LITR 3731 Creative Writing 2009

Student Draft for Workshop

Hillary Roth

Last Breath

 “We are nearly there, Pippa!”

Her perkiness was wearing thin on me but I remembered to be thankful that we had made it this far without killing each other. I patted her hand.

 “I know, Chessy, I can’t wait to get to Cavendish.”

My mind swam with memories of Cavendish; our parents; the summers; and all the good times we had all had.

            Chessy helped me into the car, she treated me now as if I was a person with terminal cancer, but in actuality it was only bipolar disorder. Her internal 1950’s housewife would not allow her to stop for a moment. It was go, go, go. Since she had no husband or children, I had become the next best thing, and with my most recent mental breakdown I was her summer project.

The car ride was amazing as we drove down the winding roads of the island, curved through the towns, and fields of emerald, violet, and fuchsia. Chessy stopped on the side of the road to take pictures of it all from larkspur and peonies, to vines of strawberries and blueberries. We arrived at our family’s beach house in time to watch the sunset ignite the ruby cliffs as the waves smashed into them. I was awestruck by the picture and sat in the Adirondack chair to try to drink it all in. I did not realize a couple of hours had passed until I was shivering and cold from the rapid drop in temperature.

 “Chessy!” I called for my sister. “Francesca!”

I checked our rooms, the bathroom, and kitchen.

“Chess!” I cried outside and saw the car still sitting in the driveway.

My cell phone was locked in the car with my purse, the keys to the car were nowhere to be found, I felt an anxiety attack coming on. I tried to be strong not to panic. I am stronger than this illness, I think. I knew it, but it was impossible before long my hands were tingling with a numb feeling, sucking air like it was my last breath, tears were flooding my face.

I threw myself in the shower before things went too far. I tried not to think about where Chessy was, how was I going to get into the car, where Chessy could have gone, what I would do if she was dead. Deep breaths…deep breaths…breathe in…breathe out…focus. All of these thoughts consumed my mind, but I had to get a handle on it before it ate me up and did not spit me back out. I laid in the tub, fully clothed, with the water of the shower beating on me, practicing normal breaths when I heard Chessy’s voice.

“Pippa! Pip, are you showering?”

I could not tell her that I had already had an episode our first day on summer vacation, so I hollered back “Just grabbing a shower.”

She called back “I went up the road to that farmer’s market and picked up some things to make us dinner.”

I nearly scoffed at the thought of what she was in there creating with her handy iPhone cooking application.

Francesca and I try to live as if I am not crazy, she is not scared, and that our parents’ deaths do not bother us. But, I am crazy, she is scared to death, and we are both wrecks over our parents’ deaths.

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety as a child, then with bipolar disorder and severe anxiety at twenty-one when I had a mental breakdown in college. Our parents died three years later, and a year later after that I had another breakdown.

At twenty-five, I am a neurotic mess who --for the most part-- functions unless I become over stressed. Chessy is an undiagnosed, neurotic mess who functions without fail --no matter the stress-- but has no life, husband, or children. I feel sorry for her because all she has is me.

Why do I mention a husband and children? Because that is Chessy’s greatest desire to marry, be a housewife, a mother, PTA president, to have the home from Southern Living or Martha Stewart. I find this all to be pretty sick and think she may be worse off than me, but my psychologist says these are her goals and own way of coping.

Out of the two of us I am the better cook, Chessy uses magazines, recipes, and cooking shows, I cook from the heart. Since being ill, however, I have not felt much like cooking or eating, but she continues to force feed her concoctions down my throat.

“Mmmm…smells delicious, Chessy. What are we having?”

She is wearing an apron that reads “Kiss the Cook” and a huge smile.

 “We are having a frittata. Then later we will have cookies and hot tea.”

I smile back she has our mother’s eyes, a vibrant green, almond shaped, surrounded by dark lashes.

I wince at the memory of our mother, her arms around me consoling me; her kisses; me lying with my head in her lap while she played with my hair; I could call her about anything and there was no judgment. I felt the tears. Chessy notices and chooses to avoid it. Her not acknowledging it made me angry; always hiding emotions while mine were so hard to bear that I finally crashed and burned.

“Damn it, I can’t go on like this with you. You’re hurting my chances of getting well, Chess.”

“What do you mean?”

 “Us not talking, hiding our emotions, and you acting like I’m a piece of glass.”

“I’m just trying to protect you! Is that wrong?!”

“Protect me? You are hindering us from healing! We have to talk! It can’t always be me and a shrink! I’m going for a walk.”

I left her standing in the kitchen with her cliché apron, perfect hair, and vapid smile. 

It may seem like I hate my sister, but I don’t. I do dislike the fact that she avoids everything and packs it away in the deepest, darkest closet. I grabbed my jacket and phone from the car before I walked too far knowing the cool, crisp, Canadian air would make me shiver no matter how hot my temper had me. There were missed calls from the fiancé I had left at the altar, but I could not bear to call him back.  Cavendish had been such a comfort for a large part of my life, we had come here as a family in the summers to embrace the cool temperatures and escape the heat of the South. It was a dream world when my life had become a nightmare.

 The island was still untouched in so many ways, even in the night it was nearly draped in complete darkness except for the stars, and in the distance there was a store and restaurant. We are farther out from the town--not that there was much noise or lights wherever you stayed.

“It’s awfully late to be out here. And dangerous, I might add.”

I jumped at the sound of his voice “You nearly scared me to death. Jeez, don’t you know it’s impolite to sneak up on someone like that?!”

My heart was racing with the shock and irritation of this man interrupting my thoughts and seclusion.

He chuckled “I’m sorry, not use to seeing anyone down here at this time except myself and my dog, Laddie.”

His dog was huge and walked towards me “What kind of dog is he?”

“A Norwegian Ridgeback, full blooded, registered, well mannered, and an excellent companion, I would I have to say.”

I stroked the dog’s chin and chest he sat level with me with both of us on our haunches. He licked my face from chin to forehead. I laughed and ruffled his head.

 “He’s well mannered alright.”

 I stood up and I realized the man was a little miffed

“He doesn’t normally do that sort of thing.”

“Maybe he was in need of a kiss.”

“Pippa, there you are! Oh, who might you be?” From angry sister to prospective housewife in five seconds flat.

The man was Gavin MacNamara he had a beach house close to ours. He wanted to know everything about us, the story behind the sisters, and our experiences on Prince Edward Island growing up.

I excused myself “Chessy, you two enjoy yourselves I am going to get the keys and unload my bags. I am exhausted.”

They both bid me goodnight. I could tell he was interested in Francesca, who was enthralled with him instantaneously, or perhaps at her chance to talk to a normal human being. I will never know.

I grabbed my bag and started out, unsure of what had come over me. I trekked into Cavendish and rented a hotel room, and discarded my cell phone. I then made a phone call from the hotel phone to my ex fiancé.


 “Pippa?” He sounded asleep.

“Were you sleeping?”

“Yes, but I don’t mind that you called. I have been trying to call you.”

“I have left Chess and I’m headed on an adventure to find myself. I can’t go on this way anymore playing this game with her that life’s peaches and cream. That all is right with the world.”

“Pip, are you still on your meds?”

“Damn it, Connell, I called you because I thought you might understand. Yes, I’m on my meds, but I needed your support. Just know I am safe but you will not be able to reach me unless I try to reach you.”

“You left me at the altar six months ago, I have waited, and I will continue to wait.”

 “Give up! I’m not wife or mother material. Marry Chessy if that’s what you are wanting, but give up on me. I love you, but I am hanging up now.”

“I’m scared. Please call me soon. Please, I beg you.”

I heard the sobs caught in his throat. The guilt tore my heart and soul up, but this had to be done for his sake.

I sighed “I will try.”

He sobbed, “I love you. I love you more than you will ever know.”

“I love you too.” I whispered as I hung up. He would never speak to me again, but it was better this way.

After speaking to Connell, I sat down at the writing desk and took out sheets of paper and a pen to write Francesca. She was my last connection to cut before I did what was necessary to continue on in my journey.


Dearest Chessy,

You have done the best you can by me and been great during all that has taken place since Momma and Daddy’s deaths, but I cannot go on this way with you. I am heading on-- doing what is best for me and you.

Embrace life, get out there, meet a guy, stop hanging out in background, you’re a great catch!

 Also, seek counseling. You really have too much bottled up. One day your bottle’s going to burst right open. I love you so much, and remember that no matter what I am only a thought away. I have disconnected my phone and will call when I figure out what I am doing and where I am going.

Please take care of yourself. Keep yourself upbeat, do not get down, but please talk to someone about all of this.

I love you,


I have decided to send one to the beach house and one to our home in the States, just in case she does not receive it here. I can feel that morning is near and I only have a little time before I go; I think I will leave by water, why any other way? I have always been the most comfortable with water and it has always rolled with me when everyone else has been put out by the waves I have created.

            It is raining this morning. I have had my bags sent home and mailed the letters to Francesca, as well as letters to the lawyers relinquishing my assets and funds to her. I shiver because the water and rain are so cold, but as I swim out the water seems warmer before long the waves have become massive and the undertow powerful.

I swim until it is impossible to touch the sand and I let myself tire out. The waves push and water pulls. It wants to suck me under. I do not resist.

I send my love to my beautiful sister with her vibrant green eyes and Connell with his amazing heart.

My mind runs over the memories of my beautiful mother laughing at my father with his big smile; my mother holding me and my sister close after we were attacked by bullies; my father interrogating my first date; Cavendish in the summers; meeting Connell my junior year of college; and my parents’ car after the drunk driver killed them.

I feel the last breath leaving my body and my thoughts are blurred. I pray Francesca and Connell know that I am finally at peace.