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Five o’clock in the morning and the phone was ringing. Bleary-eyed, Colin rolled over in his bed and reached out toward the night table with a groan. He missed a few times and slapped the wooden surface; eventually, he grabbed hold of the device and placed it against his ear as he sat up and yawned.
Two minutes later he was fully clothed and speeding down the interstate highway. His eyes were bloodshot and burned in the glare of the streetlights. The dawn was just beginning to break – on the horizon, the sun peeked out from the city skyline, sending out waves of red, purple and orange across the black and blue expanse of the atmosphere. Behind him, the stars still twinkled.
He reached Accord Avenue at 5:13. He parked his car along the curb in front of Adeleine’s building. The door looked dark and forlorn in the shadow of the daybreak; his breaths quick and quaking, Colin arrived at its front step and rang the buzzer. When no reply came, he rang it again, and again. Finally he held down the button and didn’t let go until a shrill beep was discharged from the speaker. He took his finger off and listened to the nasally voice on the other end: “Who’s there?” it said.
“Addie?” Colin spoke frantically into the receptor.
“Colin.” The speaker was quiet; he could picture her smiling on the other end. Then the static came in again: “We need to talk, don’t we.”
“Open the door,” he said, feigning calm.
A pause, and then a loud click sounded from the crack of the door. Colin opened it and sprinted up the stairs, all the way up until he reached the third floor – her apartment was on the left side of the landing. Breathing heavily, he moved toward the door and knocked on it.
“It’s open!” shouted a nasally voice from inside.
He turned the knob and pushed the door inward. She was sitting with her back against the edge of the bed; the floor around her was dotted with white tablets, and an empty orange pill bottle lay sideways at her feet.
She looked up at him with a crooked smile and waved lazily. “Hello there.”
He let the door slam shut behind him, moving swiftly across the room to where she sat. “I’m sorry I called you so early,” she said, closing her eyes.
He knelt down in front of her. “It’s okay. How many did you take?”
“Six, I think.”
“What’s a regular dose?”
He sighed and placed his head in his hands, grasping clumps of his own hair. “Are you gonna be okay?” he asked when he looked back up. Her hair was messy and disheveled; her robe was half-open at the bust. He noticed that there was a bottle of vodka standing at her side.
“Yeah, I think so. I’m just a little woozy.” Her sentences were slurred.
There was a long silence, and their eyes met. “How many were you planning on taking?” he asked after a minute.
“I don’t know. I took six and spilled the bottle.” She closed her eyes again.
Another pause. “Why?” Colin asked.
“Why’d I spill the bottle?”
“No, why’d you take six of them?”
“Well, I was planning on taking all of them.”
He snapped his fingers in her face; her eyes jolted open. “Why?” he asked.
Adeleine looked at the little white pastels lying scattered on the floor around her. “I wanted to see what would happen.” She picked one up and turned it around in her fingers, watching it curiously through her brown glassy eyes. “To think these tiny things could’ve killed me…”
Colin exhaled sharply. “Addie.”
“What happened?” He gazed at her, uncomprehending.
She said nothing.
“Addie, talk to me. I’m right here– ” Her head began to slump to the side, and he gently slapped her cheek. “ –Addie!”
She blinked. “I’m sorry, I’m just so tired.”
“I know you are. Talk to me.”
Her eyelids flittered. “The same old routine. Heartbeat turns to heartache. Heartache turns to headache.” She licked her lips. “I just, I got to thinking… You know, what if I died tonight? It just seemed so easy, like I could just slip off and cuddle up and fall asleep and all this s*** that I’ve been worrying about could just go away and that would be it…”
Colin watched her; his eyes were misty. He propped his cheek in his hand and looked down at the pills.
Adeleine sighed. “And I got to thinking about the funeral. There’d be flowers, and all these people there, and most of them wouldn’t have talked to me in God knows how long – they wouldn’t have given two s***s about me while I was alive, but now they’d be crying and they’d feel guilty because they’d wonder if they coulda helped me…” She sniffled. “You know, they’d just feel so bad because they’d remember what a great girl I was, and they’d be talking about how much they missed me and all the things they loved about me and those memories they had of me from when I was a child…”
“Addie…” Colin said, his voice hopeless and cracked.
“And they’d all be lining up to talk to my parents,” she continued, “to offer them their condolences and repeating again what a great girl I was and that I had lived a good life, and they wouldn’t have had a f***ing clue what my life was like but they’d tell them anyway what a good life I’d had – a life well-lived!” She pounded the ground on her final syllable, tilting her head back and staring, teary-eyed, at the ceiling above her.
Colin grabbed her hand, and they sat like that for a very long time until he finally whispered, “Don’t ever do this again.”
She nodded and fell forward into his arms. He held her.
“I’m sorry,” she said; her voice broke.
“I feel so stupid…”
She was crying now. “The world’s just sometimes so overwhelming…”
She sat back and wiped her eyes, and suddenly she smiled. “You were always the only one who understood.”
He took hold of her hand again. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Colin.” She paused. “What would you have done if I died tonight?”
“Let’s not think about that,” he responded. Hand in hand, they watched through the window as the sun rose high above the buildings, the colors vanished into blue, and the world awoke once more from its peaceful, unassuming slumber.