Trigger Warning: Suicidal Ideation
Mel parked her motorcycle in front of the community pool at midnight. It being the dead of winter, the pool had closed weeks ago and been drained for cleaning. Mel didn’t care, though. She pulled a six-pack and a pair of bolt cutters out of her sidecar and walked up to the gate. The community center had only used a cheap chain—no bigger than eleven millimeters in diameter—and a bike lock to secure it. The bolt cutters made quick work of the chain, and Mel tossed the tool back in her sidecar before taking her beer through the open gate.
Mel stopped in front of the pool and took in a deep breath. Even with a lack of water, the air still smelled of chlorine. Mel suppressed the tears that threatened to trickle from the edges of her eyes. She sat down with her legs dangling over the edge of the pool and pulled her mermaid bottle opener out of the pocket of her leather jacket. She sighed as she traced the scales on the mermaid’s tail.
“Such a stupid gift,” she murmured, her voice cracking.
She reached for a beer and popped the top off. One swig…two…three…in three minutes, the entire beer was gone. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand before throwing the bottle into the empty pool. The shattering made such a satisfying sound. She almost didn’t care that some poor fool would have to clean up all those glass shards.
Mel grabbed another beer. She stared at the bottle opener and then shook her head.
“Why the hell did you think that this would be a good gift for me?”
She shifted her attention out to the cement. She could almost see the crystal blue water, feel it lap against her legs and feet, hear male laughter nearby.
“Come on, Mel, relax a little!”
“How can I?” She gave the young man beside her a gentle shove. “It was supposed to be just the two of us. Why’d you have to invite Todd?”
“What? I can’t be nice to my GF’s little bro?”
“Yeah, but this—” she gestured to the empty pool around them “—isn’t safe for a ten-year-old.”
“We’re here. We’ll protect him.”
The corners of Mel’s lips trembled.
She stood up and threw the mermaid bottle opener as hard as she could over the fence. She heard it land in a bush nearby. A cat yowled and streaked across the parking lot.
“Sorry, kitty,” Mel whispered.
She plopped down on the cement. The beer remained in her hand, unopened. Almost instantly, she regretted throwing away the bottle opener. Her heart pounded hard against her ribs. Tears trickled down her cheeks. With a heavy, shaking sigh, she released the beer, letting it roll down the side of the pool and make its way to the center.
“Mel, watch this! Watch this!” Todd called out as he walked the very edge of the pool like a balance beam.
Mel giggled as Mike blew on the crook of her neck. “In a minute.”
Todd inched closer to the water. He temporarily lost his balance but caught himself. “C’mon, Mel! Watch me!”
“I said, in a minute!” Mel gave Mike a long, sensual kiss on the lips.
Mel could never forget the sickening sound of Todd’s skull cracking against the cement or the splash as he hit the water. Mike did everything he could to save him, but…it hit all the papers and social media outlets the next day, the heroic seventeen-year-old who sacrificed his life trying to save his girlfriend’s brother while they were on a midnight swim. And all Mel could do was sit there, like she was now, and watch.
She got to her feet and looked over the edge. It would be so easy to turn around and just fall. Would it even hurt? Or would she lose consciousness on impact? No one would find her in time, of that she was certain—
“No,” she heard two male voices, one older and one younger, whisper in her ear. “No.”
Tears streamed down her face.
Mel sniffled and tried to reign her tears in, but it was no use. Soon, she was doubled over, bawling and clutching at her hair. She sank down to her knees and slowly rocked back and forth.
“It was my fault,” she said. “It was my fault.”