"Do you mind if we start over?"
"Not at all," she said and took his hand.
"Hullo. I'm Jared."
"Glad to meet you. I'm Tarika."
They shook hands, laughing, and she caught sight of the inside of his wrist. The remnant of his self-inflicted wound, though over a year old, still bore a raw and purplish countenance around the raised and striking white line of the scar, and there was absolutely no doubt as to the nature of it. His breath catching in his throat, he tried to pull his hand out of her grasp but her fingers tightened around his and refused to let go.
As if his tongue had grown too large for his mouth, he was incapable of speech, particularly when she pushed his sleeve up to his elbow to better inspect the scar. With the fingers of her free hand, she traced the scar all the way up his forearm. The touch was so incredibly intimate and left him feeling so vulnerable that Jared felt as though she had undressed him. An involuntary cry escaped his lips, too quiet to be heard above the music blaring behind them in the club.
"Why did you do this?" she said, her eyes riveted to the scar.
He tried once again to free his hand from her grasp but to no avail. "I..."
She looked up and met his gaze. Her eyes were glazed over. As many seconds of palpable silence passed, Jared tried several times to pull away from her.
Finally, she spoke, and her voice sounded distant and utterly different. "You don't know who you are."
Jared froze. When she continued staring into his eyes, he, fearing there was more to come, resumed struggling, especially when she began to speak again.
"There is something inside you that...you are hiding from yourself and others...something you find terrible. "
Politeness be damned, he started to yank his hand out of hers, only to have her fingers tighten so forcefully he started to squirm. A distant voice in his head, oblivious to the circumstances, said, Those are a fencer's hands, no doubt about it.
"You're afraid of it, you don't understand it, you fear it will consume you."
Using his free hand as leverage, he finally managed to jerk his hand from her steely grip and put both hands on her shoulders, shaking her, furious.