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“Leigh, please… don’t do this, please!” Cheyenne spoke in a whisper punctuated with sharp gasps as she tried to catch her breath around her sobs. Her voice was as unsteady as her quivering hands, and the pounding of her heart in her ears was so strong that she didn’t even feel the tears cascading down her cheeks.
Oh God, no, please no... She didn’t have the strength to hold herself together and to fix Leigh, too. But she knew she would choose Leigh over herself, every time.
“Leigh, please, I am right here for you. Let me help you.” Cheyenne reached out and grabbed the thin, pale, shaking arm of the girl standing in front of her, staring into Leigh’s eyes as if in hope that the strength of her thoughts held some kind of persuasive power. She saw a spitting image of herself staring back, but with lifeless eyes and an empty face. Leigh had no expression, no sign of fear or pain, not even now. There was only the slightest flash in her eyes as Cheyenne’s grip tightened painfully around her wrist, and then nothing. Cheyenne had watched her slowly fall into this hole, her once bright eyes becoming permanently glazed, her lips never turning up into a smile. And Cheyenne just had to watch. She was helpless, being held under midnight water in a futile struggle to find the surface as Leigh was carried farther and farther away. It was a game with unknown rules and no way to win. But that didn’t stop Cheyenne from trying. She poured her life into Leigh, trying smile upon hug upon inspirational quote upon reminiscent picture to no avail. The sister she’d known better than any other being since birth, who knew her as if they shared a soul, who knew how much it killed Cheyenne to watch her slip away – this sister had seemed like nothing but a shell of a human with a single ember of her soul burning to sustain life. And now the ember had burnt out.
“I will do anything you need, anything, Leigh. Tell me how to make it better, but please, I’m begging you… please don’t do this.”
Leigh’s face was completely blank as she answered in a listless monotone.
“You don’t understand, Chey. I know you’re upset, but this isn’t about you. I have to, it’s the only way to make it feel better. To feel anything.” Leigh’s breath caught a little at the end, but the look in her eyes supported her words.
Cheyenne forced out choked words between heaving sobs, still staring frantically into Leigh’s eyes, trying to make a connection. “You can’t do this to yourself, Leigh. I love you, so, so much. I will always be there for you, and it will get better, I promise. We’ll find someone to help you. We all love you, Leigh, don’t do this to us. Don’t do this to me.”
If anything, Leigh’s eyes tightened slightly. “I told you, Chey, this isn’t about you.”
“You know me Leigh, you know how much this hurts me. Don’t you care at all what this would do to the rest of us? Don’t you love us?”
This evoked a small reaction in Leigh, the corners of her mouth pulling up into a smirk, her gaze a little colder as she looked anywhere but at Cheyenne. “I don’t think I even know what love feels like anymore.” Then her face quickly returned to its expressionless state, and for a brief moment, she looked almost vulnerable.
“You shouldn’t even love me. I’m a mess, I don’t feel anything anymore. I haven’t been happy since God knows when. I never wanted to hurt any of you, but this is about me, and to be honest Chey, no I don’t care. I don’t care about anything anymore.”
Cheyenne’s chest noticeably tightened, making it even harder to breathe and she struggled to form words. She let go of Leigh’s wrists and put her hands on Leigh’s pallid cheeks, holding her head in place and forcing their eyes to meet. “Please, Leigh,” she choked out, “what can I do?”
Leigh’s eyes softened, just a touch, and the corners of her mouth started to quiver. “Nothing, Chey. There’s nothing you can do. I need to do it, I have to see if the pain is strong enough to make me feel something.” Leigh was now having equal trouble forming sentences, and it seemed like tears were threatening to well in her eyes as she stared at Cheyenne with a clouded look of desperation, as if she was incapable of letting any emotion fully surface. “I need to feel something, Chey. I… I… I’m scared of not caring. You don’t know what it’s like. You look around you and nothing matters anymore, nothing. And you can’t make it change.”
Cheyenne couldn’t take it any longer. The pain of this fragile human being that she loved more than her own life – it was too much for her to bear. She knew what she had to say, and as much as it made her heart thump unevenly in terror, she also knew she’d make the same choice if she had to do it all again.
“Do it to me, instead, Leigh. Do whatever it takes to make you feel better. Let it all out, but please don’t hurt yourself.”
Leigh shook her head vigorously. “No Chey, I could never do that to you.”
“Leigh, I’m not giving you a choice. I want to do this. Please. Cut me instead.” Cheyenne stretched her arm out in front of her, her unmarked skin gleaming under the fluorescent light of the bedroom. She could see the hesitation in Leigh’s face warring with the need to inflict pain, regardless of the subject, in hope of reigniting the ember, if only temporarily.
“Do it, Leigh.” Cheyenne commanded, trying to keep the shaking out of her voice.
Slowly, Leigh lifted the small polished blade in her hand, holding it out in front of her and staring at it with a look of desperate hunger. Her gaze flashed up to meet Cheyenne’s, who forced a smile and a nod, trying to hold herself together for as long as it took for Leigh to act. And although indecision still played across her face, Leigh lowered the blade to her sister’s wrist.
“Do it.” Cheyenne repeated in a whisper. For a split second, fear seemed to flash across Leigh’s eyes, but then she pressed down, dragging the blade slowly through Cheyenne’s skin in a wet crimson line. It was as if a fire was burning in Cheyenne’s arm, growing and growing and threatening to consume her entire body. She clenched her teeth together and tried not to cry out in pain, but she couldn’t stop a few tears from escaping. Leigh’s face had transformed, and she stared at Cheyenne’s wrist with a look of almost awe and a sort of manic frenzy took over her eyes. She brought the blade back down, tearing it through the skin one, two, three more times, drawing four snaking lines in blood across her sister’s mutilated arm. The fire raged on and with each new line came new pain. Cheyenne was walking on hot coals, then having needles poked into her flesh, and poison poured into her wounds. It was too much to hold in, and she let out an anguished cry, tears rushing down her cheeks in rivers. Grabbing her wrist in pain, she looked up at her sister’s face. Their eyes met and the fervor disappeared from Leigh’s eyes, replaced by a look of total horror. She looked from the scarlet blade in her hand to the blood dripping off Cheyenne’s wrist and unclenched her shaking hand to drop the knife to the ground.
Leigh dropped to her knees, her walls falling down, and the soul she’d forgotten she had threatened to break into pieces as she wrapped her arms around her stomach to hold herself together. She began to cry, the emptiness vanishing completely from her face and eyes, her heart aching with each beat. Cheyenne also sunk to the ground, wrapping the bottom of her shirt around her bleeding wrist and using the other hand to rub her sister’s back as her tears of relief mingled with those of pain and silently fell from her chin.
“It’s ok, Leigh, it’s ok…” she murmured. Leigh couldn’t bring herself to answer, but just let herself cry, the tears flowing heavier and the sobs getting louder.
“It’s going to be ok, Leigh.” Cheyenne’s hand continued to rub circles on Leigh’s back. “I’d do anything for you,” she whispered, almost to herself.
As she comforted her sister, Cheyenne unwrapped her scarred wrist and watched the drying blood shimmer crimson in the glow of the light, the last ember of a fire as the rest of the world turns to black.