Ailbhe-Lisa Hanney – ‘Scarred’
By Ailbhe-Lisa Hanney
“The doctor takes off my bandages. My hands are gleaming with sweat. What I see in the mirror has changed my life forever.”
It was a Monday morning, 8:56. That’s when it happened. It all happened so quickly. One second I was walking across the road and then a car just came out of nowhere. Next thing my eyes were closed. I was lying on the cold, hard ground. I could feel blood streaming down my face, dripping in a puddle beside me. I could hear screams, sirens but the loudest thing I could hear was my heart thumping with fear. I felt someone lift me into a car, an ambulance, I suppose. The pain was deadly. It felt like glass ripping through my skin. Time passed. I must have lost consciousness because I don’t remember anything else. I thought I was dead.
I wish I were dead; it might hurt less. My face is all bandaged up. I can sense the blood hardening, crusting. I gather enough strength to lick my lips and clumps of dried blood touch my tongue. I keep picking at the scabs, hoping that they might go away but all I do is open the wounds.
After what seems like days, I gingerly open my eyes. I look around at the bleached white room. I stare at the wires attached to monitors beside me.
My mum is here now. She looks worried and fatigued. She holds my hand carefully, trying not to hurt me, and explains what happened. “It was a drunk driver,” she says. “He didn’t even stop.” She says that I can get out of here in a week.
Mum had to leave but I have an uneasy feeling in my stomach. I know her well enough to know that she’s left something unsaid.
The next morning I wake up to my door opening. The doctor, nurse and Mum come in with masks on their faces. The nurse is rolling a tray full of medical equipment. There’s a scissors that glints in the sun, a knife with a gleaming blade and the whole thing rattles at every movement, breaking the silence.
And then there’s a mirror.
The doctor says it’s time to take off the bandages and let the wounds breathe. I am relieved because my face was starting to get itchy. I hope that there are just a few cuts and bruises under the bandages. Carefully, the doctor removes them. I can see my mum’s face grow pale and her eyes get bigger. Finally they’re all off. A cold breeze hits my face which makes me shiver a bit. I try not to notice the silence in the room. My mum sits beside my, trying to hold back tears. Her face tells me it’s not something you can hide with makeup.
The nurse hands me the mirror; my hands are gleaming with sweat. I try to blink back the tears but it’s no use. I am ruined. I am unrecognisable. There are deep scars all over my face and my eyes are like two slits. My face is so swollen that it looks like a Hallowe’en mask, maybe even scarier. I look at my mum who looks shaken and stunned. The doctor says I hit the windscreen and that it was a miracle that they could get all the glass out. I freeze; it’s just me, or what I think is me, and the mirror. I can’t hear anybody else. I try to catch my breath but I end up choking; it’s all too much. I find myself staring at my mum now and she’s looking at the ground. That’s when I realise I have dropped the mirror. It has shattered into a thousand shiny pieces on the ground. But the only thing I can concentrate on now is one word: hideous.
Days pass, slowly. I try to come to terms with the new me but I am too numb and too anxious. I feel like a stranger in my own body. I am glad the mirror is broken. I don’t want to see.
The time came to go home and home turns out to be the same as the hospital, just without the horrible smell. Everywhere I look I seem to see a mirror. It has got so bad I don’t leave my room. My mum ends up putting all the mirrors in the basement, in a corner, just lying there, getting dusty.
The day has come, the day I most dreaded. It is time to go back to school. I feel sick in my stomach. My hands are clammy and I have to wipe them on my jeans. I feel so weak I could vomit. At least I will have my best friend Roxy. She must have been busy or something since she hasn’t come to see me since the accident.
I start the long walk from the carpark to the school. Even though it’s only fifty yards away it might as well be 50 kilometers. My scarf is like a safety blanket wrapped around my face; you can only see my eyes. I made sure of that.
Finally I get to the gate. Rusted and tarnished, it needs a paint job, just like me. I head to the steps where all my friends hang out. It looks like Roxy is the queen, perched on the highest step, beaming down at all her followers. I feel more nervous than ever but I’m happy to see all my friends.
Roxy spots me and jumps up to see me. She’s changed so much. She now wears her hair curled instead of in a ponytail and she’s in a dress instead of a tracksuit. A lot can change in three weeks! A big gust of wind hits me but I cling to my scarf just in time. Roxy gives me a warm hug which makes me feel a lot better.
“Hey, Ailbhe! Why are you wearing that silly old scarf around your face?” she laughs.
“Oh, no reason. I’ll tell you later,” I say.
There is another puff of wind and this time I am too late. The scarf is gone! Roxy looks at me like I’ve just killed a puppy. She looks horrified, speechless.
She keeps on staring at the scars, her mouth wide open. Then the school bell breaks the silence. She backs away slowly. “Come on, girls,” she orders her followers. “Nice to have you back, Ailbhe”, she says, walking away. And before I know it, I am alone.
Everyone has been staring but nobody has asked how I am. Home time has come and I am drained. I try to act like it is a normal day but nothing will ever be the same again.
It’s the following day. I run over to Roxy and it’s like she hasn’t seen me. At first I think it might be my face, that it might be too much for her, but I have my scarf on. And she’s my best friend, she should be supportive.
She has her back to me. I might as well be a ghost. I tap her on the shoulder and say “Hi”. She turns around and looks at me in disgust. “Good. You have your scarf on,” she hisses. “We wouldn’t want the little kids to get scared.”
I can’t believe what I’ve just heard. I feel like I got a bullet to the heart. I knew it was going to happen at some time but not now, not with Roxy pulling the trigger. Everyone’s staring now. I want to scream at Roxy but there’s a big lump rising in my throat. I’m glued to the ground. I keep listening to her, I don’t know why. I just want to go home and cry into my pillow. I go to turn round and Roxy shouts something she’ll never be able to take back: “Get a skin graft, you ugly beast!” Before I know it I’m running to the car, tears spilling out of my eyes, making my cheeks wet and my eyes blurry. I barely make it to the car. Without thinking, I shout at my mum to drive.
My mum sits me down at the kitchen table. She hands me a hot mug of tea. I wrap my hands around it, trying to control my breathing, but it’s no use. I am too angry. I set my eyes on the floral patterns on the mug. They are so delicate and pretty, something I’ll never be again. Suddenly I find myself thinking of Roxy and what she said. I am still staring at the mug but now my hands are clenched into fists. Finally when I have calmed down my mum asks what happened and why I was in such a state. My eyes are fixed on her worried face.
“If it wasn’t for you this would never have happened. You were the one who forced me to go to school. Now Roxy is a bully and I am the beast of the school. She told me to get a skin graft.”
I didn’t mean to be that harsh. The words just popped out. I stare at her and she knows I’m sorry.
The next morning I’m lying in bed for ages, thinking. As I am about to drift off to sleep my mum comes in. She sees that I am awake so she hops in beside me. I feel so awful about how I treated her the night before and without realising, I start crying. I can feel the tears rushing down my face. She puts her arms around my, trying to calm me.
“Yes, in a year when your face settles you can get a skin graft if you want. But remember that real beauty comes from within and what came from Roxy was just pure ugliness. Beauty is about being caring and giving, not being self-absorbed and you are well above superficial beauty.”
My mum is right and I know it. It’s time to toughen up. But it’s also time to go to school
I am still wearing my scarf as I approach the school. The day starts much like the day before. I walk over to the steps confidently but when I make eye-contact I feel demoralised. That’s when I start to let her walk all over me. “Still haven’t got that skin graft, you beast?” she booms. “Stop following us! You’re not one of us anymore! You’re ugly!”
I finally understand now. Roxy never really liked me; it was only because I was pretty and popular.
I stay in the bathroom for most of my classes, feeling full of self-pity and anger. That’s when I remember what my mum said. As I walk out of the bathroom I stop and stare back at the mirror. I take off my scarf and look at my scars. They’re my past. I am not ashamed. I walk out of the bathroom, feeling stronger.
I try to get out before everyone else. I sit myself on the highest step where Roxy usually sits and I wait. Just sitting there makes my nervous, but there’s no time for second guessing myself.
As soon as Roxy sees me she rushes over.
“I told you to stay away. Are you deaf as well as scarred?”
I take a deep breath.
“No actually, just scarred, and you seem to have a problem with that, Roxy,” I reply loudly.
That’s when everybody starts to gather round.
“This is my patch! Get off the step, you beast!” she shouts.
“No, Roxy. I belong here,” I say.
Just then, one of Roxy’s followers looks at me. Then she looks back at Roxy. Gingerly, she takes a step towards me, smiling. She places herself beside my on the step. Roxy’s mouth is wide open; she’s trying to think what to say. Before she can say anything else, boys and girls are gradually starting to sit on the steps near me.
I look into Roxy’s eyes. She looks confused, angry, defeated.
I almost feel sorry for her.
Ailbhe-Lisa Hanney, 6th Class Galway Educate Together, Galway