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I appreciated silence more than the average person, my mom's bitching and little sister's whining most likely having a lot to do with that. Whenever I would go for the occasional swim with friends, I would usually be the one with their head underwater and the one winning the "who can hold their breath underwater the longest" contests.
I just loved the way everything was quiet and tranquil. I trained myself to stay under for a decent period of time without getting light-headed. It's a place I go to think, to relax. Or, it was.
My Mom's best friend, Renee, killed herself a week ago and nothing's been the same since. Mom has stayed home from work every day and held herself up in her room. It had affected me, too; seeing as Renee would come over often and give us presents during the holidays and would just be there in case any of us needed anything, but it didn't affect me nearly as much as it had affected Mom.
We've kind of switched roles. I was usually the hermit of the family while Mom was taking care of me and my little sister. Now, I would make breakfast for them and escort my little sister to the bus stop every morning and do pretty much everything Mom did. It was depressing, seeing her like that. I suggested that she see a grief counselor but she just told me to go away. I hoped this wouldn't last.
One day after school, she called my name from her room and I walked in to see what she wanted. She was in the fetal position, as always. Her hair was matted and she was wearing the same clothes she wore since Renee died. She told me to come closer and her body odor made me want to run away, but I reluctantly obliged.
She ran her fingers through my hair and smiled a bitter smile. My pulse raced as I looked down and saw dark, dried blood on her gray shirt. I couldn't believe that I hadn't noticed it before.
"I was standing in front of her," she said, her voice breaking. "I saw it happen."
"You saw Renee...?" I asked.
"I SAW. SHE BLEW HER FUCKING BRAINS OUT RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!" she screamed, jumping and laughing.
"You know what she said before she did it?"
" 'You'll see me underneath. Open your eyes.' " she said, holding her eyelids open with her fingers, holding her breath, and lying back down.
"Mom, please get some help."
"It's not ME who needs help, honey." she replied, laughing.
Later on that night, I tucked my little sister into bed and went into the bathroom and ran the water in the bathtub. I stripped naked and stepped in, immersing my body in the warm, soothing liquid and slowly slipped my head under. I felt my hair drift in random directions, which was somewhat relaxing.
I wanted nothing more than to take my mind off of Mom and the way she was acting earlier. I knew that this was beginning to turn into something more than grief, even though I tried to deny it. She was going insane and needed help. My little sister was beginning to worry even though she was too young to understand a lot of what was going on and I wanted to make sure it stayed that way.
But no matter what I did, I couldn't forget what Mom told me that Renee had said before she died.
'You'll see me underneath. Open your eyes.'
What the fuck does that even mean?
I heard a soft thump nearby and figured it was just Mom getting out of bed and actually leaving her room for a change and kept my eyes closed. I raised my nose and mouth out of the water to breathe before going underneath again.
I usually don't open my eyes underwater, but I had to out of morbid curiosity.
Renee was leaning over the bathtub, grinning at me as a waterfall of dark blood ran down from the large, open wound in her head and into the tub, making the water turn bright red. I only caught a glimpse before I jumped up and screamed. When I wiped the water off my face, Renee was gone. The blood was gone. It was just Mom standing over me and grinning widely.
"You saw her, didn't you?" she asked.
"Mom-!" I screamed, gasping for air. She wrapped her arms around me and calmed me down.
"It's okay, honey. Everything's okay," she said, kissing my forehead. She eventually looked at me and put her hands on my shoulders. "You have to go underneath again. For good, this time."
"She only wants you now."
"No! Mom, don't!" I yelled as she began pushing me back into the water. I tried to fight her off but she was too strong.
"I'll see you underneath." Mom said, smiling. She pushed my head underwater and held my shoulders down. I kept trying to move but it was pointless. I strangely began to accept my death. I guess if I were to choose the way I died, I'd want to drown, so in a way I was getting what I wanted.
Once my throat began to spasm and I had no choice but to draw in water through my mouth and nose, I saw Renee again in Mom's place. She wasn't bleeding this time. She was smiling a warm smile that told me that I belonged here. Underneath.
I was at home.