THE KEY

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She stood at the door, her hand resting on the door handle. Her hand left the door handle and landed on the stickers on the door. They looked the same as she had seen them a decade ago. She traced the outline of the stickers and smiled to herself. She remembered when mother had just brought the stickers home for her 14th birthday. She was so happy. They were barbie doll stickers that she had seen in the supermarket but mother didn’t have the money at the time. The one in the middle read, “I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME.” That verse. It had been her reference point all these years.

She was hesitant. It had been too long. She wasn’t sure what she would see inside there. The last time she had been there she had sworn not to go back there but it seems like fate had a different thing coming for her. She breathed heavily in an effort to sum up some more courage cause she obviously needed it. Her hands were shaking and her palms were sweaty. She was so nervous! Still shaking, she turned the door knob and pushed it slightly open. She raised her head to peep and through the mirror that still hang in its place on the wall, she could see a reflection of the whole room. She pushed it open slowly until there was enough space for her to enter. She looked around and tried to move her foot but she was unable to. It felt as if she’d been stuck to the ground by Super Super Glue. “You can do this Angie. You can do this…” She kept saying to herself.

When she was finally able to make her leg muscles move, she walked in and stood in the middle of the room. She looked around. Everything was right where she left it a decade ago. Her favourite doll, Mandie, was still as rugged as she had been when father bought it for her. She had loved that doll as a kid. It had been her only escape into dreamland when she was a child. Her parents hadn’t been the ‘bedtime story’ type so it was always her and Mandie each night. At times Izzy had let her tuck in with her especially when she had nightmares.

IZZY. She missed her. A glance at Izzy’s bed brought tears to her eyes. Izzy had no dolls on her bed. She only had her bible there. She remembered how Izzy would tell her bible stories from Sunday School and teach her some of the songs they had learned at Camp. Izzy always made her get on her knees and pray the Lord’s prayer each morning before they left for school. She’d always been her ride or die. Her parents were always out hustling for their survival but even in their absence she still had Izzy. Izzy was like her second mother. She was only 5 years older then but she was very responsible. The memories of Izzy were priceless…

She snapped out of it and found her self seated on Izzy’s bed. Her hand was stroking Izzy’s blanket. She’d always said, “Angie don’t dirtify my duvet, your little hands couldn’t possibly handle the washing.” She would always laugh when Izzy said that. Even when she turned twelve Izzy still referred to her hands as little. We’ll,  she wasn’t wrong though. Her hands had always been little though not abnormally small. Her best memories had been made in that room with Izzy. She looked around again and smiled. When they moved into that house father took the day off to help them decorate their room and it had been fun painting and putting up stickers. They had played water guns with paint in the process and they had paint all over their bodies when they were done. Mother was so annoyed because it got in their hair and she had to spend a lot of time trying to help them wash it off. Izzy had later mimicked mother’s face at bedtime and they’d laughed their hearts out. It was one of her best memories in that room.

Despite all the good, her childhood hadn’t been the best anyway. It was her happy place that had turned out to drive her away from home at only 15 years of age. From the time she had walked into the room she hadn’t looked at the bathroom. It was the only part of the room that she hated. She was afraid of evoking the pain she had felt that fateful day but she hadn’t been able to let go and she needed to. She turned her head grudgingly and sat facing the bathroom door. The big padlock was still there. She’d locked it and wore the key as a neck piece since that day. She stood up and walked towards the bathroom. Her hand rested on her neck. She could hear her heartbeat getting louder by the minute. She took it off and opened the padlock.

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Her muffled cries turned into wails as she walked into the bathroom. The memories started flowing and she could no longer block them. One by one, the happenings of that fateful night played on a loop in her head. She sat on the floor and cried her eyes out. It felt as if she was reliving that night. She could see blood all over. She could see herself trying to stop the blood that was oozing out with so much pressure. She could hear herself call out and cry. She could see herself trying to turn off the taps and at the same time put pressure on the wounds.

Izzy lay there lifeless. Her eyes were wide open and she looked like she was staring into the ceiling and in deep thoughts. The knife she’d used to slit her wrists was on the floor. Blood oozed out of her wounds and dripped like tap water on the floor. A pool of blood was right below her left arm that hang out of the bathtub. The tub was quickly filling with water that was mixing with the blood from her right arm. She was in tears. She was losing consciousness. She’d lost a lot of blood.

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Angie cried until she couldn’t cry anymore, she had no tears left. She had always blamed herself for Izzy’s death. She had kept telling herself that if she’d walked in some minutes earlier she’d have saved her life. She wished she’d realised earlier when Izzy left the bed. She wished she’d read the signs when Izzy had refused to eat that night. She wished she’d known what had happened to Izzy when she left father’s room while crying. If only she had insisted on knowing why Izzy had sat in the closet that evening and cried her eyes out.

“Izzy, I’m not sure you’re hearing me right now. I just wanted to say that I love you so much Izzy. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me. I’m sorry I couldn’t stop you from taking your own life. I’m sorry I couldn’t stop father. I’m sorry I couldn’t get mother to believe you. I just hope you’re okay now. I hope you’re happy. I miss you so much. I’ve not been able to live my life as I’d wished and it’s because of the guilt I’ve carried all along. I’m so sorry Izzy.  Rest in peace my dear one. Rest in peace Izzy…”

Angie felt peace fill the void in her heart on her bus ride back to her city. She felt at peace and for once in ten years, she was able to hum the songs Izzy taught her without tearing up. She was able to get the key off her neck. It felt like a huge burden had just been lifted off her chest. All along she had the key to her freedom. She just didn’t know she carried it on her neck every single day…

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