Safe for the Night This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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“By my calculations, there aren’t enough pills in the box.” James’ voice was low and flat. I was terrified. How did I respond to that? He sighed, and I knew I had to say something or risk having him grow cold again.

“James …” I struggled. “James, don’t say that. I’m here for you, always, you know that. Please don’t say that …” I fought to keep my voice even and hide the fact that I was about to burst into tears. “Please … as clichéd as this sounds, that’s not the answer.” Neither of us could say the word “suicide.”

“Manders, I know. You’re …” He paused, and I could picture him sitting on his front steps, bundled in his coat at 2 a.m., baring his soul over the phone. “You’re my closest friend, my best friend, and I don’t consider many people … if anyone … my friend. You’re special, hon. But right now … it really seems like my best option.”

I cried silently as I listened to him in so much agony. I could hear him breathing as he thought of what to say next, and when he did speak, I could hear the pain.

“I hate to say this to you, Manders. But you don’t know how much I hate my life right now. I told my sister about this, and all she said was, ‘That’s selfish.’ It’s not, though. I used to think people who killed themselves were the weakest, most selfish people, but I was wrong. It takes an incredible amount of strength to go through with it.” He sighed again. I pictured him staring up at the cold winter sky, wishing for a way out.

“James, it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” I could hear the strain in my voice, and I knew he could tell I was crying. “What happens if you do it and fail? Then what? And what if you actually succeed?”

Two hours later I woke up, the phone still cradled against my ear. We’d fallen asleep.

“James?” There was a minute of silence before I heard movement on the other end.

“Manders? What time is it? You sound like you just got beaten up.”

“Gee, thanks. You don’t sound much better. It’s four. We fell asleep.”

James chuckled softly, his amusement genuine.

“Hey, we slept together, in the loosest sense of the term. I guess we should hang up then, huh. We have school in what … four hours?”

I laughed, “Yeah, talk to you tomorrow. Think happy thoughts for me?”

“Silly Manders – I will. Cross my heart. G’night.”

“Good night, James.”

I sighed as I hung up the phone. I’d kept James safe for another night, but I couldn’t make him happy. We’d known each other for five years. At least he trusted me enough to talk to me. At least he trusted me, period. I stayed curled up on the couch, thinking back to when James and I had first met. We’d talked on the phone for three years, and knew each other’s deepest, darkest secrets. When he was a junior and I a sophomore we discovered we both volunteered at the Haunted Graveyard, and decided it was time we met. From that day on, we were inseparable. We’d talk on the phone every night and when James got his license, we went to the movies together. Much to my dismay, his work schedule and the distance between our towns made it almost impossible to see each other more than once every few months.

When the school year rolled around again, James made it a point to stop at my school to see me. Without a car, I was forced to take the bus. James waited patiently in the parking lot and I’d scamper to his car for a hug and a few minutes together. I looked forward to those morning hugs more than anything. At 6Ɖ", James towered over me. I barely came to his shoulders. In his arms, I felt safe and warm, as if nothing could hurt me. If I was having a bad morning, just seeing him would calm me, and a hug would keep me happy all day. I loved him.

I realized, that night, that maturity comes not from simply growing older and wandering through life, but from life’s harder lessons. Lessons that come in the form of a tall boy, a bit too thin, who learned to trust, one step at a time. A boy who taught me more about myself, life, and pain than anyone I’ve known before or since. And I knew, at that very moment that James would be okay, that I’d see him in the morning. I’d kept him safe – at least for the night.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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