⚠️ Trigger Warning: This chapter will be graphic in regards to suicide.
A/N: If you feel that this chapter will in any way trigger you, please skip it. The gist of it is that Ollie is broken because of this incident and feels like it is his fault.
Always remember that you are loved, you would be missed, and that help is available to those who need it:
Suicide Prevention Hotline:
To Write Love on Her Arms: www.twloha.com
S L O A N
The wind refused to let up. Round two of last night’s snowfall had started, and the combination of the two was now sending drifts of snow across acreage that looked like waves of white. It was hard to walk, and there were times that Sloan wondered if her feet were even on the ground or if the wind was now in control. So long as it kept her in the direction of the swinging barn door, she could handle falling on her ass a few times to get there.
Her heart had sunk the moment the words left Mikah’s mouth. In fact, she couldn’t bring herself to even speak a word for a good five minutes, because what is someone supposed to say? Sorry for your loss? Sloan knew firsthand that it didn’t help. It felt weird to be on the other side of it when there was a room filled with tears for someone Sloan had never met. She didn’t make Mikah go into detail, but what little he offered after the confession regarding their dad was that Ollie was alone on the farm the day he found him, and that Ollie has refused to come home ever since. It didn’t take rocket science to piece it all together after that. His nightmares and lost sleep all stemmed from that day, and in particular, the barn that he had now holed himself up in all morning.
How could she have missed the signs that Ollie was hurting this bad? Shouldn’t she, of anyone, have caught it? Ollie never offered more information on his dad than what was necessary, and that was the same with the men she worked with in the kitchen of Mulligan’s. It was easy to tell that Henry Mulligan was loved by everyone who knew him, but no one spoke about him unless they had to. And for all the comments that Ollie had made about him, Sloan knew he’d lost his idol the day his dad died.
With her hands full, tears down to her neck, and crunchy snow beneath her feet, Sloan knew she had to get the tears out of her before reaching the double doors. The sympathy for Ollie needed to be left outside with this snowstorm, because she understood how much it hurt to see someone else hurt because of your own shortcomings with depression. It’s not supposed to rub off, but it does.
Now standing outside the door that looked like it could blow away at any moment, Sloan pressed her face into the blanket from Kit’s bed to dry her face of the mess she’d made. After taking a deep breath, she pulled the door that was still attached with both hinges and entered the barn.
It looked massive from the outside, but with many pieces of farm equipment being stored here, it wasn’t as big as she thought it would be. The slamming behind her caused her to jump and gasp loudly. It didn’t seem to stir Ollie, if he was in here somewhere. The smell of winter’s fresh snow and pine was now left on the other side of the door. Her nostrils were flooded with the smell of rotten wood, hay, leather, and outdated fuel. She had a feeling that the vintage, red tractor she was currently maneuvering her way around was the culprit of some sort of fuel leak. Because the day was overcast and gray, the windows gave her minimal light to figure out where she was going, but it didn’t matter. It didn’t take long to find him.
Sitting along the only portion of the wall that had space available, Ollie—who appeared freezing even though he was in his coat and hat—sat with his knees drawn to his chest. His strong arms were wrapped around them, shaking from the cold, and his head was dropped so that she couldn’t see his face. Her frown instantly quivered at the sight of him looking almost childlike—innocent. The deep breath she took made her lungs ache.
Sloan approached Ollie slowly, not knowing what kind of temperament he would choose with her knowing something he clearly wanted to keep to himself. She didn’t fault him for that in any way, but she also knew how Ollie could get when angry with her. Preparing herself for the worst, she dropped herself to the hay-covered ground in front of him, now seeing that he was clutching a pack of cigarettes in one of his hands.
“I hid these out here when I was fourteen,” he said without raising his head, squeezing the package tighter.
“I won’t blame you if you smoke one right now,” she offered. “I promise that I won’t take them.”
Ollie’s head lifted, and it took everything in Sloan not to burst into tears at the sight of him. Just as she had been last night, Ollie’s eyes were swollen, stained red. His tears glistened down his cheeks, that were just as pink as his cold nose that was running from his crying. With a shaking head, he turned her offer down.
“Took me months to get my hands on a pack. I wanted to be cool like my friends. I smoked one cigarette from this package the day I got them, coughed until I puked, and didn’t touch them again until the day I found...” he stopped himself before finishing the sentence.
She frowned, and that told Ollie that she knew the truth about his dad. Now knowing that he was approachable, Sloan took the blanket that she’d brought with her and wrapped it around him. He pulled it tighter, still shivering. No blame there; it was freezing, especially with the draft coming in from the broken door.
“All this time you were trying to take away my hurt, and I should have been trying to take away yours,” Sloan whispered. “You could have told me. The nightmares...”
“I killed my dad, Sloan!” he argued with narrowing eyes. “It’s not something I boast about, even to the girl in my bed.”
Trying to brush off the dig at her, she shook her head. “A suicide is not your fault.”
Ollie sniffled and she could hear the amount of snot he had just sent to the back of his throat. “You see that tire,” he pointed to an old, rubber tire that was propped against an upright beam. It had seen better days, used until all of the tread was gone. Her head bobbed yes; she could see it. “It used to be a swing. A kid down the road had a tire swing in his barn, and I begged my dad for one just like it. I was about eight. My dad said it would be in the way, and that he hated heights and wasn’t going anywhere near the second story of beams in this place. But I wanted it, and I got what I want, so I climbed my ass all the way up to the rafters with my rope and tied it. I climbed this barn like it was my own personal playground.”
She knew where this was going, and even though she tried not to cry in front of him, she couldn’t help it. Seeing Ollie this upset was killing her, and she couldn’t think of one damn way to make him feel better other than to listen and let him get it out.
“You don’t have to finish,” Sloan’s head shook. She didn’t want him to be more upset than he was.
“I walked in here right as he did it,” his face flooded again. “Did Mikah tell you that?”
No, he didn’t. Sloan stilled.
“The tire on the ground and the rope not hanging anymore was the first thing I noticed. I looked up, locked eyes with him, and he still walked right off that beam.”
As Ollie bowed his head to freely sob, Sloan moved quickly to wrap herself into him. His whole body was shaking, and now Sloan understood that it wasn’t because he was cold. She pressed her lips to his neck and held him as tightly as she possibly could, wishing she had the ability to make him forget a scene that etched its way into his darkest of nightmares.
“It’s not your fault just because you hung that rope, Ollie. It hung there for years. It’s not your fault for wanting a swing.”
“It’s not my fault for hanging the swing,” he agreed, unwilling to look at her and barely able to catch his breath between heartbroken gasps. “It’s my fault because I wanted Mulligan’s. He killed himself because I wanted our restaurant, and he was going to lose it. The bank was setting to foreclose.”
“Ollie...” she frowned, hating that he in any way thought that could be his own fault.
“Mom hated the restaurant,” he sniffled, shielding his entire head with his arms so that she couldn’t see the shame he wore. “It took all his time, and it was so far away, but he loved it and refused to give it up. They’d been selling land just to keep it, and it got to a point where if they sold anymore acres that the farm wouldn’t show income. I didn’t know, and I was throwing my own money into renovating it to make it mine.”
Sloan reached for Ollie’s hand, taking it away from his head and holding it to grip hard. “It’s not your fault,” she continued to repeat.
“He didn’t even have the balls to tell me that he was behind in the payments. It was all I fucking talked about. We don’t know if he did it to give us insurance money, but if he did...”
“Suicides don’t receive life insurance,” Sloan sighed, understanding. It was something she worried about when Steve got sick.
It made sense now. In the months Sloan had worked at the bar, Penelope had never shown her face there. If she hated it, that was understandable. Neither had Kit—who Sloan knew was an equal owner of the bar. The only way for that to happen, was for the three Mulligan children to purchase it. Kit likely opted out of any sort of say because she had no interest, but knew how badly Ollie wanted that legacy. Mikah, on the other hand, always lived in the shadow of Ollie and now had two things he wanted.
“I wanted something, and he couldn’t give it to me. He was afraid to tell me...” Ollie’s head began to shake with more sobs.
“That does not make it your fault,” she repeated. “Ollie you’re a good person. It’s not wrong to want the restaurant you grew up cooking in with your dad and grandpa.”
“I would have been angry with him if he told me. I had no idea he was hurting that bad, and I would have thought of myself not getting what I wanted versus him losing a place he loved too. I’m selfish, and he knew it. That’s why he couldn’t tell me. He would rather end himself than tell me the truth. I killed my dad. And it was for nothing. I get no say in it. Everyone there hates me. ”
This wasn’t working. Ollie had this mindset for almost two years and never shared it with anyone. She wasn’t about to change his mind in a half hour. Wrapping herself around him again, she held him and let him get out what he needed to. There was lots of weeping mixed with lots of blame on himself. Obviously, today was a step in the right direction. He came home, and he entered the barn he’d been avoiding. But the people inside had no idea just how stuck in his own mind he was. Not only did he believe that he killed his dad, but his mother’s husband. He thought he killed Kit and Mikah’s dad, his employees’ beloved boss.
They sat in the cold for almost an hour before his attack began to turn back into small sniffles and huffs. He leaned himself back into the side of the barn, staring at the tire like it was going to move on its own. Even through the wind, Sloan could hear Ollie’s stomach rumbling for food. It was well past noon now, and he hadn’t been inside all day. That reminded her of something else she brought with her.
Sticking an almost frozen hand into the pocket of her coat, she withdrew a zip-lock bag that had a poppy seed muffin enclosed in it. Well, at least it was a muffin. Now it was a smashed baked good in a bag. It was still edible, and she held it out to Ollie to help with his hunger.
“Wow,” he sniffled, showing just a hint of a smile. “Last night’s fruit pizza and now this. I thought I was a shit baker, but your baking skills are scary as fuck.”
It was almost too painful to laugh, but they both did. Ollie opened the bag with a sigh, and shared what was left of the muffin with her. With that, their discussion of his depression was over. She knew this is how he functioned—making jokes, which made her smile and helped to forget her own. He was now doing the same thing to himself. With a joke about a baked good, Ollie put the wall right back up.