Etched in Ink Fest Entry
A/N: Everything belongs to their respective owners. Thank you S. Meyer for letting us play with your characters. Thanks to Miike Snow for the song "Silvia", from which the title is derived. And thanks to Phantogram for their song. See you at the bottom.
Troubles are on the rise because you're in disguise – Phantogram, "Mouthful of Diamonds"
It is the colour of her hair – a deep brown complementing her features and contrasting her skin. Completing her look. It decorates along her eyes, framing them. It shapes, it expands and thins. It becomes her eyebrows.
She needs her first tattoo at thirteen.
The pain is bearable to her – enjoyable, even. The pain fights her insecurities; it battles the comments from classmates. Her new eyebrows, her permanent ones, never-to-be lost – never-to-be-found – are her source of pride and confidence. Bella enjoys them. She feels their impossible weight as a comfort. The eyebrows grow from needle and skin, a permanent plant budding from twisted soil and sun, warped nutrients and water.
She wonders, idly, if the ink could move, would move, to those blank canvasses on her scalp. The blank canvasses more evil than exciting. Destroying, not creating. Bella wonders if her new body part will improve what she needs fixed the most.
It does not.
But her eyebrows are the beginning of something new.
Their words sit hurtful in Bella's chest, the unnecessary but somehow appropriate pressure weighing on her lungs. They make each breath a trial. Each thought surrounds her head, consuming from within. Her hair. Her blank canvas. It grows a little more each day; different backdrops join in the back moving upward. Clumps and strands tangle her fingers so delicately so has no choice but to pull away and pull out.
It brings more fear that her self-destructive system will continue. That Bella will be ostracized more.
She needs her second tattoo at the tender and impressionable age of fifteen. She slips into the dingy shop scared and excited, the feeling churning unpleasantly. The hum of the gun soothes her. She receives no twin fallacy looks of sympathy and contempt from the artist.
The tattoo is a pair of black wings to alleviate the pressure, lift her hopes, raising her spirits; set directly between her breasts. She depends on the wings for the air she needs, the mindset to continue.
Bella tells no one of her second tattoo. The wings' weight is a comfort to her, its pressure relieving. She thrives under their calming balm.
Her wings are her secret medicine, better than those that she must rub in daily, nightly. Better than the needles that prick – so unlike the one that truly helped – and sting.
Her wings are her saviour.
The wig rests on Bella's scalp. Covering her canvas, covering her secret, temporarily relieving it. Too much emptiness to be shown.
It matches her old colour well. Maybe lighter tones on top, maybe darker ones on the bottom. It's shorter than what Bella likes. Too much in the front, too choppy in the back.
But what choice does she have, she wonders as she stares in her mirror, topless. Her eyebrows and her wings on proud display. Her head covered.
Is it too far forward? Her hairline is too low. It's too high. Bella cries at the change. At the sudden and sharp pain that her body has revolted against her. It is an emotional wound that sits heavy on her head, an overwhelming burden that she now carries with her. The force of her tears rocks her body at a jarring rhythm, not unlike the pace of her life, nor the beat of her broken immune system.
She sobs at the injustice, the inevitable cowardice with placing someone else's hair on. She's giving up, giving in to her own destruction. Her heart hurts, her soul shatters. What should be a blessing is her greatest curse.
The wig becomes Bella's secret. It is an added stress, an added pressure.
Her third tattoo's of a red bird, at the base of her neck, coming almost a year after her wings. A second bird, in blue added almost three months later, marking the first time she nearly lost her wig in Chicago's gusty wind tunnels.
The moment is terrifying and mortifying, the what-if on an infinite loop right there, on the inside of her eyelids.
The birds slowly climb higher and higher, beneath the wig.
Bella's confidants become these inky creations.
Bella's first time occurs in the back of his pickup truck. She's lost in sensation and touch until his hand is in her hair.
She no longer delights in breathless revelation, but in his potential discovery. It settles thickly in her stomach, deadweight and immovable. She doesn't enjoy her time with this boy, who picked her out.
This boy is so close to finding out her secret. He was new to her school, unaware of her past. This boy was supposed to be safe.
There is the strain of everything resting on Bella. No longer does she enjoy her moment with him. There is more pain than her first time, more silent tears than those of sharp hurt. It's too much.
Her first body piercing punctures her stomach. And as the ring goes through her skin, Bella enjoys the feeling of it. The pain, so much better than the dread of that time releases her.
She enjoys the feeling of the tug of her piercing. It reminds her of the secret in a welcoming manner – more than a wig ever could.
She adds a grey bird to her scalp.
Bella's newest wig is different. It's more red than brown, more of what she's come to like, rather than the past she's tried to clutch to. It's shorter, edgier. It frames her face well.
And underneath what she likes, there are the tiny patches of what she loved. The dark brown of her youth resting in their canvas, marring it – clinging resolute.
His body hates him, too. That which should protect and defend, exposes and attacks his body. Crohn's, he says, an autoimmune disorder. She sees his scars amidst the fiery roses of his back, in the gripping and thorny vines along his abdomen. His shield moves past his torso and along his arms; an indestructible armour made of his skin, built into it.
The scars of surgery, the marks of his body's revolt. Bella's fingers trace the inky ridges of his body, thriving it.
He understands her need for the liberating feeling of ink. It is the release in her life, and embraces it wholeheartedly. She feels okay in her own skin, proud. She's happy with him, the man who understands her.
Her next tattoo is of a rose, resting on her neck. The blossom sits beneath her ear, tiny plumes of smoke surrounding the vibrant red.
He gets a blue bird in the same spot. His body is his canvas and he slowly dedicates it to her.
Bella's third and final wig is worn until her skin shines through. Hair falls in the same sick pattern that hers once did, in a twisted cycle.
She doesn't want to hide any part of her. Bella revels in her own skin, in those moments when she's hairless and happy. She no longer wants to feel the pressure, the weight of such a burden.
She wants her birds in the open. She wants to feel his quick pecks in public, his lips to her scalp, tracing her old confidants.
It hurts her. The change, once shocking and alarming now angers her, pains her. The blank and once-destructive canvas that was her scalp is now beautiful to her. It is her.
She chooses her words with great care. Bella despairs over their look.
Residual embarrassment, dormant for so long rears its ugly head for one final moment. Can Bella do this? Will she do it? Can she let go of what she was supposed to look like? Will normalcy have the final say of her appearance?
Her comfort in her own skin overwhelms her secret: altering it, changing it. Her pride in herself is no longer lost in her personal-humiliation – no longer tantamount to it, but now surpasses it, swallows it.
Bella's latest tattoo is swirling script, filling up her once-harsh canvas with simple words.
"When the pressure of perfection becomes too much"
~:~ FIN ~:~
End Notes: All the thanks to Chrisska for the beta-job and acinadisme for the preread. I heart you both. A thank you to Dandelion Mind for telling me about "Silvia". (And Phantogram.) Thank you luvrofink and ltlerthqak for hosting this festival.
Bella has Alopecia. Simply put: it's is an autoimmune disease wherein the body's immune system considers one's body hair as bad. It attacks the hair follicles, causing the hair to fall out. It's fascinating to learn about.
I could wax philosophic and preach about the negative and positive ways to deal with something like this and the stress that inevitably follows, but it's pointless. Everyone deals and handles stress differently. And I'm certainly no judge or professional to decide what's a good and/or bad way.
Link to the Etched in Ink Fest site (be sure to remove the spaces): .