Liora would wake, screaming choking in fear. That night… She could not shake it.
How could two brothers be so different. They both suffered the same hardships living with an abusive father and trauma induced absentee mother, but they were vastly different people.
One bitter and twisted, repressed emotionally and paranoid at every corner. The other creative with an inner light that emanated from within, nothing could capture or extinguish it.
But they were brothers and backed each other until that night when one crossed the line and went that step too far.
Lines had blurred in the past, but they had been in it together and what had happened had been more a desperate attempt to survive, not an act of malice or premeditation. Albert had always been a drunken violent man, vicious and manipulative. He treated his sons and wife like property, objects to dominate and amuse him. Able being older got the worst of it particularly because he acted as a distraction for his father’s relentless savagery towards their mother Ursula.
The result, Able being drowned at the hands of his father in the water troughs, water for the sheep in the stock holding yards but Albert used them better as part of his deadly game only he and Able got to play.
The Child would be left on the ground unconscious not breathing and if Albert thought there was a chance of death, he lay the boot in, kicking him until Able coughed up water. The spluttering and choking sounds of his son enough proof of life and the game was over…At least for that day.
Their father regularly came home so intoxicated he could barely stagger in the door or make it to his lounge chair before he lapsed into an alcohol induced coma. A regular scenario that was the only space in their lives without fear.
On a cold winter evening the boys had come across the man in his favourite chair, his head hanging forward, vomit all down his shirt, the stench of beer filling the room mixed with cigar smoke wafting up from the shaggy woollen rug where it had fallen from his hand. Usually, they would pull him from the chair, so he lay flat on the floor to stop him aspirating his own puke. They learnt from their mother what to do before too many beatings had broken her enough, now she did not leave her room.
On this day though they left him, excited to use this shard of precious freedom to go to a party some friends were having down the road at Golden Meadows Farm. Although the teenagers had so many shameful secrets they tried to hide, often missing school, they were well liked by peers and teachers. Any time their father passed out cold they would tidy themselves up and revel in the happiness of other peoples lives, a diversion from the misery of their own.
After most people had left the party or fallen asleep and the fire pit was barely warm, Able and Ronan began the dreaded walk back to the suffering awaiting them. As they passed over the rise and down the old sheep track that led back to the house time ceased. Frozen in that moment, both seeing what they couldn’t comprehend, they clutched each other’s hand instinctively, feeling like they were the only two people that existed, now completely alone. The old weather board building, an edifice of childhood terror and absolute despair, that prison they thought never to escape, had burnt to the ground.
But this was not the same circumstance, Liora was innocent, full of life and hopeful for all that her future might offer. Able had no excuse that defended him trying to extinguish that sunniness. She lit up his life with a brightness he coveted so ruthlessly he was driving her away. The fear of losing her had driven him to act as he had, a tragic reflection of his father’s treatment of him.
As much as Ronan understood what drove Able’s sickening impulse, he could not allow it. He loved Liora too, although differently, as a sister rather than a lover, but still just as much.
On that night when he came to Liora’s aid after she called him hysterical, inconsolable, with a raspy voice, crying more then speaking and witnessed the after math of the evening’s events. He had no comprehension that what resulted foreshadowed the beginning of him returning to his old habits. The filthy shadow of his father’s soul, a seed planted in Able all those years ago had borne fruit. That distant life of keeping secrets, hiding his indignity and the shame he had left in the ashes of childhood, had caught its first breath eager to live again.
When Ronan got the call from Liora, He felt like a little boy again. Filled with panic and helplessness he jumped in his truck and speed along the dark abandoned streets to her apartment. The door was not locked, he walked straight in. Crossing the lounge room, he saw the light of the bathroom and as he approached the crimson pool welling beneath Abel’s skull. Seeing his brother face down and lifeless, immediately Ronan wanted to help him, but that emotion shrivelled and died turning to disdain and abhorrence as he glimpsed Liora curled up on the floor.
Pushed into a corner against the cold hard surface of the bath, with only a towel haphazardly tangled around her, Liora was hunched motionless on her side. The white towel had blood spattered all over it. At first, he thought the blood was Abel’s but realized she had slashed her feet on the jagged pieces of crystal vase scattered about the floor.
“Liora Beth… Beth, are you O.K.?” he squatted down gently laying his hand on her. She flinched and did not look up. “Beth please I need to know what happened, did you call an ambulance?”
“No …. I want him dead… Don’t save him.” She coughed out the words in a muted whisper. Only now as she looked at him was Ronan aware of the absolute repulsiveness of his brother’s actions.
Her cheeks were flushed scarlet, he could see the blood on her swollen quivering lips, she’d bitten her tongue. Capillaries broken from the pressure of Ables grip, her eyes were frightfully blood shot, the right far worse than the left. Magenta stripes on both sides of her neck, again the right more so with clear imprints of fingers that left the echo of their mission, to crush the life from her forever. The bruises on her upper arms paled in comparison.
“If you care….” She swallowed painfully. “For me …. let him die.” She gurgled and coughed again as she tried to say the words
“But that makes it murder… you could go to jail” Ronan answered quietly taking out his phone and backing out the door of the bathroom, what he witnessed in front of him was inconceivable.
Pulling the door partly closed he turned away trying to compose himself. He had to make the phone call, not sure if an ambulance or the police was the better choice. He could hear movement behind him but could not stomach glancing back at that mess again just yet. Then he heard the metallic noise of something being unscrewed, and the movement of porcelain against itself. His pulse raced, his mind made no sense of those noises, listening closely to see if he was imagining the sound, he heard the noise of porcelain scraping again.
He rushed towards the door, pushing it open. Transfixed for a moment, startled by the site of Liora standing naked over Able, he was not quick enough to stop her.
“No… No… Stop it!” He screamed the words, but it did nothing. Liora standing holding the heavy white ceramic lid of the toilet cistern above her head, brought it crashing down on Abel’s chest. She crumpled back into a heap on the floor, spluttering and breathing loudly. He was likely dead now if not before.
It was in that second, he made his choice. Seeing Liora-Beth who he had known to be completely kind, always gentle and passionate, committing an act so intrinsically outside her nature, it must have been unendurable belonging to Able. When faced with an impossible choice of loyalties in that instant he chose Liora.
He would protect her.