Chapter 25: Trenton, North Carolina - August 4, 2006
The hot summer heat was almost too brutal to take as I walked through the woods across from my house. I wish I had taken the ride from Cindy when she had offered it to me but in my stupidity, I figured the short walk wouldn’t have been that bad. The wetness of my bathing suit in the pack on my bag was my only comfort, giving me some kind of coolness as I walked. I almost did a cart wheel at the sight of my house and the air conditioners hanging out the window of the living room. Crossing the street, I opened the door and welcomed the blast of cool air. Sighing with relief, I shut the door behind me and leaned against it.
“Hi, Abby.” Momma’s voice said from the couch. It caught me off guard as I hadn’t seen her downstairs in months. She was sitting on the couch, wearing a pair of jean shorts and a white tank top. Her hair was combed and she was wearing make-up. It was like I was looking at the version of her before she got sick. It was weird seeing her like this.
“Hey, Momma.” I replied, setting my bag on the coat rack near the door. I listened for any signs of Daddy or Grams but heard nothing. “What are you doing?”
“Your Daddy stepped out to get something for dinner and your grandmother went out with her friends. I’m glad you’re here. How was Cory’s house?”
“It was fine. We went swimming.” I answered, stepping into the room. She talked so calmly and normally that I was starting to wonder if I had dreamt the last three years of our lives.
“Sounds fun. How is he?”
“He’s doing good. He asks me about you all the time. How you feeling?” She smiled, looking up at me.
“Probably the greatest I’ve felt in a long time. I’m sorry about everything that’s happened since I’ve got sick, Abz. I’ve missed so much of you growing up.” I sat next to her, taking her hand.
“No. You’re fine, Momma. I understand.”
“You’re such a good girl. I’m so proud of the young woman you’ve become. You make your daddy and I so happy to call ourselves your parents. You are the best part of who I am. Don’t ever forget that.”
“I won’t.” I gazed at her, trying to figure out what was going on. Was she suddenly better after all that time of being out of her mind? Does that just happen like that?
“I think I’m going to paint for a while. Can you come get me when dinner is ready?” She asked, standing. I nodded.
“Sure, Momma.” Bending down, she kissed the top of my head before heading towards the back door. When I heard it close, I walked over to the house phone and dialed Daddy’s cell number.
“Hey, Abz.” He said on the other end. I could hear traffic behind him.
“Hey, Daddy. What are you doing?”
“I had to get a few things for dinner but ended up getting sidetracked. Why don’t you order a pizza and I’ll be home as soon as I can be?”
“Okay. Have you talked to Momma today?” I asked, eyeing the backdoor.
“Yeah. Her new medicine is kicking in. I haven’t seen her like this in a long time. I think we’ve finally found something that’s working.” I smiled at the sound of hope in my father’s voice.
“I think so too, Daddy. I’ll see you in a little bit.” I hung up the phone and dialed the number for the pizzeria. I ordered a pizza and gave the boy on the phone my information. After I was finished, I put the phone back on the receiver and headed out the back door towards the garage. I pulled on the door but it didn’t move, telling me it had been locked. I peeked in the window, unable to see anything in the dark first floor. I knocked on it hard, hoping Momma could hear me. When she didn’t appear after a few minutes, I ran into the house for the spare key to the garage. It was in the drawer next to the sink. Grabbing it, I ran back out and unlocked the door knob.
“Momma?” I called out, walking to the bottom of the steps. “I ordered a pizza because Daddy didn’t make it to the store.” She didn’t answer. Confused, I walked up the steps to the second floor. Up there, I saw her easel had been cleaned off and a new canvas was placed on it. Splashes of red, orange and black paint were on it making no real picture. Turning to the left, I noticed a chair had been knocked over in the middle of the room. Dangling above it was my mother, a rope tied around her throat. She was motionless, her head at a weird angle. I felt the blood drain from my face as a scream emitted from my mouth.
I ran over to her and wrapped my arms around her. I attempted to lift her so she wasn’t hanging there anymore but I wasn’t able to. Letting her go, I grabbed the chair and set it up. I saw a pair of scissors on a crate in the corner and I grabbed them. Standing on the chair, I tried to cut the rope. It was too thick, though. Holding the scissors open, I began to saw at the material. It frayed slowly, fibers breaking off as I went. I did my best to ignore her limp body as it just swayed with each saw motion I made. Finally, the rope broke and my mother tumbled to the floor. Hopping off the chair, I rolled her over on her back and loosened the rope around her neck. Her face and lips were blue and she made no attempt to breathe.
Standing up, I ran down the stairs and into the back door. I snatched the kitchen phone from the dock and smashed 9-1-1 into the dial pad before running back towards the garage. “911, where is the address of your emergency?” A woman’s voice said on the other end.
“Please help me! My mother hung herself. I don’t know what to do.” I said frantically, climbing back up the stairs. She still wasn’t moving and her face was still blue.
“Ma’am, I need to know where you are. Is your location at 43 Elm Ave in Trenton?”
“Yes! Please send help. She’s not breathing and her face is blue. Please hurry!” I exclaimed.
“I need you to try and perform CPR. Is she laying down?”
“Yes. I cut her down.”
“Okay. I need you to tip her head back, pinch her nose and blow two big breaths into her mouth.” I hit the speaker button on the phone and tossed it on the floor. Kneeling over her, I did as the woman said. When I blew into her mouth, nothing happened.
“Now what?” I called to the phone.
“Put your hands together on her chest and push up and down thirty times. I’m going to count and I want you to follow the rhythm of my voice.” Gripping my hands together, I put them on her chest.
“Start. One and two and one and two and one and two. Just keep going til I tell you to stop.” I nodded to myself as I pushed up and down on her chest. There were two loud cracks that made me jump but I kept going, counting out loud. “Okay. Stop. Now blow into her mouth again with two deep breaths.”
“Okay.” I pinched her nose and blew into her mouth twice. I watched, praying for her to breathe. She didn’t though. There was no movement and her skin was starting to turn a grey color. Tears welled in my eyes as I went back to the compressions.
“Ma’am, the ambulance is pulling in front of your home right now. Where are you?”
“We are in the building out back on the second floor.” I said before giving two more breaths. The sound of feet running hit my ears as two EMTs came running up the steps of the garage. The first was a short, stocky bald man with brown eyes. He was carrying a medical kit and a stethoscope in one hand. Behind him, his partner followed carrying his own kit and a back board. He was taller with short brown hair and green eyes.
“I need you to step back so I can take over.” The taller EMT said, gently pulling me away from my mother. I stood, watching as he took over for me with CPR. The other one stepped over my mother and checked her vitals. More steps on the stairs made me turn and Officer Parks appeared on the top steps. He was older than the last time I saw him, wrinkles forming at the corners of his eyes and mouth. The EMT checking Momma’s vitals glanced at Officer Parks and then motioned his head towards me.
“Abby, let’s give these guys some room to work on your mom.” Parks said, gently putting his hand on my back. Reluctantly, I allowed him to guide me down the stairs and out to the backyard. He pulled his notebook out from his belt and opened it. “Can you tell me what happened?”
“She said she was going to come out here to paint before dinner. I came out to tell her I had ordered a pizza and the door was locked. I found the key and when I came upstairs, she was just hanging there…” I drifted off as I tried to choke back a sob. Reaching into his uniform, he pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to me. I took it, wiping the tears from my face. “Is she dead?” I asked.
“I don’t know. They are going to do the best they can though.” The sound of tires in the driveway made both of us look behind. Cory’s jeep was there and Dad’s truck whipped in behind it. Both hopped out of their vehicles and ran towards me. Cory reached me first, grabbing my elbows.
“Abby! What’s going on? Are you okay?” He asked, looking worried. Dad followed him, sliding to a stop next to us.
“What’s going on? Where’s your mother?” Daddy asked. Officer Parks radio chirped next to us.
“Central, I need the coroner at 43 Elm.” A voice said. He moved to quiet it but it was too late. Tears brimmed my eyes as I looked at Daddy.
“Momma killed herself.” I whispered. His face whitened as he shook his head. He took off running towards the garage, Parks following behind him. He stopped him before he could get in the door and dragged him away from it. Cory pulled me into his arms as sobs poured out of me. I closed my eyes, trying to convince myself this wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be.
They removed Momma’s body an hour later and her funeral was the followed Saturday. A sense of silence fell over our house as Daddy, Grams and I did our best to survive. I had never seen my father so quiet before, hiding in his room whenever he could. Grams did her best to do all the cooking and cleaning, hoping to give us the time we needed. The funeral was a small private service, our immediate family, Cory and our neighbors the only ones in attendance. Momma was buried in her favorite dress with one of her favorite paintings. It broke my heart to watch my father stand at her grave side as they lowered her casket into the ground.
The following weeks felt like an eternal time of great sadness. School started but I didn’t try to focus. My teachers knew what had happened and were kind to me, not putting too much pressure on me to pass. I was grateful but I was mostly numb. Mostly everyone avoided me, looking at me with sad eyes and an expression of worry. Almost like they thought I was going to off myself as well. Of course, this didn’t deter PJ and his band of assholes from picking on me. Since school started, they’ve made it their mission to remind me that Momma killed herself. They’ve taken to drawn stick figures with nooses around their necks above my lockers, leaving rope on my desk in class and my personal favorite was the mock suicide note they taped to my locker door for every passing student to read. Cory saw it and told me he was going to beat them. I made him promise not to. I didn’t want to deal with it anymore.
When I wasn’t at school, I was locked in my room. I laid in my bed for hours, trying my best to ignore the world and the war that was going on inside of me. I wanted to scream, cry and just make the world go away. Cory was checking on me daily, coming to the front door during the day and through my window at night. We’d lay in my bed quietly, him just holding me in a soothing way. We didn’t talk unless I wanted to and he knew better than to ask me how I was doing. He was sad too. Said Momma was the only woman besides Cindy who was like a mother figure to him. It was nice to have that kind of comfort there with me.
Three weeks after Momma’s death, I emerged from my room to find Daddy and Grams sitting in the dining room. There were two coffee mugs on the table and they had been talking in low voices when I entered the room. Both looked up at me before glancing at each other. “What?” I asked.
“I think we should talk, Abz.” Daddy said, pointing at the empty chair between them. He had hair on his chin from not shaving and he looked tired, like he hadn’t slept in weeks. He probably hasn’t. The shock when you first wake up and realize it was all real was worse than the mind-numbing pain I felt all day long while I was awake.
“Okay.” I pulled the wooded chair out and sat, my thighs sticking to the seat under my black cotton shorts. I picked at my white t-shirt, not looking at them. “What’s going on?”
“I just wanted to let you know that tomorrow, we are going to see a therapist.” Dad replied. My head shot up to look at him. “His name is Dr. Maser. The Andersons said he’s a really nice guy and good at his job.” I scoffed.
“After everything that happened with Momma, you think therapy is going to help?” I asked. “Hell, all the drugs her doctor put her on never helped her. Why would you think any kind of psych shit is going to help us?” Normally, I would never swear in front of my father. It was against the rules completely and I knew better. I didn’t care though. I was done with caring about anything for the time being.
“Abz, I know this is hard. I just feel like you should talk to someone about how you’re feeling. It might help you get passed this.” Grams said, gently. I glared at her and then Dad.
“So, we’re not going to see a therapist. I am. What? Because my mother was off her rocker, I’m obviously going to be too?” I asked, shooting out of my chair.
“It’s not like that, Abby. I’m just worried about you and I think you need to get some stuff off your chest. I can’t help you like he can.” Dad said, standing up.
“I don’t need help! I just need to be left alone.” I exclaimed, running a hand through my hair. “I just want everyone to leave me alone. Between being here, having to deal with the fact Momma isn’t here and being at school where everyone knows that my mother was insane, I can hardly function. Everyone knows that she killed herself and everyone keeps looking at me like I’m a ticking time bomb ready to blow. Well, everyone but the same three dirt bags that have been torturing me since I moved to this god forsaken town. They are nice enough to remind me day in and day out about the fact my mother hung herself. I just want everything to stop.” Tears streamed down my face as Dad stepped closer. He pulled me into a tight hug as I buried my face into his t-shirt.
“This is why I need you to go tomorrow. You’re only 16 years old. You shouldn’t have to feel like this. I can’t lose you, too.” He whispered, his voice cracking as he did.
“Okay.” I said softly. “I’ll go.”