She sat in the dark, on the couch, listening to water thrash against the windows of the apartment. Brian wasn’t there, but she no longer expected him to be. Ever. That thought brought her musing back to the rain, and she stared. Light from the street lamp on the corner cut through the windowpanes and painted dim squares against the wall above the chair. She could see the waver and splatter of the raindrops as they warped the square she happened to be gazing at.
She lost herself there, and all her thoughts clustered and slowed until her mind was nothing but a field of glaciers. After their fight her constant feeling of inadequacy became greater. The feeling never left her mind, and she hated that she knew she was inept but there was nothing she could do to fix it. Farther into the labyrinth of her mind she knew that if she’d stopped all those months ago when he asked her to, he wouldn’t have walked out the previous night, hence actually fixing her problems.
He’d put up with her, cleaned her vomit each morning after awakening from a night of drinking and a various farrago of drugs. He was patient, saintly patient. She pushed him. She knew, somewhere deep in her conscious, he’d break eventually, that he would just leave like everyone else, stop caring. But she continued to push. The last straw was the abortion. Aborting his baby very early on in their relationship was a logical decision on her part because of her reluctance to become a mother. She never meant to hurt him, or even have him find out, but he did.
Slowly, she shuffled to the bathroom, wincing as the cold tiles pressed against the bare undersides of her feet. Closing the oak door, the sound of pouring rain muffled by the porcelain filled room, she shambled over to the bathtub sitting on the cool porcelain edge.
She looked at the razor longingly, aching for the pleasure filled pain it used to bring as it dragged across her wrist releasing red, warm blood on her arm like a paintbrush on an expansive canvas. How the blood trickled down her arm in beads, leaving a crimson path in their wake. It was a revolutionary high she’d discovered and partaken in at the age of fifteen, a way to release the pain of her mother’s death and father’s rejection. She’d stopped upon entering college, finding real drugs to be a better compensation for her pain.
Temperance rested her tired head into her ice-cold hands, barely holding back the tears that threatened to fall down her face. He was truly gone. Sure they’d fought before but it usually ended with her walking into the bathroom and shutting herself in. This time was different. He walked out. “I don’t want to breathe for you anymore,” he’d uttered, making her heart stop in her chest. That one sentence was driving the thoughts in her mind. He was gone, not coming back.
Her hand was driven towards the counter where the sharp silver razor blade sat, light reflecting off of it, making it look like a pathway to a better place. She also grabbed the bottle of bleach that resided under the sink, clasping it in her hand as she shuffled back to the bathtub, this time climbing into it rather than perching on the side. Taking three deep, nervous breaths as her tears fell faster, Temperance Grey raised the bottle of bleach to her lips, gagging at the smell before taking one long swig of it, letting it burn her throat as it went down. Before the bleach forced her body into unconsciousness she dragged the razor across the lowest part of her wrist, releasing her own blood. Listening to the muffled sound of the surging rain, Temperance slowly succumbed to the bleach and the blood loss’ effects.
* * *
Brian stumbled into the apartment just getting off a twenty-four hour shift at the hospital. He realized he’d need to confront Temperance, show her that he wasn’t actually leaving he was just angry and in the heat of the moment, snapped. “Tempe?” he called out hopefully, there was no response. Continuing further into the apartment he called again, “Tempe?” Marching into the bedroom and finding it empty, his heart rate increased rapidly. Brian walked instinctively towards the bathroom, seeing a light peeking beneath the closed oak door. “Temperance?” he asked hopefully from behind the door, twisting the handle to find it locked. “Honey, please open the door.” Still hearing no response he took several steps back, bashing his solid form into the door, effectively breaking open the lock. His heart beat into his ears at the sight in front of him. Temperance lay; arms sprawled haphazardly over the side of the porcelain tub, blood slowly trickling down her arms from her wrists. Her face was inhumanly pale and a bottle of bleach carelessly spilled on the floor. He hurriedly bound over to the tub, kneeling on the tiled floor. “Tempe,” cried Brian forcefully, pressing two fingers to the side of her neck, there was still a weak pulse beating under his trembling fingers. With quivering hands he reached for his blackberry, extracting it from his pocket. He quickly dialed 911, the waiting; short as it was, coupled with the ringing sound furthered his anxiety.
“911, what’s your emergency?” a female voice answered.
“My girlfriend is unconscious in the tub. I’m sure she drank at least a portion of a bottle of bleach and her wrists have about two inch lacerations on each,” he breathed, searching for something to wrap her wrists with.
“Okay sir,” the woman said strongly. “I’m sending a crew now. What is your girlfriend’s name?”
“And what’s your name?”
“Ok, Brian, my name is Joanne. I’m going to stay on the line with you until the ambulance arrives. I’d like you to wrap…”
“Wrap her wrists to constrict further bleeding,” Brian interrupted. “I know. I’m a surgeon.”
“Okay good, the ambulance is on their way,” said Joanne.
“You’re going to be okay Tempe,” he whispered to her, tears falling out of his crystal green eyes.
“Everything is going to be fine Brian,” Joanne said softly, hearing his sobs. “Temperance needs you to stay calm.”
“I can’t fucking stay calm!” he shouted, misplacing his anger.
“You need to. She needs you to. I want you to put the phone on speaker so you can wrap her wrists and possibly get her out of the tub.”
Brain did as he was told; grabbing a gauze bandage he kept under the sink to stop the bleeding. Brian slipped an arm under her knees and the other around her back, cradling her in his arms and holding the gauze as tight as he could around her wrists. Suddenly her body went rigid in his arms as her whole body began trembling violently. “She’s seizing!” he gasped, turning her on to her side. The shaking ceased, leaving her body limp. Brian once again checked her pulse, feeling nothing. Holding his hand over her mouth he felt nothing. “She’s not breathing!” he exclaimed.
“CPR,” Joanne said calmly.
Laying her flat on the hard, tiled floor he held her nose closed, breathing into her mouth twice. “One, two, three, four, five,” Brian counted rhythmically, compressing her chest twenty-five more times before giving her two more rescue breathes. Brain heard faint sirens nearing the building. “They’re almost here,” he breathed, continuing to compress her chest.
“She’s going to be fine Brian. Good luck,” Joanne said, hanging up the phone. There was a loud knock on the door before it flew open with a plethora of EMTs storming the bathroom, pulling Brain away to continue CPR as they got her on a stretcher, starting a blood transfusion as well as well as attaching a heart monitor.
“Charge to 300!” one ordered, slipping a metal board under her back and holding up the paddles.
“Clear,” another called as the first one pressed the paddles against Temperance’s chest.
“She’s got a heart beat,” one said. “Get her down and into the truck!” he ordered.
“Sir, we’re taking her to St. Luke’s, it’s the closest,” the only woman told him softly.
“No. Take her to Mt. Sinai,” ordered Brian. “I work there…I want my people on her.”
The woman nodded, running after the other paramedics with Brian close on her heels. They allowed him to sit in the back with Temperance as they took her to the hospital. He sat quietly, holding her hand and sobbing quietly to himself.
* * *
Brian sat quietly in the waiting room of the hospital staring ahead blankly at the sterile wall in front of him, watching as light refracted off the silver beams that lined the white background. He focused on anything that wasn’t the condition of his girlfriend, the love of his life. It wasn’t looking good. From a medical point of view, he could see that it was possible for her to recover, but just as possible for her to die. As the concerned boyfriend he couldn’t rationally think of a way that she could possibly live though drinking an unknown amount of bleach and slitting her wrists. He switched his focus to the nurses’ station, focusing on the bustle of the normal workday. They seemed to be gossiping tenfold, glancing towards him and shooting sympathetic glances. He barely noticed a figure take the seat beside him. “Hi,” a male voice said gruffly.
“Taylor,” he sighed, looking over to see Temperance’s best friend. “I…it doesn’t look good,” Brian cried, putting his head in his hands.
“She’ll be alright Brian,” Taylor promised. “She’s a fighter.”
“She tried to kill herself,” exclaimed Brian. “Obviously she’s done fighting.”
“That’s not true,” said Taylor. “She may have wanted to end her life after you left, but they say unconscious people can sense the world around them. She knows you came back. She’ll fight to see you again.”
“I don’t think she will,” he sighed. “She fucking slit her wrists,” sobbed Brian.
Taylor took a sharp breath. “I know,” he nodded, scared for his best friend.
Both were too engrossed in their thoughts to notice the tall man in a white coat approach them. The man cleared his throat, gaining the twosome’s attention. “Dr. Shepherd,” he nodded.
“Dr. Harper,” Brian breathed. “How is she?”
“I’m not going to lie,” Dr. Harper sighed. “She lost a lot of blood. We’re transfusing her but, it could take a while and she’s still very weak. She also drank about 150mL of bleach. We’ve pumped her system of it but just so you know, 200mL is the lethal amount for an adult.”
“Oh god,” Taylor gasped.
“When can I see her?” Brian demanded.
“Before I answer that, do you know why she did this?”
“I walked out on her,” he sobbed. “It’s all my fault, she needed me and I left.”
“Why did…does she need you so badly?”
“She was doing drugs. Heavy stuff. All the time,” Taylor answered. “We both tried to get her to stop, get her help but she wouldn’t take it. If Brian was working, I was doing the night shift of finding her at whatever nightclub or house she was at and bringing her home. She continuously refused help and there was nothing we could do that wouldn’t get her arrested.”
“You both understand that under law we are forced to put her in a psychiatric rehabilitation center for a minimum of eight months.”
“That’s wonderful,” Taylor exclaimed. “She needs it. I want my best friend back.”
“Can…will we be allowed to see her?”
“Minimally, as the physiatrists see fit. They’re going to need to talk through her issues and if they think your presences’ will help or hurt her recovery, that will influence their decisions.”
Brian nodded. “Can I see her now?”
“Not right away,” said Dr. Harper apologetically. “She is weak and knowing you’re the one who may have instigated this, it’s best that we let her regain her strength before you see her, before anyone does.”
“So I can’t even see her? She’s my fucking girlfriend!” he exclaimed angrily. “I need to apologize…I said horrible things to her…I need to apologize!” His words less aggressive as he retreated back into the place in his mind that said it was his fault.
“We’ll be waiting here until we can see her,” Taylor nodded.
“Thank you gentlemen. I’ll come back soon with an update,” Dr. Harper nodded before walking away.
* * *
“Hi,” Brian whispered, leaning against the door to Temperance’s ICU room, watching her eyes flutter open. She ignored him, glaring before turning her head to the side. “We need to talk,” he said. “When you’re better but…we really need to talk.”
Temperance shrugged, closing her eyes and falling back into a restless sleep. Brian continued into the room, watching her as she slept. Her skin was slowly regaining color but her lips were still purple, and nearly black bags surrounded her eyes, all symptoms he knew well, blood loss. He walked further into the room, pulling a chair towards her bed and perched on the edge, watching her like a hawk.
* * *
Temperance’s eyes fluttered open, hurting from the bright fluorescent lights. She saw Brian sleeping in a chair next to her bed. Wondering why he was there, she shifted, attempting to sit up. Brian’s eyes shot open, looking towards her. “Hi,” he smiled, searching for any emotion in her eyes. They were blank, dull, sentiment less. “Can we talk?” asked Brian hopefully.
She shrugged. “Fine.”
“Tempe, why would you do this to yourself?” Temperance was quiet, unresponsive. “Tell me!” he demanded.
“I…you left me. Just like everyone else in my life you left. So why should I want to live?”
“I didn’t leave,” he told her. “I was angry. I walked out. Hell,
Temperance, you aborted my baby and never fucking told me! I was…I am furious!”
“It was my decision!” she screamed, getting annoyed with his persistency. “My body my choice. I wasn’t ready to be a mother, I’m still not!”
“I know Temperance, I know,” he said almost insultingly. “You needed your time to keep pretending you were a kid and not take responsibility for your own actions. But, you should have told me, I probably wouldn’t have objected but I would have wanted to be there for you…“
“Maybe I didn’t want you there,” she shrugged.
Brian sighed. He knew that she didn’t mean it but he wasn’t going to push anymore. “Fine,” he nodded. “I’ll put that in the past. But the drugs, the drinking, it needs to stop Tempe,” Brian said softly, moving to sit on the end of her bed. She nodded in understanding. “You have to go to rehab for eight months, it’s the law,” he frowned. “I think it’ll be good for you.”
“Maybe,” she agreed. “Will you visit me?” asked Temperance, tears falling down her face.
“Of course,” he nodded, stroking her check with her thumb. “As much as I can.”
“Ok…will you lye with me?” she asked vulnerably.
“Definitely,” he nodded, shifting her so he could lye behind her, spooning her exausted body softly. They weren’t perfect but it would get better. “I love you,” whispered Brian.
“I love you too.”