Dog Days.

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Chapter Seventeen: Maria.

I met Daisy when we were two years old. It was a story of a new neighbor in a small town. My mother was totally convinced that it was a young couple with no children, until she spotted tiny me standing at a window and waving at a little girl my age at the house next to ours. My mother was estatic, bringing me over right away to meet the new neighbors. The rest was easy, I had my best friend ever since then.

I had her by my side through every point in my life until high school. We didn’t always go to the same school, and sometimes we drifted more then I would like to admit, but I still always knew she was my friend. My best friend. Which made it hurt even more when she told me her family was moving to Washington.

Washington was a long ways from Illinois, to far to even fathom. I knew how badly she wanted to stay, but she didn’t know how. Her plan had always been to go to a community college to start off before going to another one to finish her degree. The problem was that the school she was accepted to was small, didn’t have dorms. With no where to live and no money, she was stuck.

Daisy was never an emotional person, I almost never saw her without a smile. Even when she realized she had no chance of staying in the state that she loved, she smiled when she told me she had given up. I wanted to help her, but I didn’t know how. I was moving soon myself to a dorm, though I would still be in the state. I cried the day she left, yet I didn’t see a single tear in her eyes. She was always so strong, so it was hard to watch her lose that strength.

We never stopped speaking, neither of us giving up on our friendship. We skyped, we spoke on the phone, we texted. When she got the time to visit, it was like nothing had changed. But over time I could see small changes in her, the loneliness taking over her. Daisy tried to go to different schools, tried different jobs, and attempted to make friends… In the end though, it seemed to never work out. I would always ask her what she was doing, what was her life shaping into. She would laugh, cracking a joke about training to be a hobo. It was funny at the time, because it really sounded like Daisy wasn’t to worried about it. But something deep inside me felt like it was effecting her more then I could see. After all, I only saw her face to face a few times a year and Daisy was so good at seeming okay.

Five years passed to fast for me, but I couldn’t wonder if it went fast for Daisy. She lived in a state with no friends, jumping from job to job. It seemed hard, frustrating. All she had was her parents, which was good but was it really enough?

I always like her parents. Her mom always had this box on the counter, even after they moved and I would come visit. The first thing I would do is check that plastic Tupperware when walking in the house. Without fail, it would have something amazing in it. Cookies, cupcakes, brownies, you name it her mom could make it. Plus, she always told me to eat as many as I wanted. It was hard to not love it. Her father was a character, when I was around he always cracked jokes and was known to drop the F bomb after a few Screwdrivers. Daisy didn’t always get along with her father though, their difference sometimes causing fights. That was something I didn’t understand or notice until much later in life.

Daisy loved her family, more then most her age, but they fought a lot. Her father wanted the best for her, but didn’t know how to show it. She always said he was trying and would smile, but I hated to see her in pain. Because as time went on, I was able to see that their was suffering under her smiles. She was different then her family. Daisy was passionate about animals and sea life. She ranted and raved about BP and oil spills. She loved people, honestly loved them. She didn’t care what they looked like, who they loved. She felt everyone deserved a happy life and respect. She loved to write, and that’s all she wanted to do in her life. Daisy was the dark horse in the family, I couldn’t imagine how hard that was for someone. I fit in with my family with ease, I didn’t know what it was like to struggle with something that should be so simple.

When she finally made the choice to take control of her life, I felt really happy for her. I thought it was a turning point for her, I thought I was finally going to see her shine! She moved back to Illinois, had her own place, and was working as a bartender. Eventually she started to date someone, he seemed nice enough, who also worked at the bar. A few years older, but the manager and going to school. Everything was looking up, she seemed really happy. Plus, having her back around and in the place we both loved was great for us both.

Until it suddenly wasn’t.

One week I didn’t hear from her for days. A day wasn’t weird, sometimes she lost track of her phone or would just totally forget to respond. But as days turned into a over a week I grew concerned. When I finally was able to get ahold of her, it was like the world had changed all at once.

In that short amount of time, she lost it all. Her boyfriend, her job, her apartment. She said that she was moving in with her Grams, that everything was going to be okay. Daisy calmly said that it just didn’t work out. I didn’t believe it for a second. Something had happened, and as time went on it seemed more and more obvious that she wasn’t going to tell me the whole story.

Time passed, she was unable to find a job. I was worried about her, so I’m sure others were too. She gained some weight, no longer worked out, and seemed to become less and less social. Finally one day she got a job, working for a dog day care and walking service. It was something, which was good, but she was struggling with money still. In all the years I knew her, I had only seen her cry three times. Once was when we were young and her father yelled at her about not taking her softball serious. The other was the day that she told her parents on the phone that she couldn’t afford her car payment and was having a hard time. The third was three days later when she told me that she was depressed and suicidal and didn’t know what to do about it.

Daisy telling me she was depressed was the biggest shock of my life. Anxiety, sure, I always knew that she had that… But depressed. I had never met someone so happy and positive in my life. But with the way her life had seemed to be kicking her ass, I realized I shouldn’t be all that surprised. Life hadn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for her, and I didn’t even know the whole story.

I didn’t know what to do, how to help. I could see it effecting her more and more, I could see it taking over her life. She often seemed like her normal self in front of me, happy and never bothered. Then that night at the bar happened. I had seen Daisy drunk before, many times. She get’s even happier, silly, social, flirty, and she doesn’t take shit from anyone. But that night, I found her cowering in a booth letting a man take advantage of her. I heard her call herself a mess. Not to mention I heard her muttering a man’s name as I tucked her in, along with a totally separate topic about how sorry she was. About what though? That I didn’t know.

But I would never forget finding her half dead in that bathtub.

I had a key to the house from when Daisy went out of town once, asking me to take care of Koda while she was gone. Since then, her and her Grams were okay with me just coming in most days. So when her phone had been dead this long and I had heard nothing, walking in seemed like the best option. I didn’t know I would walk into a frantic dog, and my best friend attempting to kill herself.

I had barely left her side since that moment. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I had known what was wrong, sensed the signs, and did nothing. I didn’t know what I was suppose to do or if it was even my place to try. But if I would of done something, if anyone would of, maybe she wouldn’t be in this bed drugged up with doctor’s all around her.

She had lost a lot of blood, so that was the first thing to take care of. After that, it was about other types of healing. Between the sessions and drugs they had her on, I could tell that Daisy was drained. Drained and just as depressed. She barely spoke, barley ate. Her arms were wrapped, skin more pale then I had ever seen it, her eyes were glazed over, and she didn’t smile even once. She was numb to the world, and it pained me to watch. This was not Daisy. And this was just the first few days in the hospital.

Her Grams was their, but not as much as I was. I think it killed her to see Daisy like this. I was blaming myself for what had happened, but she was blaming herself more. She felt like she let it happen, that she let Daisy slowly die in that room. I didn’t believe that though, and I told her Daisy would never blame her for it either. She had no idea how to handle it, and neither had I. Honestly, Daisy didn’t know what to do either. Everyone had been so lost.

I was lucky I was even allowed to be there, the doctors very strict about who could be in the hospital room. Since I wasn’t her family, but was her emergency contact, they let me in. With Grams coming and going, and Daisy’s parents to get into town in a few days, I was glad she was going to have a support system. Then, on Monday, they finally let people start coming during visiting hours.

That’s when he showed up.

He carried a vase of roses, one’s that looked oddly familiar, his face looking tired and jawline dusted with scruff. He looked rough, I bet about as rough as I did. “Hello.” He’s voice also sounded rough, “I’m Chris.” He turned to look at Daisy, who was passed out in the bed sound asleep. “I’m…”

“Thor’s dad.” I said, getting up from the chair. “Daisy walks for you. I’m her friend Maria.” I usually would of stood up straighter, making it known that I was Maria her best friend. But for some reason I didn’t want to brag about that today. Maybe because a best friend wouldn’t of let this happen. Maybe because I felt like a failure today.

“She’s spoken about me?”

“Not to me.” Which was the truth, I had only heard his name twice out of her mouth. “Her Grams told me about you, well a little at least. That she helped train your dog, that she loved her new job. But I had to ask about who Chris was.”

He looked confused, I didn’t blame him. I guess it was a confusing sentence. But with such a confusing situation, it was hard for me to make sense of things. Plus, I was really tired. “You knew about me… before…”

“Daisy has said your name twice.” I cut him off, not knowing if this was something that I should tell him. I didn’t know him, or anything about him. All I knew was what I could see while looking at him in this moment. And what I saw was eye opening, it was like looking in a mirror. I saw someone scared to death of losing the girl who was in that hospital bed. “Once when she was drunk, and I was tucking her into bed.”

I took a breath.

“And once when I found her after she tried to kill herself.”

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