Disclaimer: I do not own Degrassi or the lyrics featured in this chapter.
Author's note: This epilogue is dedicated to all of you who read this story. The response was just overwhelming… it really was. I don't know if you will like my next story as much, but one thing is for sure, your comments for this fic made me feel better about my writing and I love you guys so much.
Also, if you've read my collection of one-shots, Snapshots of Us, you will recognize a character in this epilogue. ;)
- As always, dedicated to those who have struggled with depression all their life.-
"You give like I give, you know how I ache. We all became so poor… there's nothing left to take, I break when you break. You fall like I fall, as far as I fall. You call how I call… we're indivisible, inside invisible. When I fall inside a hole that I can't crawl out, better give up my control as I call you down."
As I Call You Down, Fistful of Mercy
Eight years later
"Daddy? Are you awake?"
Eli groaned sleepily as he felt a tiny hand poked him in the arm, and he wished that he had been able to sleep a few more minutes. His face was pressed against the pillow, and he could feel a headache lingering in the back of his head, a result of staying up too late. He blinked slowly as the sunlight poured in through the window and knew at once that he had overslept.
"I'm awake now," he mumbled, giving his daughter a weak smile. "Good morning, Emy."
"Mommy made pancakes," said Emy, as if the event was almost life changing. "I left you a few."
"Well, aren't you the nicest kid on Earth?" mocked Eli.
The five-year old smiled widely at him, and Eli chuckled at the sight of Emy's missing tooth. He sat on the bed slowly and looked at his daughter, Clare's perfect, flawless mini-me.
"You're already dressed, how efficient," he said, messing Emy's hair playfully with his hand.
"Mommy said that I had to look nice today," grinned Emy, and Eli stood up and carried her.
"You always look nice," he said softly, and kissed her on the cheek. "You're getting heavier though."
"Do I have to go on a diet?" mumbled Emy sadly and Eli laughed as they walked out of the bedroom.
"No, Emy, you're fine," he said, kissing her on the cheek again. "Diets are evil, they are so evil that Mommy's priest said that if you try a diet you will go to hell."
"Eli," said Clare disapprovingly as they walked into the kitchen, and Eli winked at Emy, who winked back mischievously. Clare was over by the sink, washing dishes, and just shook her head at both of them.
"Hey, just trying to be a good parent here," explained Eli sarcastically as he delicately placed Emy on the ground.
"Right," said Clare mockingly. "Well, good parent, we have to pay the water bill soon."
Eli sat at the kitchen table and groaned, causing Emy to walk over to him and wrap her small arms around him. He put an arm around his daughter as he sorted through some of the envelopes Clare left on the table for him and he grabbed one and stared at it.
"Emerson Goldsworthy, I've had enough of your laziness," he said in a serious tone, and touched the tip of Emy's nose with the envelope. "It's time for you to get a job and help pay all these bills. Mommy and Daddy need to stop working so much."
"But I'm five!" protested Emy. "And I have tiny hands!"
"Oh, excuses," said Eli, sticking out his tongue at her. "Okay, Emy, I guess I'll give you a few more years to get your act together."
Emy giggled, letting go of Eli, and ran out of the kitchen.
"Emy, don't make a mess!" called Clare. Eli stood up and walked over to Clare, a sheepish look on his face.
"Sorry for oversleeping," he said apologetically.
"Don't worry about it," grinned Clare. "I'm glad you got some sleep, actually. You've been working on those edits for so long, and I can't help but…"
Clare looked away and Eli wrapped his arms around her, brushing his nose against her forehead. "I'm sorry. I know I've been in a bad mood lately. I promise that as soon as all this four-books-a-week-editing madness ends, I'll be back to normal… whatever that means."
"I know," smiled Clare, and kissed him. Eli deepened the kiss and held Clare close, his lips eagerly moving on hers…
"Someone's at the door!" squealed Emy, and Clare and Eli let go of each other reluctantly. Clare blushed deeply, and Eli marveled at the fact that not many things had changed after all.
"I guess that's Adam," mumbled Eli.
"Yeah," said Clare breathlessly. "Okay, I need to get dressed… and then you need to get dressed, or you'll be late."
"Do I really have to go?" protested Eli, rolling his eyes.
"You promised Dr. Berlasky you would," said Clare sternly.
Eli stomped out of the kitchen, making Clare laugh at his behavior. She disappeared from his sight and he glared playfully at his daughter. "Emerson, you're never getting a brother if you keep interrupting," he muttered.
He walked over to the door and opened it, yawning as he did. "Sorry, traffic," said Adam, walking past Eli rapidly.
"Hi, Adam, it's so good to see you!" smirked Eli as Adam ran over to Emy and hugged her, picking her off the floor.
"How's my favorite niece?" asked Adam cheerfully, and Emy couldn't stop giggling.
"Hi, Uncle Adam," she gushed.
"Wow, she likes you more than she likes me," mocked Eli.
"Well, of course, I'm nicer than you," winked Adam. "And you're not dressed."
"Woke up late," said Eli. "Had to finish my edits last night, it was a nightmare."
"This is why you need to hurry up and finish writing your novel," said Adam, tickling Emy. "That way you will have a best-seller, travel around the world, and forget about me."
"I'm not Fiona," retorted Eli.
"Ouch, burn," said Adam, putting Emy down.
"How is she doing, by the way?" asked Eli as both men watched Emy pick up her dolls from the floor, stuffing them in a toy box.
"Still traveling," sighed Adam. "But she's coming back in a couple weeks and we'll get to hang out."
"So, are you guys together or…?" whispered Eli, not wanting Emy to hear their conversation.
"I think right now... we are," shrugged Adam. "We have the weirdest relationship, don't we?"
"But you make it work somehow," nodded Eli.
Adam stayed silent and just looked at Emy pick up her toys, a sad smile on his face. "I guess," said Adam finally. "Can I ask you something?"
"Sure," said Eli. "Emy, why are you picking up your toys? Adam is babysitting you."
"I know, Daddy, but I want the living room to look clean," said Emy, waving her hands around. "And I want to play Twister."
"Ah, it's nice to know the well-being of my back is not relevant to you, Emerson," mocked Adam. "Go get it, then."
Emy left the room with a smile on her face and Eli just tugged on his t-shirt nervously, waiting for Adam's question.
"Are you nervous?" asked Adam quietly.
Eli could feel his heart beating faster with every breath he took, hating himself for agreeing to help Dr. Berlasky. Clare insisted that it would be a good idea, and after all, Clare was almost always right.
"I can't do this."
"Clare, I just… feel weird."
Clare held his hand and clutched it gently, her blue eyes looking into his. "You will be fine. And I'll be waiting here for you when you're done."
Eli leaned in and kissed her, his hand brushing his wife's cheek. He pulled away slowly, and chuckled nervously. "This is just great."
Clare looked at him curiously and continued to smile, running her hand through Eli's hair, trying to fix it. "You'll be fine," she said encouragingly. "Just be yourself."
Eli gave her another quick kiss and Clare sat on the couch outside the room, pulling a book out of her bag. Eli smiled when he noticed that the book was Hocus Pocus, and it brought back memories of their courtship.
"Here goes nothing," said Eli, causing Clare to chuckle, and he opened the door. Dr. Berlasky was standing in the middle of the circle, talking to the group. He looked up at Eli and gave him a warm smile, which caused Eli to immediately start tugging anxiously on his tie.
Why on Earth did I wear a tie? he thought as all eyes fixed on his awkward self.
"Ah, Elijah, you're here," said Dr. Berlasky in a solemn tone. "Group, this is Elijah Goldsworthy. He is an editor for a very important publishing company and he is a former patient of mine. He is now going to therapy with another doctor because he moved across town with his family."
The group mumbled their hellos and Eli glanced at a sulking teenage boy who had his arms crossed, an expression of defiance on his face. The boy yawned and stretched his arms and Eli noticed the many scars on his arms, and flashbacks of his own suicide attempt came to mind.
"Hey, I'm Eli," said Eli, waving awkwardly at the group. "Um… I don't really know or where how to start…"
He looked over at Dr. Berlasky, who gave him an encouraging nod. Eli swallowed nervously and cleared his throat, ready to speak at last.
"I was 20 when I tried to kill myself for the first time. Until this day, I can't really say why I tried to… I just felt extremely tired. Life made no sense to me, everything seemed pointless and I just did it. My mother found me and took me to the hospital, and… yeah, I made it through."
Eli saw the recognition in the eyes of the people present; all of them had been through the same thing. All of them had tried to kill themselves at some point and had failed at it. Eli was just a representation of their own past, nothing they were too interested in.
"A year after that, I tried to kill myself again," continued Eli. "I jumped off the railroad tracks-"
People nodded as they realized which tracks Eli was talking about. One of them even clapped, making the rest of the group chuckle.
"Ha, yeah," said Eli, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. "I almost drowned, but someone saved me. I resented that person so much for doing that, I wanted to scream and tell her that she had ruined everything… but I fell in love with her instead. Of course, I got needy really fast, I don't know, I guess I felt like she was the only reason for me to be alive. Once you find something that makes you feel good, you don't want to let go of it, especially if you've spent most of your life feeling miserable.
"I'm ranting now, all you need to know about that is that I married that girl, the girl who saved me from drowning. I'm really happy with her, but one thing that you should know is that depression never truly leaves you; you just learn how to deal with it. And you can't let it consume you… it's just not worth it. I still have bad days… my wife has a nickname for them, "cloudy days." That's what we tell our daughter every time my depression gets the best of me and I just want to be alone. Thankfully, those days are rare because I really don't want my daughter to suffer because of me.
"Because sometimes we don't think about who is also affected by our depression, it's not only us. We think that it's only killing us, without realizing that the people who love us and care about us are right there, suffering with us. That's why I don't think I'll ever attempt suicide again.
"I just want to tell you guys that it does get better eventually. Will you ever be completely and truly cured? Probably not. And you're probably going to ignore every thing I'm saying and go home and think that this was a waste of time. But life has a different meaning once you learn to move on, once you accept your flaws and decide to accept life as it is. You just learn how to deal."
Eli stopped talking and people clapped unenthusiastically as Dr. Berlasky stood up and patted him on the back. "That was great, Elijah," said the doctor. "I just wanted Mr. Goldsworthy to talk to you so you can see that there is hope after all this darken-"
The teenage boy raised his hand and Dr. Berlasky nodded at him, beckoning him to speak.
"When does it get better?" the boy asked, his voice filled with bitterness.
And suddenly, Eli saw himself reflected in the boy's angry eyes, and he understood his pain. "I can't really tell you when," said Eli sincerely. "It just does."
"Do you still feel like killing yourself sometimes?" the boy retorted. "Because I still do."
"Yes, even though it's rare when I do," said Eli calmly. "But just the thought of leaving my wife, or the thought of my daughter growing up without a father is terrifying. Even if I'm not the best father in the world. To quote Kurt Vonnegut, I would leave my daughter a legacy of suicide… and I don't want that."
"I just don't see it getting any better," the boy mumbled, crossing his arms again and looking away.
Eli didn't know what else to say, but Dr. Berlasky pulled him aside and shook his head as they walked towards the door. "He reminds me so much of you," said Dr. Berlasky, glancing at the boy. "But he will be okay. Just like you."
Eli smiled weakly, feeling uncomfortable. "I don't think that what I said helped much," said Eli. "They all looked at me like they hated me… like we all used to look at Ronnie."
"But you're not Ronnie," said Dr. Berlasky. "You're a much stronger person. There were so many things happening in Ronnie's life that you guys were not aware of. His wife wasn't supportive, his kids were rebelling against him… but you have Clare, your parents, your friends and your daughter. You are not alone."
The mere thought of the people the doctor mentioned made Eli feel better immediately, and he smiled, nodding. "Yeah, you're right."
"Thanks again for agreeing to this," said Dr. Berlasky. "It must be interesting to see where you started and where you are now."
Eli said nothing but just shook the doctor's hand, grateful that he would never have to return to the building.
"May I ask you a question before you leave?" said the doctor as Eli let go of his hand. "I'm curious."
Eli held his breath uneasily, not wanting to be analyzed on the spot. He already had therapy every week, and he didn't need an impromptu session with the doctor he still found slightly annoying.
Dr. Berlasky grinned at him, showing his yellowing teeth, a low chuckle escaping his lips. "When you wake up in the morning, what's the first thing that crosses your mind?"
Eli started laughing, his laughter mixed with relief and bitter memories, with forgotten pain and refreshing hope.
"I… I just feel lucky to be alive, doctor. So lucky."
"And then… I… told Uncle Adam that I… wanted… ice cream…"
Eli and Clare were sitting on their bed, holding hands while Emy jumped up and down, her face red. Eli felt exhausted after talking to the group, and he keep thinking of the teenage boy. Maybe he would turn out all right, eventually. He really hoped so.
"So, I'm guessing that you ate a lot of ice cream?" smirked Eli, and his daughter nodded as she stopped jumping.
"Yes, and now my tummy hurts," said Emy dramatically, putting her hands on her stomach.
"Come here, you silly girl," said Clare, stretching out her arms. Emy ran to her mother and sat on her lap, resting her head on Clare's chest. Eli put an arm around Clare's shoulder and looked at both of them, smiling happily.
"Clare… thank you," he said softly into Clare's ear.
"For what?" asked Clare, kissing the top of Emy's head.
He couldn't believe his luck, that he had managed to get his life together and recover, even if the process had been slow. Clare had been by his side the entire time, holding him close whenever he had nightmares, listening to him whenever his depression took control of him. She had been there for him, in spite of the tears and insomnia, in spite of everything, and he couldn't thank her enough.
"For not giving up on me," said Eli, his voice breaking. Clare looked at him and her eyes were shining with tears, and she gave one of the warmest smiles he had ever seen.
"I love you," she said, and Eli leaned in for a quick kiss.
"Ew," giggled Emy, and Eli winked at her.
"She's my wife, I can kiss her if I want to!" pouted Eli mockingly, pretending to be upset.
"You're so mean, daddy," said Emy in a sardonic tone reminiscent of his, and Clare laughed as Eli wiped fake tears from his face. "Stop pretending to be sad!"
"I'm sorry," said Eli, smiling brightly at her. Emy moved from Clare's lap and placed her hands on Eli's cheeks, looking into his eyes. She had green eyes just like his, but her eyes were full of optimism and innocence, and Eli hoped they would stay that away forever. Whenever he thought of Clare and Emy all of his sadness would disappear, and Eli knew that finally, somehow, he had achieved the impossible... happiness.
"You're forgiven, daddy. You're smiling now."