Monday, March 2, 2009


Tilly opened the door to her side of the duplex and went straight back to her bedroom. Now that she was away from Maddie, she felt her breath hitching in and out like her lungs would forget what to do unless she thought about the process. Breathe, she told her lungs in a sing-song voice inside her own mind. In and out. Slow and steady. Just like the doctor and the nurses taught her. She sat down on the edge of the bed, concentrating on her breathing. If she could just get that going like it was supposed to, then her heart wouldn’t start rattling around with all those weird, hard beats that would scare her half to death.

Distraction. That was it. That’s what the nurse, that nice one who would share cigarettes with her, used to tell her. Get your mind on something else. Tilly glanced around. There was nothing in the room but a king sized mattress on a metal frame and a small wardrobe standing in a corner.

She got up and went to the bathroom, her face in the mirror looked like a stranger’s. Round and red. She gathered up the fabric of the muumuu she wore and slowly lifted it over her head. The fat on her body didn’t disgust her. She didn’t even see it, not really. She reached down and lifted the flab of her belly. The white scars that crossed it were deeper than the ones on her arms. Long straight lines. Her hands trembled and she forced herself to take a long deep breath until the urge to punch herself in the belly passed.

Gritting her teeth, she dug the nails of her right hand deep into the flesh. Slowly and deeply, feeling the immediate sting of pain then the steady rise of it, almost like a scream. Holding her breath as she waited for it, that shift where the pain seems to disappear, but it really is just shifting to another level, sending the distress signal along deeper nerve paths.

She could have held it longer, hours if she wanted to, riding the waves of the pain. But she’d promised her doctor and the nurses that she wouldn’t cut herself anymore. This wasn’t technically cutting, but close enough. But she knew exactly how long she could dig before the marks wouldn’t fade away in a few hours’ time.

Tilly let go with a sigh. She kept her hands pressed against the flesh of her lower belly, just above the triangle of pubic hair. She let her nails dig for just one quick stab. Punishment for the womb that had allowed three babies to slip through too soon.

She looked at herself in the mirror again, this time with a flush of shame coloring her cheeks. She slipped her dress back over her head, pulling it down over the various bulges, turning away from the mirror as she did so, unable to face herself again.

Jealous. Of a scared young girl. She would get on her computer tonight and look up stuff on adoptions for her. That’d be the best thing. Find some nice couple who wanted a baby, who could provide for it. That would be the best.

Tilly nodded to herself, agreeing with her thoughts. She left the bathroom and went to the tiny kitchen and began setting up for a haircut. She did them for five dollars, cash only, under the table to supplement her disability income. She only cut men’s hair. They weren’t all fussy like women who would break into tears if one lock of hair wasn’t just perfect. Nope, Tilly liked cutting men’s hair. Over the ears, straight in back, light over the forehead in front. No muss, no fuss. No stress.

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