caswilliams Cas Williams

Ever Yours, Valerie is my imagined version of the events surrounding Vincent Van Gogh and his relationship with his older brother, Theo Van Gogh. Theo was known as Vincent’s greatest supporter, and after Vincent shot himself, Theo stayed by his bedside for 2 days until he died. My novella (of roughly 25 chapters) is an imagined take on this. I do not seek to change anyone’s minds on the relationship between the Van Gogh brothers, I do not seek to change history, or narration or any version of events. The only thing I am doing is examining the relationship between the 2 brothers, and considering it through the lens of my own madness. The thing is, my own life has, sadly, echoed the life of Vincent in many ways. I am pedantic, so I wanted to see how the story would look on two modern day sisters. Meet Valerie and Taylor.

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“How are you feeling now?

It has been three months since your sister’s funeral- how are you handling everything?”

Taylor cleared her throat, crossing one leg over the other as she tried to become comfortable in her psychiatrist’s overly soft and wide couch.

She shrugged.

“Everything is fine I suppose. I am still cleaning out the stuff she kept at my place, but her room at our parent’s home is also filled with dozens and dozens of boxes that I have to go through.”

Taylor watched, disinterestedly, as the doctor scribbled on her notepad, before she looked up at her again.

“And are you ready to speak about the time in the hospital? With her? In our last session, I mentioned that that is an important aspect that I want you to discuss. We cannot keep avoiding it Taylor.”

Taylor nodded, inhaling deeply and quietly. She had learned, throughout therapy, that recounting events from the past few months as though they were facts, was the only way that she did not become overwhelmed.

“I don’t know what you want me to say though.” Her voice wobbled when she spoke, and Taylor winced- she had already failed before she even started.

“Just tell me what it was like, in those last moments with your sister?’ the doctor looked at her intently. ‘Were you sad, angry, relieved?”

“I don’t know.” Taylor mumbled.

She didn’t let herself think about her sister much anymore. It had been exhausting when Valerie was alive, and trying to keep track of her now, in death, was a task that seemed insurmountable.

Besides. Valerie was dead.

And Taylor just wanted to rest.

Valerie had been thirty-four when her final suicide attempt worked. Taylor had been too late to save her older sister, unlike the previous times that she had rushed up to wherever Valerie was living and performed CPR, or called an ambulance, or stuffed the bottle of activated charcoal that she had learned to keep on her person, down Valerie’s throat.

Her sister had still been alive when she found her, but barely breathing, the feel of her pulse fluttery and incoherent beneath Taylor’s fingers.

She had already called the ambulance before she even left for Valerie, and the bus arrived just after she did, and Taylor let them take her sister with relief, sitting back on her haunches as the paramedics hoisted Valerie onto a gurney and took her away.

There had been no time for Taylor to feel any emotion at all as she jumped up, grabbing her phone from her bag and following the ambulance to the hospital. She called every reachable family member in the car as she followed the ambulance.

Most of those who actually answered her phone call met her with silence, digesting the information she gave them, before simply asking for the name of the hospital before hanging up.

Taylor did not blame them.

At the hospital, her sister’s doctors had been very clear that whatever Valerie had consumed had done too much damage for her to be saved. She was actively dying, and if Taylor had called the ambulance any later than she had, Valerie would have died without ever reaching the hospital.

“I don’t know,’ Taylor cleared her throat, as she looked at her doctor, blinking as the room around her swam in and out of hazy focus.

‘I don’t think I felt…anything at all really. I had time with her and I was happy about that at least.

No one else wanted to come see her. And I had time with her for almost two days. I was happy about that.

I was happy that she died knowing that I wasn’t angry with her.”

“So you weren’t angry at her?” The doctor pounced on her words.

Taylor sighed, shifting in her seat.

“How could I be angry with her? At the end of it all, she never wanted to hurt me, or hurt anyone. She just couldn’t help it.”

“But she could help it,’ Taylor swallowed as a wave of annoyance rushed over her. She knew that her psychiatrist was only doing her job.

‘She could help it. She could have had a happy, fulfilled life if she had taken her medication, if she had gone to therapy, if she had taken advantage of all the things available to her.

And she wouldn’t have had to have a painful life, or hurt anyone, herself included.

So I’ll ask you again- are you sure you weren’t angry with her?”

“No!’ The word exploded from Taylor with such force that she saw the doctor’s eyebrows raise in shock.

‘Why do you want me to be angry with her? Why do you want me to hate my sister? Do you think she chose to be how she was?”

“Of course not Taylor. But I simply wonder how long you’re going to shield her, when you know that she could have had a normal life. She might not have chosen her illness, but she could choose to not be sick. I want to know why you are so determined to defend Valerie from any accountability, especially because I know if your sister had taken some accountability, your own life would have been easier.”

“She did take accountability in the end.” Taylor ran a hand through her hair. She looked down at her lap, gritting her teeth, as waves of dull pain radiated through her lower body. She thought if she inhaled too quickly, her lower back would buckle.

“Okay, well I’ll be pursuing this in our next session. Now, why don’t you give me a quick update on work while I renew your prescription?”

“Things at work are fine,’ Taylor allowed her shoulders to relax as the doctor got up and went over to her desk where she pulled out her prescription pad.

‘I’ve got a few cool projects that I am working on. And my boss actually is considering publishing some of Valerie’s writing. I was going through some of her old manuscripts at work during lunch and he started reading it.

He says she is- was- an excellent writer. I think it would be quite nice if her passion for writing became something everyone remembered about her.”

“That is amazing Taylor.

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