Should Have Known You Could Call Me
Sheila Braden and I never dated. We never had any type of relationship but just our friendship haunts me.
In the 11th grade, we were both standing with the people in our circle outside in the courtyard. Everyone was laughing telling jokes when Sheila just happened to catch my eye.
Strands of her long, straight, dyed jet-black hair hung down in her face where a smile couldn’t crack through that sad expression.
Lightly, I jabbed her in the arm, “What the fuck is wrong?” I asked. “Why do you look so down?”
Blue eyes focused on mine searching for my intentions. She spoke lightly telling me she was fine and just didn’t get enough sleep.
In the following months she and one of my boys started going out. Timothy was the son of a corrupt sheriff. So, needless to say, he could get away with anything.
One day, in the locker room after gym class, I heard Timothy and the guys talking about paying a bum to go in the ABC store and buy them a few bottles of liquor. The plan was to get all the chicks smashed at a house party he was throwing.
For weeks I heard how Sheila was a stuck-up prude who wouldn’t put out. Timothy figured her inhibitions would lower when she got drunk. Shaking my head, I told Timothy what he was doing was fucked up.
That Friday night, I didn’t even go to the party. The next day my phone was blowing up!
“Did you hear what happened?”
As planned Timothy got Sheila sloppy drunk. So drunk she accidently vomited inside an open cooler, full of beer on ice. Timothy took her up to his bedroom, the next part well…I heard different versions of that event.
One person told me Sheila ran downstairs wearing nothing but her bra yelling that Timothy tried to rape her. Someone else said the two were screaming and destroying Timothy’s room. I learned the first story was true from a reliable source.
Timothy’s mother and father were called. Forced to leave the fancy restaurant they were eating at pissed them off. When they showed up, his old man was livid asking, “Who bought the alcohol?”
Timothy wasted no time telling on the guy who bought it for them. He even told his father where to find him.
Sheila was long gone by then, back at her parent’s house alone in her room. She knew it was useless to say anything.
Timothy, in nothing but checkered boxer shorts, made sure to remind Sheila who his father was. “Go to the law if you want,” he said, “Just remember we are the law.”
Not once had I thought of Sheila as anything more than a friend. That was enough, and so that Monday I told Timothy to meet me somewhere after school. “Better bring your daddy and the whole force cause I’m gonna fuck you up!”
When the time came, he didn’t show up to the local country store where kids would meet up to fight after school.
The following weekend I sat around reading graphic novels. Sheila had never contacted me outside of school, but late that Saturday night she hit me up on Messenger. “I’m having a really hard time right now and need someone to talk to.”
This had to be urgent, so I got up and got dressed in jeans and a hoodie. My parents were both sound asleep and wouldn’t care if I borrowed their car as long as they didn’t wake up.
Sheila’s parents were spending the weekend at the beach, so we had the whole house to ourselves. Instead of coming on to her, I asked what was wrong, she looked down and didn’t answer. I told her that I hadn’t let it go and would still hurt Timothy badly if I caught him away from school.
Sheila had been crying yet showed me a warm smile. “Don’t give those bastards a chance to get you in trouble,” she said, “Plus, I’m over that.”
Apparently, Timothy had an itty-bitty weasel dick.
Taking a deep breath, “I don’t know where to begin, I’m just depressed about everything,” she said.
Her lips quivered when she asked if I’d ever thought about killing myself. I thought about telling her how I wanted to take my life many times and that I found joy in the thought of my parents walking in to find their walls painted with my blood. But instead, I tried to drive the exact opposite into Sheila’s skull.
“You’re smart, you’re beautiful don’t let whatever’s bringing you down win,” I said. “You’ve got to fight it and just stay alive. You’ve got to want to live.”
For a moment, electricity filled the air as we almost made a connection. I could have taken her, drunk off nothing but sadness. Instead, I hugged her tightly.
Wiping her eyes, Sheila asked, “If I show you something will you promise not to tell anyone?”
Nodding my head, I watched as she unfastened her jeans. Once she pulled them down, I stared at all the cuts stripped across her thighs.
“Jesus fucking Christ, you’ve got to stop hurting yourself like that!”
Shaking her head Sheila told me that pain and blood were the only things that made her want to go on.
My parents called; I hadn’t realized it was 6 in the morning. My father told me to bring the car home right then or he was calling the cops and report that I stole it.
Before walking out, I told Sheila to hang in there. “Everything will work out somehow,” I said, “You’ll be fine. In the meantime, if you ever need someone to talk to just call me.”
I gave her my number so we wouldn’t have to talk on Messenger.
Summer came then senior year. We both got involved in relationships. Sheila dated a jealous insecure dickhead, who wouldn’t allow her to talk to anyone. A loyal friend, she told him that I was her homie, and no one would keep her from talking to me.
Once we graduated, Sheila dropped this loser and got a job as a waitress at a seafood restaurant. I saw her one day when I stopped by to get a shrimp plate. She was busy with customers but stopped long enough to wave at me and say hi.
Months later I saw an old friend outside a convenience store. We both stopped, shook hands, and shared a little small talk.
My heart sank when he asked if I heard what happened to that girl we used to hang out with. He asked, “What was her name, Shelley?”
Not stopping to correct this friend, I asked, “What happened to her?”
He said, “Oh, you didn’t hear about it?’
Jumping to conclusions, I asked, “What was it, a car accident?”
“No,” he said, “She got off work one day, drove back to the neighborhood where her parents live. She pulled in and drove passed their house, parked in the cul-de-sac and shot herself inside the car.”
In my head it all came flooding, the blood all over the window and chunks of her brain stuck to the passenger seat.
This buddy of mine said, “No one ever figured out where she got the gun.”
I’d heard enough. Damn, this hit me hard. Immediately, I’m thinking back to the night I talked her through her problems. How could she do this? Why didn’t she at least call me?
I’m sure Sheila was so far gone there would have been nothing I could have said. But damn, I wish she’d have given me a fucking chance. This is something I’ll never forget!
I’ll take this guilt with me to the grave. Then again, I tried to help Sheila. With no hope to my name, I tried to look on a brightside that didn’t exist. I did everything I could to get her out of my head, but nothing worked.
In my bathroom I cut my chest with a brand-new razor blade, wondering if the pain and blood would help me want to go on.
Robert Ragan, from Lillington North Carolina, has had short fiction published online at Vext Magazine, Punk Noir Magazine, Yellow Mama Webzine, Synchronized Chaos, and Terror House Magazine. In January 2020, he had his second short story collection, It’s Only Art, published by Alien Buddha Press.