"Please sit down," I pointed to the yellow chair and she slumped into it, her head bent. I could see the blond roots sprouting from her black hair. She crossed her arms, an impenetrable fortress.
The pose was classic eighth grade. She made my job easy today by wearing a black tank top. I noticed no vertebrae screaming out like prayers. This wasn't an eating disorder. And if she was cutting, it wasn't on her arms.
Yet, she was in my office, clutching a twisted pink paper. She had never been here before. Something had changed. Or snapped. "Kassie, please read me the referral form."
Her eyes were red-lined with tears and smudged with eyeliner. She held my gaze long enough that I wanted to check my teeth for errant lettuce."Haven't you already read it?" she mumbled, "Can't you just give me ISS?"
This was the part where I was supposed to give her a lecture about respect. Instead, I allowed her to dangle. "Read it, please."
She sighed and began: "Kassie Miller threw a donut at me after I intercepted a note. She knows that notes are not acceptable in our learning environment." She placed the note in her lap, and studied her scuffed Chuck Taylors.
"What happened? Have you lost your mind? I'm not even going to ask why you had a donut in algebra."
Folding the referral form, she laughed, "I guess because it was funny."
I pictured the soft cake, perhaps pink with sprinkles, flying through the air. As it made sweet contact with Mrs. Sombrowski, did the frosting coat her glasses? Leave crumbs under her pearly pink nails? It was kinda funny. She'd be milking this one in the teacher's lounge for weeks.
I settled my features into a frown. "There's nothing funny about assault, young lady."
She sat up straight, the chair legs creaking."What would you know about assault?" Her eyes flashed, indignant. "What would you know about anything?" Each word was vinegar, lingering in the air.
Bingo. Finally, some emotion. I stared at her, and let her swim in her words for awhile.
She waited, then bit her lip as I let the silence grow between us. The clock ticked. One minute. Two. "What?" she said. "What do you want?"
I had her. I rolled up my sleeve, taking care with each button until I exposed seven perfect circles, almost the shape of donuts. "Hey," I said, "Look at me."
She turned, and raised her eyebrows. The circles, haphazard plums and grays, crept up and down my forearm, twisted and violent.
"Do you know what these are?"
She shook her head, but I saw it. Deep inside, she knew.
I pointed to a circle above my elbow. "Cigar burns. From my Dad. This one's for letting the dog pee in the house." I rubbed my forearm. "This one? That's for bringing home a B. In algebra." Inch by inch, I covered each donut, until all she could see was my sleeve, my daily mask.
I sat down, crossed my arms across my chest. "So yeah. I know a little bit about assault. I suspect you do, too."
It was a guess. But survivors tend to recognize each other, and I decided to take the risk.
Her eyes pooled with fresh tears. Her entire faced turned in on itself. Heaving. Degraded.
She pointed to the intercepted note, resting on my desk--the scribblings that started it all. Pressing it into my hand, she whispered, "Read it. It's all there."
This is my fictional contribution to The Red Dress Club. We were inspired by a picture of a truly decadent donut. I wear the Red Dress, so I welcome constructive critique.
I will probably continue this story next Friday.