Suicide affects everyone, in more ways than one.
| I stood there, ashen gray, as they lowered the shiny copper coffin into the freshly dug grave. The priest droned a prayer as he sprinkled holy water over the site. My blood red dress stood out among the sea of black garments, flowing seamlessly down to stop just above my knees. My shoes, also red, were slip-ons and matched the color of my ruby red lipstick. Two rubies adorned each ear and a silver chain bearing the Star of David hung gracefully around my neck. The only black that touched my skin was the shawl that covered my shoulders to keep me warm. Many of those around me had shook their heads when they saw that I had scorned the traditional mourning colors but then what did they know? THEY didn't know anything.
Finally the priest finished and saying his final amen’s, went to comfort the mother. Meanwhile, I stood there, watching the wind rustle through the leaves, knowing that almost everyone had vacated the area and escaped to their Mercedes and Mustang vehicles. This was how it had been ever since the Incident. People treating me like glass, hoping I wouldn't break.
Suddenly a strong arm snaked its way around my waist and I looked over into my twin’s blue-green eyes. He's tall, about 5' 6" with sandy brown hair dyed blonde, a light complexion covered with a red mustache and goatee. Add to that the broad shoulders and slim, but muscular form and any girl would say that he's a heartthrob. I laid my head on Josh's shoulder and he just stood there and held me. He's the only one throughout this whole thing that had been any help. He knew what I needed, and when I needed it. I thanked God for my brother, not for the first time.
After a little while, Josh spoke. "You know that she’d want you to move on. She'd want you to save yourself."
"Josh, how do live after something like this? How do you move on?" I asked him, the tears welling up in my eyes.
"You cry." He replied.
So that's what I did.
It was about twelve thirty when my cell blared the 'Call to Arms' from the position it held on my full-leopard print mattress. I fumbled for a few minutes with the phone and finally managed to hit the send button.
My "Hey" was met with immediate sobbing. Cat.
"Hon, what's wrong?" I asked her, wide awake. The sobbing on the end of the line seemed just a hint short of hysterical.
Cat inhaled a deep breath and blurted out, "I...” sob "just...” sob "took...” sob "twenty.. Ambien...” sob "I...I...I'm sorry..!"
My heart stopped when I heard that. I had known for some time now that Cat was depressed. She had shown me the cuts that she had made on her arms and right leg. I had begged her to stop. For a while, it seemed to work. Then she started up, doing it secretly, and not telling me. When I found that out, I told her that no matter what, she needed to tell me whatever she had done so we could work through it together. I didn't know that she wanted to kill herself.
Cat intruded into my thoughts with another burst of sobs, "Do you...” sob "hate me?"
That's when part of me shut down. I put my own emotions on hold, and concentrated on her.
"No, hon, I don't hate you," I emphasized, searching through the pile of clothes on my floor for something to wear. I pulled out a pair of torn jeans. They would have to do. "I love you. And I'm worried about you, hon. A lot," I continued.
"I'm sorry...” sob.
"Cat, honey, how long ago did you take them?" I asked as I pulled on the jeans, picked up my keys from the nail they were hanging on in the hall and walked into Josh's room. I put a finger to my lips as I entered, signaling for Josh to keep his mouth shut.
"Anroushlkeiohgkd," Cat sobbed into the receiver.
Reaching for a pen, I began to scribble on the first available piece of paper there. This just so happened to be his Anatomy notebook.
"Cat, hon, I can't understand a word you're saying. I need you to do me a big favor and take some deep breaths, okay?" I waited till I got them in answer, then handed the note to Josh, turned on my heel and bee lined it out to my car. The note said:
Cat just overdosed on Ambien. She's on the cell right now. Call 911, give them her address and tell them to get there as soon as possible. She sounds a little gone. I'm gonna go over there right now. Tell Mom and Dad. Love, Angel
"About a half hour ago," Cat said. She had finally stopped crying. There were the occasional hiccups, but that I could understand her through.
"Cat, hon, I'm on my way," I told her as I swore silently in the cool night air. It had been my hope that she had just taken them. Or that she was going to take them but called me in a panic when she realized they were there in front of her. This didn't seem to be the case.
"No polish, Angel," she begged, her voice slurring slightly. Shit!
I climbed into my car, a Ford Contour, and slammed the thing into reverse careening out of the driveway and onto the street. Jamming the shift down into drive, I took off down the road.
"Cat, is anyone home with you? What happened?" I asked gently as I barreled down one street after street.
Finally her house came into view. It was a small brick house with an inviting look on the outside, but on the inside it housed the bowels of hell. It didn't look as if anyone besides Cat was home as I pulled into the drive way next to her green Chevy Blazer. I had barely parked the car before I was out and up the steps to the front door.
"I came home from school. Mom's boyfriend Brian was here," Cat stated as I lifted the porch mat up and grabbed the spare key from its hiding place. "Brian didn't like me coming home so early. He hit me...hard." This last part she whispered.
I put the key in the door and unlocked it, saying, "Cat, I'm coming in through the front door okay. I just got here."
As the door swung open, it revealed a girl with dark brown hair, brown eyes red from crying, and a bruised forehead. Her shoulder had a large purplish bruise that her red tank top didn’t cover. She had on blue jeans with several newly made cuts and some dried blood surrounding them.
I quickly turned off my phone, shut the door, and pulled Cat into a huge hug. We were in the living room area, with all dark blue velvet couches and easy chairs but this time we sank to the navy blue-carpeted floor, her crying with relief at seeing me and me just holding her. The phone fell to the side of us, forgotten.
"God, Cat, I'm sorry," I whispered.
"It's not your fault. It'll all be over soon," she said, resolutely. That's when I knew she had planned this.
"No," I refused, my eyes filling with tears, "Josh called the police; they can save you. You can stay with us. Life will be okay. You know this wasn't your fault!"
Cat smiled sadly, almost knowingly, "Angel, we've tried that. Mom won't allow it. And she won't get rid of Brian. It's hopeless."
"No! It's not. Not with the police involved. We haven't tried that!" I argued with her. I couldn’t lose her.
"I can't go through that," Cat answered, her voice quieter than before. She was leaning hard on me as well. I could tell that she was fading fast.
"But," I started.
"No, I took that Ambien over an hour ago. It's too late," Cat told. I knew she was telling me the truth. "Promise me a few things?" she asked.
I nodded, "Of course."
"Don't wear black to my funeral. Wear red, my favorite color. Always wear my Star of David around your neck," she said as she handed me the silver chain and necklace, "Ignore what everyone says about me and about you. Do what you want to do. Don't let anyone else dictate your life. Save yourself, don't expect anyone to do it for you," she gasped, grabbing me tighter but losing her grip anyway. Her eyes were filled to the brim with unshed tears.
"There's a box under my bed with your name on it. Please keep it and look through it. I love you," Cat finished, her face pale and her lips blue.
“I don’t want to lose you. Please hang on a little longer,” I begged even though I knew it was in vain.
Sirens sounded in the background, a little too loud and too late. I watched as Cat took her last breathe.
“Cat, hon, I love you and I’ll always remember you,” I cried out as the Ambulance pulled into the driveway. Soon the paramedics were pulling me off of her, and confirming what I already knew. She was gone.
I wandered outside trying hard to comprehend what had just happened. It was then that I broke, the tears streaming down my face as I sat silently on the Cat’s front step. I think at one point, a policewoman asked me my name and relation to the victim.
“Victim,” I shouted, “the victim has a name! It’s Cat and she’s dead because of you!” I was about to launch myself at Cat’s mom, but Josh saved her by showing up and pulling me into his arms. The rest of the night melts away into oblivion. I don’t remember much, except a few choice phrases I hurled Mrs. Strobe’s way before Josh dragged me home.
An intense feeling of loneliness persisted throughout the week. I refused to take off the battered clothes that I’d worn to Cat’s. The torn up jeans, and red tank top became the only thing I would let touch my body. I remained plastered to the couch watching the old movies such as Frankenstein that Cat had loved so much. Wrapped around me was my Christmas gift from her, a handmade quilt, vibrant with bright colors, the moon in one corner and the sun in the opposite. This was my refuge. Thinking I was going to break, no one dared disturb me except occasionally for Josh. They tiptoed around me like mice, doing their best not to upset me.
The day before Cat’s funeral found me, yet again, on the maroon leather couch, staring blankly at the TV screen. There was some game show on, The Weakest Link or Friend or Foe or something like that. I was trying to enjoy the show, but I couldn’t concentrate on it. My mind kept drifting back to those final words that Cat had spoken to me before she died. Which is why, when the doorbell sang out its loud, almost cheerful announcement, I jumped about a mile in the air.
“I’ll get it,” I yelled, even though I could hear the footsteps from the upstairs hurrying down to get the door, before it could disturb me. I made the somewhat long trek (for me, I hadn’t moved from the couch in days) to the door.
The big oak door opened to reveal Cat’s mother standing there, holding a tattered old shoe box. Mrs. Strobe was about 200 pounds with dark brown hair, brown eyes turned red from crying so hard, and a very pale face. Her shabby clothes attested to the fact that she hadn’t had much sleep since that night.
I stood there in shock, even as I felt someone come up behind me and stop cold as well.
“Can I help you, Mrs. Strobe?” I asked, hoarsely.
Wordlessly, she handed me a shoe box with my name on top. Giving me one last glare, she turned on her heel and headed out to the car where Brian sat impatiently honking the horn.
I watched Brian peel down the street, then turned to see Josh standing there beside me.
“Are you okay?” he asked, lacking for better words.
I nodded and took the box inside.
The old tattered shoe box sat on our kitchen table, staring back up at me. My name had been draw and etched in silver on the top of the box. Gingerly, I pulled the top off and set it to the side. I gasped, realizing the magnitude of what that box held.
Inside were letters, pictures, and other miscellaneous items that Cat must have collected over the years of our friendship. It was kind of sad to see that it all fit into that small box, but comforting to know that it was all here: the years of laughter, the tears, the fun times, and the sad.
I pulled out picture after picture of her and myself; one from Great America, another from the zoo, and some from a time we’d spent goofing off in the leaves in front of my house. The tears trickled down my cheeks as I reread letters I had sent her; during that time she’d been in the hospital; after her dad had died; and during the long years of torture inflicted upon her by Brian. Digging deeper inside, I found her diary, which I was shocked to find full of poems, or rather songs that she had written, full of emotion and each accompanied with a score. I hummed a few, and finding them rather good, set it aside, knowing that later, I would do something with it. Also in that box, was Cat’s favorite music, sung by Lalaine. The last thing there was a letter, eerily resounding what Cat had said to me right before she died.
I’m sorry. If you’re reading this, I couldn’t live with what’s happening to me anymore. It also means that I probably did something that’s causing you a lot of pain. Please don’t be sad for me. I did this because I just don’t see another way out. Promise me, you’ll stay there and follow through on our dreams. I’m sorry, please forgive me. I love you. Remember, you’re the only one who can save yourself. I’ll always be with you.
I sat in silence for a long time after that. I had known her life had not been the best and as for following through on our dreams, well I could barely even imagine living through tomorrow. Why had this happened?
Standing there, enveloped in my brothers arms, I stared out at the trees. The pine trees on the edge of the cemetery formed a windbreak of sorts, keeping out the chilly weather. I looked down at the plain white grave site, which was now neatly covered with dirt.
“It just doesn’t seem right,” I said, my voice breaking into the deafening silence.
Josh looked over at me, nodding. “I know,” he said, rubbing my shoulder, “but we can’t change it. All we can do now is honor her memory, and move on into the future.”
Nodding, I glanced around at the trees again. I couldn’t believe that just yesterday, we had stood here, listening to her eulogy. It still seemed somewhat unreal; but as I glanced down, I was reminded by the white marble headstone marking Cat’s grave. Leaning down, I dug a little hole right next to the headstone. Inside I planted a daisy, Cat’s favorite flower. Straightening up, I stood over her grave and placed a single red rose on the top.
“I will save myself, Cat, I promise. Our dreams will come true,” I told her. Then turning I walked back to the car, Josh’s arm around me, as determined as ever to keep her memory and my dreams alive.
As we drove out of the cemetery, I turned to look back and noticed that the red rose which I’d laid on top of Cat’s grave was gone. Assured that she got the message, I set off to begin the next part of my life.