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Apparently, she’d had a baby. Two babies. But they kept reminding her of the last baby. She hadn’t been a very good mother, she remembered, even if it had only been for a few weeks. Her other self had thought that this would finally be her happily-ever-after, having a baby with a man she loved, a baby that she wouldn’t have to put in the garden. But she hadn’t wanted to be a single mom. She knew there were moms that did it.
She never wanted to be a single mom again.
Maybe she was selfish, and ungrateful, and everything else they had told her she was. Well, apparently, they had been right. She was stupid and useless and hadn’t amounted to anything in her life. She had barely graduated from high school. So much for her childhood dreams of going to university, finally being free. To find friends, and have her own place, and never have to go home again. She’d wanted a Ph.D. It seemed she wasn’t half as smart as Ben. No wonder he wanted to leave her for Lilah.
The first one had come without as much trouble as they’d thought. “Name her Summer,” Lanie had said. “After 500 Days of Summer.”
Then the second one had been ripped out of her. “Name her Sam, after Sam Moody from Skylight Confessions.” She’d read it at seventeen, the first night she’d gone to stay with her grandfather.
All the scrutiny and evaluation and monitoring after she was released from the hospital in tenth grade had made her wish even harder that she hadn’t been found that day. She refused to talk about what happened to her in meetings filled with psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors, and social workers, so they talked for her. They always talked for her. Even Susan Folger was there, because she felt guilty, and wanted to be part of Lanie’s “natural supports.” Her parents made up excuses for not coming. During the meetings, Lanie tried to block her ears as they read statements aloud describing what she had done, to a room full of people she’d never met before then. She didn’t want to discuss it with those people. Didn’t they understand that she already had to relive it every day in her head?
Would she ever stop reliving it all?
She had been scared, down there in the storage room. She’d had brief flashes of hoping someone would find her. Maybe they would finally listen and take her to get some real help. Maybe someone would finally help her leave that house. But that it would never happen. She could never escape the thoughts. They would always come back to her, no matter where she was. Even if she was at a university on the other side of the world, she would be surrounded by the thoughts, brought to her knees by the thoughts. They screamed at her when she tried to ignore them, and engulfed her when she didn’t.
That day in the basement. She had sat for over an hour, sobbing and trying to build up the courage. She had opened up some of her old scars, but when she thought about actually cutting up one of her veins, pressing down hard enough to puncture one of those big vessels, she paused. She cut herself more times than she ever had, but couldn’t make that final cut. She wondered if she was going into shock when she realized how cold she was, because before she knew it, she was shivering. She hated being cold. She didn’t want to be cold.
She was so cold.
But what else could she do? How else would she escape the thoughts?
So, finally, she did it. Without thinking, she sliced down as hard as she could. A river of blood ran from her arm, joining the other small rivers. It looked a little like lace. Or a pattern of branches viewed from laying under a tree. It made small pattering sounds as it hit the floor.
She wasn’t sure how much she would bleed, so she stayed well away from the door to make sure no one would find her. Just to make sure she got the job done, she made another cut in her other arm, though this one was not as deep because she had lost strength in her left hand.
She tried to calm herself so that she would drift away peacefully. But she hated the sound of the desperate pounding of her heart. She hated how her lungs forced her to take in more air. She hated the feeling of fuzziness, of heaviness that came over her. When she tried to lift an arm, a leg, and could barely move.
She hated the cold.
And then, after all that, she had woken up in the hospital.
After a week of going through flashbacks every time she was alone in her room, or saw something random that reminded her of that day, and of having nightmares of swimming in a freezing, red river, they forced her to sit in a room while they read out a description of the incident from a piece of paper. She had begged them for days not to do it. But what she said didn’t matter.
Her counsellor had tried to get Lanie to uncover her ears. “You have to be a part of these meetings, Lanie. If you want to be able to leave here. We need to talk about how we’re going to support you once you leave.”
They still didn’t get it. And apparently, they never would. So, she stopped talking.
But then she met him, in group therapy. He had understood. He hadn’t made her talk about it. They had just sat together. Talked about normal things. Once in a while he talked about why he was there, a bit about his childhood, and she was shocked by how much they had in common. Finally, someone who didn’t come from a near-perfect family, someone who wouldn’t tell her to just focus on the positive and think about all she had going for her. At last, she decided to tell him a bit about herself. And eventually, she told him everything.
Their bond was instant. Desperate. Neither of them had experienced such a connection, and they were suddenly yearning for it, starving for it.
She could see now that they had basically devoured each other. Their love was like a raging fire, big and beautiful, but neither of them realized that it would burn down everything in its path.
He was there for her after she went home. For a while, her old friends from church, including Lilah, were, “So sorry,” and wondered, “Why didn’t you just call me?” For the first week after she was released, they called her, texted her, asked her how she was feeling, telling her how much they loved her. For a while, she started to believe that maybe she had taken them for granted, that they really were good friends.
The next week, they were a lot slower to answer her messages. Some of them were missed. “So sorry! Things just got crazy.” They visited her in the school gym, and talked with her. A small feeling of hope bloomed.
The week after that, no one messaged her, and only a few texted back when she reached out to them. The conversations quickly petered out. Lanie tried to keep the conversations going. She even called them a few times, when the thoughts were too loud to handle. “I’m just having a hard time right now. I know you said I should call you if…if I need anything.”
“Oh, hi! I’m really sorry, but can I possibly call you back later? This is really not a good time.”
The fourth week, she called a couple of the numbers she’d been given. The conversations always progressed the same way. “Hello, this is the Suicide Help Line.” And then…nothing.
“What’s your name?”
She didn’t know if they’d be able to track her somehow. “Alexandra.”
“Hello, Alexandra. What’s brought you here today?”
She rubbed her arms, swallowing. “I…I don’t know. I was just told to call if I…had bad thoughts.”
More silence. Later, Lanie would realize that they were “listening” and “holding space” and whatever other garbage they’d been trained to do in their trauma-informed half-day training programs.
A few times, when she was feeling numb, she called again, not expecting to feel better after the call, but just for kicks.
The counsellor at school checked in with her once a week, then once a month. By the end of the school year, it was as though nothing had happened.
Surely, she had moved on. Surely, whatever had been bothering her had been cast out during her time in the loonie bin. She was fine. She was doing so well, and looking so good.
“You’ve really come a long way, Lanie.”
There were nights when she couldn’t sleep at all. She was afraid to lay down. Sometimes, once in a while, just that simple act brought it all back. The way she had lain there, desperate and crying, then numb and resigned, then scared and hopeless.
For a while, even the sight of razors in the grocery store nearly undid her.
She could only sleep when he was there beside her. It was rare that she was able to do so. Usually when she snuck out of school to see him, and they’d lay in the back of his truck, and she’d finally, finally sleep. Then, he stayed after her parents’ disappearance. He stayed with her. He was her prince. With her parents gone, she thought she was finally getting the ending she had dreamed of. The man she had wrote about in her journals, now burned and gone
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13