Read Don't Be Afraid Online

Authors: Daniela Sacerdoti

Don't Be Afraid (7 page)

BOOK: Don't Be Afraid
12.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
The place I love the most
Becomes my prison
The world is just a space
Inside my weary heart



When I came back from hospital, everything was exactly how I left it. I couldn't have handled it if Morag had come and touched my things, and Angus knew that. Only the bed was made, the little orange dots of my nightmare gone. Looking at the bed made me feel sick.

I'd spent the journey home obsessively listening to
The Singing Wheel,
my friend Emer's CD, and trying to forget I was actually
. As we went through the garden, Angus tried to show me how lovely our late-blooming roses still were – but I preferred the view of my garden from the inside. I stepped into the kitchen, my husband following me with the little bag of my belongings, and then up the stairs, slowly.

I was so happy to be home.

I was devastated to be back in my prison.

I was neither. I was hollow. I was nothing.

I stopped for a moment in front of the mirror hanging on the landing and studied the shape of my head. I often wondered what had gone wrong in there. Was it an illness? Was it a choice, a personality trait? Was this happening because of what I went through when I was a child?

Maybe it didn't even matter.

“Bell?” Angus beckoned me up the stairs.

“Yes. Coming.”

I went through the motions. Angus was there with me, murmuring words of encouragement and looking after me, sweet as a mother. I had a long, hot shower to wash the hospital smell off my skin, the water flowing over me like a cleansing waterfall. I noticed that there was a new set of soaps there, white with cinnamon sticks and mint leaves and bits of orange skins worked into them – I recognised Anne's handiwork, my old school friend. She must have sent them while I was at the hospital. It seemed to me that Glen Avich had found a way to show it had not forgotten me, even in my self-imposed exile. Tears started prickling behind my eyes, and then fell silently, now that Angus couldn't see me. Weird how when you've come so close to death, something like the scent of homemade soap is such a blessing.
still alive to feel this,
my body whispered.

I sat at the window seat in my bedroom and I switched on my laptop. I was scared of phones, but I was okay with computers. Weird, I know.

Dozens of emails from Emer, panicking because of my silence. Oh God, I really hurt everyone who loves me, don't I?

I switched it off without replying. What was I supposed to say?
Hi Emer, so lovely to hear from you,
I tried to kill myself

I looked outside, resting my head on the windowpane. It felt cool against my cheek. The view was so familiar I could have drawn it with my eyes closed. Angus had plugged my hairdryer in and laid out the brush that had been my mother's. He was as thoughtful, as loving as ever – but he would not meet my eyes. Every time our gazes linked, he looked away, he busied himself with something else.

Maybe he couldn't look my despair in the eye, it was too painful for him, or maybe he was angry and he couldn't show me, he didn't want me to see.

I didn't blame him for being angry. I had everything: I had his love, friends, a beautiful home and a job I adored. But I had fallen anyway.

I had fallen into the black hole.

Could I climb out? Would I be able to do that? I had to. I couldn't leave Angus broken the way I was.

But the other day, when downing the orange pills had seemed the only option left, thinking of Angus hadn't been enough. Just the opposite: it seemed to me that he would have been better off without me, that I was doing him a favour. It really felt that way.

“Bell, listen, I'll just give Torcuil a phone and see if he can get some stuff in for us. I completely forgot to buy food and Morag doesn't seem to have left anything edible . . .”

I managed a little smile. Morag's taste in food was an inside joke between us: she bought blocks of fatty cheap cheese and anaemic sausages, long-life milk, chemical sliced bread, a bottle of ketchup. And tinned peaches, for vitamins.

“What did she get?”

“Campbell's mushroom soup and a can of haggis.”


“Yes. So I'll just give him a phone, and if it's okay with you to see him . . .”

“It's okay. You go and get food. I'll be fine, I promise. I mean, I'd love to see Torcuil, but there's no need to send him to the shops.” I was embarrassed. A healthy young woman, so dependent on others she couldn't even face a supermarket. She couldn't be left alone for a moment in case she did something stupid.

How did this happen?

My gaze went past the loch to the familiar cluster of grey stone that was the Ramsay estate. I couldn't see the stables and the horses from our house, it was too far – there, behind the crest of dark trees, lay the Ramsay stables, such a big part of my lost happiness. I'd loved horseriding.

But my greatest loss was just above my head: my attic studio, where I used to work. I hadn't been up there in months.

It weighed on me in a way that was also physical; it hurt so much sometimes I felt I nearly couldn't raise my head.

If someone had told me just a year ago that I would not be drawing any more, that I would be too scared to do so, I would have never believed them.

But this is how I live now.

“I would rather not leave you, you're just back . . .” Angus said.

“Really, Angus. It's okay. I'll dry my hair and tidy up and give the place a clean.”

A shadow passed over his face. “You'll exhaust yourself again.”

“No, I promise. Honestly. I won't do it . . . that way. Just normal cleaning. Like normal people do.” I shrugged and gave a little wan laugh. He didn't even smile. “If you can't even go to the shops, how are you going to manage your place at the RSNO?”

A pause. Cold spread through my bones as I realised what I'd said, the implications of it.

“Good question,” he said, and once again he looked away.

My head spun. It was too soon to talk about that; neither of us could have coped.

“Please go to the shops. I promise you I'll be fine. I won't throw myself out of the window or anything.” I attempted a laugh. Again, Angus didn't laugh at all.

“I'll do the groceries online.”

“Fine,” I sighed.

From now on it was going to be like that: he'd check on me, he'd ask me a million times if I were okay. And I couldn't blame him. If he'd tried to do what I'd tried to do, I'd be the same.

All of a sudden, I looked around me and I felt that there was much to do. Everything was out of place and everything needed to be cleaned and sanitised in a way only I knew. My heart was beating too fast again, and my hands felt cold and tingly, the way they did when panic began opening its mouth to swallow me. Too much to do, too much to worry about. And the blackness threatening to engulf me any moment, without warning . . .

I closed my eyes briefly. I needed to tell Emer I was okay.


From [email protected]

To [email protected]

Isabel? Please get in touch. I phoned
Angus, and he told me what happened.

Please write. I'
m worried sick.

I send you all my love,



That was one of no less than fifty emails, imploring me to get in touch. I felt terrible. No surprises, there – guilt was my default mode.


From [email protected]

To [email protected]

m home. I'm okay. Please don't worry about

Bell x


A vision from the past flashed in my mind: Angus, Emer, Donal – her best friend – and I camping on a Barra beach, two backpacks of clothes between us, sand everywhere, washing in the freezing sea . . . Donal looking at Emer with such love in his eyes – and still they were just friends, because Emer was in denial. Emer asking us what the sea looked like, telling us that to her the sea was a sound, a scent, and it felt faraway even when she was right on the shore. Emer and I in our flat in Glasgow, when I was at the School of Art and she was studying music – the evenings we spent chatting and drinking cheap cider, Harvey, who was then her guide dog, asleep between us. Emer and I had shared a flat until Angus came on the scene, and Emer, though she would never admit it, was a little bit jealous. ‘The two musicians in your life,' she always said.

I switched the computer off, stood up and walked slowly out of the room. I gazed at the metal spiral staircase that led upstairs to my studio.


I wasn't ready.

I just couldn't go back there.

I decided to go downstairs, instead – I felt like I was moving underwater. So much to do, everything to clean and tidy, and I was so tired . . .

I looked out at my garden – as always, the sight of it gave me comfort. A blue butterfly was dancing around the rosemary bush, and I looked twice – a butterfly in the winter? To my weary eyes, it seemed like a miracle.

Behind the scenes
As I get closer
Closer to you



Later, Angus sat in the kitchen while I cooked dinner with what I'd found in the cupboard.

The feeling he was up to something – that he was trying to tell me something, and he was waiting for the right moment – was growing stronger by the minute. This is what happens when you've been married for eight years: you start reading each other's minds. I waited.

“I need to speak to you,” he finally said.



“I knew you had something to tell me.”

“I found someone. For you, I mean.”

My stomach knotted. I should have been grateful he was trying to help me, but I was scared, scared that my painstakingly created routine would be upset and that I would have to confront my demons. Terrified of change. Terrified they would make me do things I was terrified of.

Terrified, full stop.

“A therapist? A Skype therapist?” I took a deep breath. “I might think about it . . .” I said quickly. I knew it'd be no use, but I would do it, if it were asked of me. If it got everyone off my back.

“No, it's not a therapist. You look exhausted, love,” he said, stroking my cheek. “Let me make you a cup of tea and then I'll explain.”

“I'll make it,” I said, filling the kettle while a pot of pasta boiled on the stove. It was all so . . . normal. Like nothing untoward had happened. Like our lives hadn't been turned upside down by what I'd tried to do.

Making dinner. Drinking tea. Quiet domesticity.

And the abyss of my mind ready to open, ready to swallow me.

“You know the way I'll be out for work a lot,” Angus began.


“And you'll be on your own.”

“Yes. But you think I can't be trusted.”

“Well, it's more that . . . I can't relax if I don't know you're okay, and you don't answer the phone, and anyway I can't be texting or emailing, I'll be working . . .”

“But you don't need to worry about me,” I said, and the absurdity of it hit me. I'd just tried to swallow enough pills to end it all. But sure, he had nothing to worry about.

How could I convince him I would never try it again? That I would never put him through that again? That I was relieved I was alive?

“Well, I do. I do worry about you. A lot. So Torcuil and I found someone to be with you.”

“Here? In this house?” I felt a cold finger travel down my spine. My hands were shaking, all of a sudden.

“Yes. Her name is Clara. She is coming tomorrow . . . She'll just be spending time with you, that's all. See that you are okay.”

I turned my back to him, holding the counter with both hands while the kettle clicked. “No.”

“Bell . . .”

“I said no!”

“Okay, fine.”


“I said fine. You don't want strangers in this house, you manoeuvred things so that you wouldn't get visits from the Crisis team or whatever it was called . . . so it'll be me keeping an eye on you. I'm leaving my job.”

I turned around to face him. “You can't leave your job! And it's not just a
! It's your life!”

“Well, I don't
to work for the orchestra. I'll just tell them no, teach music somewhere.”

“You can't!”

“Yes, I can. I have to.”

“Please don't. I couldn't bear it . . .”

“Then meet this woman.”

“This is emotional blackmail!”

“Not exactly. It's just that I love you. It's as simple as that. And I won't leave you alone, not when you're in this state.”

Silence. Mutinous on my part, angry on his.

“Bell. I lied for you. So that you could have things your way. Now please will you do this for me!”

“Look. Fine, okay. But only when you're not around. And she is
sleeping here.”

“She is sleeping here when I'm away with the orchestra, end of! Otherwise I'll stop the trial now.”

“Let me at least meet her first!”

“She's coming tomorrow.”

“I never had a chance to say no, did I?”

I took a breath, and drank his face in, his voice. His blond-red hair, his eyes, cornflower blue, the straight, determined nose and his long-fingered musician's hands.

I loved him.

“Bell . . .”


“She can come to the house? You'll meet her?”

I love you,
was on the tip of my tongue.

“Bell, please . . .” He seemed exhausted. Oh God, how much I hated all this. How much I hated myself. “Do you have an idea of what you just tried to do? Don't you realise—”

“It was just a

“Isabel! You ended up in hospital.” He ran both his hands through his hair, and my heart bled with guilt. He'd called me
. To him, I was Bell. He only called me Isabel when he was very angry or very upset.

“Okay. Okay.”

“You'll give Clara a chance?”

“Yes. So you don't have to worry about me,” I said, more sweetly this time.

worry about you.”

“One thing, though.”


“No Skype therapist. It'd be like having to speak into the Eye of Sauron.”

He couldn't help smiling a little. “Agreed. But there is something else.”


“Your medicines. You need to keep the promise you made me at the hospital and start taking them.”

“Okay.” I said simply. He didn't need to know that panic spread inside me every time I thought about the meds I'd been prescribed, how my father's voice resounded in my ears, cruel, taunting, damning.

He looked at me for a moment, surprised.


“Really,” I said, trying to sound convinced. I wasn't lying. I was really determined to do it. Weird. I'd come to the edge of suicide and over, but losing my life didn't seem half as bad as Angus losing his chance to fulfil his dream. Because he deserved it, because he'd given up so much for me. Because he was so talented.

“That is such a relief for me, Bell,” he said, and got up to hold me. We were in each other's arms for a long time, and while I snuggled into his chest, his hand stroking my long hair, I felt that maybe I didn't have to fight this battle on my own. That we would fight together, if I allowed him.

Finally, he let me go, and went to open a cupboard.

“They're all here, look.” He showed me a bag from Boots. “I got them all for you. The exact doses and when to take them is written on them, see? But I also have a note from the consultant—”

“Well, it's Friday today.”

“Saturday. But what does this have to do with anything?”

“There is no point starting things on a Fri— Saturday. I'll start on Monday.”

“It makes no sense.”

“It makes sense to me.”

“You promised me! And you're trying to wriggle out of it already! I'm sorry, but this is not a matter for discussion. You are going to take your medication!”

“I am! I'll start on Monday.”

“Fine! Okay, starting on Monday. Jesus, Bell.”

My stomach churned, and the spell of our closeness was over. I wondered how long it would be before he got tired of me. And he should. He should get tired of me, and find someone normal, and get a life. From the window, I saw a whirlpool of dried leaves dancing in our driveway. The season was beginning to turn; the frozen days were on their way. And I would be cold, so cold. I felt tears rolling down my cheeks of their own accord, like my face was melting into tears, and then Angus's arms were around me.

“I love you. I love you,” he said over and over and over again.

Later on, while Angus was asleep, I tried.

I tried really hard.

I sat alone, in front of the bag from Boots and a glass of water.

I measured ten drops of a medicine, watching it dissolve into the water.

Then I took a pill from its blister pack and rested it on the kitchen table with trembling hands.

Then the thoughts came.

That they were poison.

That they would make me forget things, and shake, and have terrible nightmares, and turn me into a zombie, or make me so hyper I would not be able to stop rushing from place to place until I collapsed, exhausted. Somewhere inside me, a corner of lucidity told me that the doctor had changed my medication, that those side effects would only be temporary, that if I stuck to it I would feel a lot better.

But the monster inside won.

I poured the drops into the sink and squashed the pill down too, letting the water run to cover the noise of my sobs.

And so there was more lying.


From [email protected]

To [email protected]

Emer. The woman
Angus found. She is horrible for sure and I don
't want her.


From [email protected]

To [email protected]

You sound like a bratty ten-
year-old who doesn't want a new babysitter! Honestly,
Isabel, can't you just give her a chance?


From [email protected]

To [email protected]



From [email protected]

To [email protected]

No, you're right. Giving Angus and me a
bit of a break from constant worry would be a
thoroughly stupid idea.


From [email protected]

To [email protected]

Well, I have accepted anyway because Angus
was threatening to leave the orchestra and I can't
do this to him.


From [email protected]

To [email protected]

No, you can't. Write
to me tomorrow first thing. Tell me all about her.
Love you.

Emer xxxxx


From [email protected]

To [email protected]

Love you too. No, really, I

Bell x


All these people telling me they love me. They are clearly misguided.


From [email protected]

To [email protected]

I'm sorry for
what I did
, I began to type. God, how many times would I have to apologise? To how many people? Why, on top of feeling so desperate, did I have to feel guilty too?

Because they loved me.

And I kept letting them down.


I can't explain. I
didn't want to die; I just didn't want
to feel that way any more. I didn't want
to wake up.

I'm glad I did.

While I
was under, I had a dream. I saw a woman
. I have no idea who she was, but it felt
good to be with her, and she led me back
. I know it sounds like some stupid eighties series or
some weird self-help book, but I think she saved
my life.


From [email protected]

To [email protected]

You silly, silly girl. I'm crying
as I write this. God, all that matters is that
you are alive. What would I do without you? Promise
you'll get better. Promise you'll accept help. PROMISE


From [email protected]

To [email protected]

Well, you're still stuck with me, aren't

And yes, I promise.

I promise, okay?

Isabel x


From [email protected]

To [email protected]


Shona told me how hard things are for you
right now with your wife's health. I just wanted
to let you know that whatever happened, I'll be
there. The trial period is not easy, I know, but
I'm so sure you'll make it. And like
I said, I'm here, for anything.

And I have
that book for you. I loved it. Hope to see
you soon and give it to you in person.


BOOK: Don't Be Afraid
12.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Wish You Were Here by Tom Holt
The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
Castaways by Cheyenne McCray
Jackson's Dilemma by Iris Murdoch
Enlisted by Love by Jenny Jacobs
Caged Love: MMA Contemporary Suspense (Book One) by Thunderbolt, Liberty, Robinson, Zac
Trickle Up Poverty by Savage, Michael
The Bombay Marines by Porter Hill