“Things will get better Julie. I promise you. Please just tell me where you are and I’ll come and get you”. There was a pleading tone to my voice that matched the desperation in hers.
“I don’t want you to find me. I don’t want anyone to find me. My life isn’t worth living” she sobbed. In between the crying and the sniffing she lamented on her life and what a mess she had made of it, as if she needed to torture herself. My best friend was suicidal and I was trying to find out where she was, but even though her mind was in a dark place and confused she still wouldn’t tell me.
I tried to remember what they would do on a crime show on television when someone was on the end of the phone and it was essential to find out where they were, but there were always others around and extra phones to trace the call.
It was just me in this room, frantic to stop the girl I had known since kindergarten from perhaps killing herself.
“Julie, listen to me, just stop crying and listen” I told her firmly, trying a different tactic. “You’re not a bad person, you’re a good person. It’s other people who have wronged you, treated you badly and tricked you into doing things that weren’t ok. Let me talk to you face to face. Please tell me where you are” I tried to coax her but she replied with “It’s just so hopeless because even my own family doesn’t even love me, no one does”.
“That’s not true. Your Mum is so worried about you at t the moment and how you have been acting of late. She told me that Julie and no matter what you think, your sister cares too”. We can all sit down and talk about the situation, we’ll sort it out, and I mean that”.
If my mobile phone wasn’t such a heap of junk I could drive around to Julie’s mum’s house and let her know what was going on, but it needed to be on a charger to work. I was picking up my new one tomorrow, but the drama was happening now, not a day later. I was beginning to wonder what I should do. I wasn’t getting far with trying to find out where Julie was, but I’d just have to keep on trying. Surely one of my family members would come home soon and help me.
“Julie” I said making sure she was still on the other end of the phone – it had gone quiet and she wasn’t talking any more, not even the sound of a sniffle.
All of a sudden she came back on the line. “I’m going to do it Mel. There’s no reason for me to live. Tell me what the point is, go on, tell me” she yelled, sounding out of control and slightly hysterical.
“Ok Julie, just calm down. Are you sitting or lying down?”
She didn’t answer my question but asked me one.
“Why are you still my friend Mel, after all the hurt I’ve caused and all the trouble I’ve created? How can you still like me? I don’t deserve someone like you. But you’re my only friend, the one person who cares about me” her voice a lot more subdued now.
“Julie, everybody loves you. You know that. You’re not talking sense at the moment or thinking straight and that’s why I need to bring you home, so we can all show you how much we all care. Please don’t do this”.
“Mel, remember when we were little and we would ride our bikes to the corner shop and with money we had taken out of our mum’s purses, buy lollies and bubble-gum. Those were fun times weren’t they?” It seemed a life time away from those days and in a way I suppose it was.
“We’ve always had fun Julie. We still do. What about our holiday last year when we went skiing. That was brilliant. You could ski like you were born to and I couldn’t even stand up in them” and I laughed falsely, thinking that if I could keep her talking there was a chance someone would walk into the house soon.
“But it’s not fun anymore. That’s all gone and it’ll never be the same. It doesn’t matter what you say Mel, its different now” she trailed off sounding tired.
“You haven’t taken any pills have you?” I asked worried that she was growing sleepy.
“No pills yet but I do have a bottle of gin here”.
“Oh my goodness’ I thought ‘pills and alcohol’. I knew that the rational Julie would never think of ending her life. Not the vibrant, fun loving, happy and normal girl I knew as Julie, who for the last few months was nowhere to be found. This Julie on the other end of the mobile was someone else, someone I didn’t recognise.
For about three months now she had seemed somehow different. She didn’t come out with the group much, usually the life and soul of the party, she preferred to stay in. She was a lot quieter and withdrawn but wouldn’t say what was bugging her. We had always had a very open and honest relationship but it seemed to be changing and whenever I asked what was wrong she would answer with ‘nothing, just things on my mind’.
Julie lost weight too and her face starting to become drawn and pale. No one in the group of friends, and we had all known each other for a long time, knew what was wrong with her, but thought that when she was ready to tell us, she would.
“I think I’ll go now Mel, there’s nothing more to say. No-one can say anything that will change my mind. I just don’t want to ruin any more lives”
“Julie, don’t go, please, let’s talk about our year 12 ball. What a hoot that was. Remember who you went with? Johnny ‘something or other’, remember him, that awful suit her wore, it looked like it had come out of a charity shop. It had a big stain on the pocket. Wasn’t that funny Jules? “I was desperate to keep her talking.
I wasn’t sure if my old dilapidated mobile would let me text someone while I was talking, and I had been deciding whether I should attempt it or not. What if I lost Julie on the other end? I honestly didn’t know what to do.
“Mel, do you think Lisa could ever forgive me for what I did?” she asked. And I knew that the answer I gave would play a big part in the outcome of this whole terrible situation.
The phone I was holding started to make a beeping sound as if a call was coming through. I didn’t trust it to let me answer but not lose Julie at the same time so I chose to ignore it. After what seemed an eternity it stopped.
“Are you still there Julie?” I asked praying silently that she hadn’t disappeared.
Then her shaky voice repeated impatiently “Do you think she will forgive me?
“Julie, Lisa is your sister and no matter what’s happened she will always be your sister. In time she will forgive you, I know she will. It’s just so raw at the moment and she’s angry and hurting but you must know in your heart that even though it will take time for the trust to come back, it will”.
“She told me she hated me and didn’t want to ever see me again, that she didn’t want me in her life” Julie wailed with despair in her voice back again.
‘That’s why you need to tell me where you are Jules. You need to talk to her, to sort it out. Let me come and get you”.
I didn’t want to do this on my own. I was starting to feel like I would never get anywhere with her. I just wanted to shut my eyes and when I opened them up, find I had been dreaming but I knew it was real.
The scream on the other end of the phone brought me back to the present and sent shivers down my spine. “Julie, what’s happened? Julie, talk to me. Where are you, what have you done? Julie” now I was screaming.
Then silence. I don’t know what happened, if Julie hung up, if the connection was lost or what but she wasn’t on the other end of the phone and it didn’t matter how many times I called her name, the silence between us remained.
I think I was in a bit of shock – and having trouble reconciling to the fact that this was really happening. Three days ago my best friend opened up to me about what had been happening in her life, the reason that she hadn’t been ‘herself’ for quite a while and that revelation in itself had upset me, but Julie had reassured me that she was getting professional help with it and felt as if it could be sorted out with all parties concerned. I remember feeling slightly relieved at hearing that ….. But then this happened.
What was I doing wasting time I thought as I ran through the front door and Jumped into my car to drive to Julie’s mother’s house. I rammed my stupid old phone into my car charger to give it the sustenance it needed to keep it alive! I was beginning to feel sick, not only because of what I’d just been through but also at the thought of having to tell Phyllis about her daughter.
Phyllis was the only one home when I banged on the front door. I quickly told her all that I knew and although she was astounded at hearing her youngest daughter had been having an affair with her brother in law (who, and it was a well-known fact, Phyllis had never liked or trusted) she tried to put on a brave face (after wiping away tears) but was shaking as she a told me there was one place that she knew Julie could be.
“It will be ok Phyllis” I told her not knowing if it would be or not, but gave her a tight reassuring hug.
Phyllis tried calling her on her phone continually but there was no answer. It was no good me trying to call her on mine, it had lost all of its power during the short space of time from leaving the car and going into the house.
In his will Julie’s dad left a flat and after his death the family heard about it and saw it for the first time. Her Mum thought it was where he brought his girlfriends but she didn’t know for sure.” We are doing it up to sell it but we have all got keys to it” Phyllis told me in a worried but hopeful tone that this was where we would find Julie.
She sat staring out of the car window picking the nail polish off her beautifully manicured finger nails, then turning to me she said suddenly “You know it was his fault don’t you Mel? He’s been unfaithful to Lisa before, it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. I never took to him, there was something about his look, his eyes I think that told me he was trouble, but Lisa wouldn’t listen. Love puts a film over things, bad things and people. I used to see him watching Julie when he was at our place, flattering her about her looks, and I tried to talk to Lisa about it but she wouldn’t listen, said I had never liked him and I was just trying to cause trouble”. She took a deep breath and silence once again fell in the car. It was only about five minutes to where the flat was and I began to feel sick in my stomach.
“Will you go in first Mel?” she asked me. There was a sadness to her that was tangible and I reached over and squeezed her arm.
“Of course” I replied pretending to be stoic and strong, but inside I felt scared. I hoped Julie was here at the flat but I didn’t want to be the one to find her if…..” I put that awful thought out of my head as we rounded the corner towards the block of grey dull looking walls.
I pulled up outside, parking in a ‘no standing’ zone and we ran towards the front glass doors, and rushed through. The lift was vacant and we pushed the button for the fourth floor. It felt like the slowest lift I had ever been in. Julie’s mother had turned a pale grey colour. “Are you ok?” I asked her knowing that she wasn’t but I didn’t want her to collapse now. She stood back and I put the key in the lock but it wouldn’t turn. Switching it over I tried the key the other way but still it wouldn’t budge. “This key doesn’t fit” I called out to Phyllis who was pacing back and forwards down the hall. “Phyllis” I yelled, and she turned around and ran towards me. “The key isn’t the right one for this door” I told her.
“Oh no I thought I had the right key, oh no, no, no” she called out in despair.
“It’s ok Phyllis” I told her already banging on the wooden door and yelling “Julie open the door, just open the door”.
Both of us stood waiting as the door opened up a crack and then fully, and as Julie realised who it was she appeared both shocked and relieved at the sight of us.
Her pale face accentuated her red rimmed and puffy eyes from all of her crying; black mascara had been rubbed into the skin around them and some had run down her cheeks. Dishevelled hair fell into her face and she looked terrible. Shaking her head and talking in a croaky voice she kept saying over and over “I’m sorry, so sorry”.
Phyllis held out her arms and as Julie fell into them she told her in quiet voice that everything would be ok whilst hugging her tight. They were both crying.
I looked around the dark room and saw a half empty bottle of spirits but no sign of pills. A single chair sat near the window and scattered all around were tissues crumpled and damp from wiping away tears. Julie’s mobile phone was on the chair and as I walked towards it and picked it up the screen picture lit up and I saw it was a photo from when we had had been on our skiing trip. I did wonder if it had been on there before the conversation we had earlier today.
I walked back to mother and daughter and wrapped my arms around them both, saying “Come on let’s go home”.
Sitting in the seat of my car I started the engine and as I did so my charging phone beeped with a message which I read…’your phone is in store and ready to be picked up’.
‘Not today’ I said to myself feeling totally wiped.