I wish more than anything that our story had ended the way I wrote it. All I ever wanted for her was a happy ending. In reality, I lost Victoria to suicide nearly three years ago.
I began Atonement Was Taken with her and Brennan’s relationship as I consider that to be the beginning of the spiral into darkness that I was never able to retrieve her from.
It’s important to me that I state that he is not at fault here. Brennan knew nothing about her or her situation, and he acted just like any other 17 year old boy would. However, for a long time, I hated him for taking advantage of her. I hated his name. I literally refused to read a book in which one of the main characters shared the same first name as him. I hated him for not being better. I hated him for not being emotionally mature. And I hated him for the things he said to her when they broke up.* The fallout from that first relationship changed her so much, and it hurt to watch. It hurt how much he made her question herself. Victoria was absolutely perfect.
It took a long time for me to realize that my hatred towards him was actually hatred for myself in disguise. I hated myself for not handling it differently. I hated myself for not being honest about how I felt.
It took even longer than that for me to admit to myself that she would’ve dated him anyway. It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d done anything different. Brennan was what she wanted. Victoria was desperate to feel loved and wanted and to feel like her life had meaning, and she believed Brennan could provide those things for her. I don’t think it ever occurred to her that she needed to look within herself for them. I vaguely remember trying to tell her to love herself first, but I’m sure I didn’t say it with the necessary thoughtfulness and care required to prevent her from feeling overly pressured to improve.
About a year and a half after her relationship with Brennan ended, Victoria met a much older man who introduced her to cocaine and marijuana. She started skipping school to get high and drink with him. Horrified by her drug use, I cut her off when she needed me the most. I left her to fend for herself. She married that man, and by the time I’d swallowed my guilt and asked her if we could be friends again, it was too late. Victoria was almost unrecognizable. Nothing I said could make her laugh. She sounded hopeless and empty, like a shell of herself. To make matters worse, I was in a terrible situation myself, and she was heartbroken by that. Victoria had spent our time apart hoping that I had found my calling and was finally happy. I tried to spare her from the worst details, but our friendship didn’t work that way. No matter what, we always just kind of knew what the other wasn’t saying.
I invited her to visit me, but she said it would never be allowed. Her husband was violent and controlling, keeping track of ever mile she put on her car. Within a month of us speaking to each other again, he raped her, and Victoria took her own life the next day to avoid “disappointing” him any longer.
I’ll never forgive myself for the contributions I made to her suicide. I should have been a better friend. Victoria gave me so much unconditional love, and I couldn’t have been bothered to do the same for her back then.
I just wanted to give us a happy ending, but I know my story will never make up for what I did.
As far as the title, well, Atonement was one of her favorite movies. Unfortunately, I never really found out why. But maybe this was why. Maybe she hoped someone would rewrite her story for her after she was gone and give it a better ending. I hope I met her standards, but I’m smart enough to know that I probably didn’t, and I probably never will.
I wasn’t done being your best friend. I’ll never be done. I miss you, and I love you, and I can see you. Also, please, it’s so hot outside right now. I hate it. Make it cooler. Also, also, my grandma did not name her next cat after you. I’m sure you’d be just as disappointed as I was. She didn’t even end up getting a new cat. Sigh.
Anyway, thank you for all of the silly memories. Thank you for my college degree. I wouldn’t have it if you weren’t there for me every time I was falling apart from stress. Thank you for putting up with me every finals week. Thank you for all the candy and music suggestions. Thank you so much for everything.
Shrooooooms and love and relationship cakes
*Small rant: If you’re breaking up with someone because y’all’s puzzle pieces don’t fit, BE FUCKING NICE. Do not write them an entire essay (no exaggeration) on how immature they are and how embarrassing it was to be out with them and how they were too clingy and childish and wanted a future with you. I’m so sorry someone thought you were good enough to spend the rest of their lives with? All you have to say is “you’ve got great swag, but your swag doesn’t match my swag, so let’s part ways now. Bye.” That is it. Nothing else. Don’t be a dick. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.