Josh and Elizabeth fought that morning. They fought about the broken light in the hall, about the steadily deflating tire on the ’99 Sedan and about Emily.
“She should’ve seen the doctor months ago!”
“You now I was going to take her!” Josh shot back.
“Going to? Going to? You’re always going to do something!” she screamed. “When are you going to actually get it done? After her brain’s deteriorated down to nothing?” She had slammed her coffee cup down so hard on the dresser as she spoke that splashes of hot liquid flew up from the cup and splattered across the wood.
They were standing in their bedroom, Josh pulling on a pair of grey pants and Elizabeth still in her nightgown. “I’m taking her now,” he insisted, growing angrier by the second. Always. They always had to fight about everything!
“Then fix the fucking tire too while you’re at it! I’m sick of risking my life everyday on the fucking freeway!”
“You fix it,” he snapped. If this were a few months ago, or even a couple weeks earlier, he might have quietly agreed for the sake of keeping the peace. Not now. His patience was wearing thin. He was tired of her endless demands and her stubborn attitude. He was tired of her, period. He grabbed a shirt from the top of the bed and began putting it on. His fingers moved quickly up the buttons, leaving the top few undone. They had to work together later that day and here they were at each other’s throats.
“Why the hell should I have to fix it when you’re the one that broke it?” she shrieked.
“I did not break it!”
“Yes, you did!”
Grabbing his jacket, he stalked out of the room, ignoring her protests for him to wait. He moved quickly down the stairs. He was fuming! The arguments always started small, about something completely stupid and trivial, and then they escalated until somebody finally snapped and left the house or until he gave in. Him. Never her. He was always the one that had to do it. Because he was always wrong. Never Elizabeth. Just him. She was never to blame for anything, was she?
He pulled his shoes on and grasped his keys from the coffee table. Then he went outside. Elizabeth had come running down the stairs after him but he pretended he hadn’t seen her. He climbed into the dark blue SUV.
Josh felt better once he was out of there. Turning in the direction of the highway, he began heading toward Emily’s place.
The thought of taking her to the hospital had never set right with him to begin with, and probably was the reason he had avoided it for so long. A part of him felt guilty for yelling at her the night before. He always felt like such a beast when he tried to be firm and hold his ground. Always giving in. That was him. He always gave in to everyone. To Emily, to Elizabeth. For once, he wished he could be a stronger person than that.
He wondered what would happen when he got to Emily’s place. Would she cry? She always cried. She’d cry and apologize and say she was okay now, that she didn’t need to see the doctor just yet. She’d cry until he gave in and they put off the hospital visit yet another day, yet another week, another month. She always managed to convince him she could go later.
But it was always later. Never now. He’d had enough of her laters. Her illness was clearly getting worse. If she hurt herself any more than she had already, Josh would end up being the one to blame for not doing something sooner. It’d be his fault for always giving in to the laters and never sticking with the nows.
He pulled up into the driveway of her house about a half hour later. His hand went to the keys of the ignition, ready to turn his car off. He stopped himself, a strange feeling washing over him. It overwhelmed him completely, a total sense of uncertainty and offness that he felt as though he were drowning in it. Shaking the feeling away as best he could, he turned the keys and shut off the vehicle. Then he tucked them into his pocket and climbed out.
Turning his head, he gazed up at the tall house in front of him. A hand moved to his eyes, shielding them from the bright sun. That feeling came over him again, the feeling that something was off. He moved forward, noticing for the first that the door was open. That fact alone was enough to worry him. It seemed peculiar, to have a door swinging wide open like that. It swung without purpose, every so often banging into the side of the house.
He ran as fast as he could up the porch steps, his heart beginning to race. His breath picked up out of sheer nervousness alone. When he reached the open door, he stopped, his mouth dropping open. He fell backwards, his legs giving out from beneath him.
Emily was hanging by the neck from a light fixture in the ceiling, hanging by what appeared to be a thick strip of red cloth. Had she killed herself? He felt sick to his stomach. It couldn’t be real. It couldn’t be right. His fault, for not doing something sooner. Elizabeth had said it, that Emily would hurt herself. But this? Suicide? He had never thought…
His fault. Because he always gave in. Because there was always later. Always tomorrow. Because he hadn’t gotten her help sooner.
Tears welled up in his eyes. He fought back sobs as he covered his face with his arm, desperate to block out the horrid sight before him. Emily was dead. What kind of brother was he, to let his own sister commit suicide?