Brewbirds – short story

Brewbirds                                                                              [word count 2,965]


Plainly dressed, no make up Liz walks to the shop with her child in a buggy.  Standing by the estate corner shop are three girls with buggies all having a smoke, dressed in the latest chavie get up and faces caked in make up.  The girls look Liz up and down as she passes as though trying to place her.  Not looking directly at them but feeling their eye’s following her, Liz inwardly questions herself “why don’t I fit in?”  On her way back she passes them again, one girl nudges another asking if she knows who Liz is.


At home now relaxing on her sofa, Liz is slim in build, 5’6 dark hair and moderately attractive with a girl next door look about her.  Legs folded in the lotus position, head tilted she holds her phone off to the side.  Curiously she throws a question into the air “why do people always stare at me?”  A reassuring voice sounds out as though in reply, Liz’s eye’s dart to the phone “They stare because you are a bright light.  They don’t fully comprehend what they see.”  Liz thinks about this going over many uncomfortable situations in her mind where she has felt painfully out of place.  Throwing another question into the air as though talking to herself “so what should I do about the child, about work, using food vouchers? It’s embarrassing…” There’s a long pause she begins to chew her thumb nail while bending her ear closer to the phone in anticipation of the answer to all her present problems.


The same voice replies she is not visibly startled just intrigued.  “You shouldn’t be embarrassed about feeding your son.”  Liz nods in agreement, dropping the phone into her lap, her eyes like saucers staring into space, she sits poker straight, then crumples into floods of tears, obviously emotional!


Checking her watch its mid afternoon Liz sits in a café waiting for Frankie who is always late.  Seconds pass, in walks her eco warrior friend, 5’8 cool earthy vibe, fine featured with dyed purple hair.  Liz sits with her buggy looking visibly tired, they chat back and forth leaning close as though what they speak is top secret.  Frankie whispers “Liz you got out at the right time, STOP second guessing yourself he punched you in the stomach, THREE times!” Frankie looks over her shoulder as Liz responds “I know, I know, but the punches happened when we were joking about it wasn’t in argument and then the third time he rolled over in his sleep, it could just have been…”  Frankie cuts in “you were PREGNANT when he rolled over in his sleep, think he’d be more feckin’ aware…” Liz looks down and over to the buggy “well that’s why I left him isn’t it, now he doesn’t want to know at all” her voice wavers.  Frankie places a hand on Liz’s shoulder “you’ve had a lot to deal with, you’re doing great, you made the right decision… didn’t help your feckin’ ma threw you out!”  Liz looks off out the window “ack well think my mum was embarrassed we never got married.  I think what if I’d stayed, had been what he wanted me to be” she trails off while playing back moments in her mind of her ex relationship.  


Mike is stocky, broad 5’6, dark hair, strong jaw line he stands opposite Liz in the middle of a small apartment.  He holds her while looking endearingly into her eyes, Mikes appears dominant and strong.  Liz passively stands as he strokes her hair she leans into him, he whispers in her ear she smiles wistfully and kisses him.


Frankie’s voice brings Liz back to reality “Liz…Shake it off!” blinking twice as Frankie pushes her arm a couple of times bringing her mind back.  “If you had stayed longer it would have turned proper violent!  You had the fore sight to see where it was going.”  Liz nods slowly responds in monotone “yeah, I know” Frankie gets up helps Liz “come on let’s get back to yours and get the wee man to bed”.


Liz’s living room is untidy there are baby clothes drying on a maiden, clothes drying on the radiators and dirty dishes in the sink.  Later in the evening now Liz drunkenly wanders, dances in circles in the centre of her living room, clutching a nearly empty bottle of wine in left hand and her phone in the other.  She moans into the air “what should I do, ugh?” putting the back of her hand to her head as though the question were too much.  She looks at the phone as though waiting for the answer.  There is no reply.  Liz whimpers slurring her words “It’s too difficult, life, it’s too hard making the right decisions” she laughs hysterically as though the sentence was a joke.  Continuing to talk to herself she wonders in disbelief “how did I get here, a year ago I had a plan..”  The voice sounds out in reply “It has been said if you want to make God laugh tell him about your plans.” continuing “nothing worth having is ever easy”  Liz tosses the phone to the sofa as though she doesn’t want to hear the answer.  Whispering again to herself “we were in love once, you weren’t always nasty…” bottle still in hand she swigs the last of the wine, staggers to the sofa collapsing as scenes of her past relationship begin to unfold in her mind.


Liz and Mike sit at a romantic dinner he fawns over her she eats up his attention and affections.  Taking a rose from the vase in the centre of the table he hands it to Liz as they leave the restaurant he holds the door for her in a gentlemen like manner, she is easily won over.


Mike leads a blind folded Liz through a beautiful park to a picnic blanket laid out, taking off the blind fold he says “surprise” Liz beams throwing her arms around him they kiss passionately.


They sit at a bar drinking margarita’s, leaving tipsy they playfully make their way up the street, poking each other, laughing and smiling.  Liz lightly slaps Mike, pretend double jabs him, unexpectedly he turns smiling “no, no that’s not how it’s done this is how it’s done.”  He lightly swings his right fist making contact with Liz’s stomach she loses her balance Mike grabs to save her from falling.  Looking at him confused “Mike that hurt” he laughs “Liz I was joking don’t worry I caught you!” continuing to smile at her.  Liz straightens herself while casting an uncertain eye over Mike.


Liz walks into their apartment to find Mike in the middle of the floor with a picnic.  She smiles to him as she walks closer confused she thought they had plans to go out.  He starts an argument Liz back tracks, smiling while she jabbers away trying to hide her fear.  He stares at her all the while then stamps around the room huffing and puffing, throwing his arms this way and that.  Liz follows him, shadowing his movement trying to place a hand on his shoulder but Mike shakes her off getting more worked up as he goes.  Looking pensive, annoyed he runs his hand through his hair, turning he makes his way to the door swinging around as he goes shouting angrily “don’t you get it I don’t care what you think…” Liz motionless stands visibly stunned.


Remembering the final straw before she falls asleep in a heap; Mike pushes a pregnant Liz against the wall, she is passive he is in control leaning toward her.  Pressing his face into hers while speaking through gritted teeth, Liz begins to cry he lets her free and  walks away as though in regret.  He begins to apologise, tries to hold, hug Liz but she walks away in disbelief.  Following her now he offers “Liz I’m sorry, it’s work I’m stressed there isn’t a lot coming in, money is tight” he faces her trying to explain himself taking her hand he hold is to his cheek.  “You know I would never hurt you” Mike’s words echo out in her mind again and again “I’d never hurt you…”.  Liz comes to on the sofa with tear tracks lining her cheeks she hears the child crying through the baby monitor, looking to her phone then to the monitor again she makes her way upstairs.


The following day Liz enters a small hall laid out with children’s toys.  There are chairs lining the walls on either side of the hall, some mothers sit in them other women stand in groups chatting.  Sitting alone she is aware some of the women are staring at her while they chat, Tina makes her way over to Liz from this group “Hi Liz how are you, the little man sleeping?” Liz sounding relieved answers “yeah thank goodness he had me up half the night think he’s teething.”  Smiling perfectly Tina inquires “must be difficult getting up for work?” she looks at Liz waiting, “Oh, I’m not working at the minute” Liz replies.  “Oh right, I see, yes it can be hard to find something” Tina sounding sympathetic while smiling.  Tina weighing Liz up asks “it’s not easy does Josh’s dad help out?” Liz taken aback not expecting the question “Umm no, I mean… here and there, you know” she manages faint smile, realising now the other women knew she wasn’t with her son’s father.  “Oh right must be difficult, well help yourself to tea and a biscuit” Tina offers pointing to kitchen.


Liz is in her living room frantically tidying around Frankie who sits on the sofa with a cup of tea.  They chat back and forth Liz’s movements are frenzied she appears to be working herself into a tizz, arms waving around her as she speaks.  Frankie exclaiming calmly “Liz would you sit down and stop tidying for a second!”  She stops and with a heavy sigh plops herself next to Frankie “not working is driving me crazy my house is a mess, the dishes aren’t done, I’m snowed under with washing…”  Frankie is calm and direct “Liz you should’ve told Tina to sod off!”  Liz hesitates “I’m really considering putting him into a nursery and going back 9-5” she looks at Frankie while biting her lower lip.  Frankie shakes her head “Liz you don’t want that, he’s not even a year old!” Liz’s face crumples she puts her hand to her head “Oh god what have I done, never thought I’d be in this position… using food vouchers and eating left over soup from my dad”.   Annoyed Frankie spits out “Mike needs to step up, take care of his responsibilities!” worked up Liz explains “I don’t know how people do it, living on benefits, it’s near impossible..” trailing off as Frankie moves closer to her friend putting an arm around Liz.  “Liz you’ll make it work, you’re a survivor.”


Later in the evening Liz sits on the sofa staring at her phone, the room is reasonably tidy a maiden full of clothes stands in the corner.  She is talking to her phone “what I want for myself doesn’t matter?” she questions a little uncertain, irritated.  Fuming now while waiting for a response “do you know what you truly want?  Or are you still living by other peoples expectations?” the voice is even and calm Liz stutters and blinks thinking about this!  “How many unworthy decisions will you make yourself live through before you have the strength to listen to your heart.” Liz silently gapes at the screen, thinking yet understanding instantly.  The voice continues “stop searching for someone to make you perfect” Liz looks as though she begins to understand, as though a piece of the puzzle has slotted into place.  “I get it, I… finally… get it!” feeling a surge of electricity Liz jumps to her feet, soberly she does a happy dance as though to celebrate her thoughts.  Speaking positive affirmations to herself as she moves each statement prompting more energy and vibrance “I have the answers, I have the strength, I owe it to myself because…” she stops moving as the most powerful understanding hits her, she whispers “I’m worth it…”


Liz looks fresh the following morning revived she sits with Frankie in the café, a group of school kids laugh and joke in the background as they chat.  It’s Frankie’s turn to be agitated looking at Liz with concern “don’t meet up with him” Liz tries to reassure her “stop worrying, I won’t be stupid, maybe he’ll see Josh and want to support him.”  Frankie scoffs, flippantly replies “thought you said you weren’t going to be stupid, the only reason I’m worried is because I won’t be here!!”  Liz takes her sarcasm on the chin Frankie has always been a good friend “watch yourself when he doesn’t get what he wants he’ll turn nasty!” Frankie hisses shaking her head.  They chat on Liz tries to distract Frankie by changing the subject they talk about her plans to go backpacking.


A week later, its mid afternoon Liz sits next to Mike on a park bench Josh sleeps in his buggy next to her.  The park is busy with children and parents in a playground area at the far end to where they sit while a couple guys play football on pitch directly in front of them and other people walk their dogs.  Liz speaks in an even tone “we’re talking in circles, I’ve told you I’m not coming back.  Question is what type of future do you want with your son?” in a flat tone he questions “what type of relationship am I supposed to have when we don’t live in the same house!?! How am I supposed to teach him anything?”  Liz stays calm “I haven’t limited your access to him” Mike rolls his eyes “whatever Liz, I know how this works, I get to see him if I pay for him” Liz remains strong and measures her words “this is not an attack on your personal freedom, it’s supporting your son taking care of your own.”  Mike snorts a retort “well how do I know he’s mine..” he sneers at Liz, visibly shocked her composure falters.  Replying in disbelief “I was never unfaithful, we were never apart, YOU never let me out of your sight!!!”  Some people close by become aware of their exchange as it begins to heat up.  Mike’s temper is slowly on the rise, disgruntled he twists the situation “you want my money but you don’t want me?!?”  Liz tries not to scream but instead emphasis what is important “the money isn’t for me it’s for your son!”  Realising now he’s getting nowhere his temperament turns “you’re so manipulative Liz.  You’re using my son against me, money is tight at the minute, business is slow.”


Unsure why she is astonished Liz shakes her head “I’m not asking for everything you earn Mike just a little to help with nappies, milk, clothes…”  This statement seems to fuel his agitation, he suddenly jumps up from the bench turning he spits out “you’re a poisonous bitch, obstinate little cow, you never loved me just got yourself pregnant for the pay cheque..” stopping only for breath he continues pointing his finger now “I did everything for you, my mates said you were bad news!  You got pregnant to trap me..”  Liz gets up from the bench stepping back to put some distance between them, not feeling safe while he stands over her.  Wavering a little she remains firm in her position “That’s not how it is..” two guys nearby begin to make their way to where Liz and Mike stand.  Mike eyes them as they get closer Liz doesn’t take her eyes off Mike trying to gauge how he’ll react next.  “Oh I see what’s going on!” sudden realisation setting in for Liz she continues “you need me to need you!” he raises his finger leaning toward her, contorting his face “how do I put this… FUCK YOU Liz!” he half walks away turning he throws a verbal low punch “Oh aye, enjoy being a brewbird” his smile is twisted not missing a beat though Liz counters his hurtful comment “Mike… you have no power over me!”  His smile turns to a look of loathing he stands a moment taken off guard.  “As for Josh you’ll do whatever suits and I’ll do whatever it takes!” Liz confident in her delivery watches Mike walk away head lowered not looking back.  One of the two guys approaches Liz to ask if she’s ok, smiling she nods and thanks him taking the buggy she strolls off relieved, holding her head a little higher.


Later in the evening Liz sits on the sofa with a glass of wine in one hand and her phone in the other.  Speaking via skype to Frankie she regurgitates her encounter word for word.  Frankie on loud speaker sounding ecstatic “you did good held your own, I’m so proud of you!”  Liz modestly admits “I’m guzzling wine to calm my nerves don’t be too impressed, miss our chats Frankie!”  Frankie smiles thinking the wine is well earned teasing Liz now “hey there’s always conversations with yourself, know how much you love chatting to yourself…” giggling.  Liz takes a sip of wine, sticks her tongue out at Frankie “yip, always a good conversation if it’s with myself!”  Reluctantly Frankie says her goodbye’s they finishes their chat, Liz logs off her skype account and locks her phone.  Staring into it now “nothing wrong with talking to yourself, some of the best conversations I’ve had are with myself!” In the darkened screen a grinning Liz peers back at herself…



**A short film script has been developed for this story**


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