The Scars You Live With
By Emily Spahn
Description: Eleven years before the events of Pierside, there are some things Ezzy won’t talk about.
It was late summer, and undeniably hot; the time of year when even the farmers took the afternoon from their chores and worked into the evening to make up the time. Anyone with the freedom to do so had gone deep into the woods and valleys, fishing or swimming or gathering from berry patches.
I had only been in town a few months, I was training with the clinic worker at the town clinic, and since it was early in my training most of it involved studying the textbook I'd been given. Luckily, the first person I met was Maddy West, so on that sweltering day she guided me back into the woods to do my reading in a place where the river was calm and the shade made the heat more bearable.
The minute we got there, she spread out a blanket and stripped off her cotton shirt and blue jeans. She laid down in nothing but her white sleeveless underwear. It was in the style that men wore, but then all of Maddy's clothing was. I sat down next to her on the blanket, but kept my short-sleeved black housedress on.
“Ezzy, you gotta be roastin' in that dress.”
I shrugged. “It's much nicer here in it was in town.”
“It'd be even nicer if you took that off,” she said with a sly grin.
“I'm comfortable,” I said, firmly. There were a number of reasons I was not going to follow her lead.
For one thing, I was in love with her. While she flirted with me shamelessly, I wasn't going to allow her to see that even though I was fifteen years old, my body was every bit as skinny as a child. This was not a problem that Maddy had to think about; she was a year older, but she was a foot taller then I was and I spent quite a lot of time admiring her thick, curvy figure.
For another, my black dresses somehow calmed my mind. This was especially important when I was with Maddy, I was afraid that without that armor, I might say something I would regret.
“Well I ain't comfortable,” Maddy said, and she started unbuttoning the top of the suit. She shimmied out of it as I opened my book to keep from staring.
“Going for a swim?” I said without looking up.
“Yup! Wanna come?”
“No. I have to study.”
“Ya' know, Ez, we're both girls. You don't got nothin I ain't seen.”
“I know perfectly well that we're both girls,” I said, glancing over at her nude figure. “Go for your swim.”
She walked to the riverbank and into the water. In the river she swam up and down, and ducked in and out of the water. Sometimes she called to me to make sure that I was looking before she did something that would show off her beautiful body, hoping to tempt me into joining her or returning her affections later. I just rolled my eyes, even as I enjoyed the show.
Eventually she left the water and made her way to the blanket, lying down next to me again, and I pretended to be engrossed in my book as I glanced at her. Her red hair was wet and dark, and drops of water were beaded across her skin. She also had quite a few scars, almost everywhere. I knew that some of them were from fights, but I couldn't imagine that she got all of them that way.
"See anythin’ good?" she said.
"What?" I asked, startled.
A teasing grin spread over her face. "You're lookin' at me again."
"I- I am not- I mean, you splashed water on my book," I tried to lie. It was no use, she just laughed and craned her neck to look.
I closed my book. "Fine. I was looking at your scars."
Maddy shook her head. "It ain't a crime, Ez. When there's someone naked right next to ya', they'd have some damn nerve gettin' mad at you for lookin'."
I ignored her. "Where did you get the ones on your shins? They look awful."
She lay back again, letting the question of my motives drop. "Up to a year ago, we had this nasty ol' rooster on the farm. Lemme tell ya, you don’t wanna get into it with a rooster, they got claws like razors. You know that when he finally went to the dinner table, every damn person on that farm who could lift the axe offered to do him in?"
"I can see why," I said.
"What 'bout you, Ez. You got any scars?"
I started to shake my head, then I stopped. Visions of the knife and the fire and the white hot metal. The feeling of pain shooting through my body. These thoughts hit me, and I couldn't make them go away.
Maddy was looking at me with concern, she must have seen the pain on my face, or the terror, or the guilt. I stared at her, not seeing her at all.
She sat up and took my hand. "Ez, you okay?"
"Fine," I managed to say. "I-- I--"
I shut my mouth tightly, trying not to cry. I felt weak, shaking, and the forest and riverbank seemed unreal as I tried to focus on them. Maddy drew me close and held me.
After a few moments in her arms I calmed myself, her strength seeming to pull me back to the present. It was then that I noticed the smell of her hair and neck, and the feeling of her nude body pressed against me. I don't know how long I was lost in this before I realized how close she was. Too close.
I pulled away quickly, straightening my dress and smoothing my hair.
"Ez…” she said softly, “Do you wanna talk 'bout somethin?"
"No.” I shook my head, both in response and to try to clear my mind.
"You sure? Ezzy, you can trust me." She laid a hand on my shoulder.
I reached up and touched her hand for a moment before gently pulling it away. "I know I can. There's no one I trust more."
"Then tell me. Somethin' made you come apart just then," she said, still looking concerned.
I didn't answer and opened my book.
"Somethin' about scars," she said, studying my reaction.
"I don't have any scars, Maddy." I focused on the crisp black and white of the words on the page.
"I don't believe ya'. I think that's why you don't take off your dress."
I looked her in the eye. "You can tell when I'm lying. I do not have a single scar on my body."
She looked in my eyes for a long time, searching and questioning and wondering. Then she finally nodded and said slowly, "Well, I guess ya’ don't, then."
I nodded and went back to my book. I tried to distract myself with memorizing the parts of the respiratory system. It worked well enough, I didn't even notice the sun sinking. Maddy lay there on the blanket, looking over at me occasionally, confused.
Finally, she said gently, "Ez, it's gettin' late. We oughta be gettin' home."
I nodded and closed my book, and stood up. She pulled her clothes back on and folded the blanket, and we started the walk back to the town.
Along the way she didn't notice that she led us through a patch of briars. She wore thick jeans, so they didn't tear at her legs like they did mine in my dress. I looked down and saw the thin lines of blood appear on my white legs, and then disappear just as quickly, leaving no sign but a fading pink mark.