Prose/Short Story: Goodbye Magazine By Hannah Williams

****Trigger Warning: Contains themes of suicide****

We’ve been doing this for the past four years, ever since we read it in Goodbye magazine. It was the ‘7 Pacts You Should Make To Honour Your Friendship’ article which suggested that friends should allocate the time to see each other regularly. So, we decided that every last Saturday in the month will be used as our special time together.  We called it  ‘Operation Lienna’ inspired by the amalgamation of our names- Liam and Sienna. Liam organised mainly sports and cinema trips and I organised restaurant and open mic nights. I remember that one time we went to play Tennis and Liam was spotted by a scout but it turned out to be a scam. Oh, how I laughed at him. I mocked him till today which is bittersweet because he was so great at tennis and I always want to see him do well. But friendships are about banter and that’s why the two of us got on so well. We laugh at each other, with each other and for each other. If we didn’t have a sense of humour, where would this friendship be? I laugh away my pain and I know that Liam does the same. Until the day, I discovered that for one of us, our reality suggests otherwise.

On that October evening, I decided to walk over to Liam’s house. The new term had just started but Liam was not at college. He wasn’t there today nor yesterday so I took it upon myself to find out why. I called, texted , left numerous voicemail messages and sent an email- who does that in 2018? Nonetheless, I was determined to speak with him. After all, what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t know what was going on with my best friend? As I began walking towards the white maisonette on the outskirts of town., it dawned on me that I never visit Liam. He always visited me. I walked slowly towards the house, knocked twice and rang the doorbell. There was no response. Before I could knock again, a frail elderly lady came to the door looking perplexed and quite puzzled. At first, I thought it was Liam’s grandmother but I didn’t know for sure.

‘How can I help you young lady ?’ she said?

‘I am looking for my friend, umm, Liam Hobbs’ I replied

‘There is no one with that name at this address’ she retorted.

‘Oh I’m sorry. I’ll get going. ’ I said as she closed the door.

I knew she was contemplating on calling the police. I walked hurriedly away from the maisonette and I felt the eyes of the prying elderly lady following my shadow from her kitchen window. I didn’t know where next to turn to so I stopped by the local coffee shop. There was a long queue in which I waited calmly but as the line got shorter so did my patience. When I got to the till, the waiter greeted me.

“Hello, welcome to Cuppe Coffee. I am Sam. What can I get you?” he said

“May I get a flat white please” I sighed.

“Coming right up! I know this may sound strange but you look familiar? Are you from round here?” Sam asked

“No, I’m from the suburbs. I’m actually looking for my friend, umm, Liam” I sighed again.

‘Liam Hobbs?’ he asked.

“Yes, that’s him” I said pulling out my mobile phone to show a photo.

“That’s my cousin. He doesn’t actually live too far from here. I’ll give you his address and let him know you’re coming. ” he smiled and began writing the address on my receipt.

Immediately, I typed the address into my phone. Fifteen minutes later, I arrived at Bloodgate Estates. Could this be a trick?  Perhaps it’s a prank. How could he possibly know where Liam lives? Was he really his cousin?  If so, how comes Liam rarely talked about him?. Amidst the racing thoughts, I concluded that Liam doesn’t live here. He can never live in a place like this? Rumour has it that the residents of  Bloodgate Estate live in abject poverty. Sometimes without food, without electricity and even without water. I pondered on the trueness of this rumour whilst climbing seven steep flights of stairs. Despite the doubts, I kept going. Eventually, I got to Flat Number 7 and knocked twice on the door. There were indistinct chatter, background noise of the TV and then staggering getting louder as the footsteps got closer to the door. Before the door opened,  it sustained a creak before finally spreading ajar.

“Who the hell are you?” the woman shouted

“ I am Sienna Brown. I’m Liam’s friend’ I muttered.

“Liam! One of your little friends is here for you. Savannah”

“It’s Sienna” I said stuttered.

Before, I could utter another word, I heard the porcelain plate break loudly on the kitchen floor.  The woman chained the door leaving a gap unable for me to enter but still wide enough to see through the corridor.  After a few moments of shouting and what sounded like a breaking voice, I recognised that it was Liam. I waited patiently by the door trying to make out the conversation in the kitchen.  Five minutes later, she returned. It was then that I noticed the markings on her arms, her bloodshot eyes and a nose that was peeling and comatose to irritation.

“Liam is not home at the moment. He will be back at college tomorrow. You should get going.” she said yawning.

I had no choice but to respect her wish and leave. After all, she said that Liam will be at college tomorrow. I began walking slowly with the moonlight illuminating my steps but I couldn’t help but feel empty. Each part of me feeling lost and alone. Liam lied to me. Our friendship was a lie. How could Liam not be sincere? What did he have to cover? Were we not best friends? I told him everything, so why couldn’t he do the same? I needed answers and when wishing on the shooting star wasn’t enough, I decided to tempt fate with my own hands and knew exactly where to look.

When I got home, I rummaged through the items under my bed pushing through old shoes boxes, mini pianos and other musical instruments that I never used and boxed games that I had outgrown. There it was- the wooden box. I opened it and looked at the pictures reminiscing on the memories we made. A surge of anger rose within me and I threw the box against the wall. When the compartment cracked, there it was. A note scribbled vividly in black ink in Liam’s muddled handwriting.

Dear Sienna,

When you are a lost song constantly drowned by the music, you spend your life searching for your melody. And when you think you’ve found an ounce of that symphony, you sing on. Till the world tells you to keep quiet. So I’ve decided to be silent on the October 26th. When I’m gone, please don’t be sad for me. I want you to write the song and sing on vicariously for me.

The date on that note was three weeks away. What do you do when your friend is talking about ending their life? I don’t know. I didn’t know and still do not know. So I ran downstairs with the note to talk with mum.

After seven cups of tea, six hugs, five phone calls to Liam, four sad songs, three tearful breakdowns, two emails to the college and one 999 emergency call later, the situation became slightly manageable… until we drove to the Bloodgate Estate. Liam had denied everything. He dismissed it as poetry. I didn’t know what to do. How could I try and help someone who didn’t want my help? Nonetheless, I texted him every day and there was no response until October 26th. A day that I forgot about and treated as just another day at college- but it wasn’t.

At 9.15am, I arrived late at college and was greeted by the receptionist Laura who despite her warm smile gave me a pink slip telling me to report to room CB32 for late detention after college. I walked in searching (as always)  for a glimpse of Liam but he was nowhere to be found.

When Mrs. Descartes had finished addressing the class and putting three mathematical questions on the whiteboard, she looked at me and called me outside. She began by asking me if everything was okay and questioned me on why I was late to college. After that, she asked me to come by to her office at lunchtime as she wanted to discuss something very serious with me.  The uncertainty was too much because we both knew that on Monday, Mathematics was a double lesson followed by a free time slot and then another lesson for Geography in which lunch then took place an hour after. To be honest, I preferred using my free time for something else like eating or revision or creative writing or even drawing. Then, I thought it might be about Liam. Perhaps Mrs. Descartes knew something that I didn’t. After two hours of mathematics, I embarked into geography. Taking out my Developmental Geography textbook along with my floral notepad, matching pens and pencil case. I got immersed in the class discussion on the role of foreign aid that I slowly worried less about Liam. After all, he didn’t want to speak with me.

Eventually, it was lunchtime. With my heart palpitating and my breath growing short, I walked up the stairs to the second floor and turned right to approach the burnished brown door with a brass sign stating D.E Descartes. We all knew that her first name was Delores but nobody knew what the ‘E’ stood for. Could it be Elizabeth or Eleanor ? Perhaps it was Emily or something old fashioned like Edna or Edith? I got nervous approaching our Head of Year because Mrs. Descartes was quite strict so I was surprised she didn’t shout or throw me out of her classroom this morning when I was late. After a few moments in catching my breath, I knocked on her door and waited for her response telling me to come in. I could see her eyes tearing and her voice broken. She cleared her throat and asked me when was the last time I saw Liam.  Reluctant to tell her, I began by biting my tongue. She cleared her throat and said: Sienna Brown, this is very serious. We need you to write a police statement on what you know about Liam.

She pulled out an headed paper with the police logo and asked me to write all I could remember. I didn’t. She sighed stating that I was making a senseless decision and that this matter was hanging on life and death.

Was Liam in trouble with the police I asked. She said no. Was Liam in trouble with the college? She said no. I lost my temper and screamed. What on earth is going on here? Immediately a sea of tears swelled down my face and in the first time in history, I saw Mrs. Descartes voice limp and crackly she said “Nobody told you eh? Its Liam. He was found in his room overdosed on his mother’s drugs and pills. He tried committing suicide. The three things they found was an envelope with two notes- one for his family and one for you and the Goodbye magazine article.”  

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