WordPress is telling me it’s my anniversary with the website today. Well I love celebrating any and every thing I can, so why not post my latest short story? Probably the most fucked up story I’ve ever written, on a prompt about suicide notes.
Dear Friends and Family:
No no no, that won’t do at all.
To My Loved Ones:
To Whom It May Concern:
Yes, I like that a lot. Vague, yet appropriate.
Once you start writing, these things are supposed to just, like, flow, right? I was never a strong writer in school.
I look up from my bed straight into my mirror hanging on my wall. My hair is frizzy and I have mascara and eyeliner dripping down my face. A darkened bruise is settled between my temple and left eye. It’s funny that I can feel so calm when I look like such a mess. And on the precipice of such a monumental moment, possibly the most important decision I’ll ever make in my life.
I practically heard the dramatic music in the soundtrack of my mind.
A crash comes from downstairs and I hear my monster of a foster father roaring in his drunken anger at anything that gets in his way. My face grows hot with anger and desperation. I hate that man more than anything in the world. And I hate my foster mother who abandoned me with that piece of shit when I was only thirteen years old.
Sitting on the bed, I let the memories overtake me since it would be the last time to delve into them again anyway.
“Josephine,” my mother called from the kitchen. “Can you come here?”
I walked into the room carefully, unsure of whether or not the monster would be lurking in a shadow somewhere, waiting to pounce. Sometimes he lured me into the rooms by having my mother call me since he knew I trusted her. I breathed out a sigh of relief when I saw that it was only her in the kitchen. Then I noticed the suitcases and felt my heart stop beating.
“Mom, what’s going on?”
“Josephine, we need to leave. I can’t do this anymore, and I want to take you with me,” she said with a trembling voice. “We’ll disappear, he won’t find us. I’ve been planning this since you came into my life three years ago and gave me a reason to live again.”
“What about school?” I asked lamely. I didn’t care about school, but the truth was I was frozen with fear.
My hands were shaking and I started envisioning a future without my crazy drunk foster father coming home and wreaking havoc on our lives almost every night. My body grew cold, enveloped in continuing shivers. What if he finds us? And even worse, what if he brings us back with him?
“Look,” she pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket. “This is the name of a close friend I went to college with who can help us.” She handed me the paper. “Josephine? Do you want to come with me?” My mother had tears in her eyes.
I smiled at her. “I’ll get my stuff.” That was it – I was finally making my move towards a life that didn’t suck in every possible way. I ran upstairs to pack.
My foster father was clunking up the stairs toward my room now. My heart jumped into my throat; it was too early! I wasn’t dead yet, there was no letter! He wasn’t supposed to find me until he was beginning to sober up and coming in to apologize for punching my face in. Telling me it’s the last time, he’s so sorry, he loves me and I know that, right? I wanted him to see what his actions led to and that it doesn’t just make his wife leave him, but it makes his foster daughter feel like she has no way out too. He has to understand what he does to the people he claims to care about. This can’t all be for nothing!
“Jo Jo,” he slurs the nickname he gave me the first day we met. “Jo Jo, the kitchen is a damn mess. You have to come down here and clean up all this dirty shit.” His heavy feet drag over the stairs and make them creak in fear of being broken.
There’s only so many times I can cake my face in foundation hoping that no one at school asks about the bruises that I’m clearly trying to hide. I have no friends because I decided a long time ago it wouldn’t be fair for me to bring anyone else into my situation. The school nurses all believe me to be either the most accident-prone girl in the world or the most dedicated liar. Whatever they think, they haven’t looked for a reason to intervene. Maybe it’s because they all know of my foster father by his daytime mask – the hardworking breadwinner raising his antisocial, problematic foster daughter singlehandedly.
The truth is that everyone knows something is wrong, but they don’t need the trouble on top of their other stresses. Who can blame them; I probably wouldn’t help me either if I knew how bad it really was.
My small suitcase from when I moved into this strange, empty room years ago sat in front of me. At the time I still missed my parents and brother, but instead I focused on my foster mother who I would be leaving with shortly. Maybe we could pick up our broken parts together and make them into some sort of family instead.
I stuffed some shirts and jeans into my suitcase and realized that none of the other things here meant anything to me. They were all pity gifts that the monster would buy me when he really did a number on me. Like the sorts of days when I would have to miss school, or one of the two times he broke my nose. The silver heart-shaped necklace from when I broke my nose roller-skating down our driveway and the dangling gold earrings shaped like stars from when I broke it again, pushing our neighbor on a swing. Both times he brought me to different hospitals so he wouldn’t raise too much awareness to the situation. It drove me crazy thinking about how all of his attempts to escape responsibility for his actions always seemed to work against me, or the crappy doctors that didn’t ask the right follow up questions.
I heard a crash downstairs and it awakened me from my self-pitying thoughts. I stuffed my winter jacket into my suitcase, even though it was only September, and softly closed the door behind me, eager to leave this place that was never really mine far behind. If he was home, maybe I could still somehow meet my mother outside or down the street. My desperation to find a solution matched my need to leave.
If he was going after my mother, I didn’t want to remind him to come after me too, so I tiptoed down the steps towards the kitchen. We both understood that sometimes we had to make sacrifices for each other, because that’s what love is about. But at that moment, it all seemed too quiet to me; if the monster were home he would be bellowing his newest reasons for hurting “his girls.”
After what felt like hours, I worked up my courage to turn the corner into the kitchen. My mother’s limp body hung from our ceiling fan and the chair she had stepped off of lay next to her suitcases. She rocked back and forth on her rope, and her glassy green eyes stared into mine. I wanted to hit them. How dare they stare at me like that, as if they ever actually cared about me.
This was never a trip for us to leave, and I was an idiot to think this was my chance at freedom. I kicked her suitcase and it flew into the refrigerator and popped open. It was completely empty.
I saw another note sticking out of her jeans pocket and I took it, as if it could offer any sort of explanation. “You’re all packed, please do what I could never bring myself to do – find my friend. I’m so sorry.”
I crumpled up the note and brought my suitcase upstairs to unpack.
I look at the still crumpled note in my hand, the creases fading the ink. Annmarie Roscoe, 154 Prospect Terrace. My foster mother and I were very similar women – even when we hated our lives and dealt with daily terror, we still couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. Why? Why. I asked myself every single day for three years why I came back to this room and unpacked. After I found her body, I lay in bed waiting for the monster to come home. He did, and of course he discovered the same thing I had – his source for hope was gone.
I remember hearing his cries that night from the kitchen. He sounded like an injured animal, moaning and growling at her body as if it would pop out of the noose and explain how domestic abuse drove her to taking her life. He didn’t visit me that night or for the following few nights. I was never stupid enough to think it was the end, though. And a week later we held a funeral for my foster mother who broke her neck falling off a ladder while cleaning the house when no one else was home.
I hate her so much, but I also envy her. She got to leave. And now here I am taking her same cowardly way out instead of running and creating a new life for myself. I lived in a house full of people with no relation to each other, but the same spineless lack of ambition to change their imperfect lives.
I wouldn’t get to fashion the note the way I wanted to, and I’m sure it wouldn’t bring that umph that I was hoping for. This wasn’t my daytime soap opera suicide, but I planned to have more time. This would just have to do.
“Let me in, Jo,” he growls from behind the door as he grips the handle. Luckily I have a lock on my door that I make sure to fix to the best of my abilities after being broken regularly. It would give me the few minutes I need to die.
I took a few deep breaths from my chair which I absentmindedly climb into as I tighten the rope against my neck. The same rope my mother used for her final exit. I picture him bursting in the door and seeing a very similar scene that he came home to three years prior. A chair on the floor and a woman he could take his anger out on hanging from a ceiling fan. Light would glint off of my gold earrings and silver heart-shaped necklace, and he would pick up the note. “I’ll see you both in hell.”
I smile at my reflection in the mirror as I make my first effort to take my life back into my own hands and send the black chair I was standing on crashing into the wall across from my bed.