Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CALENDAR (10/20/16)
- TITLE: The Suicide Season
By Gary Ritter
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He peeked through the cracked door into Amber’s room. That was highly unusual in itself. She’d taken to extreme privacy in the months following her mother’s suicide that December. Jason had lost track of the times he’d told Amber to keep her door open and be more sociable. It’d been like telling a cow to jump over the moon; she simply stood there looking at him with listless brown eyes until he’d walk away muttering to himself.
As usual Amber, 15, sat cross-legged on the bed texting her friends, checking social media… or something. He couldn’t keep up with her. Most of the time her computer perched unused on her desk. Why she’d rather deal with such a tiny screen was beyond him.
He knocked and walked in, wanting to say that he loved her. She raised her head with a scowl. “I didn’t tell you to come in here. Can’t I have some privacy?” He retreated with hands raised.
The months had been hard after Joni had left them. Jason’s counselor told him that December suicides were common. Christmas seemed to trigger loss. Joni’s own mother had killed herself on Christmas.
Jason figured the way to shut down any further repetitive actions of that sort was to eliminate Christmas in their household. It was a great idea. No Christmas, no loss. Spring had sprung with the passing of those short, dark days of winter. Days getting longer and flowers beginning to bloom brought great relief to Jason. That had worked for a year with Amber, but talk about dark moods! The kid hardly had anything good to say, even with the warmth in the air. He turned on the TV to spend another night alone. At least Amber had her friends on the stupid phone.
Sunday when Amber was in the shower, Jason picked up her phone and idly perused the text messages. One caught his eye. **Haley did it, we should, too.** He thumbed to Amber’s response. **I have sharp blade. Do it together?** The reply from her friend chilled him. **Suicide Season.**
Jason confronted her once she’d dressed. “Why are you talking about suicide?”
Amber crossed her arms and played dumb. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“I saw your phone. Don’t lie to me.”
Her surly response, “It’s just girl talk. Doesn’t mean anything,” didn’t convince him, but Jason couldn’t get more out of her.
The next day he called the school and learned there’d been seven student suicides that spring. It was an epidemic. For each family’s privacy, the reason had been omitted from the papers. Unseen and uncommented upon. Jason hung up the phone. Pinpricks of fear traveled up his spine.
Jason got home from work late. When Amber didn’t respond to his knock on her door, he burst in. Not there. He roamed the house, passing the urn many times, seeing Joni, missing her, wishing she was there to help raise a daughter he didn’t understand. Finally, he saw the flashing light on the answering machine. “This is Mercy Hospital. Your daughter is here. Please call us.”
Frantic, he dialed and learned she was in the ER having attempted suicide. He rushed to the hospital.
At her side he cried, “Why?” to her unconscious form. Amber’s friend entered. “She did it, but I couldn’t. She hates that you haven’t buried her mom. It reminds her every month how much she misses her. You made an idol of her. Amber felt lost, that every time you passed that urn, you rejected her. She tried to tell you—for months, but you didn’t listen. Is it any wonder she had nothing to live for?” The friend broke down in tears. “I’m sorry I was so weak, Amber.”
Jason remained by Amber’s side. When she came home, he took her hand and led her to the living room to stand before the urn. “Let’s bury your mom.”
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