Three times in three years has tragedy touched Nicole Fetterly.

Her younger sister was killed by an ex-boyfriend in 2007. Her uncle was killed by a Toronto police officer in 2008. Then last week, her live-in boyfriend was shot dead in their apartment, accidentally, while Fetterly listened to music in the neighbouring room.

At just 21 years old, hers is a life that has become about death. She dreams of going back to school, but it has been one thing after another.

“I ask myself every day: ‘How do I keep breathing?’” she says on a recent afternoon. “I don’t really know how I feel about heaven or hell — sometimes I just get so mad — but I believe in somewhere.

There has to be something. I just don’t know why I keep losing the people who are the most close to me.”

Fetterly has an appointment at Glass Head tattoo shop on Yonge Street. She’s early, so she buys a pop at a pizza shop to kill time.

“When Chantele died, I had these angel wings done,” she says pulling the neck of her pink top down.

“For Bubz, I want to get something with hearts around it on the other side.” Bubz, as everyone called him, was Fetterly’s boyfriend, 17-year-old Patrick John Smith, Toronto’s 34th homicide of the year.

It was the first Tuesday in August at around 10:30 p.m. Smith was hanging out in the living room with his best friend. Fetterly was listening to music in the bedroom.

“I had the music turned up, so I didn’t really notice what it was at first, but there was this loud — pop!” she says. “I went out into the living room and Bubz was just slouched over on the couch moaning.” The friend was in shock, she says. “He just kept saying: ‘Oh my god. Oh my god. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.’”

Fetterly screamed to call a cab. “I kept thinking of the night Chantele was killed,” she says. “The ambulance took like an hour. I thought it would be faster to just take a cab.” The friend threw Smith over his shoulder and they headed to the front of her St. Lawrence Market area building. Within a few minutes, they were headed to St. Michael’s Hospital.

“I’m pretty sure he died on the way,” she says trailing off.

Quincy Callaghan-Thomas, 18, of Toronto, has been charged with manslaughter. Det. Doug Sansom says he believes that, however careless, the shot was an accident.

Fetterly thought she and Smith would be together forever. They got together a month after Chantele was killed.

It’s 3:30 p.m. and the tattoo artist is free. He shows her a design of gothic lettering and blood red hearts. Her eyes brim with tears.