“Jasmine?” Kyle slid down on the bench beside her. She wasn’t crying but she looked like she had been, and like she could again at any moment. “Jasmine? Please talk to me.”
She slowly turned her head and her eyes met his but he could tell she wasn’t really there. She just stared, solemn, silent. He put his hand on hers but there was still no response. She breathed in calmly and after a second let it out, shuddering. She looked away again, letting a single tear slip down her cheek.
“It’s a shame about Rachel isn’t it?” This got her to snap her head back at once and while she definitely saw him now, the vacant stare had been replaced with a glare of rage and disbelief.
“Shame?” She sniped through gritted teeth. “SHAME? It is a fucking tragedy!”
“Ok, ok I am sorry. You’re right.” He held his hands up in surrender.
“She was a sweet and innocent girl and what happened to her was unthinkable and then to find out we were her only support, it is just wrong.” The tears flowed more freely and she had to sniff back the heavier sobs to keep going. “She said I was her best friend and I barely knew her. How could anyone turn their back on someone like that?”
“Jas, we tried to be there for her and you never turned your back. She looked up to you and probably was with us longer because of you. You were amazing with her.”
“Oh yeah? Well if I was so great, why couldn’t I save her? Why did she have to do it? Why did she truly believe she was better off dead?” She gave up and collapsed in tears, leaning into Kyle’s shoulder wailing. Her heart was completely broken and she couldn’t understand any of this.
He put his arm around her trembling shoulders and held her while she cried. He held her for a long time wisely choosing to say nothing. She needed the release and he was happy to be able to help her. She cried until she could barely breathe. He stroked her hair and kissed the top of her forehead gently. After what seemed like twenty minutes, but was more likely only about five, the force of her sobs began to subside. Eventually they were over all together.
Even when the crying ended she stayed with her head on his shoulder and he never made a move to change it. He liked being there for her. He would hold her anytime she needed. With her cheek still leaning against him she twisted to look up at his warm concerned face. She straightened, looking him in the eye. “Why are you here?”
“I know you used to come here with Rachel so I figured after the funeral this morning you could use a friend.” He reached up and wiped away one last defiant tear. She let his hand cradle her cheek for a moment. It did feel good to have someone she could talk to. “I am just glad you never wanted to do that. You know, kill yourself.”
With that she pulled away and turned to look at the ground in front of her. She played with the leaves with her foot twirling them in circles drifting away, deep in thought. Very quietly she mumbled, “Actually I did.”
“What did you say?” He couldn’t possibly have heard her right. She was strong, even if she didn’t believe it. She was intelligent and he just couldn’t fathom that she had ever considered suicide.
She took a long ragged breath and cleared her throat. She raised her voice just slightly repeating, “Actually I did. I said I did want to kill myself. I wanted to die.”
“That’s not funny.” He insisted. He shook his head refusing to believe it. He squeezed his eyes shut and pushed the image away. He opened them again and looked at her, against his own will, he glanced down at her wrists. There was only the mark from when she had been attacked. “You have no marks and you are still here so how can you say you thought about it. You obviously didn’t think about it very hard.”
She leaned back and sighed again. “I have enough marks on me. That’s not how I was going to do it. And I did think about it a lot. It isn’t supposed to be funny, I really wanted to die and it scares me how close I came to trying. I was going to just take all the pills in my house and go to sleep. You really want to know the reason I am still here, the reason I didn’t do it?”
He wasn’t sure he did want to know but he heard himself say, “Of course I want to know, as long as you are ok telling me.”
“I was afraid I would screw it up.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was afraid that I would take the pills but they would make me sick, or brain dead, or a vegetable or something and then I would be worse off but still alive. My fear saved my life, do you have any idea how stupid that is?” She began to shake. He wasn’t sure if she was going to cry again or she was angry but he knew he had to help her somehow.
“Who cares what saved you as long as it worked. You are still here and you come to group, help others and, please tell me I am right, you don’t think about dying anymore.”
“No I don’t. At least I didn’t until Rachel went and slit her wrists like a dumbass. She was my friend and she went and abandoned me. What they hell was she thinking?” He could see the tears welling back up in her eyes. “You say I help others but I couldn’t help her. I wasn’t there for her enough. I wasn’t strong enough.”
He slid over again so he could try and hold her but she shoved him away. She leaned down face in hands, elbows on knees, sobbing again for her fallen friend. Her heart ached and she couldn’t do anything but cry. She thought of the faces of Rachel’s parents. They had ignored her, accused her of causing her own rape. They had turned away when she reached out for help claiming she was being punished for her mistakes. In the end she had run away permanently.
The note they found with her body had explained everything in detail and had even apologized to Jasmine and the rest of the group. She just couldn’t stay any longer. In her hand she had held a white rose. A symbol of purity and hope, two things she felt she no longer had but the note explained it was for everyone else in the group. That hopefully they would keep working and fighting and she would watch over from a place where she no longer was afraid.
Jasmine hadn’t thought about dying for a while now but, even though she still wanted to live herself, she felt like thoughts of death were swirling around her once more, drowning her. She had a picture of the two of them sitting right here on this very bench on her phone and she wanted to look at it so bad but she couldn’t handle it. This amazing girl was gone and the smile in that picture seemed so deceiving now.
She sat up and wiped away the tears and reached for her purse to grab a tissue when a hand offered her one instead. She peered over and saw Kyle was still there. She was stunned. She expected him to leave when she pushed him away and yet he was sitting right there. It may have only been a tissue in his hand but to her it seemed like a promise. He was offering to help her, and just when she knew she really was going to need someone. Without thinking she slid over and kissed him.
It was quick and surprised them both but it was a moment neither would ever forget.