E. L. Montes

Perfectly Damaged

“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”

– Barbara Bloom


For the ones who have

always felt alone,

like there was no more fight left in them…


For Isabella…

The most powerful thing of all is to believe in yourself, and you’ll never be alone.

Falling through the cracks sometimes doesn’t make you weak; it just means you’ll be that much stronger in the end.

You’re perfect exactly the way you are.

Never let anyone take that away from you. 


8 months earlier

I’m not sure how I got here. It’s dark and chilly outside. The moon’s light casting down around me is all I have to guide me through. I’m lost and afraid, trembling as the thundering rain assaults my body with every move I make. The faster I run, the harder the heavy drops stab my skin. But I continue to plunge my bare feet into the cold, muddy ground as I try to get away.

I can hear someone calling my name. It’s a familiar voice, but I can’t stop. My heart spirals out of control as I force one foot in front of the other. I have to run faster, get away from that person, get away from that voice. A scream tears up out of my throat, and I force myself to sprint through the graveyard. I lose my footing, slipping and falling in front of a tombstone. My body’s covered in thick, heavy mud as I try to bring myself up. My hair is soaked, drenched and hanging over my face like a drape. Swiftly brushing the dark strands aside, I look up. My heartbeat drives full force before it comes to a screeching halt as I read the carving on the monument: RIP Brooke McDaniel.

NO!” I scream at the top of my lungs.

No. No. No.

My body jerks up as I gasp for air. Skin damp with sweat, knuckles white, fisting the bed sheets, my chest heaves as I try to calm my breathing. It takes me a few seconds to collect myself.

A dream. Just a dream. About what?

In a complete daze, my mind struggles to remember. Darkness. Thunder. Mud. Running. And then… Brooke! Snatching my phone from the nightstand, I jump out of bed and run to her room. I place a shaky hand on the knob, but that’s as far as I can go. I’m stuck. I know what I’ll find on the other side, and it frightens me. After a few breaths, I find the courage to open it. And it’s just as I expected: nothing.

Filled with all the things that defined her, her room is exactly the same as she left it. My eyes sweep across her large bookshelf, which is overflowing with hundreds of books. I fight back a sob as my gaze rests on the sitting area where she spent countless hours immersed in a story. I shiver, taking in the now-faded posters of her favorite bands pinned all over her pale yellow walls. Her favorite book quotes, stenciled on the wall over the headboard of her bed, bring back memories of days we spent endlessly talking about them and the authors who wrote them. Pink, purple, and yellow paint her room; colors that blend together in a beautiful and sophisticated décor that only Brooke could design. Picture frames filled with images of us, Mom, Dad, and Charlie cover her desk. All of these items are valuable to me. All of them mean something to me. But all they are…is exactly that. Tangible items, filling a room that feels nothing short of vacant.

Chin down, shoulders slumped, and heart breaking, I can’t control the warm tears running down my heated cheeks. I’m praying, hoping this time it’ll be different. But it’s useless. Allowing the pain to overtake every nerve for just this moment, I hesitantly tread over to her bed, fall on top of the plush surface, and wrap myself securely in the comforter. She loved this stupid purple quilt. I remember the day she barged into my room with the soft lilac fabric in her hand, smiling brightly at the deal she managed to score at the mall. Her wide green eyes were filled with pride, her perfectly plump pink lips curled into a beautiful smile.

Why do I torture myself? Why do I allow myself to feel this pain?

I feel absent without her in my life. I need her back to feel whole again. I need her to bounce into the room with her passionate, wholehearted persona and bring light to my storm, the way she always used to. But that’s not going to happen. Brooke isn’t going to barge through that door.

And as much as I know this will do nothing but worsen the agonizing pain, I grab my phone and speed-dial Brooke’s number. It rings. I bring the cell to my ear.

“Hi, this is Brooke! Leave a message after the beep.” Her lively voice leaps through the speaker, followed by a long beep.

Again. “Hi, this is Brooke! Leave a message after the beep.”


Again. “Hi, this is Brooke! Leave a message after the beep.”


I torture myself over and over until I’m exhausted. Exhausted by crying, by feeling alone, and by being lost. I listen to my sister’s voicemail until there’s nothing left in me. Nothing, until the dullness of the early morning hours creeps in and I can’t keep my heavy lids open any longer. As I drift into my short coma, I wish, as I have many nights before, that I won’t wake, that I’ll vanish in my sleep because it’s the only way to just forget.

To never again…feel.

early June

Grief never goes away. It haunts you, taking over your mind,

body, and soul. Before you know it, it has won.

chapter 1


I sit in the waiting area of my psychiatrist’s office, vacantly staring at the glass coffee table. As usual, my thoughts trail off and I question myself: What am I living for? Every day is a struggle, wondering if I’ll have another episode. My life is a constant reminder of how big a failure I am. I try to picture my life each day and how it could’ve been if I wasn’t diagnosed with my mental illness. I absolutely despise who I am.

I’ve changed. I’m colder and more distant, numb to all those around me.

It’s the only way to stop feeling. If I don’t allow any emotion into my heart and soul, I have a better chance of surviving in this cruel, fucked-up world. Well, more like existing. In the end, it’s the only way to protect myself. People don’t get me; hell, half the time I don’t get myself. My so-called loved ones fear me. And the funniest thing of all? They have no idea how much I fear myself.

Sure, there are times I run or curl into a tiny ball, rocking back and forth until it all goes away. But that’s when I’m alone. I try not to allow anyone to witness my weaknesses. No one will ever understand it, nor will they accept it. Each day I wake up trying to fight through it, trying to forget until something triggers me to crumble again.

My phone alarm goes off, and I reach into my purse, thankful for the distraction from my thoughts. My eyes scan the room, taking in the woman across from me and her arched accusatory brow. She’s obviously unhappy with my phone interrupting her reading. I cock an eyebrow in silent, smart-ass retort as I swipe across my phone screen, shutting the ringtone off.

I dig into my purse, determined not to give her any more of my time, and remove the container holding my medication. The cap pops off and I tip over the orange plastic tube, examining the tiny pills in the palm of my hand. Some days I skip them—days that I think are good and I’m capable of getting through without them. Other days I take them with no questions asked.

On this particular day, I’m not sure what to do. I’m confused. Can I handle this on my own? Is today just another day? It’s been a week since I last took one. Although the voices will always haunt my thoughts, the hallucinations have been absent for a very long time. Until last night, that is.

Uneasiness kicks in and my vision gradually clouds over. The pills are now lost in a fuzzy haze. Here it is, another episode. Breathe, Jenna. Just breathe. My breathing grows shallow, and I clasp my hand tight around the capsules. My flesh is burning as sweat condenses on my skin. Any moment now, it will start collecting across my hairline, on my neck, at the small of my back. I’ll feel it beading up and soaking through the fabric of my clothes. My chest is tightening; it’s as if someone is reaching in, gripping my heart with their bare hand, and squeezing every inch of the muscle.

“I wouldn’t take them if I were you.”

My dazed head spins, facing the one who has intruded on the beginning stages of one of my meltdowns. She’s seated beside me on the other end of the sofa, exuding a strong confidence that’s unique to her. I take in a slow, shaky breath and try to reconcile the girl before me with reality. She arches an eyebrow while examining a chip in her polished nail—as if thinking she’ll need a fresh coat soon. Her crossed leg lightly bounces in place. Finally, she peeks through her long lashes and settles her light green eyes on me. After she takes in my dismayed expression, her bottom lip juts out into a pout. “What’s wrong, Jenna?”

“You shouldn’t be here, Brooke,” I let out in a harsh whisper. “Why are you here?”

Brooke’s eyes widen and she swiftly scoots over, positioning herself beside me. “I’m here because you need me. You’re lost, Jenna. I want to help.” Her delicate features are fixed in confusion. “Aren’t you happy I’m here?” I don’t answer. She blows out a frustrated sigh and my bangs lightly drift at the airy gust. “Don’t lose who you are, Jenna. It’s okay to feel, even for this one moment.”

I shut my eyes tightly, inhaling and exhaling three soothing breaths. “You’re not real.”

Come on, I can do this. I’m strong enough.

Shut it down, Jenna.

Don’t feel.

Don’t feel.

Do. Not. Feel.

“Nonsense.” She brings a gentle finger along my moist cheekbone and wipes away a tear. A tear I didn’t realize had escaped. Dammit. “Look at me, Jenna.” Her finger traces down my jawline, hooks under my chin, and tilts my face up. “There’s no need to shut yourself down. I’m here. I’ll always be here. You know that, right? Jenna? Look at me,” she urges.

“No!” Brooke’s jaw drops slightly and her eyebrows furrow. She’s both shocked and hurt. I hurt her. But I don’t care. She isn’t real. I look away and catch the same lady who was interrupted by my phone peeking over her book at me. This time her eyes are narrowed, and she’s giving me a this-girl-is-psycho look.

You’re not real. Get out of my thoughts. I chant in my mind. It’s safer this way. No one can see me losing it.

Brooke moistens her lips. Her features soften, and then she leans in closer. Too close. “Oh, no? I’m not real to you anymore? Have I been gone that long that you’ve forgotten me? Do you see what they’re doing to you? They’re trying to make you forget me.”

My head shakes softly. There’s no way I could ever forget Brooke. Since we were little girls, Brooke felt the need to protect me, to guard me from others. Although we were only three years apart, Brooke became the mother figure I should’ve had. Our mother spilled thoughts into Brooke’s head—that I was different, special, and that I needed a tad bit more attention than normal kids. Attention that resulted in numerous therapy sessions and countless prescriptions since I was too young to remember.

Who knew a child could be diagnosed with depression at such a young age, only to discover in her late teens that she’s schizoaffective? I didn’t, but that’s what happened, and it’s fucking embarrassing. Not just for me. No. It’s embarrassing for my mother. Humiliating, actually. My mother’s perfect little life, which she’s worked so hard for by snatching up and marrying my wealthy father, is all she seems to care about.

Some say my mother won the jackpot. Others say it was love at first sight. And a very few say their marriage was a result of a one-night stand that led to pregnancy. There are three sides to the story: his, hers, and the truth. None of that matters, not when I have Brooke by my side…