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Breath & Shadow

Winter 2022 - Vol. 19, Issue 1


written by

Katie Kent

Content Warning : Suicide

“Promise me you won’t do it again.” Jess bites her lip, tapping her leg against the table.

It breaks my heart to see her like that, her face pale and her eyes red and puffy from crying and lack of sleep. But I can’t give her the answer she wants. So instead, I say nothing. Look down at my hands and wish this conversation wasn’t happening.

It was never supposed to be like this. There wasn’t supposed to be an ‘after’. Just a before, and then nothing. Trust me to fuck even this up.

I know she thinks this was a wake-up call for me. That it should have made me see how much I have to live for. But for me, nothing has changed. The reasons I did it- they’re still there. And I can’t give her false promises.

My silence prompts fresh tears to fall from her eyes. I squeeze my eyes tightly together. Not wanting to see the pain on her face. The pain that I’ve caused.

“Don’t you love me?”

I wince. How can I say that it’s precisely because I love her that I did it? That I didn’t want to become a burden to her? It was happening already. She’d been constantly looking out for me, checking I was alright. She was bound to end up resenting me.

“Say something.”

Finally, I look into her eyes. Watch the hope evaporating right in front of me. I know she thought she could save me. But how can you save someone who doesn’t want to be saved?

“I’m sorry,” I say. Because what else is there to say? “I’m sorry I’m like this. I’m sorry for what I put you through. I’m sorry you even met me.” I sniff, willing the tears away.

“Stephanie.” She reaches out her hand to me and I take it in mine. Her hand is sweaty, and it’s shaking. “I don’t want to lose you. Please.” Her voice breaks.

“I love you. You know I do.” I lean back in my chair. “But it’s all too much. I’m so tired, Jess. I want it all to stop.”

She takes in a deep breath, and I know she’s thinking about me in that hospital bed. Hooked up to all those monitors.

“You can’t want it all to stop.” She rubs her eyes. “What about me? What about us?”

I kiss the back of her hand. “You are the only good thing in my life. But I need more than that.”

“I’ll get you help.” When she looks at me now, the hope is back. She still refuses to give up on me. I wish I didn’t have to let her down, again and again.

“I’ve tried,” I remind her. “Years and years of therapy. And for what? I still feel as hopeless as before. I’m beyond saving.”

“No one is beyond saving. We’ll keep trying.” She smiles at me. Trying to put on a brave face. “I’m not ready to give up on you.” Her face is blotchy, and mascara streaks have gathered under her eyes, but she still looks as beautiful as the day I met her. I remember waking up in the hospital and seeing her there by my bedside, holding my hand. She’s not had a proper night’s sleep since. She doesn’t say anything, but I see her at night, tossing and turning. She must be as tired as I feel.

Suddenly, I’m hit by an image of her standing by my gravestone, her head bowed, tears streaming down her face, and I know I can’t do that to her. I can’t hurt her again. She’s been so patient with me since. She must be angry with me, but she’s never let it show. I owe it to her to try to live again.

She must see something shift in my face, because she grabs my hand and squeezes it. “Do you remember the day I proposed to you?”

I nod. “How could I forget?” We were on holiday in Paris, and she got down on one knee right in front of the Eiffel Tower. A cliché, perhaps, but I’ve always liked grand gestures. Suddenly the images scroll past my eyes as if I were watching them in a movie. Arriving to our wedding in a carriage pulled by two white horses. Sipping cocktails on a secluded beach on a hammock hung between two palm trees on our honeymoon in Bali. I’d started having therapy even before that, but I could cope with life. That was before the voices in my head got louder. Before I felt totally broken. Yet if I was happy back then, maybe I could be again?

She’s watching me as the thoughts race through my head, and I’m suddenly struck with an urge to reach out and kiss her. To touch her. To be with her. It’s been a while, and we make love like nothing else matters.

Afterwards, she snuggles up next to me and traces the scars on my arms with her fingers. “You just need to make me that promise.”

Katie Kent is a writer of fiction and non-fiction living in the UK with her wife, cat and dog. Her fiction has been published in Youth Imagination, 101 Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Drabble, The Trouble with Time Travel (Smoking Pen Press), Of Mistletoe and Snow (Jazz House Publications), Tipping the Scales, Limeoncello, Summer of Speculation: Catastrophe (Cloaked Press) and My Heart to Yours (Jazz House Publications). She has had non-fiction published in The Lady, The Mighty, You & Me Magazine, Ailment, OC87 Recovery Diaries, Feels Zine and Hard Times Happen (Black Pear Press). Her website is at

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