With Regret

By Shaylynn Hayes

PLEASE NOTE: This piece contains themes of and/or related to suicide, depression, and/or other forms of mental illness. Reader’s discretion is advised.

I call her.

We fight as I try to pay for the groceries. I have to balance the phone in one hand, and my credit card in the other. I smile at the cashier apologetically as she screams through the cell.

“You’re never around anymore!” she accuses me. 

As usual, I don’t know what to say. I just finished a ten-hour shift, and I’m tired. My eyes are sunken from lack of sleep, and I can’t remember the last time I sat down to relax.

“I’m sorry,” is all I can think to say.

“Sorry doesn’t help. I want to see you, now,” she says, her voice hissing in my ear. 

I miss her, but it’s just after six and I need to get home.

“I can’t right now. I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”

“Don’t bother,” she says, her voice exasperated as she ends the phone call.

I pack my things into the cart, smile at the cashier, and proceed to head home.

The last time I saw her was a few days before. She was in a good mood that night. We curled up on the couch to watch a movie — her favourite, but I didn’t mind. She laced her fingers through mine, and let her head fall back on my chest. I couldn’t help but smile at her peaceful expression. It was a rare moment of happiness, and I cherish it.

“Are you tired, sweetie?” I asked her, still holding her hand.

“No, not yet,” she said, but her body betrayed her and she yawned involuntarily.

“I thought so,” I said as she looked up at me, smiling.

Sometimes, on her up days, she would talk about moving in together, or getting married. I’d smile and bite my lip. I wasn’t so sure if I could spend the rest of my life wondering if the next moment will be a good one. I know my mother would be ashamed if she knew I felt that way, but I can’t help it. 

I think of my mother crying in her bed when I was a kid, not leaving for days. I remember cooking packaged noodles for myself and for her, my father working and never complaining about his wife.

I usually call her after a fight, but tonight I need a break. I sit on my couch and I turn on a hockey game. I watch mindlessly as the puck dashes back and forth. I barely stir except when a team scores a goal — the loud screeching buzzer brings me back to reality, but afterwards I sink back into my catatonic state.

The first time I caught my mother crying, I was seven. I asked her if my father had made her angry; sometimes he said stupid things. She told me that no, it wasn’t my father, and that everything would be alright, but with a long, drawn-out sigh, she added a word I heard often throughout my childhood — “eventually”.

With my mother, “eventually” did come. It took a lot of years and a lot of memories fused with pain, but eventually, the panic and sadness began to dissipate. It was a slow and rough race, but she came out the other side. I asked my father how he stuck with her all of those years.

He would run his fingers through his hair, still brown at the time, and say: “It’s what you do when you love someone. She doesn’t mean to be like that.”

I struggled to understand. Of course, she didn’t mean it, but why did that give her a license to mess up my childhood? I selfishly compared her to an alcoholic — why would she have children in such a state? I never told my mother or my father these feelings. No matter how hard I tried to push it away, I still felt as though something had been taken from me.

The ping of my cell phone interrupts my mind from the hockey game. Now in the third period, I shake my head, irritated. The game is almost over. If only they had waited a few more minutes.

Her name flashes across the screen. Little letters showing that she’s either ready to forgive me, or ready for round two. I consider not answering the phone, but that’ll just make her mad.

“Hello?” I ask the receiver, still trying to concentrate on the hockey game.

“Hi, is this the emergency contact for Louisa Michaels?”

I feel a lump in my throat. My skin turns gritty and I squirm. I know I have to respond with words, but I can’t remember how to use them. I feel icy cold, but kind of hot too. My palms are sweating.

“Uh… I… Yes?” I say, my voice cracking more than I’d like.

“Sir, we’d like to talk in person.”

I know what this means. I don’t know the right way to say it, or to think it, but I know what it means.

“I…”

The cop sits across from me, a photo of a note in his hand, he asks me if I knew anything about it, or if I could have suspected. I was her last call — the last person she talked to. 

“I don’t know, I was getting groceries when she called,” I say, and I think of the cashier smiling at me. 

I remember wanting to get off the phone so fast. I have to compose myself before I cry. I can’t cry, not here, not with the cop watching me.

“What sort of mood was she in?”

“Bad, I guess. She gets like that sometimes, but it was nothing unusual,” I say and feel my heart plummet underneath me. 

If I went to see her, if I listened to her plea, she’d be alive. She may even be in my arms, blissfully sleeping – not where she is now.

The cop lets me read the letter. He probably thinks it will provide closure. Her words are scribbled across a small piece of pink paper, the stationary I bought her for her birthday. This is it. I read over the last words that she’ll ever say to me. A sob escapes me.

I love you. I’m sorry. I just can’t handle it. 

It’s not enough. Nothing ever could be, but I expected something more conclusive, an epilogue. I expected a real letter. I try to resonate the fact that I will never have an explanation. All that’s left of her are failed memories, what I didn’t do, and the words that I never came up with.

Shaylynn Hayes is a writer, advocate designer, and political science student. She is passionate about fiction, but just as fiercely passionate about the ocean, painting, as well as her career goals. As a writer, Shaylynn has been published as a non-fiction writer on numerous occasions – but her true love comes from weaving words together in fiction narratives.

Copyright© 2020 by Shaylynn Hayes

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