Thomas John Vincent MacDonald
16 years old
The sky was sad when he glanced up at it, gray waiting for the tears to burst. The trees were shaking, trembling as they waited for the storm to come. Thomas just sat on the bench, waiting for the storm just as eagerly. He sat and waited for something he knew would come and thought about what he didn’t know.
Thomas didn’t know if his sweater would be warm enough for the storm. He didn’t know if he had finished his math homework. He didn’t know if he needed to pick up dinner or not. He didn’t know if his converse would last to his next paycheck. Thomas surely didn’t know why this bench was so rough on his back.
He pushed up his glasses and closed his eyes, feeling the wind. He didn’t know if his prescription was up. Thomas didn’t know why he was sitting around waiting for a storm he could just as easily watch from his window. He didn’t know why the smell of the oncoming rain calmed him as much as it did. Thomas just sat back and let the stresses of the world roll off him. He had plenty of stresses in his life, so he always made time for thunderstorms.
His phone vibrated in his coat’s pocket, and he sighed at the interruption. His phone flashed the name Joseph Marriot, along with a photo of him and the tawny-haired boy on Grace’s sixteenth birthday. He didn’t know why Joseph would call him unless it had something to do with Grace. He creased his eyebrows with concern and answered immediately.
“Hey,” Thomas greeted and Joseph could hear the concern lacing his voice.
“It’s Grace,” Joseph replied, voice thick with tears. Thomas tensed at his sadness and straightened his posture on the bench.
“What happened?” Thomas asked, worried as he always was for her.
Joseph sniffed, throat tight. “She tried, Thomas. She actually did,” He stuttered out before Thomas heard another storm of sobs wrack him. The lightning cracked above him, and he teared up at both sounds.
Thomas’ hands shook as he held the phone close to his ear, zipping up his jacket and rushing out of the park. “Which hospital is she at?”
“The University Hospital on Spruce Street,” Joseph replied hoarsely, and Thomas knew that it had been too long for him.
Thomas nodded and sat in the driver’s seat, “I’m in Fairmount Park, I’ll be there in ten minutes, okay?” He cranked up the car and hung up the phone before Joseph could say anything more. He placed his forehead against the steering wheel, focusing on his breathing. He couldn’t stress about this now; he couldn’t overthink this. He had to be there for Grace throughout her recovery, not blame himself insistently. A tear slipped from his eye and he wiped it away quickly before pulling away from the park.
He rushed into the waiting room of the psychiatric ward to be greeted by a crying Joseph. He had wrapped his arms around the taller boy and he eventually wrapped his arms back around him, eyes focused on the hallway where Grace had to be. Joseph let him go, holding him by his shoulders, tear stains down his cheeks. Thomas bit his thumb, wishing he had been here earlier.
“She’s okay, well physically,” Joseph sighed, biting his lip and letting go of Thomas. “She’s going to have to stay here for the next week, work on everything.”
Thomas nodded, still focusing on each breath. It’ll be okay. She’ll be okay. He would never understand how he ended up here for everything was a blur around him. He just wanted to wake up and call Grace and tell her about his wild dream. “Can I see her?” he asked calmly.
Joseph nodded, “Yeah. She’s a bit out of it though, they gave her sedatives to calm her but she wants to see you. I know it.” Thomas teared up a bit at this, but only sniffed and wiped them away. The hallway was bright as Joseph led her to Grace’s room, and he felt sick. He felt tense under the fluorescent lights. He wanted to hide, wanted to go back before everything started spiraling and take Grace and run.
He froze when he saw her. Her auburn waves splayed out on the white pillow and her body curled in on itself, and she had never looked so small. Silent tears ran down his face but he refused to acknowledge them as he walked to her bedside. He stood facing her and pushed a strand of hair out of her face as she looked up at him. Her light blue eyes weren’t filled with sadness like they had been, no they were filled with shame and loss. Thomas swallowed and sat down, taking her hand in both of his. His hands were shaking as he held hers, and he leaned his forehead against their hands and let the tears slip.
“I’m so sorry,” Grace whispered to him. He looked up and shook his head.
“No, never apologize to me,” he whispered somewhat frantically. “I just,” he stuttered out. “Oh my god, you’re okay. You’re okay,” he said between cries. He was still in shock, and he felt like he would never be able to comprehend what was happening. Grace tried to do it, he thought. One of my best friends since age 7 tried to end her life today, he thought. He shook his head.
“Are you, are you up to talking about it?” he asked hesitantly. Grace sighed and shook her head, but knew she would have to talk about it soon. Thomas understood, if it was fresh to him it had to be fresh to her. They sat there for a while, breathing each other in. Thomas shaking as he held her hand and Grace felt forever grateful for the friend in front of her.
“I’m scared,” Grace said tiredly, interrupting the silence. She felt uncontrollable, out of circuit. She’d crossed her final barrier, and now she was here to deal with what that meant. It scared her, terrified her to her bone.
Thomas looked up at her. “You are?” he questioned, urging her to explain.
Grace sighed and slowly sat up, aching all over. Thomas lost her hand as she did this and decided to let her take his hand if she needed it. She laced her fingers together and twiddled her thumbs, looking down on them as she spoke.
“This changes everything, Thomas. There’s no erasing this. This will affect me all my life, something I did at 16 will change the rest of my life,” she said shakily and Thomas only listened. Grace knew she’d be speaking with plenty of therapists and psychiatrists over the next week, but that was going to be about what led her to here. What was she going to do with the life she was going to live now? The life she never thought she’d have?
“Thomas, everything is different now. I don’t know what things will mean for me anymore. I don’t know who will stay and who will leave. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself! What am I supposed to do once this next week is over? Continue business as usual? How am I supposed to do that? I tried to kill myself!” Grace had started to cry again, shaking and scared. Thomas only took her hand in his again and looked her in the eye.
“Hey, hey it’s going to be okay. They’re going to help you with what’s next. You’re going to be okay,” Thomas swore to her, and to himself.
“They’re going to help me with what landed me here, not with what’s next. I don’t feel okay, and I haven’t for a long time, Thomas. I don’t know what to do,” she said quietly, taking her hand away from Thomas’ and covering her face. Thomas sighed and slowly sat next to Grace on the bed, careful of her now frail body. He looked to her for permission before wrapping his arms around her. Thomas was warm against her, but Grace was still oh so cold. Thomas’ sweater was soft against her arms that ended with bandaged wrists, but Grace still felt pained. Thomas was familiar to her, but Grace still felt lost.
“If they don’t help you with what’s next then I will, okay? You’re lost, I know but I’m going to help you find a way. I’m not going to leave you,” he whispered this near her ear and hugged her tighter. “I swear I won’t because you’re more than this. You’re more than something you did at 16,” He told her sincerely.
The sun began to set through the clouds, and things weren’t going to be dark forever. Visiting hours would end and Thomas would leave her with a promise and a lingering handhold.
“What now?” Joseph said as they exited the hospital doors to a hooded area protecting them from the downpour. Thomas sighed and threw up his hood.
“We stay,” he said before walking into the Philadelphia rain and to his car and then on to home.