They say she did it in the wardrobe, with a piece of electrical wire – an extension cord perhaps – closing the door on the past, crossing over to the other side. What is it about the unknown that’s so alluring? I’ve never understood.
They say she did it in the evening so no-one would know. No knocking on her door. No entry into her room. Sixteen. You don’t intrude. Besides they thought she was studying. Exams coming up in a week. A big deal was made about that.
They say she was strung up ‘til morning, then all of the day, her mother calling, Abby, time to get up, then, Goodbye Abby, see you later, as she left for work. Well she did that alright. Comes home at 5.51pm, shouts hello, gets annoyed about the breakfast things left out, takes the pile of fresh ironing at the foot of the stairs as her excuse. Sixteen, don’t intrude. Sod that.
She goes into her daughter’s room and it’s all as it should be. Posters on the wall, books on the table. She goes to the drawer and it’s all as it should be. Socks rolled, T-shirts folded. She resists the urge to search. Sixteen. You don’t intrude. She stops for a moment at the desk, checking out whatever she can see without moving anything, without touching anything, without appearing to have been there at all. It seems her daughter is still out, taking the long route home.
Then she looks in the wardrobe – to put away a skirt you understand.
The thing is, you can’t buy pills anymore, not enough that’s for sure, sixteen to a packet now, no more and no less. And the mother is careful, every little bottle with its anti-child lid safe in the pharmacy, never in the home. The girl will have checked – no doubt about that – bathroom cabinet, behind the toilet cleaner, bedside drawer. After all it’s the easy way, listen to some music, think hard about what is to come.
There are razors perhaps, long vertical cuts to make sure, but the girl’s father went just six months before (a big deal was made of that too) and all that’s left are for legs and for underarms. Nothing to do with throats or attempts on life.
So she’s got it from the cupboard under the stairs, left over from the speakers perhaps, or when they rewired her granny’s old lamp. She’ll have looked for rope maybe, but who has rope these days. And they don’t have a washing line. She’ll have thought, Sheet, perhaps, but that will require tearing and ripping and organisation. She’ll have thought, Fuse wire, there on it’s spool, but worried that it will cut first, deep into her skin, without the aid of warm water to numb the pain.
No, electrical cord, that’s the thing.
It will have been dark in the wardrobe. Smelling of fresh laundry and her night out last Tuesday. That was fun. Also the earthiness of old wood. It’s good quality this piece of furniture. Very solid pole.
She’ll have been surrounded by all her things – her new denim skirt, her three sets of trainers, her school shirts – rustling as she moved in amongst them. A friendly sound. With the doors closed behind she’ll have been in her own little world, nice and quiet and above everything else, calm.
It should be a comfort to think that her last sight might have been that jumper she got for Christmas or her lovely studded belt. It should be a comfort to think that she would have felt warm and at home, hiding in her own little closet, waiting for someone to find her like a tiny, childhood sardine.
The mother screams. She throws her hands up to her mouth. Drops ironing all over the floor. Between fingers, she’s saying it, No. No. No. There isn’t any other word.
She tries to hold her daughter. She puts her arms around the girl’s waist, around her hips, feeling her daughter’s weight, the size of her, the shape, for the first time in years. She strains to keep those loose ankles higher than the wooden floor. But it’s no use. Her daughter is heavy, face all purple and black, cheeks puffy. There’s no doubt she won’t be coming back.
They take the girl away on a stretcher, folding her body out through the double doors of the wardrobe and onto the canvas. Then they cover her in a red blanket. They even strap her in, as though the noise of the engine or the journey might wake her and she’ll rise like a Lazarus saying in a confused voice, It was only a game. She won’t of course, but they can’t rule this out – the game that is. Suicide. It’s always hard to explain. She didn’t leave a note.
There’s none there when I pass by. There never is when they take their own. But I bring freesias and leave them under the hedge. They can ignore them if they wish. Sometimes it doesn’t do to remind. They might take it as blame, or accusation. They might take it the wrong way, but that isn’t how it’s meant. It’s just a reminder, that the girl existed, that’s all. Just wanting to say, she was here and somebody knew.
In town, if you look closely, you’ll see they’ve written her name on a wall by the bus station. To my best friend, Abby, see you in heaven. She was well liked this girl. She had a whole future ahead of her. That’s what they say. And it’s true. Everyone has a future. It’s just sometimes people don’t get there soon enough.
© Mary Paulson-Ellis, 2013