Genre: New Adult, LGBT
At the age of seventeen, Paige Alexander had it all planned. She wrote a letter, sat in the bath, and slit her wrists. Her plan failed.
Her best friend, Alex, is dead.
Paige can’t get over her twin sister blaming her for a tragic event in their past.
Colorado is in the midst of voting on lesbian and gay rights and Paige is terrified to come out of the closet, fearful for her life.
Many people in Paige’s life are keeping secrets from her. Will she piece everything together before it’s too late?
In this gripping first-person narrative, a young college student grapples with more than first loves or coming of age. In a world filled with homophobia, suicidal feelings, and a dysfunctional family, Paige cuts her wrists in an attempt to free herself from the crazy life that’s all she’s ever known.
Could there be new lessons in store for Paige? With the help of her girlfriend, friends, and a compassionate therapist, can Paige find the safe space she needs to heal, grow, and cut her strings?
The plan was simple. There were only three steps. Three! And I still fucked up.
Step one: write letter.
Step two: draw bath.
Step three: razor.
I’m not sure how I screwed it all up. What kind of idiot can’t follow three simple steps? Maybe there should have been four steps. The fourth would have included time, would have made sure I had enough time for step three to work. I didn’t allow enough time. To be honest, I didn’t know how long it would take. I still don’t. But I learned that it isn’t instantaneous.
A gun would have been instantaneous. Jesus! Why didn’t I think of that first? That’s why men succeed more: they use guns. Pow! Sayonara!
I’d had enough time to cut both of my wrists. I thought the razor might hurt, but I don’t remember any pain. I remember yelling. I wasn’t screaming; Jessica was. She wasn’t yelling at me, or maybe she was. I wasn’t listening. People say that’s one of my biggest problems: I don’t pay attention. In my defense, she wasn’t making much sense, so I didn’t bother listening. In her defense, if I came home to that, I don’t know if I would have been polite and coherent either.
Imagine coming home to find your girlfriend in your bathtub with slit wrists. And I don’t even live with her. I have a key to her apartment, but I don’t pay the rent or the bills. How rude of me. I didn’t account for the untidiness either. It wasn’t fair to assume Jess would want to clean up that kind of mess. She did, though. Jess wanted to destroy all of the evidence that I had tried to off myself. I think she did it more for her own peace of mind.
I couldn’t implement my plan in my own home. What am I saying? I didn’t implement my plan. I failed.
I can add that to my list of accomplishments. It’s a growing list. Accomplishment isn’t the right word per se, but if all you have are failures to your name, I find it’s best to think of them as accomplishments. Probably not the best attitude, but I haven’t been in a fabulous frame of mind lately.
People keep telling me I’m too hard on myself. What the fuck do they know? No one knows, not even Jess.
I wouldn’t say I’m having a Bell Jar moment. Plath was going crazy; I’m not.
Jessica flipped the shit out on me. Who could blame her? I think she feels like a failure too, since she’s been trying to help me, and she loves me. Why she does is beyond all comprehension. Sure, sometimes I can be funny. But most of the time, I’m serious. The rest, I’m sad—trapped in my past, reliving the same events over and over in my head.
I know people say they have emotional baggage. Do they know what they’re talking about? I have baggage. I’m not bragging about it. I’m just stating the simple truth. I’m an effed-up individual who dwells on the past and tries to numb myself constantly. I don’t use drugs, although I’ll drink. I just numb myself by disappearing when I’m with people.
Jessica thinks I need to stop my destructive behavior. Sure, sure. I’ll just plant my feet firmly on the ground and stop. If only it were that easy. If it were, then I’d do it. At least I think I would do it.
I don’t mean to knock Jessica. I love her. God, I love her. But I don’t know how to explain to her … how to tell her that I’m broken. Beyond repair. There’s not enough glue to put me back together.
Maybe the issue is me. I know that seems obvious. I slit my wrists, after all. No one made me. I did it. But hear me out. Millions of people have difficult lives, yet they still function. Again, I swear this isn’t a Bell Jar moment. I’m not bonkers. Confused: yes. Scared: check. Angry: most definitely. I spend most of my time annoyed with people. Why do they have to be so fucking stupid?
I like to study history. The history of the little guy. Don’t get me wrong, kings, queens, explorers and shit, they’re all cool, but I like to see how the little guys make it. How do they survive hardship? Like Elie Wiesel—he survived the Holocaust for Christ’s sake, and then he wrote a book about it. I read that book a lot. If he could survive that, why can’t I survive my past? Why do I always go back? I didn’t live in Auschwitz. My home life sucked. Sucked big time. My parents are horrible people. They do not like me, not one bit. But my home isn’t Auschwitz, and my parents are not Nazis. Why can’t I be a survivor, be like Elie?
It isn’t like I always go back to a particular incident. I’m not a time traveler. (This isn’t a Slaughterhouse-Five scenario either. I’m not Billy Pilgrim.) I just check out. I don’t know where I go, but I’m gone. I’ll stop talking—that’s another way to become invisible. I might nod my head, act like I’m listening. I’m not. Most people, though, don’t really care whether anyone else is listening. Many people don’t even notice. They just want to talk. They just want to feel as if someone is listening. How many people really care what others think? Not many, from my experience. That’s one of the hardest things to live with, feeling alone. Even when I’m with others I feel alone. Even more so. I don’t think many people can relate to me. I know I can’t relate to them. I feel like I’m on the outside, looking in.
Disappearing all of the time has perpetuated this feeling of being alone. Logically, I should stop disappearing. But my brain doesn’t think logically. I’m not sure how it thinks, but I don’t feel logical.
I feel … well, I don’t know how I feel. Confused. Scared. Angry. Alone. But now that I think about it, I’m not sure that’s true. At times, I’m sure I feel all of those emotions. Other times, I don’t feel. Not at all. I don’t get it. I wish I could, but I don’t.
Explanations—that’s what I seek. I’ve always been one who wonders who, what, and why, which is just another reason I love to study history. Every history test has those “who am I?” questions, and I nail them every time. In fact, I’m a brilliant student. I don’t mean to brag. I’m just stating the facts. School and I get along. I have a photographic memory; some think that’s cheating, but I can’t change it. It’s nice if you want good grades.
But when it comes to asking those questions about myself. Who am I? What am I? I can’t really answer them. They seem fairly obvious, right? I’m me. I’m a girl. And I’m not one who wants to be a boy, even if I’m in love with a girl. I think people who think that are idiots. Usually, though, they don’t see that. I wish idiots would recognize that they’re idiots. Life would be so much easier if others said, “Don’t bother with me, I’m an idiot.”
Let’s start again, at the beginning. I slit my wrists. My girlfriend came home. She went ape-shit. I got stitches in both arms. I felt a little like Frankenstein—the monster I mean, even if that’s not really correct. Everyone thinks the monster’s name is Frankenstein, so I’m not about to correct them and tell them it was the doctor’s name. My point is that I was patched back together and told to be normal, to be human. Victor Frankenstein, the scientist, didn’t try to teach the monster, but at least Jess is trying to teach me how to be normal. How to be human.
I shouldn’t scar too much. Oh, there are visible marks that make me self-conscious, but I didn’t cut deep enough, which leads some to think I did it for attention. You know what I have to say to that: Fuck off!
I didn’t have enough time. It wasn’t to get attention. I hate needy people; I’m not one them. Jess has a doctor friend so I didn’t have to go to the hospital for stitches. We both know what would have happened if my parents had found out.
My parents—what can I say about them. Dad is rich, successful, and many people like and respect him. I’m not sure why, because he’s a sonofabitch. Mom, well she might be a lunatic—I mean legit crazy. Not born that way, made that way. My twin sister, Abbie, she disappears in different ways. I’m not sure who has the healthier way of disappearing. We aren’t close. I wouldn’t say we’re rivals. We just don’t get along. It’s like we aren’t sisters at all. We’re not identical, and since birth we’ve been moving in different directions. In the fall, she’s heading out east for school. I’ll be three hours away from home, a little over two hours from Jess.
I don’t get along with any of my family. I don’t really care to. They aren’t nice people. I’m not saying that I’m nice. In fact, I bug the shit out of myself most days, but I hope I’m not like them. Especially my mom. I hope I’m nothing like her. My father is a controlling asshole. But Mom—she’s in a class of her own. Evil. She’s evil.
Yes, it’s normal for teenagers not to like their parents. To think they don’t understand, don’t care, and just want to ruin their children’s lives. I’ve seen all the John Hughes movies. I would kill to have parents who are just clueless. Mine aren’t clueless—well, maybe about one thing. They don’t know I’m gay. They might suspect it, but it’s never been confirmed. If they find out, I’ll be sent away. Not to a happy place. I’m talking about institutions where they chain you to walls and shock the shit out of you. And not just by what they say. Literally, they shock the shit out of you. Zap! Sometimes people die mysteriously in these joints. Trust me, I know. Don’t believe me, ask Alex. Oh wait, she’s dead. You can’t.
They cannot find out! I don’t want to go away—not to that place. They have wanted to do that for a long, long time.
In fact, maybe cutting my wrists wasn’t really the beginning at all. Maybe it just leads to the beginning. Did I forget to tell you that I’m seventeen? I always forget my age. I feel so old. I was born in 1974. It’s 1992. Ninety-two minus seventy-four makes eighteen. Now you think I’m a liar. But my birthday is late in the year, which is why that’s a little confusing. I’ve always been the baby in my class. Yet, I was always the tallest girl in my class, too. It never made sense to me. I think I was right at the cutoff for waiting another year to start kindergarten. My mom didn’t like having me around, so she sent me early. If she had waited, I would have been one of the oldest kids in class; probably still the tallest, though.
I’m a giant compared to my mom. I’m almost six feet. She’s barely five. How? Ask Mendel.
Later in the year, I’ll be eighteen—an adult.
But I’ve been an adult since I was born. I made a deal with Jess that I would begin therapy when I started college. Like that’s going to help. I can’t blame Jess. She doesn’t know why I did it. I can’t tell anyone. And no one would believe me either.
* * *
Now that I’m getting ready to “officially” become an adult by graduating high school, Jessica thinks I should get my act together. That’s the nice way of saying, “You’re effed in the head, pull it together, Paige.”
Paige. Paige Alexander, that’s my name. I usually don’t tell people my last name, though. My dad is well known throughout the West. We live in Colorado, but if you travel through that region, you’ll find most know his name.
Jessica says a therapist can help me pull it together. The college I’m attending in the fall has a University Counseling Center. Since I don’t want my parents to know, I can’t afford a super-expensive therapist. The school’s therapist is free for the first five sessions and then fifty bucks a pop after that.
Money isn’t an issue for me. Dad puts money into my account each month. My parents’ names are on my account, so I live a cash-only existence. Another way to disappear. They can track my ATM withdrawals, but they don’t know where I spend my cash. Usually, I don’t know either. It’s so much easier to spend cash. It’s like Monopoly money. One instant, I have a wad of bills, then the next, nada. I wish I had a cool money clip. I should look into getting one. Something that makes me look tough, like a gangster. People don’t mess with gangsters.
I’m not a gangster, though. I’m a scrawny white girl. I’ve been told I’m good looking. I have long legs. People seem to like girls with long, slender legs. I don’t. When you aren’t coordinated and you have long legs, you fall down a lot. I’ve broken many bones.
It’s taken seventeen years to do all the damage, and now I hope to fix it in one. I promised Jess I’d go to therapy for at least a year. Not sure it’ll work, but I made a promise. I’m good with promises. Well, mostly. I recently broke one. To be honest, I was forced to break it. It nearly killed me—literally.
Jess wanted me to agree to four years—the entire time I’m in school! I didn’t want to set that precedent since I plan on going to grad school. I don’t want to be in therapy for the next eight to ten years. How depressing would that be? Seriously fucked-up people go to therapy for that long. I’m not fucked up. I just want to control my own fate, not be a puppet for others.
I’m not a sociopath. Wait … would therapy even help them? Doubt it.
Will the therapist give me one of those personality tests? You know the ones with letters that pinpoint your type. I never know how to answer those questions. Are you organized? Yes … except when I’m not.
Many have said I’m a “Type A personality.” Here are the characteristics:
Rigidly organized (semi check);
Highly status conscious (my parents force this one on me);
Sensitive (well, that seems unnecessary. Why not just call me a crybaby?);
Cares for other people (yes and no);
Truthful (flat-out no);
Always trying to help others (in most cases);
Takes on more than one can handle (yes, but didn’t have a choice);
Wants others to get to the point (well, duh! Who doesn’t?);
Obsessed with time management (uh, I mentioned earlier that I failed with time management).
This list doesn’t include knowing that I’m always right. It should include that. It should also include knowing that most people are fucking morons. How do they keep surviving and breeding? Also, I think everyone should get out of my way. I like to get from point A to point B fast. I hate pedestrians and drivers who lollygag. If you want to be lookyloos, by all means. Just get the fuck out of my way!
Back to this whole time-management thing. I think I should just get on with it. How long does an introduction need to be anyway? I could have simplified things for you.
I’m seventeen. A girl. I’m going to college in a few months. My whole life is in front of me.
I slit my wrist two days ago.
I’m not insane, but I act like I am.
Marionette by T.B. Markinson grabbed me right from the first page and kept my eyes glued to my Kindle until the very end. I loved Paige instantly because she was very realistic. She’s fearful and angry, naïve and caring, much like any woman of her age. Except Paige’s life is unlike most people’s lives. There are plenty of secrets and twists, and they made this book one I couldn’t put down. I enjoyed how well Markinson wove in serious issues—suicide, sexual orientation, and transitioning from teenager to adult—while still maintaining a novel that had lighthearted and snarky moments, such as Paige’s annoyance at stupid people and how ridiculously she ate. Marionette is a truly wonderful read, and I highly recommend it.
Purchase Marionette here:
About the Author:
T.B. Markinson is an American writer living in England. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling around the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in England, or taking the dog for a walk. Not necessarily in that order.
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