Sometimes I like to mess around and write fake teaser chapters for stories I will probably never finish. Gay stories, because otherwise what’s the point? Just a bit of a writing exercise.
Strong trigger warning.
I didn’t believe in fate until I met Jilly Edwards.
People wax poetic about the magic you feel when you first cross paths with The One: the electricity in their slightest touch, the lingering gazes, and the feeling deep in your core that you are looking into the eyes of the person who is going to change your life. How beautiful that person is to you at that moment. How you just know.
That’s not what it was like for me.
Not at all.
It was my twenty-first birthday, and I had a corpse in my bed and a gun in my mouth. It tasted of bitter metal and gun oil, and it had been sitting between my lips for so long the barrel was warm. My thumb was shaking on the trigger, my eyes were jammed closed. This is it, I’d been telling myself. Just pull the trigger, and it will be over.
Outside, there were sparrows singing in the awnings of the flat I rented—the flat I’d shortly be evicted from—and a patch of sunlight had been travelling slowly across the floorboards until it fell across me sitting on my second-hand couch. Pretty soon it was going to reach my laptop. I should have destroyed my hard drive, I thought, and very nearly put the gun down so I could do that.
No, I scolded myself. You’re making excuses! Do it before they stop you!
I closed my eyes again and bit down on the metal. I was out of options. There was no cure for this. I couldn’t leave it until they spoke to me again; it would be too late by then.
Come on, straight through the back of your palate, I told myself, through the brain stem. You won’t even feel it, and there’ll be no more voices.
Taking a deep breath and mentally counting down from three, I pushed all the intrusive thoughts aside before it was too late and focused on my hand and the strained muscles in my thumb as I tightened them. Any second now, any second, the world was going to go dark and I would cease to be. I’d be an empty shell in a pool of blood; I’d never kill anyone again. Everyone in my head would finally shut up, and the world would be a brighter, safer place without someone like me in it. And it would all be quiet. I’d have peace at last. I felt tension on the trigger as it got to pull-point, and grimacing, a squeezed harder. This was it. This was the end.
The gun clicked uselessly in my hands.
Then, I could hear the sparrows; the wind in the trees outside, and nothing else.
I sat there for a second, confused. Did it… fire?
I swallowed just in case I was having some sort of post-brain injury hallucination as my throat filled up with blood, but everything back there seemed to be working. I went to squeeze the trigger again, but it didn’t move.
It had jammed.
For a second, it occurred to me that this whole thing might be a hallucination. Was I even holding a gun?
Suddenly, there were three loud knocks on the front door. I wasn’t sure they were real at first. “Hello?” It was a woman’s voice; she sounded authoritative. I’d never heard her before; she was probably real.
It’s the police, I thought, and then looked around me for somewhere to hide before I realised how ridiculous that was. There was a corpse on my bed. Even more ridiculous were the words that came automatically out of my mouth. “Come in!”
She did, but she wasn’t the police. She a short, chubby brunette dressed in a Southern Health Connections shirt and navy slacks. She had a stethoscope around her neck and some sort of health kit or something with her. She was hardly older than I was.
She was pretty; I wondered if I was going to kill her.
She also looked just as surprised as I felt. “You’re not Mrs Lucas,” she accused me, like it was a crime. “Are you her daughter or something? She told me she didn’t have a support network!”
I swallowed. My throat was definitely still working. “I’m not anyone’s daughter,” I told her. “I’m Liesel. Mrs Lucas doesn’t live here.”
The nurse, or doctor, or whatever she was looked very sceptical. “She definitely gave me this address.”
I… didn’t know what to tell her. “Well, I’m not—”
Her eyes finally fell on the gun in my lap. “—Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” she said, and dropped her health kit. She didn’t look afraid of the gun at all. “Really? Little Miss Trust Fund? Give me that.” She took two broad strides towards me and pulled it out of my hands, flipping the barrel out and littering the floor with unfired bullets. They rolled everywhere, under the couch, under the dresser. It was going to take me ages to find them. She spent a total of one second examining the empty gun. “God, you don’t even know the first thing about these. It looks like it hasn’t been maintained in years, no wonder it didn’t feed. Ridiculous!”
She gave the empty gun back to me. Mutely, I accepted it.
“Don’t kill yourself,” she told me sternly. “Whatever you think it will solve it won’t. Get therapy. Where does Mrs Lucas live?”
I stared at her. Like therapy would do anything, even taking enough lithium to basically make me comatose didn’t work. “You’re making a lot of assumptions about me!”
She gave me a very tired look. “Upper east side. Gold earrings, gold bracelet. Look of forlorn melancholy. You’re some navel-gazing rich girl who thinks she has problems. You don’t know what ‘problems’ is. You should hear about some of the stuff I have to deal with on a daily basis, it would blow your mind.” She winced at her choice of words. “Well, you get what I mean. Now where does Mrs—”
I bristled. “Excuse me,” I told her. “You don’t even know the first thing about me! You don’t know what I go through every day, or what I’ve done, or what I’m going to do if I don’t—”
She made a talk-talk-talking gesture with her hand. “Blah, blah. I hurt people. Someone hurt me, whatever,” she said. “Let me tell you that—”
I don’t know why I said it. “I killed my classmate!” I blurted out before I even realised I had. “And if I don’t kill myself, I’m going to kill so many more people!”
That shut her up for a second. Not for long, though. “You killed someone.” She didn’t believe me.
“In the bedroom,” I told her. “Second door on the right.”
She gave me a sideways look through narrow eyes, and then followed my directions. I expected her to scream when she saw him, or cry out, or—well, something. She didn’t. She just walked thoughtfully back into the living room and repeated. “You killed someone.”
“He was going to kill me. He should have.”
She was definitely listening to me now. “Huh,” she said, and then spent a few seconds considering me before she stuck out her hand. “Jillian,” she said as I shook it, “or just Jilly. You hear voices, right?” She was squinting critically at my eyes.
I don’t know why I was telling her anything. I suppose she seemed like the sort of person who wouldn’t stand for not being told things, and I was too lethargic these days to argue much with anyone. “I’m a schizophrenic. Poorly controlled, according to my psych…” He wrote in my reports that I didn’t take my meds. I did, religiously, no matter what the voices said. Nothing helped.
She shook her head. “No, you’re not.” I must have given her the strangest look. “You’re not,” she repeated, and then promptly smacked me across the cheek with the full weight of her thick arm.
I fell against the back of the couch, too shocked to get up. My cheek hummed, but I didn’t care about it, despite the fact I could taste blood. “What—? What are you doing?”
She put her hands on her hips. “Did that hurt?”
“Did it hurt?” she prompted. “Your cheek, is it burning?”
It wasn’t, so I shook my head.
She grabbed my face, and before I’d realised want she was doing, she was shining a torch into my eyes and then letting me flop back into the couch in a heap. “Your pupils are the size of dinner plates. You have dulled pain reception. You’re high.”
I scoffed. “Whatever else I might be, I’ve never taken drugs, I wouldn’t—”
She rolled her eyes. “You idiot,” she said, interrupting me as she took out her phone. “Someone’s drugged you.” She put her phone to her ear as it rang. “Actual schizophrenics are hardly ever dangerous. It’s always drugs. Yes, hello?” she said into the receiver, suddenly sounding ultra-professional again. “It’s me. I’ve found another one. I’ll bring her in.”
Another one—? “Huh?”
She grabbed my arm and dragged me up off the couch. I stumbled, but she didn’t let me fall. She was stronger than she looked. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s go. We need to get you somewhere safe.” She gave my flat a somewhat apprehensive glance as she towed me out of the flat and pushed me into her car. We didn’t even lock the door.
It didn’t matter. I never went back there, and I never found out what happened to my classmate’s body. It wasn’t on the news—I know, I scoured every station—and years later, I swear to god I saw him across a crowded pub in the centre of town.
I don’t even remember where Jilly drove me, it was all such a blur. But I do remember sitting across from her in the passenger seat of her old Hyundai Excel, staring at my hands in my lap.
That wasn’t at all how I’d expected killing myself to go.
I’d later learn that the model of gun I was holding only failed to feed one bullet out of every thousand, and that Jilly’s GPS had malfunctioned and sent her to the wrong address.
I didn’t believe in fate then, but I do now.
It was fate that the gun hadn’t fired, and fate that tough-nosed Jilly had barged in through my door at that moment.
But what happened next wasn’t fate. It was all me.