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I was fourteen the first time I tried to kill myself. I swallowed a bottle of my mother’s Ativan. Unfortunately, our maid found me soon after and put two and two together when she saw the empty pill bottle on the floor. Our neighbor, Dr. Holland, rushed over and forced me to drink something that looked like charcoal. There were more indignities involved that I won’t go into, but needless to say, it fucking sucked.

My father railed at me for hours afterward about the embarrassment I had caused him and how horrifying it would be if any of his friends or colleagues found out. My mother pissed and moaned about how I’d wasted her bottle of anxiety medication and how inconvenient it would be for her to refill the script again.

I promised I wouldn’t put them through that kind of trouble again and kept my word until I was seventeen. On that last attempt, I slit my wrists in my parents’ bedroom. Somehow, the irony of killing myself in the room of the people who I hated so much seemed symbolic. Plus, they weren’t due home for another day from their latest mini-vacation, so I never expected I would be saved.

Again, my father was pissed he had to call Dr. Holland. And my mother went on and on about how I’d ruined the carpet in the bedroom. She used the whole “incident,” as they’d taken to calling it, as an excuse to have all the carpeting removed from the house and hardwood floors installed. I could almost imagine the conversation she must have had with my father. We need to be prepared in case Rose tries to off herself again. Just think of how much faster the cleanup will be next time.

In a strange way, I can almost admire how easily my parents, Hoyt and Celia Madden, bounced back from life’s little surprises. Other than being annoyed at having to deal with me, they were surprisingly unscathed when I “acted out.” Yes, that was the other term they used to describe their daughter attempting to take her own life. Something that should have been, at the very least, a cry for help was trivialized as nothing more than me going through those awkward teenage years. I’d started having panic attacks a few years before my first attempt, which should have possibly tipped them off that I was in distress, but instead, my mother had rolled her eyes and told me to start carrying a bag around in case it was the housekeeper’s day off. It fascinated me that she saw it as the housekeeper’s role to provide the bag, rather than her own. It also communicated her indifference and scorn loudly.

After the second attempt, I gave up on ending it all and just looked for ways to cope. I was every cliché in the book. Poor little rich girl, what does she know about the real world? A valid question maybe. I had, after all, been raised in a big house with actual staff that took care of all of our needs. I wore designer labels and expensive jewelry. I never wanted for material possessions because they were part of the package my father presented to the world. We were the Maddens. We were old money and prestige. The perfect family—or, at least, that’s the image my parents desperately tried to project.

Funnily enough, he may have wanted me to dress and act like a lady, but he had instilled in me a love of guns from an early age. Target practice was the only bonding experience I ever had with my father. I had been thrilled the first time he’d taken me with him until I learned it was just another area of my life where I was expected to be perfect. I was a glorified show dog, after all, and any shortcomings on my part reflected poorly on him. I would hazard a guess that I was probably the only little girl in my third-grade class who was an expert marksman. Instead of a doll for Christmas, I got a new handgun. I could go on, but you get the idea.

At eighteen, quite by accident, I found a way to rebel against my parents’ dictates, while still appearing to follow them. I cut my leg while shaving and marveled for days over the small imperfection that no one seemed to notice. As silly as it may sound, I felt I had control over something in my life for the first time ever. Thus began my voyage into cutting, or self-mutilation as the experts called it.

I took perverse pleasure in knowing there was a new cut on my inner thigh that no one knew anything about. I could sit at the dining room table across from my parents looking like June freaking Cleaver, and they had no clue as to the wounds I’d inflicted upon myself. I held the power over this small part of my life, and oh, did I relish it. I longed to tell them that their flawless daughter was in reality damaged both mentally and physically, but I knew if it did, they would take that from me as well.

Yes, I’m quite aware of how insane it sounds to be frightened of losing the ability to cut myself, but it was the only piece of free will that I’d been left with. Until I met Jake Ryan during my second year of college. He was thoughtful, considerate, and gorgeous. He was my first official boyfriend and lover. My parents had been okay with him because his parents were a part of Asheville society, but they made sure to point out that he wasn’t future husband material. They had bigger aspirations for me. I was just thrilled to be living what felt like a normal life. I also had a real friend in my new roommate, Lia Adams.

For what seemed like but a moment, but was actually a couple of years, things were good. My parents were still overbearing, but since I didn’t live with them, I was somewhat removed from their demands. I was no longer cutting either as Jake knew all about it and had pleaded with me to stop.

But I should have known it wouldn’t last. My roommate and best friend, who had so recently become involved with Lucian Quinn, a very rich and powerful software magnate, was brutally attacked by her stepfather in the basement of our apartment building. Around the same time, I discovered that Jake had been cheating on me for months. It was over. The beautiful illusion I’d been living shattered, and I returned to the only way I knew to cope.

“Rose! Are you asleep with your eyes open?” I come back to the present with a jolt as my friend, Lia, snaps her fingers in front of my face. “Is everything all right?” she asks, looking at me in concern.

“I’m fine, chick.” I give her a reassuring smile, dropping my shield into place automatically. Lia is the closest thing I have to a sister, and I love her dearly. She knows me well enough to sense there are areas of my life I keep locked away, but she doesn’t push me. After all, Lia understands secrets far too well. An abusive mother raised her, and her stepfather had terrorized her. The fact that she is sitting before me now looking beautifully relaxed and happy is a testament to her strength and resilience. Of course, being married to Lucian and having a gorgeous baby girl probably helps greatly. Surprisingly enough, I’m not jealous of her perfect life. If I feel anything when I see her and her doting husband together, it’s a pang of sadness that I’ll never have the same. Instead, I’ll likely be stuck in some loveless marriage to please my father. “So how is that hot hunk of a hubby this morning? You have that relaxed, sexed-up look going on.”

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