It wasn’t the first time. Yet on this occasion, Briony was determined to get it right. She obtained the pills gradually, so as not to arouse suspicion. One bottle every couple of weeks until she had an impressive arsenal—it made her smile through streaming eyes.
She researched the exact quantity needed to arrest the beat of her heart. The night before, she composed a note. Now it was close she was joyous. She laughed at her poorly-formed letters and considered typing it. No, she decided, too impersonal. It was for her mother, the person she was most concerned about.
Briony looked around her apartment, noticing vivid colour for the first time in months. The green velvet of the cushions, the grey felt of the modular sofa, the intricate motifs of her kilim rugs. Of course, none of it mattered. Years of gathering these objects had led to an emptiness she was unable to fill. A stream of vacuous men, recreational drugs, music festivals, high-end restaurants and a stint in Bhutan had done little to alleviate her despair. It was as if a heavy bell covered her head—everything jarred, echoed and weighed like iron on her shoulders.
The phone rang on and off. Anxious voices blared from the answering machine. Her best friend. Her mother. The producer from the show. She unplugged it from the wall and poured brandy into a tumbler with a shaking hand. The prescription bottles stood like sentinels on the coffee table. The pills clattered as she emptied them onto the glass surface. She grouped them into small islands and took a slug of her drink. At the edge of her vision something diaphanous flitted.
Unhinged as well as depressed, she mused, before scooping up one of the piles and tipping the capsules into her mouth. She washed them down with brandy and felt the flowering warmth in her chest. A hand on her shoulder made her jump. Briony turned but no one was there, just the view of the harbour, the boats moving specks on vast cerulean. Tears blurred her vision. There had been one man who understood her. One man in forty-five years. He had seen her, as she was, with all her complications, flaws and depth of feeling. The same man had vanished, once she had given and revealed all.
You’re treasured, a voice said in her head. Leaving is not the answer. Stop searching outside and love yourself. Everything will flow from there. Living is lonely. We reach out to others, hoping to fill a void. But ultimately it’s not up to them.
Briony’s voice was hoarse. ‘Who are you?’
I’m your guide. Some might say your guardian angel.
‘I have to go. It hurts too much.’
Think of the pain of those you would leave behind. Think about how you can be more loving to yourself. Everything springs from the way we nurture ourselves. Or not.
Something delicate and beautiful poured from the crown of her head, all the way down to her toes. It felt like molten kindness made of gold and light. She stared at her hands. They steadied as she reached out and swept the piles onto the carpet.
In the dim light of the bathroom she touched the mirror. Her face showed turmoil and knowledge. People respected the person behind it, not knowing her pain. A mismatch. It was time to fill herself, make herself whole. In the mirror she saw a white silhouette in the doorway.
‘I will try,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’
In the darkness, Briony held fast to the light.