Chapter 1: What Do You Want From Me?
I know you. I’ve known you since your injury. I wasn’t there when it occurred; I didn’t hear the sound of your bone snapping and the groan you let out as you collapsed to the dance studio floor, but I know it happened. I know because it haunts you everyday. I know because there are many reasons as to why you never like to get out of bed.
I know all the reasons you are the way that you are. I am the reasons you are the way that you are. I am every bad thing you’ve ever done that’s been stored away in the deepest and darkest parts of your brain. I am every traumatizing thing ever done to you that makes your heart race, your hands shake, and your personality just the way it is.
I am you. Just without all the cheer.
You’re in your bed today, the blankets over your entire body and your head under your pillow so your family doesn’t hear you crying. They won’t be surprised; they’ve known something is wrong for the past year, but you always refuse to talk about it on the rare occasion they ask. You’re scared they won’t understand, and if you talk about me then I’ll become more real. It’s cute how wrong you are. Not talking just makes me stronger. Ignoring me makes you crumble faster. You’re like a piece of clay in my hands, and I get to mold you into whatever I want with the more power you give me. I absolutely love it.
There’s a knock on your door. “Billie?” Your mother asks, and you lift the pillow off of your head so you can hear her through the door that hasn’t opened in days. “Dinner’s ready, honey. Want some?”
You painfully swallow, your throat sore from all your crying, and croak, “no, I’m okay.”
“I’ll set a plate for you for later. Come and get it when you’re hungry.” With that, she turns and walks away.
Your mother. What a sweet woman she is. She’s sacrificed so much for you, you know; she’s given you and Finneas the only bedrooms in the house, she rarely buys things for herself and always thinks of ways to surprise you and your brother so you’re always happy.
Why can’t you be the daughter she wants? Why can’t you be the daughter she deserves?
That thought makes you begin to cry even harder, so you pull the pillow over your face so nobody has to be reminded of how much of a failure you are. And hey, maybe if you hold the pillow tight enough, you’ll suffocate. That is, that’s if the starvation doesn’t kill you first. That’s what you want, right?
If you want it so badly, then what’s stopping you? What do you want from me that’s making you stay?
Chapter 2: Why Don't You Run From Me?
You’ve gotten a little too comfortable with me lately. I don’t like it.
It’s not supposed to go this way, you know. I’m supposed to make your skin crawl and you’re supposed to hate it. You’re supposed to do whatever it takes to get rid of me. Things like me like putting up a fight, but this isn’t going like it’s supposed to. I don’t like it one bit.
Today is going a bit different though. Finneas came into your room after breakfast and told you you’re writing a song together. You didn’t want to, but you felt bad for ignoring your brother for the past week, so you’re gritting your teeth and bearing it as he sits on your floor with a notepad and his guitar. Besides, I’m not as strong when he’s around because he makes you happy. Well, as happy as someone like you can get. You don’t really remember what happiness feels like.
“So,” Finneas hums, gently strumming his guitar as you cross your legs and squirm in your spot on your bed, “talk to me, Billie. What’s been on your mind lately?”
You shrug. “I don’t know man,” you mumble. “Everything.”
“You’re gonna have to be a bit clearer,” Finneas replies. “I’ve noticed you’ve been in a funk, so that’s why I’m here. Writing a song always helps.”
You sigh. There doesn’t seem to be a way to get out of this. “If you say so.”
You know writing a song is your only option to really let things out, but you don’t want to admit it. It’s been nearly a year, yet you still can’t get over your accident. Because of it you can’t dance anymore, and that alone nearly killed you. I still wonder why it didn’t. Dancing was the one thing you could do that would make me go away, and now look at us. I’ve only gotten stronger, and what have you become?
You two spend hours together, writing a song you know you won’t want to add anymore thought to once Finneas gets bored and leaves. You’re surprised he hasn’t yet; you’re not much fun to hang out with these days. You wish things could go back to the way things used to be, when everything was fun and everyday was a new adventure, but now everything feels meaningless and everyday has become a new hellscape you’re barely getting through. You’re not really sure when that all shifted, but you also haven’t given it that much thought. You know that’ll just make things worse.
Finneas finally leaves around five-thirty, saying something about celebrating an anniversary with his girlfriend. Normally his absence leaves you feeling emptier than usual, but now you embrace every moment you spend alone. You crawl back under the sheets and fall asleep, moving through the nightmare I handpicked for you tonight, and you wake up at three in the morning with a wet pillow and the lights off. You assume your dad noticed you were asleep and turned the lights off, which you know is a nice gesture, but tonight’s dream made darkness seem anything but nice. You push yourself up and get out of bed, your knees nearly buckling as you walk to the light-switch and turn it on. You let out a soft relieved sigh when the room fills with light, opening the door and stumbling through the dimly lit hallway into the kitchen to get a glass of water. You grab a cup from the cupboard and fill it up with water, gulping it down in mere seconds as you realize how thirsty you really were. How long has it been since you’ve had more than just a sip of water? You don’t care; you’re more focused on refilling the cup and drinking as much water as you can stomach before making a trip to the bathroom so you can go back to bed without having an accident. You’re seventeen, not four. You’re too old for that. You’re also too old for your mother to continue to make you dinner, but that’s a thought for another time.
You collapse onto your bed, not feeling tired at all. You toss and turn for a while, not wanting to be awake with me any longer than you have to be, but at about a quarter to four you give up and lay with your eyes open, giving me an open invitation to continue doing my job. If I’m lucky, maybe you’ll cry again tonight. Who knows? It’s not like you’ll try to stop me.
Chapter 3: What Are You Wondering?
You’re getting tired of me, I can feel it. Normally I would be scared, but I know you won’t do anything about it. I have too strong of a grip on you, and you know that. You can’t get rid of me that easily.
You’re out of bed today. You’re out with Danielle and Aidan, and that makes me uneasy. Your friends don’t make me weak like Finneas does, but they do enough so you forget about me for a few fleeting moments when you laugh. I hate it. You’re not supposed to be happy. You don’t deserve it. You don’t deserve anything except me. That apparently isn’t stopping you from sitting with them on Danielle’s bed, Cards Against Humanity on the sheets and your teeth biting into your bottom lip to conceal laughter. It’s Aidan’s turn to be the judge, and he happened to pick a card that says this is how _______ fucking happens! You know you have the perfect card, but you haven’t put it down yet because you want to give Danielle a chance. You two are very competitive when it comes to this game, exchanging smirks and raised eyebrows--hers always plucked and perfect unlike yours ever since you stopped caring--and sometimes when she wins she tosses her head to the side and tries to whack you in the face with her firetruck red ponytail. This is how you two joke around, and you’re comfortable with that. If you hadn’t known Jah, she would be your best friend.
Ah, yes. Jah. I bet you didn’t expect me to bring him up today, huh? I can tell you’re trying to fight me off now; he died nearly a year ago, for fuck’s sake, so you’re tired of constantly being depressed anytime he crosses your mind, but that doesn’t stop you from fighting it. In fact, it’s the only thing about me you actively fight off. That guy must have really meant a lot to you, huh?
“Alright,” Danielle laughs, placing a card facedown on top of the sentence card, “square the fuck up, Billie, because I’m gonna fucking own you.”
You scoff, temporarily pushing me away and placing your card down the same way she did. “Yeah, okay bunny. We’ll see.”
Aidan picks up both of your cards, and I notice your heart rate doesn’t pick up when you look at him anymore. I guess you’ve finally moved on, which puts a damper on some of my plans. You don’t let things go that easily, so when it comes to finding new ways to torture you, I’m able to stick to certain dilemmas and run off of those. Now that your not-so-little crush is gone, I’ll have to think of something else to hold against you.
“Read the whole thing,” Danielle tells Aidan.
He reads her card first. “This is how going in dry happens!” He reads, snickering. You can’t help but do the same. “Wow,” he comments, “nice one, Dani. Not predictable at all knowing your perverted ass.”
She slaps his leg. “Oh, fuck off. Read Billie’s.”
Aidan does as told. “This is how a furry writing BAD WOLF everywhere happens!” That makes him burst into a fit of hysterics, and you feel a twinge of satisfaction when you see Danielle on the verge of doing the same.
“Oh god,” Aidan says in between wheezes, “She wins that round, for sure.”
Danielle flips you off while she laughs, and even though you know she’s just joking, that doesn’t stop your heart from hurting just the tiniest bit. “Go to hell, eyelash.”
You narrow your eyes and copy her. “I’ll see you there, bhabie.”
“Why the hell has it been months since what happened,” you mumble to yourself, glaring your reflection in the eye as the faucet runs, “yet it still hurts?”
You’re supposed to be brushing your teeth, but you don’t have the energy to do so. You don’t want to worry your mother though, so every night you turn the faucet on for about three minutes and quietly do whatever your heart wants you to. Sometimes you cry, sometimes you mumble to yourself like you are now, and sometimes you look through the cabinets for a way out. Just in case you stop being a coward.
“It’s been months,” you mumble, tears welling in your eyes. “Months. Months. Why am I such a fucking idiot?” You’re thinking about Jah again, just like I hoped you would. “He’s gone,” you tremble, gripping the counter, “he’s just…” You bow your head and begin to sob, immediately cupping your hands under the running faucet and splashing water in your face, refusing to let your family see you like this. They haven’t seen you this upset in years, and you hope they never will. Besides, the only person who’s ever really seen you at your worst isn’t around anymore.
“Why him?” You ask no one in particular, going back to gripping the counter as sobs quickly begin to take over your body. “Why him? He was too fucking young. Too young…too gentle...too...”
Good? Is that what you wanted to say? Don’t make me laugh, he was hardly good. You were the only one who failed to see that. Why else did you have to keep your friendship a secret? He was older, he had a tragic past, he was everything your parents wanted to keep away from you in a person. But he understood you like no one else did, so you went behind their backs and texted him everyday. If you had known how much pain it would eventually cause you, you wouldn’t have approached him. You would have kept it all bottled up until it eventually killed you. Jah was the chemo to your cancer, and now you’re dying all alone with nothing to delay it. Why did it have to be him? Why couldn’t it have been you?
“It should’ve,” you sob, hardly being able to breathe. “It should’ve been me. It should’ve been me, God, why wasn’t it me?”
I won’t answer those questions tonight. I like leaving you on cliffhangers; you hurt more that way. Keep wondering, Billie. Just don’t expect anyone to answer you.
Chapter 4: What Do You Know?
I’m starting to realize you’re smarter than I thought.
You’ve started writing your feelings on your wall, much to your mother’s chagrin. When she poked her head in your room and saw you sitting cross-legged on the floor, marker in hand and Louis Vuitton blanket around you as you defiled the wall, she was about to tell you off before you said, “don’t worry, I’ll cover it up,” and she huffed before walking away. If it’s out of her sight, it’s out of her mind. That must be why she doesn’t appear to be as concerned about you as she might be, but you don’t realize that. If someone doesn’t outright say they care, you don’t believe they do.
You’ve been covering the wall with your blanket, partly because you don’t want to anger your mother but mainly because the words on there are too personal. You write what you think, no second thoughts, not even realizing how dark your thoughts are until you sit back and look at what you’ve written. “Damn,” you mumble under your breath. “I’m one sad motherfucker.”
You stare at the words, feeling a little lighter now that they’re not stuck in your head. Part of you wants to call Finneas into the room; he’s a sucker for anything poetic, so you know he’d take one look at your words and immediately have three songs written in both guitar and piano, but before you can open your mouth to call out his name, I gently remind you that he’ll end up telling your parents and they’ll get concerned. Part of you wishes they didn’t love you as much as they do, even though you know you’ve got it better than kids like Danielle and Aidan. You’ve been there when Dani’s mom has thrown things at her daughter’s closed bedroom door, and you know what might happen to Aidan if he comes out before he turns eighteen, so it’s not like you think you have the worst life possible. You haven’t thought that since the accident, and even then that thought went away after you saw the other people in the hospital that had actual debilitating injuries. You know you have it pretty damn good, but you’re still depressed. You’re still a goddamn mistake, and you know that. I won’t ever let you forget it.
You sigh and unwrap the blanket from around you, covering the wall and walking out of your room to see if your mom bought Takis. Maybe food can fill the void in your heart.
“Have you noticed anything off about Billie?”
“Yeah, a bit.”
“Has she said anything to you about it?”
“Nope, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much, Maggie. She’s going through changes and of course she’ll be moody all the time. It’s what teenagers do. You remember what Finneas was like when he was her age.”
“He was open with us, Patrick. He’s always been an open book. Billie’s different, you know that. Besides, teenagers usually have ups and downs. All I’ve been noticing with her is downs.”
“Because she’s still grieving that XXXTentacles guy.”
“His name was Jahseh, Patrick. Be respectful.”
“It doesn’t matter what his name was. She’s grieving the loss of a friend, so of course she’s gonna be upset all the time. You worry too much, honey.”
“I have a feeling this is more than grieving the loss of Jah. I just wish she’d talk to one of us about it. Get her the help she needs.”
“Sending her to a therapist would be pointless. If she doesn’t feel comfortable talking to us, why would she be comfortable talking to a complete stranger who will probably just put her on medicine that’ll make her worse?”
“You don’t know if it’ll do that.”
“I don’t want to risk it.”
They’re right, and you know that. Everything they’re saying in the kitchen as you pretend to be sleeping on the couch is exactly why you’re scared to tell them what’s going on; you know they can’t afford to get you antidepressants, let alone a therapist, and you wouldn’t want to open up to one anyway. Talking about me makes me feel more real. When your words go nowhere except in a song or on your wall, you can hide your true feelings and pretend you’re just creative as opposed to the basket case you really are. You know all of this, so that makes me wonder:
Why the hell are you still here?
Chapter 5: Why Aren’t You Scared Of Me?
I’m starting to get confused by you. Usually when people fall down the dark abyss of mental illnesses, they’re scared at first. Scared of this new way of life they’ve never experienced before. You, though, have never been scared of me. You’ve hated me, yes, but fear? Nothing scares you anymore. You don’t care about what happens to you like you used to. I don’t like that.
You see, I feed off of your fear to make me stronger; the more scared you are, the more uncomfortable being alive is. The more uncomfortable being alive is, the likelihood of you doing something about it gets bigger and bigger. And what happens when you finally end things? Well, I just move onto whoever loved you the most. Suicide doesn’t end pain, it only passes it along to someone else. I obviously don’t want you to know that, though. I want you alive and suffering for as long as possible.
You don’t feel like getting out of the house or really socializing today, so you and Danielle have been playing 8 Ball over iMessage. After every round she tries calling you, but you keep hanging up and telling her you just wanna play 8 Ball and not talk. At first she’s a little confused, but the more she calls and the more you reject her the angrier she gets, for whatever reason. You don’t really understand her line of thinking here; you’ve told her you don’t really like talking on the phone and prefer texting countless times, but that doesn’t stop her from calling you and being upset that you don’t answer. Jah was never like that, but then again, you could’ve talked to him on the phone for hours on a horrible day and never want to hang up. He made everything go away and he never brought anything potentially triggering up unless he warned you beforehand. Danielle does the exact opposite, but it’s not like you’ve ever made an effort to stop her. You don’t think it’s worth the fight. You can’t risk losing someone else.
You’re absolutely pathetic.
Eventually Danielle has enough of you not answering your calls. You grit your teeth seeing the words bil i love u but ur not being fair. i get that ur still upset about x but ur never there for me when i need u to b even tho im always here for u and im sick of it on your phone’s screen. There are more messages similar to that, but you just exit out of the conversation and open up Instagram to look at memes. You think what Danielle’s telling you is all bullshit, that you’ve been there for her countless times, in fact far more times than she’s been there for you, but she doesn’t know that because you hardly ever go to her when you need her. You did for a while after Jah died, but that ended quickly when you came to the conclusion that you might be making her situation feel worse. You never asked her if you were though, so you’ll never really know. It’s unhealthy to assume these types of things, but you don’t care. You don’t seem to care about anything anymore.
You text Danielle a fuck off already and get up off the couch, leaving your phone behind you as you groan, walking right into Finneas’ room. You knock on the open door and he turns around from his computer. “What’s up, Bil?”
“I’m going out for a drive,” you snap, not meaning to but being too annoyed to care. “Tell Mom and Dad I’ll be gone for a while.”
“Where are you going?” He asks.
You shrug. “I don’t know. Somewhere.”
“You seem agitated,” he says. “Talk to me. What’s wrong?”
You stand there for a minute, considering it, but you look behind Finneas and see that he’s in the middle of mixing a song. “Nah, I’m fine,” you lie. “Go back to what you’re doing.”
“Billie, hold on!” He calls after you, but you’re already walking down the hall to get your phone and go out the front door.
You huff as you get in the front seat of your mom’s Tesla, plugging the aux cord into your phone and opening Spotify. You go to your driving playlist and hit shuffle, not really caring what song plays as long as you don’t have to sit in silence. You toss your phone onto the passenger seat and drive off as Finneas comes out of the house, probably wanting to tell you what he wanted to tell you before you stormed off. It’s a shame he won’t ever be able to tell you. You won’t be around that much longer anyways, and that thought doesn’t scare you like it should.
Chapter 6: Why Do You Care For Me?
“Billie, can you come here for a second?”
You walk into your room, a bag of Takis and a can of Coke in your hands as you see your mother standing with your Calvin Klein blanket in a laundry basket. You freeze. “What the hell?” You ask.
Your mother steps to the side and gestures to the wall covered in your thoughts, and you feel your heart beginning to pound. “Care to explain this?”
“I-” You stutter, your mouth suddenly feeling dry. “Oh, um...that’s nothing.”
“Really?” Your mother asks, not looking pleased with your answer in the slightest. “You think this is nothing? Let’s see what your father thinks. Patrick!” A few moments later your father enters the room, and before he or you can say anything your mother says, “take a look at what Billie wrote on her wall and tell me what you think.”
“Mom, you’re being overdramatic,” you protest, earning a shush from her as your father steps closer to the wall to be able to read your words. “Don’t shush me, I didn’t do anything wrong!”
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” your father says after a moment, “but we have a right to be concerned. What does this all mean?”
“Nothing! They don’t mean shit!” You answer, shaking so hard you put your Takis and Coke on your dresser so you don’t spill them. “Why the hell are you looking behind my blanket, anyways? What happened to privacy?”
“I took it down to wash it and I couldn’t help but read what you’ve been saying,” your mother explains. “Billie, why didn’t you tell us this is how you’ve been feeling?”
“What are you talking about?” You ask, even though you already know the answer.
“Your mother wants to know what you mean when you say I wanna see the world when I stop breathing,” your father says, reading off the wall and creating a hole in your stomach. Your thoughts sound so much darker when he says them out loud. “And I don’t know, I just wish I wasn’t breathing. And I wanna end me. All of it, Billie. What does it mean?”
You stutter, feeling tears begin to well up. Fuck, this isn’t good. This isn’t good at all. They’re gonna send me to some fucking psych ward where people with actual problems go. No one there will take me seriously. “I…” You trail off, feeling your heart stop when you hear Finneas’ footsteps approaching your doorway.
“What’s going on?” He asks, and you can’t bring yourself to look at him. You can handle disappointing your parents, you’ve done it all your life, but not Finneas. “Why are you yelling at Billie?”
“We’re not yelling,” your mother explains, “we’re just concerned about her. I mean, I kind of figured something was wrong, but I didn’t think it was this serious.”
You feel like you’re dying. While Finneas comes to your rescue you feel like your lungs are caving in on themselves. Everything looks and feels fuzzy and you feel hyper aware but dissociated at the same time. Nobody seems to notice your state of panic until you let out a loud gasp of air, causing them to all turn towards you with concerned looks on their faces. Your mother is biting her lip, Finneas looks like he’s about to cry, and your dad...well, you don’t know what facial expression he’s making. He’s never been the type to show many emotions, after all. That’s one of the only things he passed down to you. That’s why no one noticed things were really this bad; you never made it clear. You never told anyone, but still expected them to know exactly what’s wrong and to know you can take care of it yourself. I told you to keep your mouth shut, and now it’s all coming back to bite you in the ass.
I love my job.
“Why does any of this matter?” You blurt out once you’ve calmed down a bit, not aware you’re voicing my thoughts until your family goes silent. “Nothing fucking matters man, so what if I’m a little depressed?”
“Billie,” your mother’s voice is softer than you’ve ever heard it before, “you matter to us. You’re our little girl. We want to keep you around for as long as possible.”
“But what about what I want?” You ask, though it comes across as more of a demand. “Did you ever think about that? I can’t keep living like this anymore, Mom. I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t constantly feeling this way. I know you guys love me, and I love you, but I don’t know how much more I can take.”
“I don’t get it,” your father says. “We’ve given you so much. You know we love you. Why are you like this?”
Your mother casts him a dirty look at the way he worded that, but you ignore it. After the shock of being confronted, nothing seems to phase you anymore. “I don’t fucking know, Dad. Me, that’s why. It’s my fucking brain. Nothing happened to make me this way, it’s just the way that I am. And I can’t fucking take it anymore.”
“Billie, we can help you.” Finneas says, trying to blink back tears but not doing a very good job of it. “We can find you a therapist. We can-”
“I don’t wanna talk about it,” you say. “I don’t wanna talk about any of this, because the more I say the realer it gets. I just wanna push everything to the back of my mind and never think of it again. I need to pretend to be normal.”
“That’s not healthy,” Finneas says, and your heart breaks at the obvious disapproval in his tone. “There are other ways to deal with your problems.”
“Well, I’ve tried writing songs and shit on my walls,” you snap, “but clearly that doesn’t work, so forget it. It doesn’t matter.”
A tear runs down your mother’s cheek. You’ve never seen her cry before. “Billie-”
“Would you shut up?” You instantly feel awful as soon as you say it, but you need this conversation to be over. Your skin begins to crawl and I begin to feel weaker the more you speak to them. You need to stop talking right now.
Without another word, you turn and run out of your room. You hear your family call after you but you ignore them as you make your way to the front door. You don’t know where you want to go, but you know you need to be in your car and far away from here. Your plans fall short when you feel a pair of arms wrap around you from behind, and you begin to struggle as Finneas holds you back. “Finneas, let me go!” You shout, gripping at his hands and trying to pry them off of you. He says nothing, his grip never loosening on you. You continue to thrash in his grasp, yelling profanities at him as your parents appear behind him and watch you attempt to break free. You’re so busy you don’t even notice your mother sobbing and being pulled into your father’s arms, who’s also crying at the sight of you and your brother. You’re crying too, but you don’t notice it until you’re slowly going limp and clinging to Finneas as if your life depends on it. You both sink to your knees and his grip loosens on you, gently rubbing your back as you grip his shirt and shoulders while you sob harder than you ever have. Even harder than when you lost Jah. You feel like you’re dying, but this time you’re afraid of that feeling. You don’t like it, and neither do I.
Finneas softly hums in your ear, rocking you both side to side as you let a year long headache finally bubble up and burst for your entire family to see. You begin to blubber into his shirt, not really sure what you’re saying but wanting him to know how sorry you are for everything that’s happened tonight, for everything that’s happened in the past, and everything that’s going to happen in the future.
If there is one for you, at least.
You wake up in the middle of the night and hear your family’s soft breathing all around you. You hardly remember falling asleep in Finneas’ arms, and you suppose your family wasn’t too keen on leaving you alone after your meltdown because you’re in your bed with your brother next to you and your parents on the floor covered by your Calvin Klein blanket. You slowly sit up and look over at the wall that feels oddly naked without the blanket covering your words, hardly seeing your handwriting in the darkness of your room. It isn’t until now that the words you wrote really begin to sink in, and you start to think man, am I fucked up. More fucked than I thought. You sigh quietly, looking beside you at a sleeping Finneas. This used to be normal for you two; when you were little you used to have nightmares all the time, and since you thought your parents’ bed was uncomfortable you always crawled into Finneas’ and he made you feel safe. Like everything was going to be okay, even if you’d just had the worst nightmare of your life. Your heart sinks when you notice how you used to crawl into his bed when you had a nightmare, but you probably made one of his biggest nightmares almost come true; losing you. It just took you awhile to realize.
You shake your head at that. There’s no way he’d miss me, you think. I'm an awful sister. You lay back down, and right as you close your eyes you hear a soft, “Bil?” It’s Finneas. “Why are you up?”
“I don’t know.” You whisper back, opening your eyes to see him looking at you. “Why are you?”
He shrugs. “Dunno. You okay?”
You chew on your bottom lip, not sure how to answer that. You really don’t know how you feel, but you’re afraid he won’t accept that as an answer. Instead, you speak without thinking: “Can we go for a drive?”
He gives you a look of confusion. “But it’s like,” he cranes his neck to look at your alarm clock, “almost four in the morning.”
You pout. “Please?” You ask, hoping he doesn’t hear the quiver in your voice.
He sighs. “Fine. Want me to drive?”
You nod, thankful he offered and you didn’t have to ask. You’re not sure if you trust yourself behind a wheel right now.
Minutes later you’re in his car, driving in silence as you play with the ends of your hair. You suddenly have a strong urge to dye it again, change it up from the grey you’ve been sporting lately, but it’s too early to make a salon appointment. Besides, you’d have to get your mom to do that and you don’t want to look her in the eye just yet.
“You know we love you, right?” Finneas breaks the silence, coming to a stop in front of a stop sign.
You nod slowly. “Yeah,” you mumble. “I know.”
He’s quiet for a bit as he continues driving, neither of you really knowing what to say. He breaks the silence again when he asks, “when did this all start?”
You take a deep breath. Don’t fucking talk about it, don’t you da- “About a year ago. Not sure why.”
“Before or after your accident?”
“Before, but not as bad. I could forget about it easily.”
“Does Danielle know?”
“Not that much, but I’ve told her some things.”
You sigh, feeling a pang of hurt in your heart when you remember how you’ve been ignoring her lately. You just haven’t had the energy to deal with people. “How I’m tired all the time and don’t really feel things anymore.”
“Is she the same way?”
You shake your head. “No, she has other issues.”
Finneas is silent again. “Who else knows?”
“Jah did,” you answer, your heart hurting as his face comes into your mind. “I told him everything. I would’ve...you know...a long time ago if I didn’t have him.”
“And that’s why you haven’t really recovered since…” he trails off, not wanting to say what happened. You’re thankful for that. You still remember exactly where you were and how you felt when Danielle texted you the news. You still remember dropping your phone into your lap when you saw the videos of your best friend’s fucking corpse laying in his car, the car you two used to cruise around in on the weekends, his eyes closed forever. You still have nightmares about it.
You nod at your brother’s observation. “Yeah, that’s why.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I wanted to,” you say after a moment. “I wanted to so bad , but I was scared you wouldn’t believe me. That you’d think I’m being a baby and I need to grow up or something.”
“Bil,” he says, “you remember what I was like when I was your age. I was so fucked up when my ex broke up with me that I ran away.”
“To Silver Lake,” you say. “Yeah, I remember. I thought you were just being a pussy.”
“I was,” he nods, “because I wasn’t admitting to myself that I had a problem and couldn’t stop running away from my problems. I leaned on my ex for too much support that, when she got overwhelmed and left me, I didn’t know what to do. It was the worst time of my life because I felt like I would die if I didn’t have her. I wanted to die without her.”
“She sounds like more of a bitch than I remember,” you comment.
“No, I get why she left,” Finneas replies. “She was depressed too. It’s hard to practically be someone’s therapist when you’re trying to battle your own demons too. All I ever talked about was my own problems.”
You blink. “Your point?”
“My point is that I’ve been where you are,” he answers. “Maybe not exactly, but I have a good idea of how you feel. Depression came for both of us out of nowhere and felt like a leech.”
“How did you get rid of it?”
“I didn’t,” he says. “Not entirely, at least. I still have bad days, which totally sucks, but that’s fine. Most days are really good. Sometimes depression doesn’t fully go away, but I’m fine with that. I’m happier now than I was six years ago. Depression is just a thing some people have to deal with.”
“But I don’t wanna deal with it,” you protest. “It fucking sucks, dude.”
“I’m not saying it’ll be permanent for you,” Finneas says. “I don’t know that. Neither do you. You’re not a fortune teller. If you keep telling yourself it won’t get better, then guess what? It won’t get better.”
“But I’ve tried getting better and it hasn’t worked.”
“Yeah, because you didn’t try long and hard enough. Bil, recovery doesn’t happen overnight. It takes weeks, months, years, you name it.” You groan. “It’s frustrating, I know,” he continues, “but the outcome is worth it in my opinion.”
“But I can’t wait that long.”
“Because you keep telling yourself you can’t. You have more control over yourself than you think,” he says. “If there was a time before the pain, you can find a time after. It just takes time and patience.”
You slump in your seat, crossing your arms and beginning to think this was a mistake. He doesn’t know what he’s saying, you decide. He doesn’t know what I’m going through. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be me.
“Let’s go home,” you interrupt. “I’m tired.”
Finneas breathes in, about to say something, but decides against it before doing as you wish. You don’t speak again until you get back home, turning to him before he opens the door. “Hey, Finneas?”
He turns to look at you, and for a second you think you see tears welling in his eyes. “Yeah?”
You clench your jaw, sniffling a bit before you speak. “I love you.”
He pulls you into another hug. “I love you so much, Billie. So much.”
You don’t even know you’re still talking until you realize you tell him, “I’m sorry I can’t be the sister you deserve,” and he pulls away and looks you in the eye.
“You’re my best friend,” he says. “You keep me breathing.”
You keep me breathing.
That sentence plays on a loop in your head after you and Finneas go back to your room and lay down again, him falling asleep as soon as his head hits his pillow but you not having such luck. Your mind is keeping you awake again, but this time it isn’t reminding you of everything bad that’s ever happened to you. This time you think of Finneas, your parents, Danielle, Jah, and everyone that’s cared about you over the past year, and how they’d deal with learning that you chose to stop breathing. If your parents were this devastated about the writing on your wall, you don’t want to imagine what their reaction would be to losing you. Same with Finneas; the image of him blinking back tears and holding you back from running off to God knows where is heartbreaking. You never even thought about what their reactions would be like, only a fantasy of their lives suddenly getting better without you in it. As much as you would love to stop breathing, you’re beginning to realize you can’t leave everyone behind. If there really is an afterlife (and you aren’t sure if you want one or not) you don’t want to have to deal with the possibility of watching everyone you love grieve like you grieved for Jah. God, he’d be furious if you died too soon. Like, beyond furious.
Your heart sinks as you realize you have to stay alive, but you figure that if you’re gonna live for other people you should do what they want. Go to therapy, stop bottling things up, cut off toxic people and try to enjoy being alive. If there was a time before, there might be a time after. You just have to keep trying and not give up so fast.
My grip is loosening on you. Not by a lot, but it’s still too much. I hate this. You weren’t supposed to tell anyone, you were supposed to let me kill you . Why can’t you fucking listen? Why are you ignoring me? I am you, you’re nothing without me-
You’re hearing my words but trying your best not to listen to them as you lay down next to your brother and close your eyes, trying to fall asleep so you can start anew in the morning; you’ll be starting a new chapter in your life, where you’ll live for others until you have the strength to live for yourself.
Let’s see how this goes.
Suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Substance abuse and mental health services hotline: 800-662-4357:
Grief hotline: 1-800-445-4808
Child abuse hotline: 1-800-342-3720