Today is J-Day for the A-Z Challenge. My post is a continuation of yesterday's Happy Acres episode.
"So how did you end up in Happy Acres, Em?" Tessa asked, kneeling on the floor at my feet like some strange supplicant.
I closed my eyes and remembered the long red ribbons that slipped from my wrists and puddled on the floor of the bathroom.
Opening my eyes didn't make the memory any less vivid. I cleared my throat. "I got depressed and it seemed like I'd be safer in here."
"That's it?" T-Bone asked. "A little depression and you go runnin' for cover?"
The last straw, the one that had broken my will to live, had been my cat dying. I'd spent years of careful and meticulous practice, burying the pain other people are so good at inflicting, until I was blissfully numb. But I loved my cat.
"I tried to hurt myself," I offered as added explanation. "My cat died. I couldn't help it."
In the bathroom after my cat died was only a formality. I'd already died a little bit every time my mother snuggled up to Jack Daniels and forgot I existed. And I'd died a little bit more every time my father chose work over his family. After I grew up, every time I forced myself to leave the house I died some more, hiding excruciating shyness behind indifference and bravado.
"You mind yourself, T-Bone," Mia said, waggling an angry finger at him. "Whatever brought you here hurt so bad it split you and Bill in halvsies."
"Zimbabwe," Bill whispered, his head dipped in contrition.
The funny thing was that I'd hoped the grief, and all the rest of the pain, would slide from my wrists like snake venom and I'd finally be cleansed and free. But the joke was on me, because the puddle got bigger, but the pain stayed the same. I tried adding tears, but even as they fell, I just couldn't drain myself enough to make it all go away.
"But how'd you get here?" Tessa asked.
I choked a kind of half laugh. "The landlord found me. Routine inspection or something. When I didn't answer the door, he let himself in. The rest, as they say, is history," I said, trying to lighten the mood from dangerously close to despair.
"Your cat died?" Simon asked, clearly not understanding all the subtext.
"I really loved my cat," I said. That was all the explanation I could afford. "If you think your story's so much better, how'd you end up here?"