bella novik bruised easily and violently. not a day would pass when she would leave her apartment unadorned with blue-black imprints interrupting her pale skin like medals. she never bothered to hide them with powder, concealer, or long-sleeved shirts. she wore them like sunglasses, dark and obvious against her body and yet hiding a telltale story. the people in her building were nosy, she knew. she could feel their eyes creeping around her while she indifferently pulled junk ads from her mailbox. they were all making up little anecdotes in their minds about how clumsy she must be, what an abusive boyfriend she must have.
bella was unmarried, and her neighbors all knew that. she had no friends, and they all guessed that as well. she was approaching 30 fast, a steadfastly single, cold woman. she was an artist and a writer, and in the shadows of her apartment she warmed to dead authors and tubes of oil paint. sometimes she unlocked her door for lovers, but they faded out of her life quicker than her bruises. she taped over her windows pages from outdated encyclopedias pasted together to form large sheets, facts colliding with facts. she used to leave them open to enjoy the city air when she first moved in, but over years she began to feel as if the city was starting to prey on her.
her paranoia was hereditary. bella’s mother was a sharp, neurotic woman. most of bella’s childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, her mother flitting around her like an anxious insect, haranguing doctors who had grown tired of her hypochondria.
“there’s nothing wrong with her,” they’d explain exasperatedly. “she’s the healthiest ten year old alive. she just bruises easily, that’s all. tender skin.”
“it could be a symptom of hemophilia!” her mother would counter, eyes widening. “she could be hemorrhaging, you need to find out! whenever she gets a nosebleed, it’ll last for half a day and the sink would be overflowing with blood!” she looked positively delighted in her exaggerations, head motioning rapidly at bella to agree.
but bella was fine, and her mother neglected her own health in favor of the weirdly transferred hypochondria. she succumbed to a brain aneurysm when bella was in her second year of art school, to the surprise of no one. bella did not cry at the funeral. she did not console her stepfather. she was a statue, as she had always been. when she looked down into the open casket, the only thought running through her head was, finally, no more goddamn hospital trips. if she was ashamed or appalled by her own feelings, no one could tell.