The scar on my hand itched. Just below the headline, stretching from one side to the other, it provided a grim reminder of why I followed a dangerous, destructive path. This minor blemish didn’t hold a candle to the one below my stomach. It ached from time to time but never itched. Every wound carried a story.
I hurt my hand shortly after my eleventh birthday. I’d come home to visit my mother after attending sanctum for less than a year. Father rarely showed his face there anymore and I should’ve been allowed peace from Lark rhetoric. I woke early and stepped into the kitchen to make breakfast. I never remembered what I tried to prepare. The events of the day overwhelmed such details.
I’ll never forget the blood. A wet floor, a knife and a little youthful clumsiness resulted in a gash in the middle of my hand. The pain brought panic. I stumbled into the living room and collapsed on the sofa. Mom found me, dragged me upstairs and went about cleaning my wound. A small bandage contained the damage.
The entire incident should’ve been forgotten but for the fact my father decided he should visit just then.
He found blood on his antique furniture, a piece he probably forgot about. The man lost his fucking mind. I might as well have pissed on the Mona Lisa or burned an original Botticelli. The damn thing didn’t even look nice. Crap brown fabric, tarnished wood, pillows long since rendered flat and uncomfortable…yet my dad treated this transgression against it like a personal betrayal.
Never mind the fact even I, at only eleven years old, could’ve used a spell to cleanse the gore from the fiber.
He stormed into the bathroom like a madman, shoving my mother aside. His eyes blazed, blue orbs filled with rage. I cowered on the toilet, my young brain unable to process precisely what was happening. He grabbed my hand and glared with disdain. My wrist ached from his grip and I trembled so violently my jaw burned.
“So what is this?” He demanded.
“I…I hurt myself…”
He squeezed, making me whimper. “How?”
“A knife…an accident. I…I was just clumsy.”
“Oh, you’re clumsy, eh? After all the work you’ve done at the sanctum? After the fencing and martial arts? Very well. I know a way to steady your hand.” He snatched a knife from a dimensional pocket. “Open your hand!”
I had no idea what he had in mind. He was my father. Until that moment, he gave me no cause to distrust him. I complied, staring up at him to meet his blue eyes with my own. My hand and wrist hurt, yes but I had no cause to believe he would do worse…I couldn’t have been more wrong.
He pressed the tip of the blade to the left side of my hand and dragged it across, opening the skin over my tiny wound as neatly as one might the zipper of a troublesome garment. I’d never screamed like that before but I have many times since. The agony pulled it from my mouth but the fact he did it…his betrayal dragged it out of my soul.
It didn’t end there.
My blood flowed to the floor. My mother attacked my father. He slapped her into submission while I slowly slipped into shock. When he returned to me, I sat gasping, covered in sweat and barely able to keep my eyes open. He struck me on the mouth, a swift smack dragging me back to the present.
“Do you want to bleed to death you little idiot?” He dropped a needle and thread on the counter. “Fix it. As you’ve been taught.”
I stared at him, unsure if he genuinely meant what he said. The tension in his jaw said I shouldn’t delay.
I fixed the thread to the needle and, with a shaking, tiny hand went to work on securing my flesh. How did I do it? How’d I finish? Every pinprick danced down my spine, every slither of string turned my stomach. The sound of fiber scraping through skin haunted my dreams for years until far worse tragedy trumped it.
The task finished and I passed out. Doctors at the sanctum infirmary woke me up. Apparently, dad brought me to ensure I’d successfully treated the wound. They applied a new bandage and told me they had to redo the sutures. “Did you take it to some road side medical center? They were terribly sloppy.”
Dad overheard them.
“Was it?” He asked, once again reserved…his old self renewed.
“Yes, sir. They were quite crooked and a bit loose. I’d call them passable but she definitely needed a professional touch.”
After we left, he brought me back to my mother. I thought we might teleport but he actually drove. I sat in silence, staring out the window. Fear clung to my heart as stiffness did my hand. If he could injure me and cause such horror, what else might he be capable of? Would he kill me for another indiscretion?
“You shouldn’t have bled on the sofa, Ruby.”
I thought to remind him it was an accident but I chose silence. It seemed the better part of valor.
“Then you fouled up the stitches.”
“They said they were passable!” I couldn’t help but defend myself a little.
“You feel passable is sufficient? Will you go through your life doing just good enough? I thought I raised you better.”
Tears came unbidden. I couldn’t speak…I trembled…I felt alone in the world. The people who should’ve protected me, the ones I put my faith in, betrayed me. My mother never stood against my father and he…well, he showed me what sort of person he was. Helplessness settled over me like a wet shawl.
“You will clean the sofa when you return and you are grounded until you return to the sanctum. Think on what you’ve done and what you intend to do. Your greatness depends on your perseverance and dedication. Do not think you will get far by failing. I did not bring you into the world to accept mediocre results.”
A part of me died right then. My childhood withered. Henry Lark set me on a dangerous, destructive path by teaching me such a harsh lesson…one I intended to revisit upon him tenfold.