I was freaking out. She had better be drunk. I could cope with that. I’d coped with it often. She’d drink shots of champagne and wobble into my room, collapse on my bed and begin to sob about how much she hated us. I’d plop her head against my pillows, whispering that I loved her. Dad used to be away whenever that happened. She’d say something about how she was forced to marry Dad because he was rich then. But, when his business empire crumbled and he had to take up that job, he started fucking his hot boss. I’d never summoned the courage to tell Dad. I hoped that, somehow, it would end someday, or that she was too drunk to know what she was saying.
Rob was sad. Fucking sad. He crushed me into his arms, crying, ‘Dead. Your mom’s dead’.
Suicide. Not an overdose of heroin. Not Rophynol. She’d stabbed herself to death in our bath tub. The same one where Rob had made out with me just that afternoon. The place was defiled. I didn’t even have enough sense to keep it sacred for Mom. Shivers erupted through my body, and I was swallowed in grief. The worst part of everything was that Dan was right there. He saw Rob kiss me. Hold me. But, he didn’t do a thing. I wished he would scream at me or yell that he was mad or attack Rob, but he didn’t do a damn thing. Stood frozen in place. He maintained such a distance from us that I felt like a whore. A bitch. Flinging his coat at my ass, he dived into the sea and swam to shore. He left without a word. What could I do? I was hurt and Rob offered comfort like carrot to a donkey. I keeled over June, weeping aloud. The ache throbbed in my heart. What had I done? What had she done? I didn’t deserve mercy.
‘He doesn’t love me’, I repeated over and over, rocking her in my arms. ‘I’m worthless. Useless. Shameless’.
I hugged his coat around myself, wanting to inhale the last reminder I had of him, yet yearning to kill him with my bare hands. But, it wasn’t his fault.
‘Easy, Dianne. It’ll be ok’.
‘Don’t say that. Don’t fucking lie to me’, I cried, pressing her face to mine, staining her face with my tears. She stirred in my arms stealing a peak at the world. Above her vision was her sister who was callous, stupid, senseless. Why had I gone on that date? If I had kept my stupid ass at home, Mom wouldn’t have died. I killed her. I. Killed. Mom.
They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I stumbled while racing back up the path in the woods. The butterflies we’re missing. They were probably asleep. But my love for Dianne was neither asleep nor missing. I hadn’t missed how she didn’t flinch when Rob claimed her lips as if they were his. When I reached the fields, it was quiet, except for the whispering of pine trees. I wanted to run back and kiss her forehead and bear her pain with her but I couldn’t. I pushed myself through the fields, dejected. Remembered all the nice times we had shared. Her cries rang in my ears. Punishment.
’Why? Why the hell did you do this?’, I cried, sagging against a tree. I was weak. I left her when she needed me most. Perhaps I should have stayed. Should have forgot about my jealousy. Given up my pride. Shown Rob that I didn’t give a damn about his actions. That I didn’t care if he fucked her in my face. Keep loving her. Her Dad’s words on Thanksgiving echoed in my head. Crushing. But I thought she loved me. Dianne couldn’t hurt me, could she? Turned out I was fucking wrong.
As I drove my Ferrari into our heated driveway, I was consumed by hatred. For myself. My parents. All the luxury we had and we were never happy. Tears threatened to fall. I let them. No need to play the strong guy now. The lights were on inside, giving off a glimpse of our wealth. I wasn’t interested in entering. Too used to the refrigerators that looked like cabinets, or the home theater, or the bowling alley. I felt empty.
‘Hi, love’, Mom sang. She was in the outdoor pool in a bikini.
‘Hi. How was your vacation?’ I forced a smile. Somehow, her skin was tanned copper, and her cheekbones were higher than usual. I would have admired the way her red lipstick complimented her lips, but I wasn’t in the mood.
‘It was a blast. You should have tagged along. A shame you were too busy glossing over that riffraff girlfriend of yours. Where on the bloody nine circles of hell did you find that girl?’ She removed her dark shades, letting her copper hair fell to her shoulders. Mom had never really approved our relationship. Claimed Dianne was too insecure. That I needed someone who was confident, who wouldn’t break my heart by running off with some guy.
‘Mom, that’s my girlfriend you’re bullshitting here’. I dipped my hands in my pockets. It was the best I could do to restrain them from hitting her.
‘Girlfriend my ass. Have you even fucked her yet?’
When she saw my shoulders slump, she groaned, ’Just what I thought. How many motherfuckers have you fucked before her?′
She shrugged. ‘Better shut up. Just wanted to ensure that my only son knows what to do with his wife’s ass on their wedding night. Where the fuck did you get your manners from?’
‘You’re shitting me?’
This wasn’t the kind of comfort I expected to gain. She slurped her yoghurt, smiling.
‘She broke your heart, yeah? But I didn’t teach you to cry when that done happen. I taught you to be strong. Look out for you. Because girls can be stupid at times. It’s up to you to teach them sense’.
Damn it! She must have seen my tears. Was I that obvious?
‘Dianne and I aren’t together anymore’. I squatted beside the pool, refusing to stare at her.
‘I know, dickhead. You think I’m an idiot because I run off to Florida for Thanksgiving?’ I did think she was an idiot. Mom was one hell of a mind reader.
‘For the love of God, Dan, can’t you see? I desire you to grow that inner strength that won’t falter in the face of challenges. The world is so wide, and I won’t always be there to protect you. There’s too much potential that lies in here’, she patted my chest.
‘That’s all you need to conquer your problems. Your heart. And I need you to build it strong enough. My presence would make you soft-hearted’. There was silence as we stared up at the sky.
‘When you were in first grade, you got in a fight with this asshole. Your nose was broken and kids made fun of you but you didn’t budge. As soon as I showed up, you broke down. You slobbered so much that I was torn in pieces. You grasped my arm in trust, looking up to me for comfort. And then I realized that I couldn’t let you live in my shadow’.
Time to drop the bomb. ‘Her Mom is dead’.
‘What the fuck are you doing here? Get that ass over to her home and show some love’. Her eyes were ablaze with anger. I almost choked under her gaze.
‘I think… I think… she’s cheating on me’. Discussing with Mom had opened the wounds afresh. And I was left with a bleeding heart.
The words that dropped from her mouth were, ‘Holy shit. That girl needs you now. I never thought you were this blind. And if you can’t comfort her in this turmoil, then you won’t deserve her when she heals’. It was a stab of pain. I tore my feet out of the pool, and raced to my car. I won’t deserve her. Did I deserve her now? Was I too late? When I retraced my steps back to her, would she still be there, waiting for me? There was only one answer. Drive.
After school, I hopped next door with my white chalk, ready to wreak havoc on our driveway with Don, Mia’s little brother. He was a ton of fun and always set to think of crazy stuff, like where the dicks of our chalk family members should be. I loved playing with Don. He was the smartest boyn our grade, and sometimes, I practically crushed on him. Mia pecked my cheeks before going to fetch her, and a bowl of popcorn. She was a foodie.
‘Come on’, Don smiled, his eyes crinkling in mischief. A familiar bolt of joy struck in my head, as our hands linked and we marched out, looking adorable. Little children were the luckiest in the world. We had all day to play. No worries like adults. We didn’t have to kiss boyfriends, making those awful sounds. Dianne’s lips were always red and swollen as if she was stung.
We sat opposite each other on the driveway. I was supposed to be mapping out where we’d work, but I was too busy staring at his dreamy eyes. Mia had combed his blond hair. He looked like a guy out of a K-pop movie, with those dimples of his that made me blush.
‘Stop staring’, he huffed. ‘Mia says it’s rude’.
‘Idiot. Stop being cute’, I chuckled. Ouch! I felt the urge to pee. Stupid bladder.
A loud scream escaped my lungs at the sight before me. Maybe I should have knocked before entering. I would never forget the moment when I saw Mom’s nude body in the bath. The stench of her blood hung heavy in the air. The stench of lifelessness. The stench of death. I didn’t want to smell it. I wanted life to surge through her bones. But she lay still, insensitive to the world. She didn’t see her younger daughter kneeling beside the tub, tears pelting down her face. Her fingers were stiff. I was haunted by the memories of her picking me up from school, of promising to help with my watercolors.
She had kissed my forehead before I went next door and said, ‘I’ll always love you’. When I had skipped out the door, I observed her raise a hand to her throat, as if she was crying. I hadn’t told her that I loved her too. That was my last chance, but I had let it slip through my hands. I sank to the floor in agony. Even in death, she still looked beautiful. I was ugly every inch of the way. She had on the bracelet I gifted her for her birthday last month. She wore it to her grave. But why? Why did she leave?
‘Mom’, I whispered, hoping to restore life. I wished she would wake up and allow me to tell her that I loved her. Grief over took my thoughts. She would never hear. Not now, not tomorrow. She had baked my birthday cake in advance. Maybe she knew that she wouldn’t be there. Mom was never one to assemble stuff before hand. Her life had been too fast, too hectic.
‘Please, stay. I love you too’, I cried in anguish. My whole body shook violently. Without thinking, I rushed out, past coffee shops, art galleries and spas. To the ocean. To leave the world behind. I couldn’t survive without Mom. She provided me with the reason to struggle to keep my grades up, to exist and live life out to it’s fullest.
As I gazed down the silent ocean from the edge of the cliff, a strange calm settled in my spirit. This was right. If Mom could commit suicide, then I was capable of it, too. Be brave. Be strong. You can do this. My heart was drumming in my ears and the skies seemed to cave in and everything pulsed with finality. I wasn’t going back. I was here, and I was set to die. Life wasn’t worth the pain. The joy. The sorrows, and ups and downs. The image of the Catholic priest loomed in my field of vision. He was saying, ‘And every one that taketh his own life shall die the second death’.
Ok, great. When I plunged into the waters, they closed over my head immediately. I didn’t have time to think this out anymore. Currents jolted over my head and under my feet, and I whirled wherever the water willed. This was it. The end. After what seemed like hours, I heard sobbing. Dianne was crying, cradling me like a little baby.
‘Don’t fucking lie to me’, she cried.
I closed my eyes, wishing I was dead.
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