‘How was Tracy the last time you saw her?’ Kate asked Eileen, Anna, and myself. ‘What was her state of mind like?’
‘We’d had an argument over the phone,’ Eileen admitted. ‘I screamed at her that she was throwing her whole life away, then she screamed at me back. And now I’ve regretted it ever since.’ She was obviously unable to accept the fact that her only daughter was dead by suicide, and to be honest I couldn’t blame her.
‘She seemed at her lowest, but assured me she was fine,’ I said. ‘The last time we spoke was when she’d quit at the bookstore because of Paul giving her a tough time over Katherine.’ We all still had yet to find out the actual truth about the knife attack in which Tracy had killed Katherine. Not to mention the fact that the stabbing had been instigated by Katherine herself after she had committed the arson. Eileen was already going through hell, and once she eventually found out about the horrific incident it would only rip her apart even more!
‘She was staying with me and Matt at the time,’ Anna informed Kate. ‘Because her house had been burnt down. She was in tears over it, but never showed any signs of feeling suicidal.’ She began to quiver slightly and was snivelling. ‘She actually mentioned something about getting her life back together. This was after we’d helped her come off the prescription drugs she’d been taking.’
Tracy was also still attending her weekly support group, meaning that she was actually determined to overcome her demons. Which was why none of us could understand how she went from that to being a missing person – to being dead! I started to wonder if she had secretly planned her suicide in advance, but that everyone was too blind to see it.
Tracy’s bookstore partners and I gathered in the local pub. They had all decided that the workshop would not be opened today. Also, I would not show up at the supermarket for my usual daily work shift. Not with the state I was in.
Rebecca was also present with us. ‘Tiffany’s covering for me, so I don’t have to worry about the antique store today,’ she said. ‘I told her I needed some time to grieve.’
‘It doesn’t feel right for any of us to just carry on as normal,’ Nigel suggested. He sipped some of his lager, but couldn’t bring himself to drink it. It tasted rather bitter in his mouth, much to his disgust.
‘Let’s just face it,’ I said, feeling withdrawn. ‘Nothing feels right anymore.’
Each of us raised our glasses in honour of Tracy. But suddenly, Paul came in unannounced. He too had heard about what had happened, but didn’t seem at all affected by the apparant tragic suicide of one of his former colleagues. None of us were pleased to see him.
‘Just so you know, I haven’t come here to join any of you lot,’ he said acidly. ‘I just need space and time alone to grieve for my wife.’ He moodily sat down in one corner, as my friends and I glared at him. ‘Don’t you care at all that one of our closest friends is dead?’ I hit out.
‘Why the fuck should I care?’ he spat. ‘Even in death, she’s a hateful loathsome unhinged arsehole as far as I’m concerned. Now that Tracy’s dead and gone at least the mentally unstable bitch can’t hurt or kill anybody else. Good fucking riddance, if you ask me. Her suicide should be seen as a blessing’
‘You what?!’ Anna cried angrily. ‘What the fuck did you say?’
Matthew stood up. ‘He’s not worth it, Anna,’ he said. ‘Don’t bother wasting your time with him.’
Paul shot Matt an evil look. ‘I never fucking was worth it, was I?!’ he snarled. ‘And I suppose Tracy was? Well you know what, if it wasn’t for her then Katherine would still be alive.’
The fact that Tracy had fatally stabbed Katherine during a serious catfight didn’t give Paul the right to be making spiteful comments about her. Did he not have any respect at all for the dead?
‘You always were a fucking nasty piece of work,’ Matthew spat back. ‘And in case you didn’t know, your has been of a wife is the reason Tracy ended up killing herself in the first place. Katherine killed Tracy, not the other way round.’
Paul slammed his pint glass hard on the table, threw his chair back aggressively, then stormed out.
I doubted he would be at Tracy’s funeral. Or the wake. Not that any of us wanted him there, anyway.
‘When the right time comes,’ Vanessa said, facing us all. ‘Then we’ll break the news to everyone else as soon after we’ve reopened.’
That was when it suddenly hit me – Natasha was one of the few who hadn’t yet heard about what had happened to Tracy! What would it do to Natasha once she finally found out through Kelly, her special needs supervisor? It would destroy her just as much as it had destroyed me and Anna. Especially seeing that her connection with Tracy was the closest and most irreplaceable of all.
The day before Tracy’s funeral, her father Roy was giving away her belongings and possessions to charity, all whilst clearing out and emptying her apartment with the help of Gavin, a close mate of his and one of his neighbours.
‘If there’s anything else you need help with.’ Gavin looked at Roy sympathetically, wishing there was something he could do to make him feel better.
‘That will do for now.’ Roy didn’t look back at Gavin; he just wanted to get today over and done with. As he threw the black bags containing Tracy’s items in the back of his lorry, he felt as though he were being forced to dispose of his dead daughter’s existence.
‘If only I’d been a proper father to her,’ he thought angrily to himself, hot tears running down his face as he turned to walk away.
Eileen was on her way to visit Tracy at the chapel of rest. My friends and I had wanted to accompany her along with some of our family members and relatives, but she insisted doing this on her own.
‘Maybe we should give her some time alone to soak it all in properly,’ my sister Shirley suggested. ‘It’s only fair that she should be allowed to say goodbye to her.’
‘Shirley’s right, love,’ our own mother Audrey agreed. ‘After all, Tracy is Eileen’s daughter. Or more like she was. The poor girl.’ Even hearing her being mentioned in the past tense was beyond painful.
Understandably, Eileen had reason to not be thinking clearly. But that didn’t mean she was entitled to push us all away. Yes she had lost her daughter, but Tracy was also one of my friends. The rest of us were hurting just as much as Eileen was.
We were all seated around the kitchen table of my house; me, Mum, and Shirley. ‘I don’t think I’ll be able to face the crematorium,’ I lamented.
Mum put her hand on top of mine. ‘That’s okay, love,’ she said comfortingly. ‘Nobody would force you to attend. And nobody would blame you.’
The day we all dreaded finally arrived. As we entered the Lancashire Funeral Chapel, everyone made way for the pallbearers of Tracy’s coffin, Christopher and Matthew being amongst them. I looked around and saw that whilst most of the congregation members were sorrowful and tearful, others were extremely angry. I could tell that their anger was aimed at Tracy for taking her own life. But not as much as my own anger was aimed at them for rebuking and judging her.
‘I tell you now, it’s her friends and family I feel sorry for,’ someone said quietly to another attendee seated next to them. ‘Seriously, how selfish can anyone be to do that to the people they’re supposed to love best?’
Vanessa turned around, horrified. ‘Please don’t tell me they actually said that! How dare they?!’
Christopher looked up from his eulogy speech, and tears ran down his face. ‘Look at how many people loved you, sis,’ he said to Tracy’s invisible spirit.
We saw one more person entering the chapel. It was Michael – much to the shock and fury of the Preston family. In a fit of rage, Roy confronted Mike. ‘Why are you here?’ he demanded angrily.
‘My own family persuaded me to come and pay my respects.’ Mike was adamant that nobody would intimidate him or keep him away. ‘Tracy meant just as much to me as she did to you. I loved her.’
‘Don’t you dare mention her name!’ Roy was seething and he clenched his teeth. ‘You have no right to mention my daughter’s name.’
The vicar sternly approached the two men to break up the fight. ‘Enough now, the pair of you. This is not about either of you. Otherwise, if you’re going to continue arguing then I suggest you both leave the funeral service.’
After I, Tracy’s other friends, and her family members had finished reading out our eulogies to her, some of us stayed behind while the other mourners made their way to the crematorium. Niether Anna nor Vanessa were able to face being there any more than I could.
‘Why did they say that Tracy was selfish for taking her own life?’ Anna asked.
‘Out of ignorance, I suppose.’ I dabbed away my tears with my handkerchief. ‘If anything, those who don’t know what it’s like to have severe depression have no right to rebuke or judge.’
Kelly approached us from one of the back rows. ‘The wake will start in just a few minutes. We should head over there now.’
The wake was an even more emotional and heartbreaking time for us all. None of us were in the mood for any refreshments. Or anything else for that matter. Rather, we chose the occasion to discuss about raising awareness on depression and starting suicide prevention campaigns in order to prevent any more people from taking their own lives.
‘I can’t help being extremely angry at Tracy,’ Kelly said. ‘I’ll never understand why she didn’t speak to any of us about how depressed she was feeling. Unless someone pushed her over the edge, which they probably did.’
‘Well then you should be angry at them,’ I suggested. ‘Not Tracy.’
The local vicar approached us and another family friend. ‘Maybe we should let Michael and his family keep some of Tracy’s ashes,’ he decided.
Matthew was livid. ‘Why the fuck should Mike be allowed to hang onto Tracy? After what he did to her?! He was never there for her when she needed him the most.’
It was time for Eileen to give her speech before laying Tracy’s ashes to rest at the Garden of Remembrance. ‘The pain of losing a child is the worst ever thing that could happen to anybody.’ She tried her hardest to control herself, but just couldn’t fight back the tears, much to our own heartache. ‘Especially if your daughter or son was a suicide victim, like Tracy was.’
Nobody else spoke. We all simply sat in silence as we let her continue. The memorial photos of Tracy in the background haunted me at the back of my mind.
‘My daughter’s ashes are all I have left of Tracy, and now you all want me to release her and have her vanish into thin air.’ Eileen was by now sobbing uncontrollably. ‘I don’t want to be reminded that she’s gone. I just want my little girl back.’
Christopher quickly ran to his mother’s aid as he began shedding his own tears. The rest of us, including Roy, helplessly looked on. Carol was seated next to my mum. ‘That poor woman,’ Carol said sadly. ‘No mother should have to go through the pain of losing her daughter.’
It didn’t take long for one of the other women to speak up and voice her opinions, even though she should have kept them to herself as it wasn’t the right time. ‘To be honest, I didn’t like Tracy at all. Neither did a lot of other people, as I gather. She most certainly was no angel. But I would never wish suicide on anybody, not even the most unlikeable neighbour.’
‘Shut the fuck up if you only have nasty negative things to say!’ Matthew hit out angrily. ‘Tracy was one of Anna’s closest friends. And Anna happens to be my partner.’
As I witnessed the commotion, Nigel came up to me. ‘How are you coping?’ he asked me.
‘I’m not,’ was my disconsolate response. ‘If anything, I’m the one who should be asking you. Seeing that she was your business partner.’
Not that it made any difference. After all, everyone – myself and Natasha most especially – was affected by Tracy’s tragic suicide. There was only one particular cunt who wasn’t. And he also happened to be absent.
After the wake, we all gathered around the cremation plot that would be Tracy’s resting place. Matthew held the urn containing her ashes.
Tabitha Adams arrived. ‘I just thought I’d join you lot in paying our last respects,’ she offered sincerely. She looked at the urn. ‘Is that Tracy?’
Anna and I both nodded tearfully.
‘I’m so sorry.’ There were only so many condolences Tabitha was able to offer.
Then Paul turned up out of nowhere. Unsurprisingly, none of us had seen him at the wake or the memorial service, as he had been busy burying Katherine.
‘Glad you could come at last,’ Matthew said. ‘Did you have anything to say?’
‘No.’ Paul’s response was very brusque, even though this was supposed to be a time of mourning. ‘But I’ll tell you this. The only one time I’ll be visiting Tracy will be to spit out phlegm on those fucking flowers everyone left for her. Or even better still, leave poo on top of them and her ashes. Thank fucking God the murdering bitch was burnt to dust.’ I could not believe the indescribable hatred in his tone of voice. Neither could anybody else. ‘Excuse me?!’ My own voice was hard and angry, whilst Tabitha was appalled and disgusted.
In retaliation, Anna slapped Paul across the face with the back of her hand. She then appeared to spit in his face. ‘Yet people wonder why she killed herself,’ she said icily. ‘Maybe it was to get away from spiteful vile bastards like you.’
Matthew quickly handed the urn over to Nigel and held Anna back in order to calm her down. ‘Maybe you should leave,’ he said to Paul. ‘Get out of our faces before I end up doing something I might regret.’
‘And don’t bother coming back to the bookshop,’ Nigel added. ‘Because none of us want you there anymore.’
I knelt down beside Tracy’s urn after it had been interred in its cremation plot. ‘You’re safe from him now, Trace,’ I said to her, even though she couldn’t hear me. ‘He can’t hurt you any more. And neither can that evil cow, now that she’s burning in hell.’