The third time it happens, it’s not shock that fills her. Not even disbelief. It’s more a sort of tiredness, the desire to pull the covers over her head and forget about everything. And underneath that weariness, an old hurt, a familiar feeling of betrayal.
The phone feels absurdly hot against her ear, when every part of her feels like ice. She nods, makes a noise of acknowledgement into the phone. Says she’ll be there as soon as possible.
After she hangs up, Lyn presses her forehead against the metal lockers for a moment, fights back the sting beneath her eyelids. There is no need to, really. Fourth period has already started and the hallways are empty, the classroom doors closed tight. There is no one to see if she chooses to break down. And she does want to. She wants to curl up into a ball of misery and cry. Maybe pray that it’s all a dream and she’ll wake to the alarm at any moment. She wants to scream, to rage and break things and vent the pain in her chest, and have someone come and make it all better.
But it is the third time, and she knows that no one will come, and nothing can make it better. So instead, she puts away the books she’d gotten out for her next class, stuffs her homework into her bag, and heads for the front office, where she signs herself out. Walking out of the front gates, she doesn’t try to hail a cab or run for the nearby train station as she’d done the last time. Previous experience has taught her that getting there sooner doesn’t change any of what’s happened.
Her mother has tried to commit suicide again. Her father found her, called an ambulance, and she’s currently in the ER. Even if Lyn raced over, she’d only be sitting in the uncomfortable plastic seats, waiting for hours until her mother woke up from a drug-induced stupor.
The first time it happened, a little over a year ago, she only learned of it hours after the fact. Her father had picked her up from school, an unusual practice, and told her about it quietly on the ride over to the hospital. Her mother had tried to overdose on pills, but he’d found her in time and taken her to hospital, where she’d had her stomach pumped. That time, there had been shock and disbelief. She’d nearly flown out of the car in the parking lot, had raced to her mother’s bedside and clutched those thin hands in her own, sick with the knowledge that she could’ve lost her mother and never known till it was too late. Her mother had woken shortly after, and there had been tears and promises, to change, to never do it again, to work together as a family. She’d come out of the whole ordeal feeling older and wiser, with a belief that their family had grown stronger for it.
The second time, a mere half year later, happens almost the exact same way as the third. Her father calls her, during lunch instead of between classes, tells her what happened and not to worry, that her mother’s fine, but maybe she could leave early and come sit with them? That time, she’d left all her things and practically sprinted to the station, feeling clammy and sick. The disbelief had still been there, along with an angry sort of hurt. Her mother had promised, hadn’t she? That she’d never do it again. And Lyn herself had worked hard, hadn’t she? She’d gotten better at school, and she always helped out with the chores and did what she could to make her mother’s life easier. Why had it happened again? Why had she done it? How could she?
The train ride had never seemed to take longer, and she’d feared she would lose her lunch with every jostle of the carriage. Her legs had felt like lead as she made her way over to the hospital, into the lobby and over to the ER. Her mother had tried drowning that time. Her father had noticed water under the bathroom door, had broken in and pulled her out of the tub. Performed CPR and called for an ambulance. As Lyn sat down beside her father, staring all the while at the figure in the bed, she’d thought her mother looked very, very fragile. She’d wondered if that look had always been there, if she’d missed it somehow, and that was why they were there again, repeating the same mistakes. Her mother had taken a whole day to awaken that time, and she’d been subdued and regretful, and she’d made promises with an utterly sincere expression. Her father had suggested counselling, which her mother had refused. It had been a momentary lapse, she’d insisted, and she was better now. Would be better. It wouldn’t happen again, and didn’t they trust her? Lyn and her father had looked at each other, had acquiesced reluctantly. But there was doubt now, for someone who’d broken a promise once could do so again.
Entering the sterile building, Lyn doesn’t bother going to the reception desk this time. She makes her way through the halls with unwilling familiarity, passes patients and doctors and countless rooms with nary a glance. She doesn’t want to become any more acquainted with the place than she already is.
Her father waves her over from the far right bed in the ER and she makes her way over, avoiding the rushing orderlies and other visitors. As she stops at the foot of the bed, her mother’s third attempt becomes obvious. There are bandages wrapping her arms, all the way up to the elbows. Her skin almost matches the cloth in paleness.
“She won’t wake for awhile yet.” Her father informs her quietly. He sounds tired too. The other two times, there had been a choked tone in his voice, as if he’d been crying or was holding back tears. This time, that rough quality is absent, as if he too has no more tears to shed.
Lyn sits down on the plastic chair next to the bed and silently grasps one of her mother’s hands. After a moment her father does the same, clasping the slender appendage tightly between his own. In the long silence that follows, Lyn stares vacantly at her mother’s pale face, remembers that the second happened six months after the first, the third three months after that. Would the next one be even sooner? Two months? One? The thought of living every day with that fear hangs like a weight around her neck.
It isn’t until three hours later that her mother awakes, glancing first to her right, where her husband dozes against the guardrail, and then to her left, where Lyn meets her gaze steadily.
“Lynette.” There is the slightest hoarseness present, barely covering up the musical quality of her mother’s voice. She had loved listening to her mother sing once, when there’d still been light and life in their household.
Her mother glances down at their joined hands pensively, looks back up into her daughter’s face. “You’re not going to ask why?”
“Do you want me to?” she asks quietly. In truth, she doesn’t want to know. Anything her mother says will sound like an excuse. Any promises made would sound empty and hollow. Lyn doesn’t want them. She doesn’t want to be sitting in the ER beside her mother’s bed for the third time, feeling older than time. She doesn’t want the evidence of her broken family, in the bandages around her mother’s wrists and the deep lines in her father’s face. The stone lodged in her chest. Nothing could be said to salvage the broken pieces.
Her mother looks away, lifts a pale hand and smooths it through her father’s dark hair. Lyn’s hair is like her mother’s, blonde and wavy. As a child, Lyn had thought her mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. Now, that heart-shaped face is tempered with time, with stress and fatigue and broken dreams.
“I’ll go to counselling.”
Lyn hadn’t thought there was any hope left within her. When the call had come through, on the long train ride and during the hours she’d sat at her mother’s bedside waiting for her to wake, there had been no hope. Only a weary resignation, already dreading the next time. But surely what she feels now, that faint, fluttering feeling in her chest, surely that is hope.
They can’t go back and change what has happened, can’t fix things so they’re like how they were before. But now Lyn looks at her mother’s tremulous smile, at the dainty hand still stroking her father’s hair, and she thinks that maybe it’ll be okay after all. Maybe there is still hope yet.
A/N: Thanks for reading. 🙂