Liberty - short story

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                                                                Michael Calvert 

            Libby looked into her glass--looked more through it than into it really--staring.  She deftly swished the drink in her hand around, and the half-melted ice cubes did two quick laps before returning to their lazily bobbing positions.  The clinking noise they made was almost peaceful.  She lifted the glass to her mouth and took a heavy swallow, cringing at the taste--the fire in her throat.  She coughed twice, winced in pain-and drank again. 

Her eyes fixed once more into the amber liquid and she scoffed.  At what though?  Brian?  Herself?  'The situation'--as he would always call it?  Oh how she loved it when he would screw right up and blame it on 'the situation'.

           "It's not my fault babe, it's just the situation we're in," he'd say.

           "Fuck 'the situation' Brian --now we've got a 'situation'," she said, but nobody was there to listen to her. 

           She downed the rest of her drink.  Libby slowly reached for the bottle of scotch sitting on the littered coffee table--Brian's scotch, his best scotch; the two-hundred-dollar bottle he'd bought four years ago.  Nobody was allowed to touch his 'baby'; even he'd only drunken out of it twice a year.  As her fingers wrapped around the bottle's neck, she stopped. 

           Her right wrist was bruised so darkly purple that it looked like someone had tattooed a three-inch-wide bracelet on her arm.  Another going away present from Brian, damn that man was strong.  She needed more scotch.

          "Here's to you Brian, wherever you are," she said, and raised her newly filled glass in the air, pouring a sip onto the living room carpet.  It needed to be replaced anyway--she was bleeding all over it.

           Libby finished the rest of the glass, the burning in her throat more distant now, and held it up for inspection.  Satisfied she had left none of 'baby's' precious drops behind in it, she angrily flung the glass and its two ice cube passengers at their wedding portrait above the mantle.  It shattered on the newlyweds.  The framed photo fell from the wall, knocked one of her prized masks from its stand, and together, along with the shattered glass, they crashed onto the fireplace's slate base.

          She put her head in her hands and cried. 

          She told herself she wouldn't cry--not for that bastard, but it's the booze now and she can't hold back.  If she was such an expert in masks then why the hell couldn't she see through the ones people wore on their faces everyday?  Three long-term relationships--and three big-time losers.  None of them were ever abusive or anything--not in the beginning.  It was always the same: at first she forgave, then she tried to forget, but she always ended up being afraid. 

         She was bullied once as a child and her grandfather had found her crying.  When she explained what had happened, he told her that she had to stand up for herself and not take the crap that people handed out to her.

        "Yeah, like that stuck, gramps," Libby said, and chuckled.

        She grabbed 'baby' from the coffee table, and she drank straight from the bottle. 

        She had to get up; get to a phone, but her chest was on fire--he'd cracked one of her ribs, maybe two.  Not broken though, she'd been through that before.  It was her bleeding leg that needed medical attention, she thought, and sooner than later.  The scotch was helping kill the pain--all the pain. 

       Funny, through all the years, all of the abuse, never once had Libby called the police.  Not until that night two months ago: he came home angry and pissed to the gills.  Told her he'd had enough of her shit and that she was going to pay for wasting his life away.  Brian came at her; she back-peddled right into a wall.  He staggered, and she thought he'd go down, but he raised his fist and swung as he fell.  Libby dipped her head to the left and his punch ploughed through the wall: gypsum board crumbled at the blow.  He had hit the wall hard enough to damage the drywall right through to the kitchen side.  He screamed, more in anger than pain--he was beyond pain, and his dark eyes burned into her with pure hate. 

         "That's it, bitch!"  He staggered into the kitchen and reached for the knife block.  She turned, grabbed the phone from the dining room table, and ran.   Libby had 911 dialled before she even locked the bathroom door. 

          A small, cried "Help" was the only word that came out of her.  She tossed the phone into the sink; sat on the toilet, pulled her knees up to her chest, and cried-waiting for him to come. 

         He never did. 

         Brian had passed out on the kitchen floor.  When the police came, they took a statement from her, and hauled Brian off to spend the night in the drunk-tank. 

         When he came home, he blamed it on the booze, on his boss, anything but himself.  He cried and told her that he would quit drinking if she stuck with him.  She did--and he didn't.

          Fear?  Confusion?  Humiliation?  All reasons to get help, all reasons to run--and all reasons not to. 

         But this was different--Brian was gone now. 

        Maybe she could go away; somewhere nobody would find her, maybe Mexico, nobody had ever taken her there.  Maybe even further south--she'd always had a thing for ancient South American masks.  No, she was done with running--done with not facing up to the truth. 

        This was a new Liberty Palmer, she was done with 'situations', done with the pain. 

        This was a new mask she was trying on, and Liberty thought she might rather like it.

       She grabbed her chest and slowly eased herself off the couch.  The scotch had done its job: the pain had eased; now she just had to find the damn phone before she lost too much blood.  The room was littered with items from all over the house; a pillow from their bed was ripped open and had spilled its white guts out over in the corner; a kitchen chair lay face-down in the middle of the room, one metal leg bent awkwardly inward. 

       The bloodied pair of scissors she had pulled from her leg lay on the floor.  A smashed glass glittered near where Brian had almost punched a hole right through her head.  Their wedding portrait lay facedown, broken she hoped, at the base of the fireplace.  Her late 19th-century Chinese dragon mask, a replica of course, now lay in pieces beside it; remnants of the glass she'd just thrown were mixed amongst the carnage. 

         The small suitcase she had packed earlier in the day sat on the worn black leather recliner, open slightly, with an arm of her favourite summer dress hanging limply out--almost seeming to wave goodbye to her.  CD's and their cases were scattered across the floor.  She'd never find the phone in this mess and made up her mind to get the one from the bedroom. 

        'Baby' had one last sip left in her, and a smile crossed Liberty's lips as she savoured it.  That's for you gramps, she thought, and tossed the bottle onto the floor near her feet.  Liberty's leg hurt pretty bad as she stood there, even with the scotch dulling the pain.  Her once-white sock was now red, but she thought she'd be ok for now. 

Taking a deep breath, Liberty said, "how do you like this 'situation' Brian?"

            She stepped over his body and started towards her bedroom.