“Hey you, I brought your favorite candy,” Sayber said as she stood in the doorway.
“You came!” Ayanna said, standing up after noting the voice of her best friend. She had been sitting hunched over; her freshly painted fingernails resting in her lap. She was wearing a paper gown with her dreadlocks twisted up into a bun on the top of her head.
“Of course,” Sayber said. “You’re my best friend. I’m sorry it took me a couple of weeks, they wouldn’t let me in to see you.”
“I know,” Ayanna said. “Thank you for not forgetting about me.”
“Now you know that’s not something I’d do,” Sayber said. “Ever.”
While making her way to the all-white bed, Sayber looked around: the room was white, empty, dull. Everything looked the same though she’d been assigned to a different room this time. This was Ayanna’s most recent re-admission into Valton’s Mental Hospital.
“How are you feeling today?” Sayber asked.
Yanna fidgeted. “I’m doing alright. The medicine is stronger, and I don’t feel much, but that’s better than how I used to feel, right? I got all of the letters you sent me, too.”
“You did?” Sayber asked. “I hope it picked you up a lil’.”
“I loved them, Say. I reread the quotes before bed. Makes me feel like you’re here. You know, I still feel silly for ending back in here. Like I’m just wasting my time or somethin’.”
“Don’t you feel bad for being in here,” Sayber said. “You needed a little help, and that’s okay. You’ll be out of here in no time.”
“I hope so,” Ayanna said.
Changing the subject, Ayanna asked, ” How is school and being all smart and successful?”
“Girl, hush!” The two of them laughed.
“It’s school,” Sayber said. “I just wish you were there with me.”
“Me too. But I’m not as strong as you, Sayber. School didn’t save me. You use school to stop thinking. I can’t do that.”
“You are as strong as I am. You can go to school, but maybe there’s something else out there that’ll make you happier.”
“I’m not gonna find it in here, Say.”
“Maybe not, but you’re safer in here. You haven’t seen them lately, right? No more attempts?”
“No,” Ayanna said. “I haven’t seen them. Not in weeks.”
“Don’t lie to me, Yanna.”
“I’m not; I just get tired of being here. I just feel like wasted space. Like someone else who God took far too soon should be here living their life and feeling every emotion possible in exchange for me, someone who’s ruined and just taking up one more bunk in a crazy house.”
“Yanna, stop it. If it weren’t for this crazy house, we wouldn’t have met. The both of us were in here together, and we can get out. You can and will get out.”
Sayber stayed with Ayanna until well after visiting hours and left after telling the nurse, Mrs. Wendy, to get an eye on her friend. She promised she would.
For the next three months, Sayber came to see Ayanna often. But at the beginning of November, Sayber woke up in the middle of the night to eight missed calls. She pulled up to the hospital around 5:45 in the morning.
Sayber asked the nurse at the desk where Mrs. Wendy was. She said that she’s on the third-floor room 19. It was Ayanna’s room.
She raced upstairs where she found Mrs. Wendy pulling the sheets off of Ayanna’s bed, a large number of red pills scattered on the ground.
“Sayber,” Mrs. Wendy said. “I have no idea how, but she got a hold of medication and overdosed. They pumped her chest. She’s resting now.”
She was escorted to a separate room where she saw Ayanna resting. A few hours later, Ayanna woke to Sayber sitting beside her bed.
“Yanna, I was so worried. What happened?”
Ayanna barely moved. “I was tired. I don’t care anymore.”
“Please don’t say that, Yanna. We can do this.”
“No, we can’t. I want to be alone. Please, I’ll call you when I want you to visit.”
“Yanna. I’m sorry.”
Ayanna didn’t move or say anything.
Sayber got up and left. Over the next couple months, Sayber doesn’t hear a word from Ayanna. Some days without her were harder than others, but she’d learned to keep going.
But on December 28th, Sayber walked into the hospital early one morning after receiving an urgent call. The hospital was bitter, quiet and uncomfortable. The short walk to Ayanna’s room was somehow different. Sayber stood silently in front of the door and gently knocked.
She opened the door. It was empty. The sheet set was different. The television was off. The pictures of the two of them were no longer above the headboard; they were neatly placed in a clear container bound by a rubber-band.
Sayber held her breathe. Tears began to fall. “I’m too late,” she thought.
“Sayber?” She turned around to see Mrs. Wendy.
“Come on, sugar.” Mrs. Wendy said as she led Sayber to the break room.
The room was empty. Sayber saw an envelope with her name on it on the table. She opened it and found quotes and glitter inside.
“You like it?”
Sayber turned around to see Ayanna standing in the doorway.
The two ran to each other and hugged.
“You’re alright!” Sayber said.
“Yes, I am. I’m sorry. I just needed to try to get better.”
“I missed you, Yanna.”
“I missed you, too, Say. I swear I did.”
Sayber looked at the suitcases by Ayanna’s feet. “What are you doing with your things?”
“I’m leaving. Are you ready?”
“So ready,” Sayber said.
And just as the two had once entered Valton’s Mental hospital, the two of them left, for the last time.
“They were ladybugs looking for a way out. Prancing behind a windowpane as if they hadn’t been given wings to fly. But they found them. They found themselves and each other. And they found freedom.”-B. Elae