This story is by Cherry LaFarr and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Finally, I sat down to relax for the evening, a cold beer in my hand, I laid my head back and closed my eyes. Being on the go all day had me exhausted and eager to unwind.
There was a knock at the door. I rolled my eyes, reluctantly got up to answer the door and saw Jackie’s friends through the window. They had a concerned look on their faces and I swung open the door.
“Hi Momma, we are here to see Jackie.” Nevaeh said, her voice was shaky, then she looked at the other friend on the porch with her.
“She is in the tub.” I told her. “What’s up?”
“We just wanted to check on her. She sent me some pretty concerning messages.” she answered with hesitation.
“Like what?” I asked.
“I’ll just show you.” she said as she pulled out her phone and started clicking and scrolling. She turned the screen to display a conversation between herself and my teenage daughter.
Me: Are you okay? What’s wrong?
Jackie: I just can’t anymore. I need help Nev. I’m in the tub.
I love you. So much.
I think I gonna do it tonight.
Me: I love you too. Do what? What are you talking about? Can you call me?
Jackie: I just want the pain to stop.
I just wanna kill myself.
Me: JACKIE! STOP!
Jackie, I am coming over. Don’t do anything to yourself! Get out of the tub. I’m on my way.
Me: Jackie? Are you there? Please don’t do anything to yourself. I love you. We all love you. There is nothing we can’t handle.
I’m almost there.
I looked up from the phone to her face and my shock was clear.
She raised her brows and said,”We came as quick as we could.”
I turned on my heels and hurried to go into the house and they followed. I went straight to the bathroom door, jiggling the knob to find it locked.
“Jackie? Hey, honey?” I waited a moment for an answer, hopeful to hear the small joyful voice of my eldest daughter.
Every scenario played out quickly in my head and I gulped down those fears and prayed for a miracle. How many parents had come to this point? To stand outside a thin wooden door to what could be the most defining horror a parent can experience.
Jackie didn’t answer me.
Was she dead? How could that even be possible, I questioned myself? This happened to other people, not to me or my family. Her siblings were here in the house. How would this affect them? My mind was racing and my heart pounding like a drum in my chest. Should I scream for my husband, her father?
Immediately, I popped the lock and opened the door to find my daughter weak and in the water shivering and sobbing uncontrollably. Already small and mousy, she looked even smaller. I closed my eyes and thanked God she was alive and not hurt. Though, she was in a state I could neither comprehend nor comfort.
I kneeled down to the side of the tub and grabbed the towel nearby to drape it over her little body. She jerked and shuttered in the fetal position, half in and half out of the water. I rubbed down her arm, and it killed me seeing her so vulnerable.
Sobs came and went and I begged her to focus on her breathing, in fear of her hyperventilating. She sat up with some coaxing and I glanced over her body looking for any cuts or blood, which I thankfully didn’t find. The sweet freckled face of my little beauty was now red and twisted in torment. Her honey brown eyes were empty and cold as they looked through me and showed her anguish. All the prayers in the world couldn’t be answered fast enough to spare her and let me take her every ounce of suffering. My words meant nothing as tears streamed down her face through matted wet hair and I was helpless to soothe her. She was numb to everything.
“Can you talk honey?” I spoke softly to persuade her to open up. I was still in shock.
How could my beautiful, smart, loving and funny daughter mean herself any kind of abuse? We have a good life. We are not rich, but we have nice things. Our children enjoy activities with family and friends. They grew up in a home with love, affection and silliness. Jackie was raised to know suicide or self harm was a sin and forgiveness only comes for the latter.
“I just want the voices to stop Momma,” she said through the broken cries,” I can’t make them stop by myself.”
“Then we’ll force them to stop together. Whatever we have to do, we’ll do it.” I promised myself I would find a way and I would save her.
She spent that first night with me on the couch downstairs. We were too afraid to let her sleep or even be alone. We stayed up late and talked about the voices she saw in her mind as demons. She went through dark and light moments, angry and pouty one minute, happy and silly the next. There was a war going on in her head and I was only privy to the small details she sometimes shared with me.
Jackie slept with us the next night and I laid awake all and worried that she wasn’t breathing or she would leave to go somewhere alone to harm herself or worse. The anxiety over it was crippling, and I cried while I watched her slumber, only wanting to scoop her up in my arms and rock her like she was still little.
Counseling sounded appealing to her and she was eager to get better. I got her out of the house four days after the bathtub incident. We attended a friend’s sister’s funeral, went to the mall, ate food and shopped for back to school clothes. We laughed, and we had fun. I had her phone and denied her any kind of social media, to keep out all outside influences. We instructed her friends not come to the house for at least a week. Still trying to be upbeat and cooperative she complied.
Just like that, she would plummet into a heavy anxiety filled depression, and I noticed the change in her. The same depression, I as a parent didn’t take seriously when she got bullied and beaten by one of her closest friends for no clear reason. It had been 5 months since the incident and she had even forgiven the friend. I thought she was getting over it and wanted to put the trauma from it all behind us. She hid it far away from our eyes and battled it alone. It was a losing battle from the start and I failed to recognize it. The reality was that she was suffering from PTSD and depression.
Gasping out loud when she went to go take a bubble bath, I was instantly paranoid for her to even be in water again. I wanted to sit at the door and listen to make sure she was okay. I did just that. Listening to her every little splash, like she was still a small girl, but on the other side of a door. I wept outside that door in the hallway, alone and I sighed relief when she let the water out of the tub.
Jackie will always be damaged from this. I can’t 100% reach her and that leaves room for the dark voices to haunt her. She said they tell her she is not good enough, not adequate for this world. There are no consequences or sins when they control her thoughts. She thinks of nothing but what they influence and then she becomes lost.
I have always prided myself on having a good grasp on my kids physical and mental state. I was mistaken. Her father and I share that same misery of failure, to the one most important to us. We created her and we now must save our perfect creation from herself. She will be headed for counseling and other interventions if necessary.
As for the voices, I tell them to come and have a piece of me, to pick on someone their own size, and to stay the hell away from my baby. These demons, are the only monsters I have ever known in my lifetime; they are the monsters I am still fighting and will continue to. They are holding her hostage and I must figure out how to rescue my princess before it’s too late.