Little Black Bird

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Long before my mental breakdown and stay in this less than lovely mental ward, I had my share of failed relationships...while I did not want to relive this particular one, I was forced to by my doctors. (It was either write it down or elctro-convulsive therapy.) And so, here is my misery...enjoy...

Submitted: July 10, 2013

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Submitted: July 10, 2013

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“Little Black Bird”

By Moody Glum

 

?

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The first time the phone rang I misunderstood it as Anna’s alarm clock, so I groggily reached across her naked body and punched the clock until I heard silence again.

“What are you doing?” she woke up.

“It’s time for you to go to work.”

“Ray, it’s only 4:30.”

She was still saying something, but I fell back to sleep.

 

We were in the shower the second time the phone rang, sliding flesh under gushing water. All I could hear was panting and moaning, but she heard it.

“Is that the phone?”

“Who cares,” I answered, trying harder now to distract her from the ringing.

 

I ate cereal in bed while Anna put her Motel Inn name tag on to finish off her uniform. That day was my day off from bartending. On TV a weatherman droned on about upcoming thunder storms, but my eyes were on Anna. She looked exceptionally beautiful that day. The girl had locks of dark brown curls like a super model and legs that at any time could drive me crazy. My favorite part of her: her eyes, the sweetest light brown eyes that always seemed to look at me and say, “I understand you, and everything’s okay.” The phone rang again.

“You gonna get that?” Anna asked, staring at me with those eyes.

“But you’re up.”

“Ugh, you’re so lazy!” She picked up my boxers and threw them at me, then disappeared into the kitchen.

It was a small, pretty shitty apartment we were living in, but it was what we could afford. “Hello?” I could hear her say. “Hello?” There was a click of her hanging up, and then she was back in the room on the bed, putting on her heels.

“So what are you gonna do for your day off?” she asked.

“Oh, you know me. Something crazy.”

“So you’re gonna lay in bed and watch TV.”

“No, I’m gonna drink.”

She turned around and gave me that look that I loved and feared. She was one of the only ones in the world that could let me know, with a single look from her phenomenal eyes, that she truly and deeply cared for my wellbeing, and that she would slap the hell out of me if I threatened it by doing something stupid, something like breaking a year’s worth of sobriety. “That’s not funny.”

“Baby I’m joking.”

She climbed up on top of me and kissed me.

“You’re gonna be late.”

“I don’t care.”

She kissed me again, and in that moment the morning was perfect, but the phone rang again.

“I’ve gotta go. Will you get that?”

I watched that angel dash out the door, kissing this devil before she left, and then I answered the phone.

“Hello?”

“Ray.”

Silence. Suddenly I couldn’t hear anything. The world stopped moving. I stopped breathing. Hands started quivering. I grabbed the phone with both of them and whispered, “Lilly.”

“I’ve been trying to get a hold of you.” Her voice knocked my heart to its knees. I considered hanging up, but a thousand memories of a former life were flooding back into me and drowning me in an instant as quickly as she had said my name; I didn’t want to hang up.

“You’ve been calling?” It felt wrong to talk to her; well half of me felt wrong.

“Yeah. I…I need your help.”

I was speaking low, as if Anna was in the next room, as if I needed to hide. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

“I don’t mean to bother you…I just don’t have anyone else right now.”

“Lilly what’s wrong?”

“Bud’s out, Ray. He got out a few days ago.” The girl was scared.

“Has he hurt you!”

“No, no. But I heard that he’s gonna be coming by and I - I just don’t know what to do. I don’t have a car or another place to stay. I’m leaving tomorrow morning, but Bobby told me that he was gonna come by tonight.”

“Where are you going?”

“Pennsylvania. I’ve already got the Greyhound tickets, but if he shows up he’s not gonna let me leave!” I couldn’t understand much more through her crying.

“Lilly I’m coming to you!” I wasn’t the driver anymore; I was the vehicle. Those old instincts had an iron grip on my wheel and were flooring the pedal. My stomach dropped and my guts churned thinking of Anna and of where I was headed, yet still I left a note on the fridge that read: GONE TO RANDY’S FOR THE NIGHT, BE BACK IN THE MORNING. LOVE YOU BABY.

 

I couldn’t tell you why my switch had flipped as instantly as lightning obliterates what it strikes. Forty miles away from the apartment and four and a half cigarettes later I came to the conclusion that it was the hard punch of an opportunity to settle unfinished business that made me leave as quickly as I had.

It only took two hours for me to drive my piece of shit truck, which I loved like a pet, away from the fast-paced city, past the farms and ranches and open fields of southern Texas, and finally to the country town it and I had once called home. I rolled by the town square where Lilly and I had spent our first date when we were freshman. When I passed by the old high school, which was dying like the town, the ending bell was ringing; Lilly and I rarely heard that bell because we usually snuck out hours earlier to play “backseat bingo” behind one abandoned building or another. The city park, where Lilly and I would spend nights sneaking away to get drunk at, had now lost its swing set, which held some wild memories, and was smothered in graffiti. The lake appeared low due to the drought that summer. I wondered if there were still skid marks there from when her and I sped off from Officer Slims before he caught us with weed we had bought from seniors; I didn’t stop to look.

I found my way to Cold Creek Road, drove down the dead end street past the countless double wide and single wide mobile homes with unkempt yards to the very, very end, and put my truck in park facing Lilly’s single wide. I could nearly see it as it was three years ago, me and Lilly as seniors in high school, guzzling down vodka or tequila or whiskey, engaging in chain-smoking and chain-sex. My mom would be under the impression I was at Johnny’s, and her parents, well - by that time her dad was long gone and her mom might as well have been.

Before I could get to her door, Lilly stepped out and we both froze.

“Hey,” was all I could start with.

“Hey.” She looked like a slightly older version of the pretty little flower I knew from the old days: her blonde hair in curls over her shoulders and her tiny frame struggling to hold up her jean shorts and pink tank top. Her baby blue eyes had the same effect on my heart as her voice, tugging at the strings and drawing me up the wooden steps of the trailer to her. We hugged, and held it for a good minute. I could see on the back of her shoulder a tattoo of a tiny black bird spreading its wings.

“You’re like a ghost,” she said.

“Back at ya Lil. Do you want me to come in?”

“No. I don’t wanna stay here.”

“All right. Where do you wanna go?”

“I don’t know.” She seemed tired, as if she might fall asleep there in my arms. It was then that I noticed the vodka on her breath.

“Have you eaten?”

“Not today.”

“Have you eaten this week?”

“Yes!” She punched me in the chest, smiling.

“Easy there. You’ve lost weight.”

“Aww, well thanks Ray! You look kinda fat.”

“Shut up. Let’s go eat.”

“I don’t have any money.”

“I do.”

“Ray you don’t have to do that.”

“I want to. Come on.”

She wouldn’t move from the doorway.

“I’ll carry you if I have to.”

No movement.

I went in and lifted her up.

“Ok! Ok! Put me down! Wait a minute.” She disappeared inside, then reemerged with a bottle of cheap vodka that had more than likely been her breakfast.

“Lilly, no.”

“Ray. It’s fine. We can go hang out at the park or something after we eat.”

I shouldn’t have allowed it, but I did.

 

It surprised me how much small talk we had at Joe’s Diner off the square. I would have thought with everything we’d been through, and with how I left her, that we would either sit in silence or start screaming at each other. But instead we talked pleasantly as if we were only friends three years ago.

We caught up over two plates of burgers and fries each. After graduation, Lilly worked odd jobs here and there: gas station attendant, waitress, Walmart stocker, and so on. Her mom remained pretty messed up like she had always been until the woman finally had enough of her parade of asshole boyfriends and left to live with Lilly’s grandmother in Pennsylvania. Lilly kept the trailer and lived alone. I told Lilly about me and my mom’s new life in the city and how last year she had finally convinced me to enter into AA.

“Good for you,” Lilly had said.

“You ever gonna quit?” I asked.

“I’m gonna get clean in Pennsylvania. My gramma got my mom into a program up there, and she said she could help me out, too. Sounds like she’s really turned over a new leaf. You still live with your mom?”

“No. I moved out a while ago.”

Lilly ate half of a French fry and stared at the wall. “You got a girlfriend?”

I paused. “Yeah.”

She looked down, setting the other half of the French fry on the plate. “You love her?”

I stared down. “Yeah - I do.”

Lilly started to tear up and looked away. I felt like I had plunged a knife in the girl. “You know,” she said, “you never even said goodbye.”

“I tried Lilly.”

“You left a fucking note!”

I, and the rest of the restaurant, watched her storm out in tears. I threw forty dollars on the table and marched after her, saying “Eat your food!” to the all the spectators.

Lilly was pulling hard on my truck’s locked door to get in, probably for the vodka.

“Lilly, please.”

“Ray. I don’t wanna talk!” She turned away from me and leaned against the door.

“I didn’t know what to do Lil. I was a kid for God’s sake! We both were!” I approached her slowly and stood behind her. “It was only getting worse between us in the end, and you know it. I couldn’t say goodbye to your face.”

She turned around. “Why not?”

I looked around and took a deep breath. Those clouds that the weatherman was talking about that morning were rolling in. I looked her dead in her blue eyes. “I loved you.”

She slapped me, and I stood and took it. She looked away. We both stood in silence. The wind was picking up. “You know,” she said. “I used to think that your mom had made you write that note. That she had somehow gotten you not to talk to me before you and her left.”

The restaurant manager stepped out and yelled at us, “Hey! Take it somewhere else!”

“Screw you!” Lilly screamed.

“Lilly, come on.” I unlocked the door and got Lilly in as she argued away.

“Sorry,” I said to the manager, got in, and drove away.

Lilly pulled out the vodka.

“Where do you wanna go?” I asked.

“I don’t care.”

“I have an idea.”

 

There was an unnamed dirt road that led around the lake and back into some woods. We parked at the end facing the water. Up above the sky had turned grey. The trees were tilting in the wind. It was getting dark fast.

“Why would you bring me here, Ray? You know what this is.”

“It’s a good hiding spot is what it is. Bud doesn’t know about this, does he?”

“No. All he knows are the crack homes and sluts’ houses.”

“Why did you ever get with him, Lilly?”

“You left Ray. You left. I was all right for about a year and half on my own…but then I just…needed someone, and he was there.”

“You deserve better.”

“Whatever. So are we just gonna stay here all night?”

“We could. You got anywhere else?”

“No.”

“You wanna go back to your place?”

“No. For all I know Bud could be there right now.”

“Then I guess we could just stay here all night.”

I lit a cigarette and immediately handed one to her knowing she’d want it. “Did he ever hit you?”

“Threatened to, but I guess he just never got around to it. You’re the town fighter, remember? Bud’s just the town drug dealer.”

“I only hit other guys, and only when they treated you bad. You know I actually punched myself after I left.”

“What!”

“Yeah. Slugged myself. I knew I had hurt you so I wanted to kick my ass.”

She stared at me, and then she burst into laughter. I couldn’t help but join. “Ray that’s stupid!”

After a minute we calmed down. “What’d he go to jail for?”

“You didn’t hear?”

“I heard a lot of stories, but I figure you know the real one.”

“Assault with a deadly weapon, baseball bat. Some guy stole from his stash so Bud wanted payback. The cops were called and the rest is history.”

“You afraid?”

She dropped her cigarette out the window and stared off into the grey sky. “No. I mean I was…I…”

“What?”

“Its stupid.”

“No, what?”

“I’m not afraid because you’re here.”

I smiled. I started us up some more cigarettes and we gazed out onto the waves.

We talked here and there until nightfall, and it felt like the old days. The bottle of vodka between us was even starting to tempt me. I don’t know how, but we reminisced in order, starting from our beginning and then through the story of our life together. We laughed at how clumsily we had lost our virginity to each other, right in the seats where we sat, right at that spot on the lake we were parked at. We laughed at Officer Slims trying to catch us, at teachers who had tried to control our PDA, and spoke proudly of how we accomplished sneaking out so often. It felt like the old days, my dangerous, wayward angel sitting next to me in a fight for love against the world, only this time we were just remembering the fight, which we had lost.  If we were going to speak of all of our relationship, we would have to speak of the final blow that defeated us.

In a moment of silence Lilly took a drag, and I knew she was thinking about her. “Do you ever wonder where she is now?”

I looked out the window. Rain was beginning to drizzle over the land, and the last bit of the sun was sinking to the other side of the world. “All the time. I don’t think I’ll ever stop wondering.”

“Sometimes I wish we’d kept her, or at least named her.

“I don’t know a lot Lil, but I do know that she’s got a good life wherever she is.”

Some tears spilt from those blue eyes and I wiped them away for her. “We did the right thing Lil.”

“I’m sorry.”

I laughed. “For what?”

“For everything! The way I yelled at you all the time and the way I hit you. I was mad at myself.”

I held her face in my hands and looked her in the eyes, “It’s all right. I’m sorry for leaving the way I did.”

The rain was starting to pour now.

“You wanna see something?” I turned around and lifted up my shirt to expose the back of my shoulder, revealing a little black bird that matched hers.

“You didn’t get rid of it,” she ran her fingers along the mark.

“No. I didn’t mean what I said. I was never going to get rid of it. She was our little black bird.”

She laughed. “You used to say that all the time. She was our little black bird and we had to give her up so she could have a better life.”

I picked up the bottle of vodka and took a sip, “And I meant it.” After the sip I chugged for a good five seconds.

“Ray! What are you doing!”

I couldn’t help it. My sober mind was elsewhere, like Anna, and the shit we were talking about was too damn heavy not to have a reaction, so I chugged some more.

The rain was hammering down now. Lightning lit up the grey sky and thunder roared over the dying country town, over me and Lilly.

She snatched the bottle from me, “I’m not gonna let you do this to yourself!”

I leaned over her, reaching for the bottle. “You’re not killing yourself either Lilly!”

We stopped, realizing where we were. I was on top of her, breathing heavier and heavier onto her mouth. Her hand was on my chest to keep me from the bottle. Her eyes looked down at our bodies then up into mine. They had the same damsel feel, begging for someone to save her.

“Did you really love me?”

“With every bit of me. Did you love me?”

There was a moment of silence. I couldn’t hear the thunder storm outside; I could only see, and I could only see her. The bottle dropped to the floorboard, spilling.

She grabbed me by the back of the neck and pulled my lips to hers. We stopped and I leaned up in a moment of mutual recognition that this was wrong…

…but soon enough I plunged back into the storm and kissed her, pressing my fingers into her body, feeling her grab at my arms and back and breathe into my ear when my lips and tongue ran across her neck. Soon enough our bodies writhed against the seat. Soon enough we were drinking in the same heroine we knew three years ago. Soon enough I was again pumped full of the addicting thrill of being her hero, saving her from the hell we had lived in and loving her until it all felt like heaven. Soon enough we were burning alive like we had in the old days, and soon enough she tore off my shirt, and soon enough all clothes were in the puddle of vodka, and soon enough we came to the very brink of entering into full betrayal against Anna…

…when I stopped.

“What’s wrong?”

“Lilly - I can’t do this.”

Suddenly headlights blared in through the windows and a roaring engine came to a halt behind my truck.

“That’s Bud! I know that engine!” She scrambled for her clothes.

I didn’t care about clothing, or if Bud had a baseball bat. I didn’t care about the liter of vodka in my stomach that was sending me flying. I cared that I loved Anna, and I cared about Lilly, and I cared that this bastard had Lilly so terrified she didn’t want to go home.

“Ray!” Lilly screamed for me, but I was already out of the truck with the half empty bottle of vodka, marching naked through the pounding rain towards the dark shadow that was getting out of his Chevy.

“Who are you!” the shadow screamed.  He was a tall, scrawny, pale excuse for a human being that needed manners.

I was rage and vodka fueled for war.

“Lilly!” he yelled. “I’ve been driving all night!”

“Leave right now!” I roared.

“Shut the hell up!”

I slugged him across his jaw and he hit the ground. I wobbled dizzily for a moment which gave him time to get to his feet and charge at me. We locked and clawed and threw punches, some hitting and others missing. I took a hit or two to the face and one to my ribs before I threw him off of me. I picked up the bottle where I’d dropped it and stomped towards the coward.

“I’m gonna kill you!” he yelled.

I shattered the bottle on the hood of his Chevy, and then knelt down in front of him with a long shard at his neck.

His mouth shut and he was frozen.

I spoke slow, “If you ever come around her again, I’ll kill you.”

He didn’t respond, just whimpered. I stood up and backed away, “Leave!”

He clambered around his Chevy and got in. He was yelling something like, “I’ll be back!” as he sped off down the dirt road. Maybe he’d be back with a friend, or with a gun, but it didn’t matter. The sun was coming back around in a few hours and Lilly would be gone by the time he came looking for her.

I turned around and fell to my knees, tried to hold it back, but couldn’t and started crying. There went the dream of living in a memory with Lilly. There went a year’s worth of resistance. There went me and Anna, and that one hurt the most. The shard was cutting into my palm; I stared down at it, and I imagined how the blood could be coming from my wrist instead. I considered doing it, just as I had considered doing it when my relationship with Lilly was collapsing three years ago. 

Lilly stepped out into the rain, her clothes on, her tears rolling. She ran to me and held my face against hers. “Are you ok?” she yelled over the thunder. And there it was before me, displayed as if by a mirror as sharp as the shard of vodka bottle in my hand: the toxicity of our bombastic relationship that I’d abandoned three years ago.

I dropped the shard and grabbed her face, sobbing over the rain. “Lilly! I loved you, and I still love you!”

“I love you too! I love you so-” but I covered her mouth before she could finish.

“Lil! We had our time! But we can’t go back!” I kissed her forehead. “We have to move on!”

She cried, and cried, and then nodded. “Okay!”

“I should’ve said goodbye! I’m sorry!”

“It’s okay!” She hugged me. “It’s okay!”

We stayed under lightning and thunder for what seemed like hours. Eventually we got back in the truck and Lilly was tolerant of the vodka enough to drive, and so we rode away from the lake. That was the last time I saw it.

We rode around going nowhere until sunrise then came back to Lilly’s. She grabbed her suitcase and I got dressed, then I drove her to the Greyhound station twenty miles out of town.

“Thank you for everything,” she said.

“Back at ya Lil.”

I haven’t heard from her since. I remember watching the bus drive away from me down the road, standing there until I couldn’t see it any longer.

I took my time driving back to the city. The bar wasn’t expecting me until six, and I was in no hurry to face Anna. I felt like throwing up the minute I left the apartment the morning before, and I felt like throwing up when I returned.

Anna was out on the balcony, gazing into the grey morning sky. I couldn’t even kiss her or say hello when I looked into those eyes. She was gorgeous, like an angel, my angel. She had a smile at first, happy to see me, but then it dropped when the wind picked up her way and gave away my secret.

“You smell like vodka, Ray.”

“Anna…I have something to tell you.” I looked out into the grey sky, and there was no blue in sight.

 


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