TW: Thoughts of suicide
Walk away, and no one gets hurt. The words rang in my head every minute of the day. Echoed in my dreams at night.
I couldn’t forget them.
If I’d just done what they said, if I hadn’t been so arrogantly determined that I knew best, everything would have been different.
“You don’t know that for sure,” my therapist interrupted my rant. “You don’t know whether they would have attacked anyway.”
I slouched back in my chair. “Yeah, see, though, I do. They said so. If I had had just walked away like they said, we could have found a peaceful solution.”
“Again, not guaranteed. They could have easily attacked once you turned your back to walk away. That’s actually the most likely thing under the circumstances. Besides, you weren’t the only one there, you weren’t the only one making that call. You don’t know how your pandemonium would have responded, and you don’t know how their herd would have responded, either. There’s too many variables present to definitively say the outcome would have been different if you had acted differently. You’re putting too much weight on your own shoulders, Judah. You don’t need to carry the weight of the world – what happened was part of life as a demon, and you’re not responsible for the events of that day.”
This was what therapy sessions always amounted to. Therapist trying to convince me I wasn’t responsible, and me knowing I was.
I couldn’t escape the guilt. My pandemonium praised me afterwards, saying I’d helped stopped the attack against us, had prevented more of them dying. To them, I was a hero.
But all I could see was her lying there, dead. She’d taken me in when her brother – my dad – had died, and I’d grown up with her and my cousin. They were family. She was like my mom, he was like my older brother.
I was powerful for a demon and wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps, becoming a leader my people could respect. So I’d trained excessively and by 16 was probably one of the most powerful demons in our pandemonium. I became arrogant, thinking I was untouchable – and when that fight had occurred, I had escaped relatively unscathed, but my aunt, not so much.
I could still hear my cousin’s furious but heartbroken shouts in my ear as he told me it was all my fault. He was right, and I knew it. I’d left that night, after the celebration, took a train to my last known relative, another aunt, but this one on my mother’s side. My cousin – he still had family back there. He’d be fine, and now he no longer had to spend every day looking at his mother’s murderer.
My other aunt took me in without question, but somehow therapy had become a part of the arrangement. Probably at the school’s suggestion, they were tired of me getting into fights. I’d recently turned 17 and I wondered if she’d let me stay after 18. Probably not. I’d lived with her for almost a year now and all we could manage was polite civil conversation void of any emotions.
That was what I wanted, though. I didn’t need to get attached to people again.
My therapist sighed, bringing my attention back to the present. “I want you to take this week to try to look at the incident differently. Write up some scenarios as if you weren’t there and what would likely have happened. I think you’ll find the result would have been the same – or worse. It’s normal to feel grief when someone close to you dies,” she added, “but you’re adding guilt on top of that. You need to understand that the guilt doesn’t belong there.”
She talked some more, telling me more stuff I knew wasn’t true, trying to convince me to do my weekly homework, all the normal stuff.
Then at last I was free to storm out and return to my angry, moody existence.
My phone rang as I left the building. Jasper, my cousin. I didn’t answer. I didn’t want to hear any more of his angry tirades. I’d deleted all his messages unread; maybe it was time to just block him so he’d stop trying to reach me just to vent. My therapist would probably say it was a good thing to block out the negative influences in my life, right?
But some part of me didn’t quite want to completely cut ties with him yet, even if I wasn’t actually communicating with him at all. He’d been like my brother, spending so many years together in his household. I guess…I didn’t entirely want to let go of my past, even though it was my past. Even though there was no going back to it.
I grunted and kicked at a pebble on the sidewalk. I missed. I stopped at the crosswalk, waiting for it to turn green, and idly wondered if I should just step in front of the cars.
I was a horrible person. I didn’t deserve to live. Just look at what happened, it should be obvious. I’d never actually attempted to kill myself or anything, but every time I saw an opportunity like this, whether to step in front of cars, or step in front of a train, anything – whatever it was, some part of me wanted that. I just wanted to make it all end, stop the pain which tore at my soul every day.
It’s hard to escape the monsters when you are the monster.
The pedestrian crossing light turned green and my chance was gone. I sighed and continued on my way.
I was in a foul mood – which was normal for me – by the time I reached my job. The assistant manager jumped when I slammed the door and a couple of the other workers gave me a look when I stormed in. The look which said they really wished I didn’t work there.
At least I was working in the kitchen today. Only one person to deal with, and he was quiet. I didn’t have to try to pretend to be nice. I could be as cruel to the batter as I wanted, just as long as it turned out fine in the end.
The other worker raised an eyebrow when I started slamming things around, but didn’t say anything. He didn’t seem afraid of me so much, unlike most humans, but that’s probably because he was a supernatural, too.
Sometimes I wondered if any of them ever realized that while I was angry and resentful, I never hurt any of them. My anger was only taken out on inanimate objects. I had sworn to myself that I would never raise my hand to another living creature again, regardless of the situation, and I had no intention of ever being the reason someone was hurt. Not again. Not after what happened.
But I needed to vent my frustration somehow, which is why I growled and glared and slammed things and kicked pebbles on the ground. Something to calm my rage, even if just by a fraction.
The other worker in the kitchen suddenly sighed, catching my attention slightly. “You’re going to ruin the dough. If you mix it that much, it’ll end up getting dry and falling apart.”
Groaning to myself, I stopped mixing, and started the more delicate process of laying out the dough in the appropriate pans. Less hitting stuff. More frustrating.
“You ever thought about getting a job that’s more, uh, physical?” He asked hesitantly after watching me mess up the crust twice.
I just grunted. I actually had a reason I’d chosen to work here – I loved the food and drinks, and working here meant I got an employee discount. I’d never asked my aunt for an allowance, though she could certainly have afforded to give me one. I was already imposing on her by just showing up out of the blue and needing a place to live. I wasn’t going to go around asking her for money, too, so if I wanted any spare change, I needed to work. And if I had to work, I wanted to take advantage of the employee discount.
But I wasn’t going to explain all that to this guy who wasn’t even a friend. No point in making friends, anyway. What did it matter if my coworkers didn’t like having me there, as long as I wasn’t fired?
I tried to be more careful the rest of the day and did succeed in making fewer mistakes and getting most of what we were supposed to bake today completed. I hoped it wasn’t a problem that we were a couple trays short – if my boss was looking for any reason to fire me, which for all I knew she might be, then falling short would be an easy way to get rid of the problem child.
With that cheerful thought in mind, I stormed out of the café and started to head home. I didn’t have a car. My aunt actually had several and had told me right after I arrived, in her cold, unemotional voice, that I could use any of them if I wished. Sometimes I almost wanted to show up at school in one of those fancy, extremely expensive cars and watch the kids’ jaws drop open. But I didn’t. I didn’t touch her vehicles. I was afraid I’d damage them, afraid I’d get a scratch on them, and I couldn’t do that. She was doing enough to let me stay there. I didn’t want to do anything that could bring harm to her, even financially.
So I just walked. It was fine. If it rained, I’d get wet, but I’d survive. If it was cold, I probably wouldn’t even feel it. If it was hot, it was just normal for me. Weather – weather didn’t affect me. The only downside was wearing out my shoes, but it wasn’t so bad. I could afford new shoes with my job. As long as I had it.
Hands shoved in my pockets, I rambled down the sidewalk until I came to my aunt’s neighborhood. Huge houses, big fences around them – a show of wealth, mostly. I didn’t belong here, but then, I didn’t really belong anywhere.
I used the side door, never quite comfortable entering through those giant doors at the front. I’d kind of hoped I’d avoid my aunt but I heard her voice from the top of the grand stairs moments after I entered.
“How was therapy today?” She asked, as if she was inquiring about the color of the sky.
“Fine.” I stood there, jaw clenched, waiting for her to give me permission to go.
“If you need to talk about anything, I’m always here.” Her words didn’t line up with her face or voice. I knew she didn’t mean it, but she was too well-bred to be anything but polite to the unwanted nuisance who’d shown up unexpectedly on her doorstep.
She turned and left then, tacit permission for me to go find something to eat in the kitchen and then return to my room, mope around for a few hours, and finally make a half-hearted effort to do some homework.
I just needed to pass my classes so I could graduate. I didn’t care about doing well, just…doing well enough. I was too busy hating myself to care about something like trying my best.
What a joke.
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