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Austin Elmo Stone

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Endings: Volume One

Sara's story

They say that at the end, your life flashes before your eyes. As I stand here now, I wonder if that’s true. It’s funny isn’t it, the things that we think of at the end? As I head into the unknown, I’m feeling an unexpected sense of calm. I’ve chosen a beautiful spot for it; the ground is soft with golden leaves – autumn is so beautiful – and the air doesn’t leave a chill. I’m wearing my favourite dress and the way the hem dances around my knees in this gentle breeze is hypnotic, calming. Oddly, I’ve not felt so at peace in a long time.

~ Six ~

I wonder whether this morning will flash before my eyes. I hope not. I’ve only just lived it, I don’t need to see it again.

It’s been a surreal morning. I’ve found that I’ve been fixating on the strangest of things. I suppose it’s driven by an obsession to do this right. It’s the last thing I’m ever going to do, so I want it to be perfect. Perfect – probably a grossly inappropriate term for something so final.

Take the rope for example. I spent a ridiculous amount of time and research before picking it out. I don’t want it to leave any unseemly marks. I guess this is just my way of looking after my mum. She’ll know why I’m doing this, but I want it to be easier for her.

Some say that suicide is selfish and that we don’t think of those we leave behind. I hope my mum knows that’s not true. I’m thinking of her at the end. She’s not a strong woman, but I love her, even now.

Then there’s the notes. Endings are so difficult. The note for my mum flowed effortlessly. There was so much to say, not all of it pleasant, but it needed saying. I understand that she just wasn’t strong enough to help me, but it’s okay. Maybe this will give her the strength to do what needs to be done. The strength to leave him.

Jonny’s letter didn’t come as easily. What to tell him? Obviously that I love him, but the baby? Was I right to tell him? Is it better not to know? I think he deserves the explanation, but I hate to leave him alone with that.

We’re both alone now.

It should be the three of us, but that dream’s been stolen. I can’t describe the pain of this. It’s constant. Consuming. I just want to stop feeling.  I want quiet. I want to rest. I don’t want to be in pain anymore.

~ Five ~

Will that day at the hospital flash before my eyes? The nurse. The look in her eyes. The pity of it. I couldn’t stand it.

She’s trying to be compassionate. I know that. But I resent it. She strokes my arm and takes my hand as the doctor works. She holds my chart in one hand and asks about the old injuries and bruises. She asks if my mum is in the same position or if my dad saves his rage only for me. Lucky me. I think she cries at one point, or at least begins to break down for the briefest of moments before composing herself. She lies to me that they can help. She brushes my hair away from my face and strokes my cheek. She’s expecting tears, I think, but none flow. She lies that “it’s ok, honey.”

I feel nothing. In this hospital on this day. I’m numb.

I suppose it’s shock. It’s my body’s way of coping. Apparently I’m pale. Deathly white. And cold. The nurse puts a blanket over me when the doctor has finished his grim work. I worry that she’s going to hug me. She hesitates, unsure what to do, but then she regains her composure and leaves without looking back.

And I’m alone.

~ Four ~

Will the beating flash before my eyes? Which one? Maybe it’ll be this last one. The one that took everything away.

It’s been a long time since I’d bothered to protect myself from the kicking and the punching. Normally I don’t want to give him the satisfaction. I want to shame him. He can’t even make a teenage girl cry. I want to show him that his little daughter is stronger than him. But it’s not myself that I’m protecting this time. I’m protecting both of us. Protection for two. I just need to survive his rage. Wait for the storm to abate, and then Jonny and me, our new family, we can start again somewhere. Just get through this.

~ Three ~

Will Aimee’s party flash before my eyes? I’d like that to be a memory I take with me. I felt beautiful that day.

I remember walking into the kitchen. Jonny’s in there pouring drinks. Three or four friends are stood around him. Someone cracks a joke and the room breaks out into laughter. Music is playing down the hall and as I open the kitchen door it floods into the room. The music mixes with the laughter and the company of good friends and it all just fills me with warmth.

And then Jonny sees me. He smiles. Then he just walks through his friends like they’re nothing to him. Like they’re not really there. He reaches out and takes my hand and he kisses me. Then he twirls me around in a singular motion and we dance for a short couple of beats. It’s a sickly sweet dance to those watching perhaps, but to me it’s perfect. God, we’re insufferable aren’t we?

That night we tell each other that we’re in love. He says it first. I didn’t expect that. I’d felt it for so long. Since before we got together. Since before our first night together. I’d been paranoid it might slip out and that it’d scare him off. But on this night, at Aimee’s, with the music drifting down the corridor into the kitchen, with his friends drinking in the background, with Sam playing the fool in the corner, and with forty people crammed into a house that was never built to cope with such numbers, Jonny locks eyes with me and tells me that he loves me.

No-one hears because a hundred other things are going on all around us. The entire house groans with the joys and dramas of youth. But for me everything else fades away. I want to make a joke of it, but instead I just cry. A little bit. My eyes flood. I say that I love him too. In this moment I believe that we’re going to be together forever.

 ~ Two ~

Will the day that he asked me out flash before my eyes? I wonder how long each memory will last. Will it feel like I’m living through it again? I really I do hope so in this case. It’s a good memory. It’s one I treasure.

I’m with Yas and we’re leaving school together. We head to the interchange and I know that Jonny’ll be waiting for the same bus. We don’t know each other well yet. We’ve been introduced, and I’ve watched him play football a few times. We’ve said “hi” sheepishly to each other. I caught him looking at me in the queue for the bus once, but then he looked away quickly. We both smiled. He caught me smoking another time and told me off. He used to smoke he said, but he saw his reflection once and that was enough to stop him. We laughed and I promised to quit. He looked sheepish again. I looked at my feet.

So we all get on the bus. Jonny is sat a few rows back with a friend and Yas and I fight over who gets the window seat. Other kids fill the bus and a collection of old people take up the remaining seats on the lower deck, and off we go. One by one people disembark and head home into the winter night. Soon it’s just Yas, me and Jonny. Yas is teasing me because she knows I like him. I elbow her playfully in the ribs, feigning worry that he might hear. I hope he hears.

Yas stands up to get off at her stop and she says “good luck” loudly enough for Jonny, the bus driver and most of the city to hear. As she reaches the top of the stairs, she grabs the handle to steady herself, and then she looks straight at Jonny. Oh God. I visibly sink down in my seat as she mouths the words “see ya L-O-V-E-R-B-O-Y”. She then cackles and exits stage left.

Now it’s just Jonny and me on the top deck. We live near each other so I know we’re going to have to get off at the same stop and then try to pretend that this didn’t just happen. So we get up. We head down the stairs. We step off the bus together. In silence. As the bus departs into the night, and I turn to head off to the left and Jonny to the right, he whispers “see you tomorrow Sara.” I’m still shellshocked from Yas’s behaviour so I just mumble and nod. As I turn to leave he takes my arm gently.

“Do you want to go out sometime?”

“er… yes. Please.” Jesus. I said “please”.

He lights up. Utter joy.

“How about now?”. So we hop on the very next bus and go to the movies. And that night we kiss.

That was three years ago. It’s my absolute favourite day. My dad was furious I was home so late. I didn’t tell Jonny that. I haven’t ever really told him about my dad. I think he’s suspected recently though. He’ll know now for sure.

~ One ~

The first time we met is something I’ll definitely take with me. I certain of it. It’s funny, because I don’t know what comes next really. I’m not very religious, and Jonny jokes that I’m a heathen, but I know that whatever awaits me, I’ll keep this memory. Part of me hopes for nothingness. Eternal quiet and nothingness. But even with all of that, I know that somehow, some glimmer of this memory will endure.

We’re both 14. Jonny’s a few months older than me and Aimee is talking about this boy that her younger sister is just head-over-heels in love with. Aimee is pretty much everything I want to be. She’s effortlessly cool and popular and clever and did I say that I want to be her? She takes my hand and walks me straight over to the crowd of boys outside the gate. I know that she’s dating one of them but I can’t remember which – she changes the roster pretty regularly.

She points straight at the face of a boy. I mean, her finger is literally inches away from his face. He laughs, feigns injury, takes a dramatic step back and almost falls into the road.

Then Aimee jerks her finger back in my direction and then back to the boy.

“Jonny – this is the girl I was telling you about. Jonny, Sara. Sara, Jonny.”

Then she walks off. Just like that. Leaving me in a crowd of boys that I don’t really know and with Jonny trying (and failing) to make small talk. It’s so amazingly weird and awkward. He asks how I am. I think at one point he even asks what do I like to “do”!

What do I like to do?!

Could he be more impossibly vague? I pretty much laughed in his face, and he laughed in mine and the rest of the boys all walked away. Ice well and truly broken, we chatted away for about an hour. For a fourteen year old boy and girl that’s a lifetime.

I was well and truly smitten.

Eventually I had to make my excuses and head home. Before I left though I grabbed Aimee and made her tell me EVERYTHING about him. Jonny is Jonny she said. He’s had a few girlfriends but he’s never really been serious with them. She’s known him since primary school and he’s never been shy. It means he likes me apparently.

She knows even then that I’m crazy about him. Aimee can see right through me. I can never hide anything from her. She knows about my dad. I think she’s probably the only one, other than mum. I wonder if she’d not had to move away if things might have gone differently. But in this moment my dad is insignificant. We’re just two normal girls talking about a boy at school. I tell Aimee that I think I’ll marry him one day. She laughs and I laugh and we talk about how I should ask him out.

We laugh a lot about it over the next few weeks. She tells Yas that “I’m in love” and occasionally we’d joke about the wedding that we’ll have. They’ll both be bridesmaids of course and it’ll be on a beach somewhere. The thing is, I wasn’t joking. As I head home that day and sit on a bus listening to music and Jonny sits at the back with his friends, I know that I’m going to be with him. I know that I’m going to marry him and that we’ll live happily ever after. We’ll get jobs and we’ll raise a family and we’ll be together. I know this.

I knew this.

I hoped for this.

I’m glad I’m thinking of this at the end.

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