Blog, Fiction

My dearest Andrew [Flash fiction prompt: Take note]

Flash fiction prompt 11! On my internet travels, I ran into this collection of real suicide notes. They’re intriguing and heartbreaking, just as you would expect strangers’ suicide notes, presented without much context, to be. This one in particular stayed with me and I dearly wanted to give the young woman a different ending to her story. I began my letter in the same way she did, but that’s where the similarities end.

Content warning for mentions of intimate partner violence and suicidal ideation.

Colour photograph of an orange flower, dying

My dearest Andrew,

This is not a suicide note, although god knows it almost was. It is also not an apology and it is not supposed to put your mind at rest. It is not meant to absolve you of any guilt you ought to be feeling or any responsibility you should be taking for driving me to my chosen course of action. You should feel guilty. You are responsible. It is absolutely and completely your doing. It is, in every imaginable way, entirely your fault.

Ten years ago, we promised to love and to cherish until death do us part and I was so trusting, so naïve, I thought you meant it as much as I did. It began with words, only words, but exactly the right words to make me feel like I had done something to deserve your disdain. I never told you this, but back then I made a list of all the things that were wrong with me and all the ways I could fix them to make you love me enough. I tried. I tried so hard to be perfect for you.

In The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway refers to going bankrupt in “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly” and that is how I lost myself. I lost myself for you and then I lost myself in you. People always say, “Why didn’t she just leave?” as if it’s that easy, as if in that situation there’s still enough of the original person left to fully understand what’s happening. I might have said that too, before you. I came to know better. It is never that simple.

Looking back, I can see it all so clearly, the thin end of the wedge, the top of the slippery slope, all those clichés. At the time, during the gradual part of the process, I could see nothing beyond my own supposed shortcomings, all the flaws of which you so frequently and eloquently reminded me. It was like slowly bleeding to death from a thousand small cuts but all the while believing it was my fault for not being able to stem the flow of blood or cultivate skin that could somehow resist being sliced open. After a while, I began to feel that I should apologise to the blade for getting in its way.

The sudden part was perhaps the most painful, although not the darkest stretch of the path I walked alongside you. I had always told myself that at least you didn’t hit me. You didn’t physically hurt me so it couldn’t have been that bad. Once I could no longer placate myself with that false logic, I simply found new justifications for your treatment of me. I remember reading about Stockholm syndrome in a newspaper once and for a brief moment I recognised myself. Then I thought no, it’s different for me because I deserve it, and that was when the purest darkness found me.

I spent three more years making excuses for you when no excuses should have been made because, really, there are no excuses for what you did to me. Your secrets were my secrets and I held them close, always. As I faded away, becoming quieter, taking up less space, our secrets filled the void inside of me like voices echoing around a dark empty house. I became a ghost, haunting myself, whispering not of a forgotten past but of a hopeless future.

A year ago, I started making plans to end my life. I thought it would be poetic, romantic even, for it to happen on our tenth wedding anniversary. I imagined you finding my body—pale in a bath full of blood and water gone cold, limp and lifeless after an overdose of pills and vodka, bent and broken on the ground beneath our fourth floor bedroom window—on that particular day. I imagined you feeling pain, regret, even a fraction of the hollow sickness I had felt since the first day you told me that I made you like this and no-one will ever love me the way you do.

Six months ago, it began to dawn on me that you had little, if any, capacity for remorse and perhaps there was a better way for me to find freedom from the prison of you. From that moment on, every strike of your fist, every vicious word from your poisonous lips strengthened my resolve. I was never as stupid as you told me I was and I found I had developed a particular skill for deception. I did my research, I set the wheels in motion and I began to find my way to a life beyond you.

One month ago, you arrived home with roses, as you often did. A meaningless gesture. I never liked cut flowers because all I saw in them was beauty slowly drying up, decaying and falling to pieces. This time though, I saw a countdown to freedom and finally I had my own secret, my own beautiful, untouchable truth.

My dearest Andrew, it is no accident that you found this letter next to what is left of those roses. I promise you will never find me, no matter how hard you might try. I promise I am happier now than I have ever been in my life. I promise you will never see me again although I do not promise that I will never see you. I sincerely hope that everything you deserve in life will find you and I have no doubt whatsoever that it will. I have died a hundred times during the years we spent together but I promise you will only die once. As was my experience of every death at your hands, you will always expect it but you will never see it coming. My darling, I believe you may recognise this sentiment—you made me like this and no-one will ever love you the way I do.

Sleep well.

About the photo
My husband often gives me roses and I do joke about the whole “slowly drying up, decaying and falling to pieces” thing but I actually think it’s kind of beautiful. When the flowers are past their best, I keep them for a while longer because I love the look and scent of dead flowers. That’s the most teenage-goth thing I’ve said so far this year but I do though, seriously.

Index of January 2017 flash fiction prompts.

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