Hearing Tracy tell her parents that this is the first year she doesn’t want to join them in death shares the shit out of me. A small gasp escapes my lips, but I remain silent otherwise, knowing that this is something Tracy needs to do on her own. I’m here for support, but I can sense that all she needs and wants from me is my presence.
I knew Tracy had a lot of emotional baggage the second I got to know her, and she’s been telling me more and more about her childhood every day. Hearing how tough her dad was and how he’d always tell her to choke back her tears… It broke my heart. She obviously loves her father with her whole heart, but he can’t have been an easy man to grow up with. Ex-military, torn up over losing his wife and being forced to raise his baby girl on his own, it must have been the only thing he knew to do, something he needed to get through the tough times. He was probably just doing the best he could, trying to make his girl tough and resilient. He succeeded in doing that, but to tell a little girl to never cry, to not show any weakness… No wonder Tracy is all kinds of messed-up.
Even knowing all of that, and how hard her uncle’s death hit her, I never realized she was suicidal. She told me last year was the toughest year of all, and I hate that I wasn’t there for her. We were still friend-with-benefits back then, and I remember like it was yesterday that she called me at the end of a week of radio silence, telling me she’d had one hell of a week. It was the first time she ever told me she missed me. And later that night, before Michel showed up, she told me about her parents for the first time.
I should have been there. I shouldn’t have let her push me away. She lied to me that week, telling me she was too busy to see me, and I believed her. Rationally, I know that there was no way I could have known back then what she was going through, but I still hate myself for not showing up at her place anyway. I already loved her back then. I should have sensed she needed me.
I can’t believe Michel didn’t show up until the last day with the roses and the bottle of scotch. I get that it was his way of supporting her, and the old Tracy she still was back then never would have let him or me be there during her birthday, or come with her to her parents’ graves, but still… Did he know? Did he know she wanted to be dead? And if he did, why didn’t he camp out in front of her place for seven days straight?
“To you, Mom,” Tracy says, holding up the bottle of booze and take a big swig.
I take it from her when she offers, but only for a small sip. I’m the designated driver, after all, but I do want to participate in the toast at least a little bit. Tracy drinks some more when I hand the bottle back, but she screws the cap back on before she can drink so much that she’d be drunk form it.
When she sighs and leans against me, I embrace her, rubbing her back, trying to silently tell her that I love her. I need her. The thought of her wanting to be ten feet under hurts so fucking much that I can barely breathe. I know she just said that she doesn’t want that today, but I can’t shake the sense of dread that came over me from finding out that she once did.
What if we ever get into a fight and she won’t let me be there for her? What if the pull to stop fighting to be happy ever becomes too strong this time of year? Oh God, what if I die one day, and leave her all alone again? Would that make her want to kill herself?
I can hardly breathe when I drive us back to my place. Tracy is smiling a little the whole drive home, which unsettles me. I guess it’s a good thing she’s not crying, but it feels so weird to see her smile when all I want to do is cry and kick a wall or something.
I saved one rose form the bouquet, and I put it in a vase on the nightstand on her side of the bed with a bottle of water next to it, because I know she always gets a sore throat from crying. We brush our teeth in silence, and then we strip down and get in bed. I’m in nothing but my boxershorts like I always am, and she is in her panties and one of my shirts, looking cute and so, so vulnerable. She lies down with a sigh, stretching out with a yawn.
I don’t lie down with her, sitting up with a pillow propped against the headboard instead. I know that if I lie down right now and touch her, I will break down, and I don’t want to make this day even worse for her. She senses that something is wrong, though, and she props herself up on her elbow, her green eyes examining my expression carefully. She waits for me to say something, and I know that I need to let this out, or it will eat me up inside.
“Please never kill yourself,” I blurt out. “Please don’t, Tracy.”
“What?” she asks, shooting upright and looking at me in shock. “Of course not!”
She looks utterly sincere, and I wipe at my eyes, hating how weak I am right now. This is her day to break down, not mine. I should be her rock, not make things worse.
“Hey, Thom…” She throws her legs over mine and sneaks her hands around my neck, pulling slightly at my hair. “Talk to me.”
“At the cemetery you said…” I’m trembling like a leaf, and I can’t stop crying. “You said you wanted to be dead.”
“Oh no no no,” she breathes, shaking her head. “No, that’s not what I meant. I’m not suicidal. I never have been. You don’t need to worry about that. It’s just that since Dad died, I had to visit Mom’s grave on my own, and face the fact that he was right there with her. Standing there all alone always made me feel like if I’d just lie down with them and stop breathing, that maybe…” She closes her eyes for a moment. “That maybe then I’d finally be happy.”
“That doesn’t mean I truly wanted to be dead,” she talks right over me, his eyes flying open and meeting mine. “I promise you that I have never actually seriously considered killing myself. Never.”
“Never,” she vows. “But even if I ever did, Thom, that shouldn’t matter. I am so happy now. I’ve got this whole future with you that I want to experience. Why would I want to walk away from that?”
“I’m going to die.”
As soon as I see the panic in her eyes, I curse myself. I’m such a stupid asshole sometimes.
“I don’t mean that I’m going to die soon or anything,” I explain quickly. “I’m not sick. I mean that one day, hopefully a long time from now, I will die. And I wouldn’t want you to…”
The panic evaporates and she smiles, wiping the tears from my face with her fingertips. “I love you very much, Thomas, but I’m not going to off myself if you die. You’re a big part of why I’m happy, but it’s more than that. Since I’ve started letting my friends in more, I’ve realized that I’m not all alone in the world. I’ve got Peter, Delilah, Dylan, Aston, James, Elijah, William… and you, the most amazing of them all. I’m praying to God that I’ll be the first to go and not you, because I don’t want to spend a single day of my life without you, but you don’t need to worry that I will jump off a bridge or something, okay? Actually, I’m thinking of picking a new motto.”
“A motto?” I ask, not following.
“My dad used to say Packards don’t cry, but that is just fucking stupid, no offence to my dad. I think I need a new family motto. I was thinking Packards never stop fighting.” Her eyes are alight with her strength, and I can tell she’s not just saying all of this to appease me. She means it. Damn, the girl is so damn strong.
“I love you,” I say, pulling her face to mine. “Can I please kiss you now? Or are you not in the mood for that?”
She presses her lips to mine and kisses me with so much passion that it replaces the dread I’d been feeling since I heard her saying that she once wished she was dead.
“Hey,” I breathe when she pulls away. “You told your parents I’m the love of your life. Did you mean that?”
“Of course,” she replies, kissing me tenderly. “I wouldn’t lie to my dead parents, Thomas. That would be twisted, even for me.”
We both laugh, and it’s so crazy how we can go through so many emotions in such a short amount of time. This day was a strange rollercoaster, but I’m so glad she allowed me to ride it with her. I knew from the start there was something about her that I had a hard time staying away from, but I had no idea during that first date a year and a half ago that I’d end up this deeply in love with her, holding her like this, my heart bursting with love.
Author's note (same one as the one in the previous chapter):
Maybe it's just me, but I cried during this chapter, while writing it AND while editing it. I put a lot of myself into these chapters, and while I always do that, these ones hit close to home. I don't want to talk about it in an author's note, and I've been lucky enough not to experience losing someone to suicide in my family or in my circle of friends, but I did deal with some tough things relating to depression and suicide that will always stay with me,
If you are dealing with something relating to suicide, please know that you're not alone. Every single country has a free suicide hotline / phone number. I don't know where you live, but please call it if you need someone to talk to. Google the number and call, or talk to someone.
Love you all. xoxo