A/N: This chapter is set-up somewhat differently from the others. It begins in James’ point of view, and then delves briefly into the views of multiple other characters before returning to James and then panning out once last time to each of the others. Each point of view is labeled to make this entry easier to follow. Also, as a fair warning…this chapter is a sad one.
Fact: There is only so much that a person can handle.
Getting beaten up and bullied for the majority of my high school experience sucked.
Getting a girl pregnant at age 16 was pretty damn awful.
Having to raise a baby all on my own because my girlfriend was suffering from severe depression was endlessly challenging.
Having my girlfriend take off on me, right when I’d thought that maybe everything could be alright, was life-shatteringly devastating.
I had dealt with all of those situations as best that I could, and I thought that I had done an “okay” job too, considering, but what happened not even two days after that event, reminded me of that fact—that is, that there is only so much that a person can handle.
“Speaking,” I answered hesitantly, unsure if the caller was looking for me, or my father.
“This is Officer Mike, from the Neverglade Police Department. I’m sorry to bother you at home, but do you know a Ms. Maddie Cinders?”
I tried to open my mouth to answer, but found it difficult to speak. Why would the police be calling about Maddie? I felt a cold chill begin to seep into my already fractured pieces.
I cleared my throat. “Yes. She—she left town just a couple days ago.”
The policeman took a breath. “Sir, we found a car registered in your name crashed in a ravine earlier today. A Miss Maddie Cinders was identified as the driver of the car. I-…I’m sorry to say that she didn’t make it.”
“What?” I was suddenly a shattered vase. Pieces piled up like rubble.
“There’s more I’m afraid,” the policeman continued, unaware that I had already come apart. “Evidence suggests…well, evidence suggests that it may have been on purpose.”
“What?” I found myself saying again. I was a broken record. I was a broken everything.
“There are usually skid marks associated with crashes like these, from folks slamming on the brakes, but that wasn’t the case here. In fact, well, it looks like she sped up. …..I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Why would you do this?
How could you do this, to me?
I feel like silica dust in the wind.
Was it my fault?
Why would you leave me like this?
I am shattered.
I am gone.
I just can’t handle anymore.
“I should have seen the fucking signs, you know?” I said to Chris as he stared blankly at the television.
“You did see the signs,” he remarked blandly.
“Then why didn’t I do anything?” I asked miserably, any joy in preparing tonight’s dinner leaving me like Maddie had left us. I still remembered James’ call just the other day—his haunted voice, his grating words. I winced just remembering it.
“You did. It’s just…there’s always been signs. This wasn’t new, babe.”
I sighed, going back to the chopping the vegetables that would soon become a part of tonight’s meal. There had always been signs.
Maddie had suffered from depression for at least as long as I had known her, which was back in middle school when I first met her in the park one day, crying about how her mom had left them. I suspected that it had been even before that event that Maddie struggled though.
She got better with time, but sometimes, she got worse.
She had seemed a lot better with James, for a time, until….
“Ouch!” I cried out, looking down only to see that I’d nicked my finger with the knife. A line of blood blossomed from the wound and I cursed, sucking on my injured finger.
“Are you okay?” Chris asked, finally turning away from the TV to look back at me.
“Yeah,” I said, and then met his gaze.
Chris stood up, walking over to me and pulling me into his arms. He knew when I was lying. I was far from being okay.
“I just feel like I could have stopped her. Like…like it’s my fault because I didn’t do more,” I whispered into Chris’ shoulder, tears threatening to escape my closed lids.
“Me too,” he admitted with a whisper, and then to my surprise, broke down into sobs.
But that wasn’t my only surprise, because that was when I realized….I was sobbing too.
“Where are you going?” I asked, surprised to see Maddie up so early. While I often got up early so I could get some quiet painting done before the entire household woke up, I was used to Maddie being one of the last to awaken.
She jumped upon hearing my voice, her eyes darting around as if afraid there might be others. Her clothes and hair were rumpled, as if she’d just gotten back into whatever she was wearing yesterday and hadn’t showered.
“Jo needs formula,” she mumbled, looking oddly pained for needing to do something so routine.
“….are you okay?” I asked. I had a spoonful of cornflakes halfway to my mouth.
“Yeah,” she said quickly, her worried eyes looking me over as if I were going to stop her. But I didn’t, of course. She said she just needed formula.
“Alright, see ya,” I said, spooning the cornflakes into my mouth. Maddie left then, and I didn’t think twice about it.
“I should have stopped her,” I muttered to myself as I attempted to work on my painting. I wasn’t as good as my siblings were, especially my older sister Kira, but I was trying to get there.
I frowned, attempting to fix an area where I’d splotched on too much paint, but all I was doing was making things worse.
I sighed in frustration, finally putting my paintbrush down. I was making more mistakes than actual progress at this point.
I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head that I should have stopped her that night… that I should have told her to stay home.
Maybe she’d still be here today if I had just insisted that she looked too upset to go out.
I rubbed my temples, shaking my head slowly.
God, I just I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that this was actually, in large part, all my fault.
I was sobbing uncontrollably.
It happened completely out of the blue. One minute, I was sharing a few drinks with Mitch and Chris over at their place, sharing our fondest memories of Maddie, and the next I was practically hyperventilating, making these crazy, high pitched sobs as I completely and totally lost it.
“Candice!” Mitch cried out in alarm, just coming back from the kitchen with more drinks. “Jesus, pull yourself together!”
But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t stop that horrible sound from coming out of my mouth, no matter how much it hurt my chest and no matter how much those tears stung my eyes.
“I did it!” I shrieked somewhat hysterically, my body trembling. “I did it! I-I…I killed her, Mitch!”
“So I suppose it was you that ran her car into that ravine?” Chris asked dryly, his left eyebrow arched high. He was clearly not amused by my pronouncement.
“You don’t understand,” I moaned. “If I hadn’t fal-”
“Candice,” Mitch interrupted gently, already knowing what I was going to say. “You liking James had nothing to do with Maddie’s death. You even stopped talking to him for Maddie’s sake,” he said in a low voice, emphasizing that last bit in an effort to remind me.
I looked away, taking deep breaths and shaking my head. “I know, but what if some part of me, some deep down part of me, actually wanted- wanted her to be-”
“That’s impossible, Candice!” Mitch snapped, so incensed by my words that he even stomped his foot in anger. “You love James, I know, but you loved Maddie too! You never would have wanted anything bad to happen to her. You wanted her to be happy…even if that meant that you couldn’t be! If that’s not love I don’t know what is!”
I stared at Mitch for a long moment, my stomach turning and my throat feeling scratchy and raw.
My logical mind knew that Mitch was right, but I couldn’t help feeling that this, all of this, was entirely my fault.
The floor paneling reminds me of you, Maddie. It reminds me of your small, bare feet padding across it as you hurried to the kitchen for a late night snack.
It reminds me of you, alive and walking up to me, not to talk, but just because you wanted to be near me.
Bubbles remind me of you.
They remind me of the long bubble baths you used to take to soothe your nerves.
They remind me of how you would smell like them for hours afterward.
Pancakes remind me of you. They remind me of you because that was your favorite food, and even though my mom was disappointed in us both, she would always cook them, just because she knew you liked them too.
A plate of pancakes reminds me that sometimes, you did feel happiness.
Jo reminds me of you. Jo reminds me of you so fucking much that it hurts to even look at her.
Can you imagine how difficult that is, Maddie?
When our daughter looks at me with her big jade eyes, YOUR jade eyes, it makes me feel like I am breaking into a million tiny pieces, and suddenly I can’t believe that I even remember to breathe.
She doesn’t understand though. She doesn’t understand why Daddy cries when he looks at her.
And when she grows up, I bet she won’t even understand why she doesn’t have a mother. And you know what hurts the most, Maddie?
The fact that I won’t either.
Goddamn it, Maddie! Everything reminds me of you. Everything reminds me that we used to be in this together. Everything reminds me that you used to love me, and I loved you, and you were here and in my arms and now you’re gone and I just can’t understand.
I can’t understand why you would leave me like this, why you would be so selfish, why you would be so fucking CRUEL you STUPID goddamn IDIOT, Maddie!
I can’t understand, Maddie, why I didn’t see how much pain you were really in.
“You’re not staying, are you,” my mom said quietly one evening, glancing up at me as we played chess one night. She phrased it more like a fact than a question.
I looked up from my pieces, seeing the pained look in her eyes and trying, just for a moment, to remember how it felt to just be pained.
“How did you know?” I finally asked quietly, moving a pawn forward one space. I was feeling a little more mellowed out after dipping into some of the nectar we’d bought from France. It made living almost bearable.
“A mother always knows,” Mom said cryptically, but then she met my eyes and shrugged. “A real estate agent called, asking for you.”
“Oh.” I took a deep breath, watching as my mom made another cautious move on the board. We were both playing cautiously for that matter, our pieces dancing around each other hesitantly.
I wouldn’t have played at all if my mom hadn’t dragged me off the floor of my room and forced me.
“And Jo?” she asked, a look of concern upon her face.
“I’m taking her with me,” I confirmed. My mom’s face went to one of relief, to one of worry. She bit her lip. “But your drinking…” she started, and then trailed off, glancing at me again.
I shook my head. “It won’t be an issue,” I stated firmly. My mom watched me for another moment and then slowly nodded.
We both fell quiet.
In that silence we had both shifted our focus back to the game, but I could tell my mom’s heart wasn’t really into it when I easily took one of her bishops.
“When are you leaving?” she finally asked, looking only vaguely aware that one of her key chessmen was gone.
“Tonight,” I admitted, avoiding my mom’s eyes as I captured yet another of her pieces. Mom accidently knocked over a few others with her elbow and then hastily apologized as she fixed the board.
I looked at her for a long moment, a pained expression on my face. “I have to do this,” I whispered.
“I know,” she said, making a big show of straightening out the chess pieces. “It’s just…you’re my son….”
“I know, Mom. I’ll be fine,” I stated firmly, but I wondered after I’d said it—was I reassuring her, or me?
Chris was right–I’d done everything that I could have.
“I just wish it’d been enough, Maddie….”
Even if I had stopped her that night, she would have disappeared on another.
“I hope you’re happier now….”
In the end, it’s not ill wishes that kill, but ill actions.
“I’m gonna miss you, girl….”
I did know how much pain you were in, and I did try, but I didn’t do enough, Maddie.
I didn’t do enough and now you’re gone.
You are gone and it’s all my fault.
“I’m so sorry.”
A/N: I hope this came across correctly, but just in case, it’s important to note that Maddie’s suicide was not the fault of any of these characters, nor was this written to imply anything of the sort. It was written to illustrate the guilt that haunts many survivors of suicide, and the difficulties of coping with such a tragic loss. That being said, it’s not Maddie’s fault either–depression is a serious and debilitating illness. If you, or someone you know, suffers from depression and/or suicidal ideations, please tell someone that can help! No one should be alone in such a situation.
As always, thank you all for reading.