Goodnight, it states.
I leave behind me this world of wonder and sorrow.
One for every time he had administered his affection—one for each foul utterance over the past few days, as she had started taking count—one for each negative voice vying for attention. Claw marks of evilest words.
The paper began its task stark white, but as it nears the end of its use, its pure color is interrupted by splatters of red. Tears of pain from her veins.
Don’t tell my parents I am here, she whispered.
Of course not, the friend replied, shutting fast the door. What happened between you and them? Is everything okay?
Yes. Please just let me stay here for a night or two.
Those few nights evolved into a week and a half. Her phone stays in the corner of the living room, shut off to avoid what must now be hundreds of messages. Undoubtedly her parents have called dozens of times. They have, of course, dialed up every friend of hers they can think of. They haven’t dared involve him, the spark to the fire which blazes so uncontrollably.
Shouldn’t you check your phone, in case you miss something important?
Fortunately, her parents don’t remember this friend. There have been no home-phone calls to the parents. No panicked faces. The closet floor is her bed, so she can shut herself up and pretend she hasn’t lived in a new home for the past nine days.
It is four in the morning, and as the household sleeps, she nicks the final slice in her body. Blood spills from every cut, on every limb—and forms small puddles on the tiled floor and the countertop she leans against. Her fingers shake the pencil away—how jittery one is after injuring oneself in such a way—and brush the tangled hair out of her eyes.
“How did you get to this point?” Almost sighing, she instead braves a last, shattered smile and slips into the collected pools of blood on the floor.
It’s not a big deal. Everybody experiments with their lover.
You weren’t there. You don’t know my parents. I think they disowned me. Her words were without feeling.
So you were caught, the friend said. At least you have somebody.
You don’t understand. What they said about me… Us… How they treated me… How they screamed…
They don’t want me. I’m sure he doesn’t, either, anymore.
“I’ve been hiding her. She’s been here, with me. I’m sorry to call so late, but you need to know that she’s on her way to the hospital. No, I can’t really tell you why… but she told me her parents aren’t to know. No. Don’t tell him, either.”
Her friend frantically calls the first person in the girl’s text list, no matter that it was five in the morning. Having heard the thump of something in the bathroom, and expecting the dog, she found instead the girl.
Goodnight. I leave behind me this world of wonder and sorrow. I’m sorry I could not better contribute to it. I guess selfish tendencies got in the way. I hate the choices I made. Tell him I love him more than the stars. He should not see me this way. Tell him I would do it all over again. Tell him we would have a future together. Just tell my parents that I am sorry I was not a better little girl.
“Oh, God, she’s awake. Oh, God!”
True to the words, she opens her eyes to the stark white of a hospital room. The displeasure of physical pain and presence floods her eyes.
“Can you hear me?” another friend cries. She simply looks over and squints her eyes closed, wishing away the humiliation and guilt that is sure to arrive.
“Your parents don’t know, and neither does he. Are you okay?”
In reply, she throws up and cries.
Words don’t come out of her throat. Her phone, the abandoned relic in the living room, is now her lifeline and connection to the loved ones she ignored. Three-hundred text messages and seventy missed calls. She does not reply, and in fact deletes most of these. The only ones she saves are from her close friends, and from him.
Rather than return home and finally let her parents know she is alive—though unwell—her home is with another friend. Everyone is in the dark. The few friends who are aware of the suicide attempt are sworn to secrecy by sticky notes, as her throat refuses to let words arise.
Fear keeps her lips sealed. On her body, it’s a mixture of scabs and stitches.
“I’m glad you’re staying with me. Glad you’re okay.”
Hi. I’m okay. Sorry I ignored you. Meet me?
He texts back almost immediately. Oh my God. I thought you were dead…literally.
She nods at her friend, who pours out boiled water into mugs. A mug is offered her and she sips at it with no regard to the scalding of her tongue.
“We’re meeting him at Starbucks, right?”
She nods in the back seat, zipped tight in a hoodie much too hot for this climate.
Another nod. Her friend’s boyfriend sits up front, too. The cars on the other side of the road zoom by. It would be easier to open the door and jump into their flow than to grab a hot drink with him. After all, he has no idea.
Muffled by espresso machines and whirring conversations, the late-night hours are well-suited for nervous meetings. The three walk in and meet him at a table, originally meant for two. The surprise is unwelcome, but his relief upon seeing her is unmistakable. It’s as if a boulder was removed from his shoulder. She considers waving but doesn’t in the end.
He rushes in to hug her, but she carefully steps out of his path. “It was just going to be us. We need to talk privately,” he adds, seeing her disdainful look.
“They stay. Please.” The words are rough as they slide through her teeth.
His sigh is accepting, if only somewhat. The four sit and wait for conversation to start. Someone grabs coffees—one of the friends. They are handed out, nervously sipped, and awkwardly held. He waits for her to speak, but she only succeeds in staring at a freckle on his neck.
“Aren’t you going to explain where you’ve been?”
“Wait—” the friend gasps.
There are no words fitting to describe just what happened next. Eyes wide with deer-in-the-headlights terror, she pulls one of her sleeves up to her elbow and waits for the criticism to dial in. Instead, there are near tears.
“Why would you?” he asks, after three solid minutes of sliding his eyes between her tattered forearm and her paper-white face.
She tugs the sleeve down and chokes back tears, partially from the pain. “Because I’m not perfect.”
“But baby, that’s exactly why I love you,” he sobs.