You stare at the gaping wound on their hip. My God!
“It’s bad, isn’t it?” Your teenager cries. “I’m sorry, is it bad?” They are panting.
The bathroom walls are choking you.
Your husband is asleep out of town. Don’t call him. He’ll ask questions. You have no answers. Don’t call an ambulance. It’ll wake their sister’s peaceful slumber. She’ll ask questions. You have no answers. Don’t rush to the ER. Doctors will have answers you don’t want to hear.
The cut oozes blood exposing the doughy layers underneath. “Is it bad? Is it bad?” Their hands tremble clenching a ball of paper towels. It needs stitches. You only have band aids. You use them all—with each, you discover more. Smaller scars flaring in the bathroom blaze. Guilty confessions of your sightlessness.
Later they’ll tell you, their craft scissors had slipped and caused a deeper cut than they had intended. They needed a quick release, a high to compensate for the low. You don’t know if you believe them. Had their trusted scissors not betrayed them, how would you know about the hollowness in your child?
That night, you fall asleep holding each other. You wake in the morning and notice a leaf on the rosebush outside your window—a deep lush green with zigzag edging and a pointy proud tip. You’ll look closer, you see small holes like burnt paper on both sides of its spine. On an adjacent twig, there are whole leaves wavering with the wind, separated by a thick branch. Can the leaf repair itself or will the holes feed on its flesh until there is nothing left?
Six months pass. The scar (the length of their pinky finger, the width of your rosebush twigs) hurts sometimes. It hurts you more than them. There are still lows, but each low is higher than the last.
“It was bad.” You tell them today.
“I know,” they reply.
Britta is the author of two children’s books and her short fiction was a finalist for the Bellingham Review Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction 2021. She is a teaching artist at Marin School of the Arts, CA, and a member of the National Writing Project Council, Page Street, & PEN, and SCBWI. A former editor for Tuxedo Literature & Arts & FastForward Magazine, she holds an MFA from Dominican University, CA, a Masters in International Communication from American University, and a Certificate in Novel Writing from Stanford University. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her family and six pets.