Author's Note: The events that occur in this story never happened. Some parts of the "history" found later on are loosely based on similar circumstances; however, for all intents and purposes, names and situations have been changed. I wasn't going to post this originally, but a good friend told me that it needed to be read... So here it is.

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12:40 P.M., Mountain Standard.

I stared at the screen, not knowing what to believe, although the text was right there, in front of my eyes.

KewlGurl1785: I want to die.

I had heard this before, believe it or not. Not from this girl, but from other friends of mine. My social life is a morbid one, to say the least. As much as I move, you really couldn't blame me. Last time I only stuck around in that dinky little town for a measly 2 years. I've been here for only one, and during that time, I've made it pretty clear to most of the jerks that I don't want to be anywhere near them... they've made it equally as clear they don't want to be anywhere around me. As I said, jerks.

So instead of continuing my fruitless exercise of searching for friends I can meet in person, I've delved into the Internet. If you thought your school was whacked out, you've got no idea what it's like on the Net. You know how your parents always told you, "Never talk to strangers"? Well, listen to them. There are weirdos online, I'm telling you right now. It's a lot better if you're a little rude and break off all communications A.S.A.P.

What does this have to do with this story? Admittedly, not much. At this point, I'm digressing. My dabbling on the wires has gained me a few new friends, all of whom insist that I'm cool. Not really a term I've ever applied to myself, but then again, what kind of "cool" would I be if I did?

They like talking to me about their personal problems. That's another thing about me; I'm a trusting sort of guy. When someone has a problem, they'll talk to me about it because both that person and I know that I'm not going to share it with anyone else. This is a frequent problem with friends that you've attained the "hard way"; they tend to gossip. But as introverted as I am, who would believe I'd made friends online, anyway?

In the case of KewlGurl, it had been a problem with those same "trusting friends" she'd gained. They'd turned on her recently, all of them at once, it seemed, calling her abusive names and reporting false activities to her parents, even going to far as to TP her house and fork her front lawn three times in as many nights... now there were really only two places she could go. One was her boyfriend, who she had pretty much dedicated her life to. She didn't tell me why, and I didn't ask.

The other place was online, where I'm always willing to talk.

I'm not sure what got her to start considering me something akin to a shrink, but she's been very open with me about her life, and she's got this weird way of swaying my emotions with what she types. It's a gift, I think. She says it's something about me that gets her to open up, and that might be true; on the other hand, some of the stuff I've said to her was not exactly the kindest or wisest things to say, and she's closed herself to me at times for it. Damn my stupidity.

We don't live in the same time zone -- she lives two hours ahead of me -- but we do love talking each other's ear off. Or eyes, I suppose; we've never actually used the Talk feature on our Instant Messenger service. Probably just as well. She's not even revealed her name to me. Meanwhile, the majority of mine sits right in my screen name... go figure.

I'm dithering again. Back to the story at hand. KewlGurl, in previous conversations, had given me a pretty good idea of what sort of relationship she and her boyfriend had with each other. She told me that they literally depended on each other with their lives. And even as young as they may seem for that sort of thing, I don't doubt her. She's not lied to me yet. And the two of us are always serious with each other.

And she would only say something like this if she were serious. And in this case, deadly serious.

So here I am, talking to her about her desire to "end it all."

WesEast84: Why?

Her response took a minute or so to get to me.

KewlGurl1785: my b/f, what else?

I had rather figured on this, but I didn't want to put words in her mouth.

A few months ago, her boyfriend had moved over 100 miles away. They had tried to make their relationship work anyway, and I could see from the way that she talked about it that they were really trying... but not succeeding as well as they wanted to. Phone calls were not nearly enough for either of them.

His visits to her became less frequent, and finally, for some utterly insane reason, her parents forbade his crossing their doorstep. They cited some weak, pitiful excuse in the vicinity of, "Well, we're not sure we can trust him... he might try to 'do' something."

As I said, pitiful. They'd been going out for three years. And it didn't take a genius to figure out that she loved him. And he loved her. They trusted each other implicitly, and as far as I could tell, she was among the most decent girls I had ever had the privilege of meeting.

She tried to visit him as often as she could, but she slipped further into depression every day. Her parents became even more restrictive, not allowing her to see him more than once every two weeks.

Five days ago, tragedy befell her boyfriend. He was in a car crash involving a drunk driver roaring through an intersection at over 100 mph. He hit the passenger's side. KewlGurl's boyfriend was killed instantly.

I got most of the information from KewlGurl in an e-mail about two days ago. I can only assume that she'd been crying for him since the accident... and it wouldn't be a stretch to assume that she still was.

WesEast84: I can't even begin to say how sorry I was to hear about him.

KewlGurl1785: I can't live without him. I told you that.

WesEast84: Yes, you did. But I don't believe that.

KewlGurl1785: start believing it. I've got a knife in my hand right now.

I gaped at the screen. "Ohh, no..." I hoped my next message wouldn't be so flip as to send her over the edge, but I was beginning to feel as if I had to act fast.

WesEast84: Don't be so hasty. You can't type as fast with only one hand.

KewlGurl1785: like you care.

I glared.

WesEast84: How can you say that...?

KewlGurl1785: because I know it's true. you don't really care. no one does. even my own friends wouldn't say anything about it.

WesEast84: Forget them. You're talking to me now. What makes you think I don't care?

She didn't even bother responding to that message.

KewlGurl1785: it's late. I'm sad, and I'm tired. I just want to leave.

I'm no psychologist, or a psychiatrist, or anything of that sort, but I've seen "Pay It Forward." I was reminded of the scene where the homeless man comes upon the suicidal woman on the bridge. He tried to shift her tunnel vision by saying, "Do me a favor... save my life."

He gave her a different view right when she needed it most. Instead of him trying to save her, the tables were turned, even though she was the one standing on the rail. Maybe I could do the same here.

WesEast84: You've got me in a spot here.

The response took longer than expected, but I was immeasurably glad when I saw that there even was one.

KewlGurl1785: how?

WesEast84: You've basically revealed to me that you want to commit suicide. You know what that means?

KewlGurl1785: tell me quickly. the faster I get this overwith, the better.

WesEast84: It means you're looking for a way out, even though you can't see one. You want to live.

KewlGurl1785: no, I don't. I thought you would understand that.

WesEast84: If you were 100% sure this is what you wanted, you'd have already done it without telling anyone. Instead, you told me.

KewlGurl1785: so?

WesEast84: So, it means, whether you know it or not, you want me to find some way of getting you to put the knife down.

KewlGurl1785: what makes you think I haven't already used it?

WesEast84: You'd be saying your last words to me if you had, whether you thought I cared or not. And somehow, I don't think you would want your last words to end with a question mark.

When she didn't respond to this, I decided to get brave.

WesEast84: Do you truly want this to be your last night on Earth?

KewlGurl1785: yes.

WesEast84: In that case, do you have a mic?

KewlGurl1785: what does that have to do with anything?

WesEast84: Do you have one?

KewlGurl1785: yes, but why?

WesEast84: It occurs to me that as much as we've typed to each other, we've never heard each other's voices. If tonight's your last, you shouldn't be afraid of some guy living thousands of miles away.

She didn't respond. I chose to press.

WesEast84: If you don't want to use Talk, that's OK, but I would very much like to hear you.

KewlGurl1785: you wouldn't like what you hear. my voice is all hoarse from crying...

WesEast84: Let me be the judge of what I do and don't like to hear. Will you do it?

A few tense moments passed. Finally...

KewlGurl1785: okay, but talk softly. I don't want mom and dad to hear.

I sighed with relief. Maybe I could get through to her more easily with my voice than with my hands.

My microphone was part of a headset that had one earphone on the left side, and something told me that it was best if I pulled out the plug for the speakers in favor of the earphone. One never knew whether my own mom or dad would get up and come downstairs to find me trying to talk the poor girl out of suicide, even this late.

That decided, I got down under the desk and performed my task on the processor tower, then put on the headset and adjusted the mic so it hung about two inches away from my mouth.

I sat back down and clicked on the Talk feature. A moment later, the Talk request dialogue appeared in the Message window.

It took a full minute, but the request was confirmed.

The Volume controls appeared, and the leds began flashing from bright green to a darker shade, and back for both sides.

It was the visual representation of the two of us breathing into our mics.

I heard a cracking voice enter my earphone. "Wes?"

"I'm here," I responded.

Her breath shuddered, and I heard a little, insane giggle escape her. "I told you you wouldn't like what you heard. Listen to me... I'm shaking up all over the place..."

Her choked sobbing took over.

I shook my head, even though we couldn't see each other. "Beautiful," I said, meaning it. "It's beautiful."

And it was true. Even with the sound of her crying, her voice was still a pleasant one to hear. It was quite feminine, with a hidden strength behind it. Were she a singer, she would have been a soprano.

"No... it's not..." she said, her crying increasing in intensity.

"Then neither is mine," I responded. "We'll have horrible voices together, okay?"

"But... yours is fine," she responded, sniffing loudly.

"Not if yours isn't," I answered. "And when you're down, so am I. I told you that you have a gift for shifting people's emotions... or mine, anyway."

"Wes..." she sighed. "I... I don't want to live without him. I can't do this by myself. I can't do it alone."

"You still haven't realized that you're not alone," I said. "I'm still here. And surely you have other online friends like me... other people you can talk to..."

She sniffed. "No. You're the only one. Besides," she asked, "who else would be on this late?"

"Someone who could recognize and take the opportunity to talk with an amazing person like you," I answered.

Another insincere, insecure giggle crackled through the earphone. "You're just saying that."

"I'm trying to find the right words to say." I clenched my eyes shut and leaned forward, resting the brige of my nose between thumb and forefinger. "Suicide isn't the answer. You need to know that. It's never been the answer. It's always been a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

"Wes, it's so much simpler this way," she said. "This way, I won't ever need to get hurt again. None of it will hurt anymore."

"But pain isn't the only reason we live," I said, pleading with her. "Yes, you're right, it hurts terribly when we lose someone we love... but if you do this, you'll hurt everyone even more."

She sounded hesitant. "What do you mean?"

"Whether you know it or not," I said, tears welling up in my eyes, "and whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, you are important. You matter. People care about you. They care deeply. And you are loved!"

I tried desperately to keep the lump out of my throat. But in the process of concentrating on that, I lost all focus on keeping the tears in. Drops of salty water slashed jagged lines down my cheeks and landed on my black shirt. "People love you! Don't you see how important that is? It wasn't just your boyfriend... your parents love you, your friends love you, God loves you..."

She scoffed. "God. I need something I can feel."

"You can't feel anyone else's love? Not even that of your own parents?"

"No!" she responded loudly. "They don't love me! No one does!"

"You say that because by losing him, you lost what you considered to be your primary source of love," I said, more tears streaming down my face. "But your primary source has been your family for so long... how can you ignore them now? They need you here!"

"No one needs me!" she wailed. "Not even you, Wes! You can always find someone else to talk to!"

"And what would that accomplish?" I asked. "If you do it, I'll never forgive myself for not being able to stop you. I'd never talk to anyone else about anything. I'd be too afraid that it would happen again. I need you to stay."

"You don't need me," she said, more softly. "Wes, I don't want you to get hurt just because of me."

I was beginning to sense light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe I could get her to stop, after all. "That's precisely what will happen if you do this."

"Wes, no... there's no point in hurting yourself because of me..."

"And there's no point in killing yourself because of your boyfriend."

"Wes, I want to be with him... and now I can't..."

"I understand," I said. This was a lie, of course... the closest person to my heart that I'd ever lost was my grandfather, and that had been nearly eight years ago. He and I weren't the closest of buddies, but we'd still loved each other.

Maybe it wasn't a lie, after all.

"How can you understand something like this?" she asked, her voice cracking again and again. "You don't know..."

"What I understand is that you're in pain," I said. "Please, just put it down. That's all I need you to do. It's not a hard task... just set it next to your keyboard or something."

"Wes... I... I can't..."

"Yes, you can. Just set it down."

Several moments of silence passed over the line. My heart was pounding in my throat.

Her breath shuddered into my earphone. I heard her whisper two letters. "OK."

"All right?" I asked, looking for confirmation. "Is it set down?"

"Yes..."

"Okay. Now, listen to me. You know you can't do this. You know it, deep down. And I know you don't want to bear the thought of having to live without him. But you can't just throw your life away, either."

"Wes..."

"Is it what he would have wanted?" I asked. "Would he really have wanted to see you literally kill yourself over him?"

I heard no response.

"What if he were watching you right now?"

Still nothing.

"He's with you. He's with you in a way you haven't recognized yet... but he's right there, over your shoulder. And I would stake my own life on the gamble that he doesn't want you to do this to yourself."

I heard her quietly sobbing. I knew, somehow, that I'd hit a nerve here.

"No one wants to see this happen to you," I continued, even knowing that it was only inflicting more pain. "No one. At all. Not your friends, not your boyfriend's parents, not your parents, not me."

"How do you know?" she whispered.

"Do you trust me?"

"Wes..."

"This is the most important question I've ever asked. Do you trust me?"

There was a long pause.

"I trust you."

"Then trust me now. You're the only one that wants this... and there's still a part of you that doesn't. I know it. You're strong, whether you believe it or not. And we're all willing to lend you our own strength to help you through. You know that."

"Yes..."

"You know that we're all here for you."

"Yes..."

"I want to help you. We all want to help you." I drew a deep breath, and let it out slowly. "Please... let us help."

Her crying grew louder... if she had wanted to respond, she wasn't going to now.

I wanted to do something, anything to reassure her... if I could have reached through the monitor and held her hand, or patted her on the back, I would have.

But I couldn't.

I heard her whispering something. It was almost too quiet for me to hear... her voice had cracked almost beyond recognition.

"I'm scared..."

I breathed slowly and heavily. "I know."

Her crying continued, and gradually grew softer.

All I could do was sit back and listen, even as much as I thought it to be terribly humiliating for her.

She didn't seem to care.

After a long while of silence over the line, I tentatively asked, "Are you still there?"

I could only hear her breathing. It was a steady pace... and a good indication that she had cried herself to sleep.

I smiled faintly. On the one hand, it was sad that such circumstances had caused her to be so exhausted... on the other, she was now asleep, where no harm could come to her.

I clicked on the "Disconnect" button in the Volume controls, ending the Talk session, and I typed one final message.

WesEast84: I'll always be here for you.

I sent it off... then I severed my Net connection.

A shuddering breath escaped me, and I let my head fall into my trembling hands.

One final thought went through my mind before I lost consciousness, there at my computer desk.

We had gone through all that... and I didn't even know her name.



End