for school, the cuts concealed like a cloak of fire that burned none but herself.