Strong Enough

Chapter 1

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To know the darkness is to love the light,

To welcome dawn and fear the coming night

-The Book of Counted Sorrows

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Hoagie Gilligan rocketed down the stairs, trying to ram his books into his backpack while at the same time trying to keep some distance between him and Tommy, who had been stuck to him like glue since last night (why was anyone's guess). He finally succeeded in shoving his oversized history textbook into his backpack, pausing to quickly eat breakfast, only half listening to the news his mother was watching, already thinking ahead to the long, boring day at school, shuddering. However, he perked up slightly at the word "teenager", and turned his eyes to the television screen.

"… Attempted suicide last night. Paramedics arrived at the scene and were able to resuscitate the girl, whose heart had stopped only a few minutes before. At this moment, the girl's name has not been released. However, she is reported still unconscious but in stable condition. Now, on to the weather!"

Attempted suicide, eh? Hoagie chewed a corner of his toast. That was definitely new. As far as he knew, no one had ever attempted suicide before, much less a teenager. Uneasiness welled in his belly, but he quickly squashed it. He didn't know anybody who would do that.

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"Abby! Abby! Abbbbyyyyy…"

As soon as he reached school, Hoagie had spotted his friend and had called to her, but so far she seemed not to have noticed him, or even heard him. She was walking silently across the school yard to the doors, head bowed, hat pulled over her eyes, her arms wrapped around her belly as though someone had sucker punched her. Hoagie opened his mouth to call her again, hesitated, then shrugged as Wally walked over, jerking a thumb at Abby.

"What's 'er problem?"

"I dunno… whatever it is, she seems pretty upset…"

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"Good morning, class."

"Good morning Mr. Hart."

The teacher quickly took attendance; Hoagie took that time to glance over once again at Abby. She was sitting across from him, her face buried in her arms on the desk. He elbowed her gently. "Hey, Abby," he called softly. "Abby, are you okay?"

She said nothing.

Mr. Hart turned back to the class. He seemed to steel himself, taking a deep breath. Finally, he said, "Class, did any of you watch the news this morning? At all?" Hoagie raised his hand. "Yes, Hoagie?"

"I heard a little bit. Something about a teenager trying to commit suicide last night, I think."

Abby stiffened slightly.

Mr. Hart nodded. "Hoagie, what did you think of that?"

Hoagie shrugged. "It freaked me out a little, but I wasn't too worried. I mean, no one I know would even dream of doing that." He paused uneasily, looking around the classroom. "Right?" The other kids nodded. Hoagie glanced back at Mr. Hart. "Why, Mr. Hart? Was the teenager someone we knew?"

Mr. Hart hesitated, taking another deep breath. "Many of you probably know her."

"Who, Mr. Hart? Who was she?"

Another deep breath. "Her name is Cree Lincoln."

Dead silence reigned throughout the room; Cree might have been a teenager, but she was well-known by the kids in the town, mostly because of her key role in the adult/kid war, and the fact that she had at one time been Numbuh 11. All eyes turned to Abby, who still hadn't lifted her head from her arms, though now she was shaking. Finally, after a silence that seemed to last an eternity, Hoagie spoke, his voice shaking.

"C-Cree? Cree? No… that's impossible. She'd never do something like that! If she died, she'd go down fighting! She wouldn't just give up like that!"

"Hoagie…"

"She did." The voice was soft, barely audible, and it took the class a few minutes to realize that Abby had lifted her face, speaking out. Her face, they could now see, was faintly stained with dried tears. Abby took a deep breath.

"She slit her wrists. Both of 'em." She swallowed. "I came in not to long after… she was just lying there, bleeding… I called for Mom and Dad, and Dad called the paramedics… Dad said that was the only thing that saved 'er in the end, that I came in as soon as I did…"

Abby was trembling now, and without thinking Hoagie rose, gently touching her shoulder, letting her slump against him, as though recounting what had happened had drained her of all her strength. After a moment, a kid in the back raised his hand.

"Yes, Timmy?"

"Doesn't depression usually just happen to adults?"

"Well… yes. But recent studies have shown that depression is rising among children and teenagers."

An uneasy murmuring rippled through the classroom at this. Wally raised his hand. "But Mr. Hart, why did Cree cut 'er wrists? If she was gonna commit suicide, why do that?"

"Some teenagers have recently taken to cutting themselves when they're depressed. It makes them feel better. As you know, there are many vital veins around the wrists and ankles… by cutting her wrists, Cree was causing some major damage. And she was already cutting herself as it was… slitting her wrists, in her mind, must have just been the next step."

A strangled whimper from Abby; she buried her face in Hoagie's shoulder.

Another hand, another question. "But sir, my mom's depressed to. But she doesn't kill herself."

"There are different kinds of depression. Some can be snapped out of now and then, because they're mild. But some, like Cree's, are too deep, and eventually they just can't take it anymore… Yes, Terry?"

"But how come no one could tell Cree was depressed? If she was cuttin' 'erself, why didn't anyone know?"

"Not all depressed people are the drooling maniacs you see on TV, Terry. A lot are very good at hiding their depression, and hiding what they're doing to themselves. Cree was just one of those people…"

And so that was how the morning progressed, with children asking questions and Mr. Hart trying his best to answer, and when at one point Hoagie guided Abby out of the room, nothing was said.

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I am aware of some of the plot holes in this chapter, paticularly the teacher's name. I just made it up, honestly.

Thank God for health class. While I was working on this and Obsession we were learning about depression and suicide. The little bit about major veins in the wrists and ankles is a fact that i-am-the J.A.M. told me. Thanks for that, by the way.

Hopefully this clears up what Cree did to herself at the end of Obsession. If it doesn't... she slit both her wrists, just to be clear.

When I started writing this I originally titled it Fighting Back, but when I went and re-read Obsession, I realized the main reason Cree attempted suicide because shebelieved she wasn't strong enough to fight back, so I changed the title to Strong Enough, which I think fits the story better.