It was much later in the evening when Haley got back to the apartment. She found Gail curled up on the couch with the little kitten who seemed perfectly content to be snuggling with her. Haley gave Gail a slightly worried look and spoke quietly.
“Hey, Gail. You okay? I got your text but I don’t know if you saw my reply since you never messaged me back. Did something happen?”
Gail stayed silent for a moment longer before huffing out a deep breath, whispering a little hoarsely, “No, not really.”
Haley knelt in front of the couch and laid a hand on Gail’s shoulder. “Tell me what happened. I’m here, everything’s going to be okay.”
Gail pressed her face into her hands and shook her head. “No, no, it’s not… nothing is okay, everything is absolutely horrible and I’ve been trying to act like nothing was wrong at all.”
Haley frowned then stood, pulling Gail up into a sitting position so she would have room to sit on the couch beside her. She let Gail lean on her shoulder and wrapped an arm around Gail, hugging her close. “Calm down and tell me what happened. I want to help you. Please?”
“You can’t,” Gail whispered. “No one can. Not after what happened… it’s no good…”
“What happened?” Haley asked, her voice a bit firmer than before. Gail remained silent for a long time, then she buried her face against Haley’s shoulder. Haley didn’t push any further and just rubbed Gail’s back, letting her speak in her own time.
“I saw something horrible,” Gail finally said, her words slightly muffled. “I couldn’t breathe or think or do anything but cry and I felt so vulnerable and helpless. I was finally able to drive back home but I just feel… so awful.”
“What did you see?” Haley asked, hugging her arm a little tighter around Gail. Gail shuddered and pressed her face further against Haley’s shoulder.
“There was… an incident out near the shopping center. An ambulance was called in. I only saw the aftermath. There was a huge bloodstain on the ground.” She dug her fingers into Haley’s arm and let out a shaky breath.
Haley’s eyes grew wide and she sat up a little straighter. “Oh, god… that’s so horrible. I’m so sorry you saw that.”
Gail swallowed a lump in her throat and she shook her head, trying to calm her breathing. “Ever since I saw it I haven’t been able to think properly, and I keep getting these flashes in my mind. I don’t want to close my eyes. I don’t want to be alone…”
“Hey, it’s alright now, Gail. I’m here, you don’t have to be alone.” Haley hugged her tighter and didn’t let go. “Have you eaten anything at all since then or do you not feel like eating at all?”
“Uhh…” Gail breathed in and shook her head slowly. “No, I haven’t eaten. I… probably should, though. I’m not sure if we have anything really substantial.”
“We can order a pizza, then,” Haley said with a small smile. “My treat. Let’s just stay up and watch movies together, okay? You don’t have to think about what happened that way.”
“We have class in the morning, though,” Gail mumbled, making herself sit up and settle on the other side of the couch away from Haley.
“You’re allowed to skip class every once in awhile, you know,” Haley said with a slight smirk. “Just let your professor know you need a day for mental health. Oh.” Haley stood up slowly and started messing with her phone, furrowing her brow slightly. “Gail, I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and never brought it up, but I think now’s the time.”
“What would that be?” Gail mumbled, glancing at Haley rather suspiciously.
“Have you ever thought about visiting the school’s counselor? I think maybe it would be a good idea with everything that you’ve been going through recently.”
Gail stared at Haley for a moment then sighed and leaned her head back against the arm of the couch. “No, I haven’t, but maybe you do have a point. I’ll give it some thought.” She sighed and rubbed her hand over her face. “I don’t really want to think about anything right now, though.”
“I’ll order the pizza,” Haley said with a smile. “We can figure out what we’re gonna watch while we wait for it to get here.”
As Haley ordered the pizza, Gail pulled out her phone and sent her professor an email saying she would be absent. That alone lifted quite a load off her shoulders. She scooped up the kitten which was wandering around the room curiously and hugged him close, and he gave a rather protesting mew.
By the time the pizza arrived, the two had decided they were going to watch a bunch of dumb comedy movies, something that was lighthearted and cheerful enough that maybe they could laugh and not think about anything dreadful for the rest of the evening. Gail hadn’t realized just how empty her stomach had been until she took the first bite of pizza. With her mind otherwise occupied she didn’t feel quite so nauseated anymore and by the end of the evening she was feeling better. The best part was there was still enough leftover for the next day.
At some point Gail glanced at the clock and saw it was past midnight. With a slight sigh she stood up and muttered that they had to go to bed. Haley tried to stop her and say they could just sleep on the couch so Gail didn’t have to worry about sleeping alone but Gail shook her head.
“I think I’ll be fine, really,” Gail said with a slight smile. “But if I do get scared I’ll be sure to wake you up, okay?”
Haley sighed but smiled back. “Alright, it’s a deal. You should get some rest.”
“I’m going to try,” Gail murmured as she headed into her room. Cecil, the kitten, decided he wanted to stay put on the couch snuggled up with Haley so Gail had to go to her room alone. Of course, she wasn’t actually alone.
“Hey,” the angel in the corner said. “Are you alright now?”
Gail stared at him for a moment before turning away and shaking her head slightly. “I wouldn’t say that, no,” she said in a quiet voice. “Better than before but I’m not… I’m not okay, no.”
Cecil took a step toward her and extended his hand. “I think your friend’s suggestion was a good idea, to go see a counselor. I believe that might help you a lot.”
“Is that so?” Gail said, frowning slightly. “You know, I would have thought that this sort of thing would be your job if you’re supposed to be my guardian angel.”
Cecil sighed and shook his head. “I’m here as more of a guide, really. I’ll provide comfort and advice whenever I can but you have to be the one to take it and accept it. Honestly, I think it would be better for you to see a trained professional than talking to me. That sort of thing isn’t quite in my job description, I’m afraid.”
Gail sighed and shook her head. “Alright, if you say so. I’m not going to argue with you.” She sat on the edge of her bed and leaned back with a groan. “I just want this day done and over.”
Cecil gazed at her for a few moments then said quietly, “You know, if you’re afraid to sleep alone, I’m here. You don’t have to wake up Haley if you get scared or anything. I did say I was here to provide comfort after all.”
She peered up at him and raised an eyebrow. “I’m fine, really. I just…” Her voice trailed off and then she sighed and rolled over so her back was facing him. “Thank you. I might take you up on that offer.”
He smiled and went over to her, reaching one hand out and lightly patting her on the shoulder. “Everything’s going to work out in the end. You just have to ride it out. I’m here for you and so is Haley. You’ll be okay, Gail.”
Gail tensed slightly when she felt his hand on her shoulder but she soon relaxed and let her eyes fall shut. “Yeah, you are. Thank you, Cecil. I’m… I’m glad you’re here. I don’t think I ever told you that before but really I am. I’m not sure what I would have done today if you hadn’t been around to help me. Thank you.”
Cecil stared at her for a long moment in silence then he smiled and lightly patted Gail’s shoulder. “You’re welcome, though there’s really no need to thank me. This is my job, after all. I am more than happy to be here helping you, Abbey.”
Gail sighed and slowly settled more comfortably on her bed, resting her head on the pillows. “I’m gonna try to sleep now, I think. It’s been such a long day.”
“I know,” Cecil said with a nod. “I’ll be here to watch over you. You don’t have to worry.” He smiled and sat back on her chair. “Get some rest; you deserve it.”
She nodded a little and hugged her pillow closer against her, letting her eyes drift shut. There was a comforting feeling about the room and it wasn’t long before she was able to fall asleep; a sleep untouched by bad dreams.
Haley surprised Gail with fresh coffee and donuts that morning. She woke Gail up to tell her they were on the kitchen counter just before she was getting ready to go to her own morning class.
“Please consider going to see the counselor,” Haley said. “Since you’re not going to class, I mean. You don’t need an appointment or anything I don’t think so it’ll be fine just to walk in.”
“Alright, alright. Just get going before you’re late.”
Haley gave Gail a hug before heading out, telling her that she should call or text if anything came up. Gail sighed as she watched Haley leave and shook her head. She really couldn’t ask for a better friend or roommate.
After Gail had had her coffee and a donut, and fed the kitten, she decided there was no more putting off the inevitable. She had to go and see the counselor. Both Haley and Cecil seemed to think it was a good idea and at this point Gail had learned to trust their opinions. The two of them really did seem to know what was best for her.
Gail went to the health center on the college campus and wandered around a bit, feeling a stirring in her chest. She’d never done this sort of thing before and she felt nervous about talking to a complete stranger about her problems. Still, if this sort of thing worked for other people she was willing to give it a try.
She found the office for the counselor and after a little bit of nervous debating she quietly stepped in and peered at the man seated there. Gail cleared her throat and asked in a quiet voice, “Am I intruding at all or can I come in without an appointment?”
The man looked up and smiled at her. “No, no, you’re not intruding at all. Please come in.” He stood up and held his hand out to her, giving her a friendly handshake. “I’m Isaac Riley.”
“Gail Wellers,” she said with a nod of her head.
“Nice to meet you, Gail,” Isaac said with a smile. “Anything you wish to talk to me about, I’m here to listen. I want you to be as comfortable as possible before we begin, of course. I know this sort of thing can be a little unnerving at first. If you’d like some tea or anything of the sort before we begin?”
“No, I think I’ll be okay,” she said.
Isaac nodded and gestured to the couch against the wall. “Please have a seat and we’ll begin.”
As Gail sat down and made herself comfortable on the couch Isaac closed the door and turned on a noise machine that generated a low frequency sound enough to block out anything else and give a soothing atmosphere to the room. Isaac sat down in a chair across from Gail and gave an encouraging smile.
“Alright, whenever you’re ready to start then.”
Gail swallowed and rubbed at her arm a little nervously. “I’m not entirely sure where I should start. My friend Haley was the one who suggested I come talk to you. I’ve been having kind of a rough year, really, and up until now I was trying to push everything away and act like nothing was wrong.” She turned her head down and sighed. “But I was just lying to myself.”
Isaac nodded his head lightly. “It’s not uncommon to try and push your problems away in an effort to keep moving forward in your life but it can often cause more problems in the long run.” He paused for a moment and when Gail didn’t say anything he went on. “Would you like to tell me about what’s been happening to you?”
Gail sucked in a breath and leaned her head back. “I went on a trip during the summer and when I got back one of my friends started acting really weird toward me and I’m really uncomfortable with it. But before that happened, I…” She bit her lip and took in another breath. Isaac didn’t say anything and just waited for her patiently to continue on her own. Finally she murmured, “My brother died. I actually had to cut my trip short to go to the funeral.”
Isaac’s eyes widened a little. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Yeah,” Gail said, taking another breath and wrapping her arms around herself. “The worst part was… I asked him to go on that trip with me. I was looking forward to him coming with me, but he… said no.” She swallowed and took a deep breath, her eyes rather unfocused. “He said he had things he needed to do and that’s why he couldn’t come. I said I was disappointed but I didn’t push it. If he had just come then this wouldn’t have happened…”
“Do you blame yourself for what happened, then?” Isaac asked in a gentle voice.
“No, I- well.” Gail blinked a few times and looked down at her hands. “I don’t know. I pushed for him to go but he wouldn’t come, so what else was I supposed to do? It’s not like I knew…” She clenched her hands against her arms and shook slightly. Her voice became strained and hoarse as she choked out, “It’s not like I knew he was planning to do something like this. If I had, I would’ve… God, Axel, why didn’t you just tell me?”
Gail pressed her face into her hands and heaved out a few breaths. When she had calmed slightly, Isaac said quietly, “Your brother ended his own life, did he?”
“Yes,” Gail whispered. “And I couldn’t… I wasn’t there for him. The two of us were always together. We always had each others’ backs. Always. I just… I don’t know why he did this without talking to me.”
“If you were both as close as you say you were,” Isaac offered, “then I have a feeling his decision had nothing to do with that. People who get to such a state of mind where they would wish themselves dead often can’t think about anything else even if they do have reasons to live or people who love them and want to help them.” A solemn expression came over his face as he folded his hands in his lap. “It is a terrible thing. I’m so sorry that your brother had to go through that and reach that point. I’m sorry for you also.”
Gail rubbed her hand over her face and nodded her head. “Yeah, I guess that’s true. I just wish he would have talked to me. I thought he would have trusted me enough to tell me something like that; to reach out to me for help.”
She fell silent again and for several minutes the only noise in the room was that of the sound machine. Gail took a deep breath and began speaking again, slow and quiet. “Yesterday when I was out in the city I saw something horrible. Someone had jumped… they rushed her out to the hospital but I doubt she survived the trip. I saw blood on the ground. The most horrible feeling came over me and I felt like I was suffocating. I guess it was what you’d call a panic attack.”
“Is that what prompted you to come to me, then?” Isaac asked.
“Yeah,” Gail said with a nod. “Because I finally realized everything I was holding in and that I just can’t do it anymore. I just… need something to relieve all this pressure.”
“Of course. My door is always open to those who are in need. And please don’t feel like you’re weak for needing to come to me. It sounds to me like you’re very strong but perhaps you’ve been strong for too long and now you just need a break.”
Gail looked at him and tilted her head to the side. “I guess… that’s one way you could put it, yeah.”
Isaac smiled at her. “I’ll do my best to help you find peace with your life, Gail.”