And death shall have no dominion
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the men in the wind and the west moon
"Michael's dead." She said it fast, faster than she meant to. There was going to be some build up there, really, but the words just spilled out unplanned.
On the other end of the phone, there was quiet. Bad memories crowding in, Susan was sure, and for a moment, she felt bad about dragging the other woman into this. Finally, a voice, willfully calm. "I'll be on the first plane. You hold tight. You just hold tight."
"He killed himself."
"The first plane, Suze. I promise."
"The wedding was next month." Susan could hear how strange and flat her voice sounded, but couldn't seem to change anything. She wanted to cry, God, how she wanted to cry, but she felt like Antarctica. A frozen desert, all ice and snow.
"I'm going to the car. You keep talking. You just keep talking and I'll be there before you know it."
But Susan couldn't cry and she couldn't think of anything to say. She just stayed on the phone and listened to Deb say anything. Sometimes, all she did was listen to Deb breath. It wasn't enough, it wasn't close to enough, but Deb promised she would be there soon and maybe that would be enough. Because Susan's family wasn't going to understand, and Michael's certainly wouldn't, and she wanted Deb with her for this hell her life had fallen into, because Deb had been to hell and knew the road the back.
Flying in from Nevada, it took Deb surprisingly little time to get to San Francisco. All roads lead to Vegas, she often said jokingly, but on the upside, it meant she could get anywhere quickly. She called Susan back as soon as the plane landed, and continued to talk about nothing at all while first renting a car and then driving it to Susan's place. She only hung up when Susan opened the door, when she threw her arms around the other woman and held her in a tight hug.
"He's dead, Deb."
"I know, baby, I know." Deb's voice was soothing, and she was rocking Susan back and forth in the open door. "I know. C'mon back inside, baby. Let's not do this outside."
Inside Susan spent a strange five minutes trying to make Deb feel at home before Deb grabbed both her hands, sat her down and said, "Stop. Stop, Susan. Have you called your family? Have you called his family?"
"I can't, I can't, I—"
"Shh, shh, I can. When you're ready, I can."
"How did you do it? When Cherry died, how did you do it? How did you, I don't know, even get up the next morning?"
Deb sighed, rested her head on Susan's shoulder, wrapped a spare arm around her. "How did I do what? Get up the next morning? Or how did I try to kill myself?" Susan felt Deb shrug against her, and was relieved the other woman didn't sound offended. "The answer to both is pretty much the same. Sometimes I stayed in bed. Sometimes I got up. A lot of times, I drank too much. Once, I put the moves on the agent investigating the case. And once I decided not to get up anymore at all, and drank too much vodka and took too many aspirin and woke up again after all, only this time it was in the psyche ward. Then, I dunno, one day I woke up and it hurt, you know, but it didn't hurt. You go on."
"What am I going to tell people? The police were here. People are going to find out. What did I do wrong?"
"You didn't do anything. Get that out of your head right now. You didn't do anything wrong. People who do things like this, it's not the people around them. It's themselves."
"But I should have seen."
"The guy who killed Cherry? From what I heard, he was like the most popular guy on the block. You don't think his friends were saying, 'I should have seen'? You think before I tried, I called people up and told them? You think I wanted anyone to know? You couldn't see. He made sure of it."
Deb stayed for a week. She made the calls that Susan couldn't, and when both the families descended like a ton of bricks, she stood in front of Susan so they couldn't fall on her. Through all the yelling, the trading of accusations, the crying, Deb stayed and stayed, and held Susan's hand. Susan knew that Deb didn't trust her own strength, not since the suicide attempt, but Susan figured she trusted the other woman enough for the both of them.
Deb's last night in town, Susan stayed up all that night with her, sometimes talking, sometimes not.
"I sat with him... you know... while I waited for the ambulance to come. I sat with him, and he looked bad, he looked so bad. I mean, there was no way that he was alive. The water was all bloody. And he was cold. But I could have sworn, out of the corner of my eye, that I saw him move."
"I've read about that."
"Did Cherry move?"
"They didn't let me see her. Thank god."
"You don't wish..."
"Bad enough we were fighting when she left. Don't know if I could handle seeing what he did to her."
"You really loved her, didn't you? As much as I loved Michael?"
"Yeah, I did. She treated me like crap, and we fought all the time, but yeah, I loved her."
"Michael and I were having problems."
"Yeah, I figured."
"You could tell?" The thought was horrifying to Susan, the thought Michael and her problems were obvious to other people. God, she hadn't been the last to know, had she?
"Baby. He was ill. You know that. Of course you were having problems."
"So you were sick when you tried?"
"I was so sick I couldn't see straight. I was sad, and I was drunk, and I was starving, and one day it was just too much. I was no fun before that, though. I pushed all my friends away, one way or another. If Cherry had been alive, and I was that screwed up for some other reason, we would have been having problems too."
"He was seeing someone."
"No, not like that. He didn't love her or anything. He loved me, but I guess it didn't help."
Deb moved closer to Susan on the couch, wrapped her arms around her. "It gets better, Suze. It does."
"I still can't cry."
The flashing lights were still outside as Susan and Creegan sat in his car, carefully not watching them process the body of her latest lover to kill himself. Sure, Rivers had done the shooting, but it was still suicide. Just as much as Michael's had been. Suicide by cop. Creegan was quiet, but he had kept an arm around her, and while she welcomed the comfort, all of this was just too much the same. Damn Laney, after all his kindness those years ago, he had made her live through this again after all. Worse even then just reporting it, he had made her do it twice. Creegan's voice had been careful when he asked her if she had someone to call, and now Susan sat with her cell pressed against her ear, listening to the far distant ring. It was 3:07 A.M. in Las Vegas, but Deb seldom slept nights; she picked up on the 7th ring, "Yeah?"
Susan knew that when she spoke, her voice would be thick with tears. Finally, after all these years, she was crying. "Deb? It's Suze. Can you. . . can you fly out here again? I need you."
Author's Note: For those who are interested, the story of Deb and Cherry, "Your Own Right Time" can be found in the Profiler section. Check my bio page.