The Victim

Chapter Two: Friends

Hanging by a thread

Every day I begged her to explain herself, to get ahead of the story. Maybe it would have made a difference, who knows. As the election got closer, news about ‘the arsonist’ flooded national tv. The police tracked him down to a building, but then the building caught fire and he managed to escape. Meanwhile, we became lepers. All the funds for the campaign were withdrawn. Her uncle said, “don’t worry, in a couple of years nobody will remember all this and you’ll have another shot.”

And she kept her head down as the other candidate steamrolled her in the primaries. After that, she became… well, gloomy to say the least. She hasn’t gone out after that. It’s been two weeks after the election already and she still won’t go out, or talk to anyone but me, or eat… I’ve expressed my concerns to my friend from school, who has been promoted and now heads tol. In fact, she was kind enough to restore my position there. During dinner at her place, she dismisses my concerns: “She’ll be fine,” she says. “She needs time to recover from the whole thing.”

“I mean, maybe you’re right,” I say. “… but she doesn’t seem to recover. It’s been two weeks since the election, and she stills refuses to talk about it. What are we going to do now? I left law school to help her, and now her dreams are up in flames. And you taking over tol hasn’t exactly helped her either… Not that I blame you, of course. You’re doing a great job.” She smiles at the compliment. “I think you should start looking at getting back to college,” she says. “I’m sure her uncle can get you back without much trouble.”

We stay in silence for a few moments. “Ok, I haven’t told you everything,” I say. “She has started drinking… heavily. I can’t stand being there when she… it reminds me of… well, you know who.” My friend from school takes my hand. “You can come live with me, if you want to…” she says. I’m tempted by the offer, but I can’t. “No, I have to stand by her side. Otherwise, I don’t know what will happen to her… I’ve seen her mix antidepressants with wine during dinner. I’ve warned her, but she resents me for what happened—”

“Look,” she says sternly. “It’s great that you want to look after her. It’s great that you want to help her. But I remember how you were after your adoptive mother… you know. And it wasn’t fair. You have to think about yourself too, otherwise—” “Please,” I interrupt her. “you don’t understand. I can’t let her become… like that. Not if I can stop it.”

After dinner, I return to our apartment. My girlfriend’s drunk. The next two months I try to help her quit drinking. I set up an intervention with her brother and my friend from school, but she accuses us of being paranoid and runs from us. I stand her abuse without complaining and spend increasingly less time home. Finally, one day after working all day at tol, I get home and she’s on the couch with a bottle of tequila, watching tv. “Ahoy matey… Come aboard!” she greets me, clearly drunk, and it just makes me see red. I wrestle the bottle away from her arms. “No, no,” she pitifully screams after I finally manage to pull it from her. “You are trying to replace me with… this?” I ask. She returns her look to the tv, pulls another bottle she had hidden under the couch and opens it, smiling smugly. “… at least it doesn’t b-word and moan all day…” she mutters, suckling from the bottle.

“Ok, that’s it!” I say calmly. “The other day my friend from school offered me to live with her until you… pull yourself together, and I’m going to accept her offer.” She smiles as she takes another drink. I start picking up my stuff and putting it in a bag. “Good, say ‘hi’ to that backstabbing, girlfriend-stealing b-word for me. If my job wasn’t enough, she also had to take you from me…” I stop for a moment and wipe the tears from my eyes. “Look, nobody but you ‘stole me.’ I told you what my… mother did. I told you I would never accept a drunk. And still I’ve stuck with you this long. But I’m done. Don’t call me again until you’re sober.”

I slam my room’s door and go on packing, unable to stop the tears from pouring. Finally I’m done and come out. The tv is off and she’s crying, crawled up in a ball. “Don’t… don’t leave like this… please,” she sobs. “I can’t stand what I’ve become…” She reaches for my hand, but I refuse to touch her. “If you had just—” but I stop myself. “What?” she asks, sobbing. “If you had just accepted defeat, I wouldn’t have thought less of you. But no, you had to crash into flames. What about tol, huh? You abandoned that as well, and if it hadn’t been for my friend from—”

“Don’t talk about her please!” she jumps at me. “I couldn’t stand it now… please.” “I should have been her roommate, not yours,” I say. “By now I would be finishing college—” “Don’t say that please,” she interrupts me, crying, but I go on talking. “I would be ready to join a nice firm and start my life… possibly with her even.” She’s just crying now. “I’m leaving, and now I’m not even sure… I’m not sure I want to see you anymore,” I say.

She grabs my arm one last time. “Don’t do this, please.” I push her away and leave the apartment. I walk away from her cries, from her drama and all this pain. It’s late into the night, but I don’t care, I just need to keep walking. As long as I’m out here, the world is on hold. I know I didn’t mean what I said and just wanted to hurt her. It was selfish, and I blame myself. Tomorrow I will tell her I’m sorry. But tonight I can’t stand her one more minute.

I fall asleep on a bench at a nearby park, and only sunrise manages to wake me up. I feel bad for what I’ve done to her, but I guess it’s for the better. Still, I can’t help but feel I could have gone down a different path. But who knows where that would’ve led me. I go directly to my office at tol, where I see her brother is also in early. After doubting whether or not I should say something, I finally enter his office and say “I’m concerned about your sister.” He frowns. “Why?” “Didn’t she call you yesterday?” I ask.

“No, why, what’s going on?” he asks, also worriedly. “Look, yesterday she was in bad shape. She was drinking, and we…” I sigh deeply. “We had an ugly fight. Look, I tried calling her now but she won’t pick up…” I pause, starting to truly worry. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so rough. He starts preparing coffee, more relaxed. “Oh, don’t worry. She’s quite the drama queen, as you know by now. She’ll get over it.” I find it strange that he talks about her this way. “Still, I think we should both talk to her today.” He sighs, showing he doesn’t really want the drama. “Fine…” he finally concedes.

After we have had breakfast, at around eight am, we drive to the apartment. I knock on the door several times and text her, but there’s no response. “Maybe she’s sleeping? Or she has gone out,” I say. “No, I don’t think so. Give me the key,” he asks. He opens the door and we come inside. There she is, on the same couch I left her last night, with an empty bottle of painkillers on the floor and an almost-empty bottle of tequila. “Sis, wake up,” he says, not noticing the pills. “Uhm…” I start, but he doesn’t listen to me. “Come on, can you hear me, it’s us? Sis!”

I take my hands to my mouth. He notices me staring and looks at what I’m looking, the bottle of pills. Her face is pale, looking nowhere with an empty stare. “Holy s-word! What have you done!?” he starts shaking her. “Call an ambulance! Quick!” he commands, and I obey. He breathes air into her lungs, and pounds her chest, screaming “wake up!” People start to gather outside the room, drawn in by the noise. We stay in that dreadful state of panic until the paramedics come.

Shortly after inspecting her they tell us it’s over, she’s gone, and close her eyes. Her brother breaks down crying. I just… I… I have no words.