Chapter Sixty Seven: Time Suspended

As we lay in bed that night, I sensed his eagerness for sex, and I let him fuck me; it would be the last time, I knew that, and I wanted him to, for reasons I can’t fully explain.  It wasn’t just because I loved him, and wanted it, but because it would never happen again, and because I hoped that, one day, he would be able to forgive me for what I was about to do.

  Once he was breathing the steady rhythm of sleep, I slipped out of his warm arms and tiptoed over to the chair where I had left my clothes.  I could just make out the black slip, near the top of the pile, and I slid it over my head in silence.  I went into the kitchen to write the letter and, once it was done, I folded the sheets of paper twice and slipped it inside an envelope; then I wrote his name in careful letters on the front.  Back in the bedroom, I put it next to his bedside lamp, and paused in the darkness to watch him for a few moments.  He was lying on his back, his hair hanging loose, and his expression was happy as he breathed the regular, shallow breath of sleep.  My eyes filled with tears as I stooped to kiss him, and when I moved away, his face shone with the tears I had dripped onto his face.

  I felt strangely calm, despite the tears, as I went back to the kitchen.  I could feel the sadness in my heart, but it couldn’t overwhelm me then, for I was so sure that I was doing the right thing.  I opened the cupboard under the sink and removed a plain, unassuming carrier bag, it rustled as I placed it down on the table and removed its contents: a bottle of vodka, four packs of 32 Paracetomal tablets, and my anti-depressants, of which I had twelve left.  I got a glass from the cupboard, and then emptied out the Paracetomal onto the table.  I neatly stacked them into piles of ten, and then turned my attention to the anti-depressants.

  The Paracetomal were chalky and bitter in my mouth, the anti-depressants sweet and brittle as I swallowed, but I got them down.  I had decided to use as little vodka as possible, as I didn’t want to start feeling drunk until I had got most, if not all, of the pills down.  Once I’d done that, I downed the rest of the bottle as quickly as possible then, feeling rather light headed, went back to bed.

  He hadn’t stirred whilst I’d been away, but I felt a pang of guilt as I lay back down next to him.  I rested my head on his chest, and closed my eyes, hoping that I’d done what I could to make things as easy as possible for him.

  When I woke, about an hour or so later, I knew that something was wrong; I felt nauseated and sluggish, but it was far worse than that; I was icy cold and I felt lethargic and faint.  I couldn’t walk, so I crawled on my hands and knees towards the bathroom where, using the walls and the door as support, I opened the door, then closed and locked it behind me.  I fell to my knees afterwards, what little energy I had was gone as I crawled over to the toilet, and stuck my head inside the bowl, waiting for the inevitable.  When the sickness came, it came with a vengeance, and I have never been as violently sick as I was that night.  My stomach ached with a constant dull pain, my head throbbed, and I couldn’t have moved even if I’d wanted to.

  After a while, I heard him try the door, then, finding it locked, he knocked, “Are you alright?”

  I managed to stop throwing up long enough to call back, “Yes,” before the sickness overwhelmed me again, and I had to stick my head back inside the bowl.  Everything’s going wrong, I thought miserably, what if he finds the note? What if he goes into the kitchen? My eyes felt odd and heavy, and my head felt heavy too as I lifted it up. I don’t know what happened next.

  The banging woke me up, it was coming from nearby I realised as I moved my still heavy head and opened my dully aching eyes; it was irregular but loud, I felt the vibrations as I lay on the floor. When I moved, I felt a terrible, sharp, stabbing pain somewhere around my stomach, and I curled up in agony as I moaned. The pale moonlight shone through the window onto my face as I lay there, then light burst into the room as the lock splintered away from the door and the door swung open.

  He was next to me then, I felt his hands, warm against my cold clammy skin as he held me in his arms; I heard the panic in his voice as he murmured to me, “It’s going to be O.K, darling, I promise… I called an ambulance, but you mustn’t go to sleep, got to stay awake, please, please,” he seemed to choke, “please, don’t die, don’t die…”

  The pain was so great that it was all that I could do to stay quiet, but as he held me, I gave up the battle and began to give in to the pain as I cried; I couldn’t speak.

  “Don’t die,” he whispered, “please, please, don’t die, please.”  He sniffed, and I knew that he was crying.

  When I next awoke, I was lying on a trolley, being wheeled down a long white echoing corridor.  Lines of different colours adorned the ceiling and floor as I gazed, vacantly, at them.  It still hurt inside, but the pain had become a part of me, I felt as though I was in a fog, though I could hear things, they seemed a long way off,  “Don’t tell my mum,” I pleaded in a tiny voice as I closed my eyes once more, “please, don’t tell my mum…”

  I don’t remember having my stomach pumped, but it must have happened because my throat was painfully sore when I next came to.  My head ached as my eyes flickered open and, as I took in the white walls and stark white furniture around me, I felt the sense of panic rush, screaming, to the surface.  I remembered the dream I had last year, the padded cell, I made my choice, now its time to make yours, Nat had said, and the doors had slammed shut behind her, locking me in.  I turned to my right, and saw Fergus, he was holding my hand, and he looked very old and tired as he gazed at me through eyes red with crying.  “Take me home,” I whispered, a note of pleading entered my voice as I continued, “please, take me home, I don’t belong here,” I began to cry, “please…”

  He squeezed my hand, then, with his free hand, he reached over and wiped the tears from my face with careful fingers.  “They’re going to discharge you later,” he murmured, wearily, “but you’ll have to come back for appointments at outpatients, they say, they want to assess you.”

  “I don’t want to be assessed, what if they want to re-admit me? What if they send me to a psychiatric hospital?” the panic made my voice shake, “I’m not ill!”

  He sighed, “They want to know why you did it; they want to make sure it won’t happen again, but they’re sending you home because they need the bed.”

  “Did they call my mum?”

  “No, I told them I was your next of kin, I thought it best.”

  “How did you, how did they…”

  “I told them we’re married.”

  “Oh”

  There was a long, long silence.

  “I could marry you…” he began, thoughtfully.

  “It doesn’t seem very wise,” I said, cautiously, lest I hurt his feelings, “being married to me.”

  “Well,” he admitted, wryly, “it would certainly be eventful.”

  I smiled, tentatively, “I’d kiss you, but I probably taste of sick.”

  He nodded, “Yes, you puked up most of what you’d taken before we got you here they said” his eyes were serious as he said “Don’t do that again, please… I never want to have to go through that ever again, I came so close to losing you, and I don’t even know why…” He took a folded, crumpled, wad of paper out of his jeans pocket and gazed at it unhappily, “I suppose,” he said, hesitantly, “that the answer is in here.”  He made to open it and then stopped; I watched as he put the letter back into its envelope and folded it once more.  “When we get home tonight,” he said, tensely, “I want you to read this to me.”

  I opened my mouth to protest.

  “…And we’re going to talk,” he met my eyes, and his expression was stern as he added, “I think it’s long overdue, don’t you?”

  I squeezed his hand, “I’m so sorry…” I whispered.

  “Well,” he admitted, “that’s something I suppose.”

  The house felt cold when we arrived home later that evening.  Marmalade was waiting for us outside, crying to be let in, I scooped her up and cuddled her to me, and she began to purr.  I sat down with her on the sofa, Fergus joined me, and we sat in silence for about half an hour. When the cat got bored and jumped down from my lap I saw him reach into his pocket and produce the letter.  He handed it to me, and I unfolded it and slid the letter out from its envelope.  As I unfolded the pages, I said, “I’d like a drink.”

  “Nothing alcoholic,” he said, firmly.

  “No,” I agreed, “some milk, or tea.”

  When he returned, I was gazing at the words that I had written only a day beforehand.  He nodded to me as he handed me the mug, and I took a deep breath, then began to read:

  “My dearest love, I cannot ask you to forgive me for what I have done, but I ask that you try to understand.  I know that suicide is the cowards way out, and if I were a stronger person I would try to find another way, but I can’t.  I love you too much to keep on hurting you, which I know I have been doing.  I found the box of books under your bed, and feel I should at least try to answer the questions you wanted answers to.  I have never talked to you about my illness because I couldn’t bear to, though I have often felt I should over the past ten months.  You have done some research of your own, and have no doubt formed your own theories about my behaviour in the past and in the present.  I understand, I think, why you felt the need to do this, but I still felt horrified when I realised what you had done.  I should have talked to you, but it is too late now.  At least you won’t have to know anymore.  You can’t stop me from hurting myself, only I can do that.  I haven’t cut myself since February 2004, but I can’t guarantee I won’t again.  I realise that I am unstable, a loose canon, dangerous maybe, and I know what I must do.  By killing myself I am saving you from a life of misery, I love you too much to put you in a position whereby you would one day have to give permission for me to be detained under the Mental Health Act, I couldn’t put you in that position, I would sooner die.  I never told you everything that Terry did to me, I felt I should spare you that, and I still do.  It is enough to say that any sexual dysfunction you believe I had, or have, probably at least partially stems from some or all of the things he did to me.  I have had depression, on and off, from the age of thirteen, but was not diagnosed until after I left him, when I was eighteen.  I was diagnosed as having a medium-serious level of reactive depression.  When I was ill last year and the year before, I never received a clear cut diagnosis, so it is possible that it was post-traumatic stress disorder, or it may have been manic depression, both phrases were mentioned at various points by my mother, my G.P, and the psychotherapist I saw at the hospital.  None reached a conclusion.

  What is happening to me now feels like depression.  It will only get worse, that I know, I feel as though I ache inside, and I want to sleep forever.  I know that you have been trying to help me, that you love and care about me, that you have been looking after me, but I am not a child, and I know what I must do.  There are other women out there who will love you if you just give them a chance, women who are together and know where they’re going in life, who can be a true partner, not a burden, and I will become a burden to you one day, if not now; I never want to be that.  You need someone who can love you unconditionally, who won’t let you down, who will treat you properly.  Who will be equal to you.  I am too young for you, too screwed up and neurotic, too sick, too cold, too emotionally and psychologically unpredictable.  I do not deserve you, and I won’t be your burden and responsibility any longer.  I love you, but I must say goodbye.”

  As I cried, he asked, “Do you feel the same now?” I couldn’t answer him, and he ran his fingers along my arm, “Do you still want to save me from yourself? I mean, that was what you meant, wasn’t it?”

  “How can we go on as we are, as I am? How can we? After what I’ve done…”

  He took me in his arms and, as I sobbed into his shoulder, he spoke calmly and determinedly, “We can, and we will, if you want to, we will go on.”

  “But how can we?”

  “Because, despite what you think, you are strong, and I won’t leave you again… I know more this time, I can see the signs, I’ve been seeing them for weeks, I was working out what to do, or say, only, I never realised it was leading up to last night.”  He squeezed me tight, “Promise me, promise me, if you ever feel like that again, ever, even for a few minutes, seconds even, you’ll tell me.”

  I had stopped crying, and my throat felt sore as I asked, shakily, “But would you listen?”

  “Always,” he whispered.  It was getting late, and as he held me, he confessed, “I’m almost afraid to go to bed, I only hope that I can trust you still to be here when I wake up, can I?”

  I nodded, “I promise.”

  He kissed me.

  “Do I still taste of sick?”

  He laughed, “No.”

  We did talk that week, not just about what I’d done, but about why he’d bought those books and done all that research without discussing it with me.  “It was last year,” he admitted, “when we weren’t together, it was my sister’s idea; she thought it wouldn’t do any harm to be prepared, since she knew I was determined to be with you.”  He smiled, cautiously, “I wanted to talk about it with you, but I couldn’t, I remembered how defensive you got when I asked you about Terry, and besides,” he pulled a face, “I know all about that, every time I’m with you, every time we have sex, I’m conscious of what he did to you, I know there are certain things you can’t face, certain places I can’t touch you, certain things I could never do, because of him.” 

  I looked away, my face flushed in discomfort and embarrassment, “Don’t you hate me for that?” I asked.

  “No,” I turned back to face him, surprised.  His expression was earnest, “I could never hate you for that, I hated you for refusing to talk about it, for not telling me, but I could never hate you for that.”

  “I am,” I hesitated, “better than I was…”

  “I know,” he said, “I always knew it would be different…”

  “You mean ‘difficult’” I interrupted.

  “Perhaps,” he reflected, “but that wasn’t what I meant, I meant it would be different because it was difficult.  You were so hard to win over, and I knew, from fairly early on, that you were never going to be a fling or a one night stand, that it was all or nothing…” He paused before adding, a little flippantly, “Of course, I loved you by then, so it didn’t matter.”

  “Was I worth it?” I asked, quietly.

  “Yes,” he kissed me, “even in the bad times, you were worth it, you still are.”

  At the end of the week, I received a particularly shocking phonecall.  It was from Jasper, The Girls From Mars manager, “Are you free to talk?” he enquired, rather intensely.

  “Yes,” I replied, a little puzzled, “Why?”

  “Because the new Girls From Mars album’s being mixed at the moment, and I need to have found a replacement drummer for Andrea before the band go out on tour.” Andrea isn’t leaving the band, she is expecting a baby in a few months time, and, as such, she’s officially on maternity leave.  “I asked her who she would recommend approaching first, and she suggested you.”

  I was so surprised I couldn’t speak.

  “Hello? Maggie? Are you there?”

  “Yes,” I let out the breath I’d been holding, and it came out as a gasp.

  Fergus hovered behind me.  He had been about to feed Marmalade, but must have picked up on the general oddness of the phonecall.

  “Well?” he asked, “what do you think? I know you don’t have any band commitments at the moment or I’d’ve heard.”

  “Yes,” I said, still distracted, “but…”

  He said that he would give me a month to think about it.  “No longer than a month though, I’d like to know before then really.”

  “I’ll do my best, I have a lot to think about, a lot to sort out…”

  “Well,” he sounded vaguely impatient “I’ll await your response then…”

  The call ended.

  When I told Fergus about it, a strange, closed look settled over his face, “Well,” he said at last, “I wouldn’t stop you from doing it…”

  “But,” I prompted.

  He sighed, and the closed look was replaced by one of exasperated concern, “I don’t know if you’re up to the stress of touring with The Girls From Mars, it’s not like touring with Titanium Rose.”

  I nodded.

  “But,” another sigh, “it’s your choice to make.”

  I nodded again, “It’s not something I’d take on lightly.”

  “I know, but…” I could see the worry, it was written all over his face, “I can see you not being able to resist a challenge this big, whether it would be healthy for you to do it or not.”

  “Or healthy for us,” I added softly, still reeling from Jaspers’ phonecall.

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