Authors: Noelle Adams
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary
I swallowed the regular dose with a gulp of water. Then I stared down at more of them in my hand for a really long time.
Then I was taking them.
I don’t remember how many I took. Most of that evening is a blur to me now. I don’t remember much except lying on my bed, staring up at the ceiling, hoping all of it would finally end.
For some reason, I kept picturing Gideon. I’d been a stranger to him, and he’d fought to protect me anyway. For some reason, it mattered to me now more than ever.
I picked up my phone and started listening to the string of voicemails he’d left me over the last six weeks, starting from the beginning.
“Hi, Diana. It’s Gideon. Gideon Walker. I hope it’s okay for me to call. I wanted to see how you were doing. If you get a chance and you’re up to it, maybe you could give me a call back.”
“Hi, Diana. It’s Gideon. Just calling back to see how you’re doing. It’s really fine if you’re not up to talking yet. I’ve just been thinking about you. I hope you’re...Anyway, just wanted you to know I was thinking about you and thought I’d check in. Give me a call if you can.”
“Hi, Diana. It’s Gideon again. I hope you don’t think I’m bugging you. Maybe I am. I’m really sorry if I am. I just feel like we should...I don’t know. I’d love to hear how you’re doing.”
“Hi, Diana. It’s me again. Gideon. Checking in to see how you’re doing.”
“Hi, Diana. It’s Gideon. I don’t know if I should even be calling you anymore. Maybe you just don’t want to talk to me. But I keep thinking about you, and... No, that’s it. I’m just thinking about you.”
“Hi Diana. It’s me. I guess you don’t want to talk to me, since it’s been a month and I haven’t heard from you. I think I can understand why. I thought it might help if we could talk. I mean, I don’t really know
it would help. I just feel...I don’t know...connected to you somehow, and I can’t seem to get past it.”
“Hi, it’s me again. I hung up after the last message and was afraid it might have sounded kind of creepy. I really just want to hear how you’re doing. I promise I’m not asking or expecting anything from you. Sorry if the previous message freaked you out.”
“Hi, Diana. It’s Gideon. I wasn’t going to call again. In fact, I was told that I needed to stop, since you obviously don’t want to hear from me. Anyway, if you don’t call me back after this, then I won’t call again. I just wanted to say that I’m sorry. I’m really sorry that I couldn’t stop it from happening. I’m really sorry I didn’t do more. I know I don’t know you very well but I could tell even from the short time we spent together that you’re really sweet and you’re really brave and you have a really...a really good heart. And something like that shouldn’t have happened to you. It just shouldn’t have happened. And—”
“Hi, I got cut off before I could finish the earlier message, so this isn’t another call—just a continuation of the last one. Sorry about the rambling. What I mostly want to say is that I really liked the person I met that...that night, and I’d like to get to know you better. But only if you want to. If you don’t, I can respect that, and I won’t call again.”
That was the last message. He hadn’t called again.
I stared at the phone in my hand, realizing that my mind was starting to get fuzzy. But I suddenly felt an overwhelming flood of guilt. Gideon had been beaten to the floor in that row house, in that room. For
. All he wanted now was a call back, and I hadn’t even given him that.
Without thinking, I found his number and hit send.
It was after midnight, a fact I realized after the fourth ring. I’d just leave a message, to thank him. Then at least that one thing wouldn’t be left unfinished.
I was fighting through a growing haze in my mind, preparing to leave a message, when his voice was suddenly on the other end of the call.
“Hello? Hello, Diana?”
“Yeah,” I managed to say, surprised and disoriented and groggy. “Yeah, it’s me.”
It felt like there was some sort of emotion in the brief silence that followed, but I was in no state for figuring out what it was. Then he said, almost diffidently, “Hi.”
“Hi.” I felt strangely embarrassed, despite everything.
“I’m glad you called.”
“Sorry it’s so late. I...I wasn’t thinking.”
“It’s not too late. I’m really glad you did. Where are you?”
“I’m back in my apartment.”
“Oh. That’s good. Where do you live?”
I told him because he sounded genuinely interested and because it didn’t matter anymore.
“Really?” he said. “I think I know where that is. My place isn’t very far away.”
Then the conversation drifted into silence. At last, he asked in a different tone, “How are you?”
There was no way in the world I could answer that question. I wasn’t even sure I could raise my head. “I just wanted to tell you...I just wanted to say thank you. For what you did. For fighting for me.”
There was a pause on the line before he answered, “I’m sorry it wasn’t enough. That what I did couldn’t help.”
“I think it...” I had to clear my throat, since my words were starting to slur. “I think it did help. A little. Knowing that there was someone in the world who would do that for me, for a stranger. It was like a little glimmer of light in the darkness.”
The pause was much longer this time, and it felt like it was full of emotion. Finally, he murmured, something rough in his voice, “There should have been more light for you.”
The world and the room were darker than ever now. I could feel the pills closing in. “But still, it meant something to me. It was the last one I’ll see.”
The pause this time felt different, although there was no way I could work out why. Gideon’s tone was different too when he asked, “What do you mean?”
I didn’t answer. I wasn’t sure I could make my mouth form lucid words. I just breathed into the phone. My hand was starting to shake.
“Diana?” His voice had gotten urgent, grating on my ears. “Diana, what’s wrong? What’s happening?”
“It’s just...dark.” I didn’t know if he could even understand the mumbled words, but the phone slipped out of my hand.
It fell on the bed, kind of near my ear, so I could still hear Gideon’s voice, talking urgently with words I couldn’t quite make out.
It was all a dark, thick haze, but I wasn’t entirely unconscious. And my whole body jerked when my stomach heaved and I started to gag on my vomit.
My body might have been made of lead, but I managed to roll over on my side so I didn’t choke.
I hadn’t really thought about things before I took the pills, but I’m sure I would have assumed I’d just go peacefully to sleep. But the body doesn’t want to die. It never wants to die. And it will do whatever possible to fight off every threat.
In this case, it was horrible, convulsive vomiting—on my bed because there was no way I could even hang my head over the side.
In the middle of it, one whisper-thin part of my mind heard something else. A pounding. Maybe like a knock on the door. The pounding didn’t last very long, and then there was a loud crash. It didn’t make any sort of impact on me because I was retching again.
Then Gideon was there, and I had no idea how he’d gotten there. I couldn’t even see his face clearly, but I knew it was him. “Oh, fuck, oh, fuck, Diana. What did you do?” He was leaning down and turned me over some more so I wasn’t at risk of choking as I puked.
He must have already been on the phone with someone because he lifted his phone to his ear without dialing and said, “She’s vomiting. It looks really bad.”
There was a pause, and then he reached down to grab the bottle I’d let drop on the bed. He read out the name of the pills to whoever he was talking to on the phone.
Then he was lifting up my body. “The ambulance will be here soon. I called it in before I got here.”
That didn’t make any sense at all, but I was far past trying to process such things.
He must have carried me to the bathroom, although I wasn’t aware of his doing so. We somehow ended up there, though. I vomited some more. Then there was a shock of water on my face and neck and chest. I had no idea where it came from. And we were both on the floor of the bathroom, and he was holding me up as I gagged on painful dry heaves.
He was telling me that it would be all right. That help would come. That it would be here soon. That I’d be okay. There was something broken about the way he sounded, but I was broken too.
We’d been on the floor together in that other room too, when help hadn’t come in time.
he next thing I was aware of was opening my eyes to a bleak, painful light.
It hurt my head so I closed my eyes again. I was gradually waking up, though, and I realized I wasn’t on the floor anymore. I was in a bed. But the sheets felt different than my normal sheets.
My whole body hurt as I tried to stretch.
When I managed to get my eyes opened, I realized I was in a hospital room. It would hurt to turn my head, but I cut my eyes around the room until they landed on a man in the chair.
His hair had grown out some since when I’d seen him in that row house. It was light brown and thick—the kind that would stick out if he didn’t keep it cut pretty short. He looked different too in what must be his normal clothes—gray t-shirt and worn jeans. He had a light cast on his arm still but no sling.
All this I noticed in the few seconds it took for him to open his eyes. He must not have been asleep.
He straightened up as soon as he saw me looking at him.
“Wha—” I tried to ask, but the one word stuck in my throat.
He got up quickly and grabbed the water in the hospital cup beside the bed. He guided the straw to my mouth so I could drink it.
I swallowed a couple of gulps and then panted from the effort.
“You’ll be okay,” Gideon said, still holding the water in case I wanted to drink it again. “We got you here quickly enough. There’s no permanent damage to your liver or kidneys.”
“Yeah. They called your dad. He’s in Russia, I guess, but he’s on his way back now.”
My dad traveled all the time for work, so I wasn’t surprised or particularly interested in this fact. Gideon’s face was a little strange as he said it, as if he was more concerned by my dad’s absence than I was.
I still couldn’t quite figure out how I’d even gotten here. The details I did remember were random and disconnected. “Did you break down my door?”
“I kicked it in,” he admitted. “I was worried about you. I had to call someone to find out what apartment you were in.”
I moved my head toward the water, and he positioned it for me again. I drank several more swallows before I lay back.
“But I’m a stranger to you.” In my mind, the random comment made sense with what had come before—the idea that he would have gone to such great lengths to get to me, to help me.
“You’re not a stranger anymore.”
I couldn’t begin to understand that, so I just left it alone. More was coming back to me. Retching in the bathroom, with Gideon’s arms around me. Lying on my bed as he burst through the door to reach me.
And then the missing piece clicked in my head. I remembered why it had all happened at all.
“You bastard,” I hissed, shrinking away from him. He’d been giving me the water again, but I pushed it away, so violently the cup dropped to the floor, spilling and then rolling under the bed. “You bastard! Why did you do it?”
He didn’t react at all to my anger, but he must have understood where it was coming from. “I wasn’t going to let you die.”
“But I wanted to. I
to. It was almost over.” I don’t know where I got the energy, but I was suddenly lashing out at him, trying to hit him despite my physical weakness. All I could reach of him was his stomach and chest. “I wanted it to be over.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” He hadn’t moved from where he was standing next to the bed, and he made no effort to defend himself from my fists. “But I wasn’t going to let that happen.”
I wasn’t really hurting him. I wasn’t capable of doing so, but I tried anyway. I hadn’t been so angry...maybe ever. “You fucking bastard! It’s not your choice to make.”
“Maybe not.” He didn’t look calm, exactly, but he didn’t move at all, accepting whatever I gave him. “But it wasn’t right. It would have meant they won.”
All the fury and energy dropped out of me in an instant, and I flopped back to the bed, choking on tearless sobs. “They’ve already won.”
He reached out and held my upper arm urgently, the way he had back in the basement room, before the worst of it had happened. “They have not won. They haven’t. And we can’t let them win.”
I felt his urgency—it spoke to me—but there was nothing left inside me to deal with it. I just gasped, “Why won’t you just leave me alone?”
His intense eyes held mine, vividly blue in the florescent light of the room. There was no way I could look away. There was no way I could even breathe. “I can’t. I can’t leave you alone, Diana. I failed you once, and I’m not going to fail you again.”
I tried to be hard. I wanted to be hard, because maybe then it all wouldn’t hurt so much. But I couldn’t be hard enough. He was hurting too, and I didn’t want him to feel like me. “You didn’t fail me. You tried.”
“Not hard enough.”
There wasn’t anything I could say to that.
fter the suicide attempt, I went to a residential treatment center.
It was an exclusive facility with the best doctors, psychiatrists, and counselors, and it was housed in a luxurious facility on a gorgeous piece of land about an hour outside the city. My dad called up a few people, and they all recommended the same place. It was like a resort hotel with round-the-clock support and therapy.
I tried to get better.
A lot of the time, I was fighting off the demons—reliving horrific memories that I couldn’t always keep pushed into a tight little compartment of my mind. But, when the demons weren’t filling my mind, I knew I didn’t want to be the kind of person to give up, to give in, to let something like this defeat me. If there was some way to heal myself, then I would try.