Someone To Kiss My Scars
A Teen Thriller
by Brooke Skipstone
October 17th 2019
First Place Pencraft Award in Young Adult Abuse
Readers’ Favorite International Contest: Silver Medal in Young Adult Thriller
“Powerful. Original. Deeply felt and convincing.” — Kirkus Reviews
Hunter needs to remember. Jazz needs to forget. They need each other to heal in this teen thriller of survivor love.
Hunter’s past is a mystery to him, erased by a doctor at the direction of his father. But memories of the secret trauma begin to surface when Hunter sees other people’s memories–visions invading his mind with stories of abuse, teen self-mutilation, rape, and forbidden sex.
His best friend Jazz has dark and disturbing memories of her own that she hides behind her sass and wit. Hunter discovers he can rescue the victims, even though he risks adding their suffering to his own.
Hunter and Jazz kiss each other’s scars and form a bond of empathy no two teens should ever need.
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“Girl, you need to get to class,” said Patty, the secretary, in her loud, thick drawl. She was a large woman with a big smile, born in Texas, who lined her eyes in dark blue, wore big hoop earrings and gaudy silver necklaces. Today she wore jeans, boots, and a bright yellow top with white fringe and turquoise pieces sewn into the fabric. She loved the kids, and most loved her back, including Jazz.
“I need to show something to Hunter. It’s so cool!”
“Mr. Roberts approved you being out of his class?”
“He knows. He said it was OK.”
She had advanced to the state science fair a month ago and now wanted desperately to go to the international fair next year, her last chance before graduation. Maybe she could win a scholarship or some money for college. Mr. Roberts, her science teacher, had given her a corner of the school lab to run her experiments even through the summer. She’d been hired as extra maintenance help at the school, so she would have access to the building through August.
Jazz straightened up and put her hands on the glass door as she saw his truck roll into the parking lot.
Jazz watched Hunter park his truck and run toward the front door. As usual he looked flustered and a little clumsy when he ran, but God was he cute! She loved his long, floppy hair, his thick eyebrows over his dark brown eyes. And his mouth was gorgeous—so full and soft. He was the only guy in school who didn’t think she was weird for loving science and who smiled at her like he meant it. He was her only real friend. Before he came in August, the only people who cared about her were the teachers and Patty.
Just as he reached for the entry bell, Jazz pushed the front door open.
“Hey, Hunter!” She knew from the heat she felt in her cheeks she was blushing behind her big smile.
“Hey, Jazz. Sorry I’m late. I know you wanted me here early.”
“It’s OK. I have something to show you.” She grabbed his arm.
“I’ve got to get to class,” he said, panting.
“Patty said she’d give you a pass. C’mon!” Jazz pulled him down the hallway. “I said no such thing!” yelled Patty as the two kids ran past her.
“You know you will!” shouted Jazz over her shoulder.
Jazz dragged him down the hall to the science wing, opened the lab door, and walked to the far side of the room near the fume hood and a short lab table against the wall—her domain. One of the fluorescent tubes flickered on the ceiling. She looked up and shook her head. “That won’t do. Can’t have another variable in here. I’ll talk to Mr. Roberts later to have this fixed.”
She carefully removed a cover from a small shelving unit to reveal a series of petri dishes containing small brown worms. “Ta da!” said Jazz.
Each dish lay inside colored tape strips, labeled with names and dates. A clipboard with the color-code key hung from a hook.
Hunter bent closer. “Worms? Did you make them?” He wrinkled his nose. “Kinda. I trained them with food and bright lights until they remembered what to do in different environments to find their food. So if those memories were stored in their brain, which is similar to ours, you would think that if their heads were amputated, the new regenerated brain wouldn’t remember their training. But they did!” She threw out her hands in excitement.
“Yeah! As a group they didn’t do quite as well as the trained, uncut controls, which were not decapitated, but the ones that regrew their heads did as well as those which regrew their tails. And both groups of regenerated worms found their food faster than an untrained group. ”
“Meaning memory is not confined to their brains!” She lifted up onto her toes and felt warmth radiating throughout her body. “If it were, the ones that grew new brains wouldn’t remember the training. Don’t you see? So many people think memories are stored in the brain, but they may be stored in other parts of the body or outside it.”
“At least in worms. What about in humans?”
“Could be the same. I haven’t figured out an experiment for them yet.” She moved closer and straightened the collar on his shirt. “But I’m looking for volunteers to help me.” She touched his nose with her finger. “How about you?”
“Sure. Unless you plan to chop something off me.”
She moved closer, enjoying the tease, locking her eyes onto his. “First, I train you, then I chop.” She picked up a ruler off a table next to her and slapped it into her hand. “Do you respond better to punishment or reward?” She walked toward him, shaking the ruler. “I used bright lights and raw liver on the worms.”
He backed away, chuckling. “So which one of those is the reward?”
“The liver, obviously. But for you . . .” She thought of so many things she wouldn’t dare say to him. “How about fresh chocolate chip cookies after school? I could come by your place.”
“Cool. I’d like that.”
He was so much fun. “When are you going to show me more stories about the Tremarians? I haven’t read any for a while.”
A pained look crossed his face. “I had to start writing something else.” “You had to? Why?”
“I’ll explain later. How about when you bring the cookies?”
“OK.” She noticed his frown and felt a chill. “Are you all right?” “Sure. Well, not really.”
“What’s wrong?” She almost reached out for his hand, but pulled back and clasped her hands against her chest.
“I realized this morning I never asked you about the things you didn’t want to remember. When we first talked. In the gym months ago. I told you I wanted to remember my past, and you said there were things you wanted to forget. What are they? And I’m sorry for not asking you before now.”
She felt her eyes widen and her heart race. How could you remember that? “So many things, Hunter, but none of them involve you.”
His shoulders slumped.
Jazz felt a rush of fear. Had she offended him? “What made you think of that now? I mean, I love that you care enough to ask, but what brought that up?”
Hunter bit his lip and frowned. “I haven’t had much sleep. I tried to find something from my past in my dad’s room, but the few things I found meant nothing to me. And I think he’s lying to me about . . . why we came here.” His chin quivered.
She moved closer to him, unable this time to resist, and reached for his hands. He tensed, causing her to pause. “Do you mind?”
She held both of his hands and felt them quivering within her own. “I’m your friend, Hunter. Something’s going on with you, and I want to help.” She looked into his brown eyes and saw them twitch. “Why don’t you come to my house for lunch today? I’ve got some leftover spaghetti and meatballs.”
He looked at their hands touching and smiled slightly. “That would be great. I forgot to bring anything to eat today. Lucky this school allows us to go home for lunch.”
“Good.” She squeezed his hands then let them go. “You better get to class.”
“Yeah, thanks.” He turned to leave and opened the door then looked back. “So what’s the brain for if not to store memories?”
“It’s a receiver and transmitter, like a TV set. A signal comes in, and a movie memory plays in your head.”
His eyes widened as he just stared at her with his mouth open.
“Are you OK?”
“Yeah. Gotta go.” He left the room.
She thought he would be excited or awed about her conclusion, but he seemed
terrified. Why did he have to write something else? Something was going on inside Hunter’s head. She’d sensed it since they first met. He said he couldn’t remember his past, yet he often seemed haunted.
She knew what nightmares the past could bring.
Brooke Skipstone lives in Alaska, where she watches the mountains change colors with the seasons from her balcony. Where she feels the constant rush toward winter as the sunlight wanes for six months of the year, seven minutes each day, bringing crushing cold that lingers even as the sun climbs again. Where the burst of life during summer is urgent under twenty-four-hour daylight, lush and decadent. Where fish swim hundreds of miles up rivers past bear claws and nets and wheels and lines of rubber-clad combat fishers, arriving humped and ragged, dying as they spawn. Where danger from the land and its animals exhilarates the senses, forcing her to appreciate the difference between life and death. Where the edge between is sometimes too alluring.
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