This story is by Rochelle Herman and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The what if’s ’ in life will destroy you. Fall was here again and Violet was still asking herself that question. On an endless suffocating loop.
“What if I hadn’t answered?” While she sat in class, or at parties. There, but not there.“What if?”
The guilt of that question controlled her life. He would have died, is what would have happened. Cody would have fucking died.
The emotional toll his attempted suicide had had, made Violet feel constantly bombarded by a landslide of emotions she couldn’t halt. They just kept tumbling. Anger. Resentment. Sorrow. Guilt. Crushing her. Would she always remember October as the time he tried to kill himself for her? Could she handle the seasons of her life? So far, the answer was a resounding NO.
It felt like a year had passed since she had smiled. Even longer since she laughed. The way she used to. Loud and Full. Warm and Kind. Infectious. People used to tell her they loved her laugh. She missed hearing that.
Miserable was all she really was now and Violet quickly comprehended that college friends didn’t like being around anything miserable. College was for partying, not for dealing with people whose lives were falling apart. So, she was losing them too. A year after her abusive relationship had ended and he was still taking things from her.
Violet couldn’t stop ruminating about that tragic night last October. It had become her autumn prison.
Cody had begun to stalk her when she left him last year. So, he knew Violet was on a date that night and he was trying to ruin it. She ignored all the calls, but couldn’t help it, just peeking at the texts he was insistently sending:
“You slut, how could you do this to me?”
“How could you leave me? You heartless BITCH!”
“You need to come NOW. I NEED YOU!!”
Staring at her phone, while on her date with Adam; she understood what being in an abusive relationship felt like. It was as if she was allowing Cody to tie her up and hold her under water. It was the strangest thing, sometimes it felt as if she was watching it happen. An onlooker fully aware of the madness, but powerless to save herself.
“Hey Adam, I think I gotta go home.” Adam could hear the defeat in her voice. Cody and Violet lived in the same apartment complex.Fucking College.
“No, you don’t. You know you don’t have to answer,” he said taking her hands in his.
“You can stay here. You have people that care about you here.” Adam’s words were steady and grounded like an Oak tree. It felt so nice, she thought, to hear the words of a good man. She looked away.
“I know, this just feels different. I think something might actually be wrong. “
Adam didn’t say a word, but gently lifted her head to meet his. He looked at her so helplessly then let out a small sigh.
Violet felt so disappointed with herself when Adam dropped her off later. She could barely look at him to say goodbye. She hated where she was about to go. Yet she was still going there.
Every time Violet tried to leave, he begged and pleaded, threatening to kill himself. Digging his nails around her waist and bawling uncontrollably into her stomach. Sometimes, he would even lock her in his room until she ‘changed’ her mind. Leaving and living without him was the most selfish thing she could do. Cody would sob. She didn’t know how to be selfish. He knew that. So here she was, outside his apartment, drowning. Because of his need for her.
He answered the door irritably, staring at her with these greedy, betrayed eyes. Then he held it open. Protectively like a guard, not desiring to keep things out, but trap them in. The power of his resentment overwhelmed Violet instantly, as if the evil furies of the world had been released. He had opened Pandora’s Box. Only she knew Hope wasn’t waiting for her inside. She was the hope and he was eager to lock her in again.
Once a year had passed since that night, Violet’s friends began losing patience with her depression.
“Why can’t you just let it go?” Her friends would scoff.
“It’s hard to let go,” she would think. When he gave me so much to remember. “Cody retells me every chance he gets,” she reflected, suffering alone. The texts and voicemails were always the same:
“I was gonna die for you.”
“No one will ever love you that much.”
Still Violet fought to live. One evening, Violet and her roommate Brittany were carving pumpkins, singing along to “I put a spell on you” from Hocus Pocus. Violet needed more nights like this! They were drinking Pumpkin beer and eating pumpkin pie straight from the tin when Brittany got a phone call. A friend was waiting out front and desperately needed her. After 30 minutes Violet went outside to see what was wrong. That’s when she first saw her. Standing in the street was a sad girl, with an even sadder dog.
“Hey girl, this is Layla. She wanted to know if we could foster her dog for the week or longer…” Brittany trailed off.
“I would really appreciate it.” Layla said, trying not to cry. Violet could almost see the hope of Layla’s words lifting her up.
The dog, a basset hound, was staring at Violet. They all were staring at her now. Violet looked at the dog. That’s when she felt it. This instant understanding of two souls on the same shitty path. Violet knew, this dog was just as lost and going through the same kind of hell she was. And they would get through it together.
A few weeks had passed and Katie Mae was still getting used to her new home.
“What’d Katie Mae do this time?” Violet finally said expectantly. The crazed look in Brittany’s eyes combined with her tapping her foot like a fuming dancer on speed, Violet knew it wasn’t good.
“WELL,” Brittany exclaimed throwing her hands in the air. “apparently, she ate a condom, because on our walk in the middle of campus she started pooping out a FUCKING CONDOM!!!! Do you have any idea how mortified I was?! Then it got stuck and everyone was staring at me! I literally had to pull it out!”
Violet couldn’t help but laugh at the scene it must have been.
“Yeah, she’s also been destroying the trash every day. So fun to clean. And she still bolts from me on walks,” Violet said. “she just doesn’t realize this is her home yet. She’s sad.”
“Yeah, well she needs to get her shit together!” Brittany declared walking back into her room and slamming the door.
Violet looked down at Kate with those sweet soulful eyes. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes this year too. It’s harder than you would think to get your shit together. I know.”
November came and Violet and Kate now had a nightly walk around midnight. The neighborhood was quite like an abandoned movie set at that time and Violet pretended she was the only person in the world. The catacombs of suburbia had them lost suddenly and turning down dead-end streets, when they came across a huge open field. Violet had never seen it before. Without hesitation, she took her jacket off and walked along the fence line of the homes, sitting down by a pile of fallen leaves. Violet could see her breathe in the air while she and Kate looked up at the kaleidoscope of stars. It was magnificent.
“I always thought he was bluffing,” Violet whispered after some time.
“Everyone told me he was bluffing,” she cried softly. She looked over at Kate, listening intently.
“He took pills, did you know? I had to rush him to the hospital.” Kate didn’t say anything. She just licked the tears off her face, and put her paw in Violets lap, as if to say
“His family threw me out the next morning. They blamed me,” she cried.
God this felt cathartic. To just let it out. Everyone talked over her, reassuring her again and again how his attempted suicide wasn’t her fault. No one had ever wanted to justlisten. Let her cry. Let her pain out. Was this what healing felt like?
“You’re saving me you know that right?” Violet said gazing up with her arm around Kate.
“You, are everything I ever wanted in a dog.” Katie Mae leaned in closer, snuggling Violet, releasing a deep content puppy sigh. Violet rested her head on her best friend. “I love you too.”
A greedy love will destroy you. But a pure love will set you free. Like a tiny spark, Violet felt the weightlessness of freedom rising in her soul. She was letting go.