How to Save a Life(5)

By: Emma Scott

“So glad you could join us,” Marnie said, her voice drawling. The look she exchanged with Adam was so loud, I could hear it.

Is she for real?

I know, right?

“Jo Clark,” I said. “I’m new.”

“Obviously.” Marnie narrowed her eyes at me. “What’s your story?”

“I heard you guys run an underground ‘zine.”

Marnie perked up, her expression brightening momentarily before carefully morphing back to blasé. She was the editor-in-chief of Mo Vay Goo, one of the school’s monthly circulars. I’d rescued a copy from the hallway trash not ten minutes before.

Mo Vay Goo was a play on the phrase mauvais goût, meaning in bad taste. It was an angsty little number, full of angry rants against The Man and existential editorials. I expected it to be puerile and kind of silly, but it was actually pretty good. Plus, I wasn’t a fan of sitting by myself at lunchtime.

“Yeah, I’m the editor,” Marnie said. “Your point?”

“I’d like to contribute,” I said. “I write poetry.”

Adam Lopez sniffed. “Honey, we’re a serious mag.”

“I don’t write fluffy shit.” I turned to Marnie. “If you want a sample first, I’m happy to provide.”

Adam looked inclined to protest but Marnie’s eyes were on me and the hair I kept over the left side of my face. She tapped her teeth with a black-chipped nail. “New content is never a bad thing.”

“How do we know she’s not just trying to get in to fuck us up?” Adam said.

I snorted. It was cute they thought anyone cared enough about their ‘zine to crash the party. “Do I look like I’m running undercover for the pep squad? I said I write poetry. Much of it in bad taste.”

Marnie crossed her arms. “That’s cool. But we’re not interested in poems about purple clouds of sadness or how your life is a dark house with no doors.”

“We want art,” Adam said. “Not imitation Nick Cave lyrics.”

This was encouraging. Maybe Mo Vay Goo was up my alley after all. I glanced around at the table. Six other kids in black with jagged haircuts, some with chunks of chalk-coloring, all stared at me. My people. Or they would be once I initiated myself into their circle. Just do it, I thought. Like tearing off a Band-Aid.

I sat up straight and lifted the hair hiding half my face. The cool air hit my cheek, and I felt naked. Exposed. My left eye blinked at the sudden infusion of light. The whole table got a good look for three excruciating seconds, then I dropped the curtain.

Adam whistled low between his teeth. “Jesus. What happened, girl?”

“Car accident,” I said. “I was thirteen. Killed my mother, left me this beauty of a souvenir. I don’t talk about it. I write poems about it.” I looked to Marnie. “No fluffy shit.”

“Yeah.” She nodded, her eyes wide as she took in my cheek where my scar hid. “No fluffy shit.”

I was in. Insta-friends: just add tragedy.

That night I ate my dinner sitting cross-legged in one of the old Laz-Y-Boy chairs stationed in front of the TV. Gerry sat in the other, watching baseball with a bucket of KFC on his lap. He’d offered me some—thereby fulfilling his guardianship duties for the evening—but I wasn’t a fan of the greasy stuff. Only the best BPA-filled ramen and a Diet Coke for me.

“I’ve got a long haul coming up,” Gerry said, never taking his eyes off the tube. “Week and a half. Maybe two.”


“You’ll be fine?”


Like I had a choice, anyway.

That night, I stood at the mirror of my own bathroom and tied up my hair from my face. My scar stood out brilliantly under crappy fluorescent lighting. A ragged seam that started just under my left eye and stretched in a perfect, if shaky, line to my jaw. A lightning crack of shiny white.