The End: Libby
I’m staring in the mirror in Liam’s bathroom, door closed, eyes wide open, mind racing.
Why did I let this happen? I’m only going to get hurt again.
My phone buzzes then on the tiny counter and Graham’s face appears on the screen. “Here we go,” I murmur to myself, and I pick up the phone. “Hello?”
Nerves are bubbling in my stomach until I hear his voice. “Hey!” His voice is chipper and relaxed and I sigh in relief.
“Hey, Graham.” I sit on the closed toilet seat and stare down at the rug sitting in front of it. It has cartoon fish on it - probably a Jeremiah pick.
“What’s up, buttercup? How are you feeling?” he asks, always the one with endless questions.
A small smile forms my lips. “I’m okay. Just sitting in the bathroom.”
“Did you make it to the hotel okay?”
I don’t have the heart to tell him. Do I tell him? And for the first time in our relationship, I lie. “Yeah, I’m all good.”
“Hey, I’m really pooped right now,” I interrupt, feeling only more and more guilty as the call goes on. “I’m sorry but I think I should go to sleep.”
There was a small pause and I fear that he can see through me - he always can. “Okay. Goodnight, Elizabeth.”
My heart stutters, and not just out of guilt. “Goodnight, Graham.”
I wait until he ends the call when I finally turn my phone off. Maybe I should go to bed. Nothing will happen if I just go to bed.
Nothing should happen even if I don’t go to bed.
I shake my head at my stupidity. Liam’s moved on. I have, too. He’s just being kind to let me stay here. Not because of anything else. I sigh and look at the door. He’s probably wondering if I hit my head in the shower and died, I’ve taken so long.
I swallow the lump in my throat as I turn the knob, and when I open the door I come face-to-face with Liam. “Oh!” I jump, my hand flying to my chest.
His eyes are wide and I can tell that we are both caught in surprise. “Sorry,” he says quickly, but when the rush is nearly over and we’ve both taken a few breaths, he says, “I was just coming to ask if you’d like some coffee.”
My heart pounds hard in my chest and I lower my hand back to my side. “Sure,” I sigh, the word coming out before I really thought about it. “Why not.” A lopsided grin forms his lips and he starts walking to Jere’s room. “Um....”
He checks over his shoulder and when he sees that I’ve stopped by the stairs he turns and looks down at the ground bashfully. “I, uh, actually already made it. I brought it to the balcony.”
I quirk my head. “Isn’t it cold?”
He chuckles nervously. “Yeah, didn’t really consider that much.” My heart continues to pound for this boy. “But there are at least 200 blankets out there.”
“Pillows?” I ask, playing along.
I laugh, the obnoxious sound bubbling out of me, and Liam just smiles broadly. “C’mon.”
We tip-toe through Jere’s room, and I notice briefly how he now has many Marvel action figures scattered around on the floor. Something drapes over my shoulders when I pause to open the sliding glass door and I wrap it snug around me. It smells like him.
I don’t thank him until we’re both outside in the freezing-my-ass-off cold on the balcony, my fuzzy-socked feet padding across the 200 blankets that are lying out on the concrete. The night is dark but the city lights reflect in the sky. Even with the heavy coat on a solid shiver courses through my body and Liam instructs from behind me to get under the pile.
“Sir, yes sir,” I reply and he chuckles, our breath ghosts in the night.
He settles in beside me at a respectful distance, and the need for him to be closer becomes too strong. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Before I can think too much more about it, a hot-ish mug is held in front of me. I take the mug gratefully and take a sip immediately. Anything for that warm feeling I crave from him.
We’re sitting quietly, lost in our own twirling thoughts. Two things were stuck in my head: My lie to Graham, and Jenny’s three words. I love you. I didn’t get to hear if he said the words back, but I didn’t need to - his eyes said it all. I love you.
And my lie to Graham... I’m such a little shit. I’ve lied to my best friend; I’ve lied to my... is he a boyfriend? We’ve kissed, but... is it just assumed?
Liam saves me from my reverie when he asks, “Are you alright?” My face warms somehow in this freezing weather and I shrug in response. I refuse to look at him. I just....
He loves her.
And I don’t know if I can deal with that.
“I don’t believe you,” he murmurs into the night and my lips roll into my mouth, tasting the coffee that lingers on them.
“You don’t have to,” I reply, begrudged. This inevitably shuts him up and I sigh out of guilt. “Sorry. I’m just...”
“Grumpy?” he finishes and we laugh soundlessly.
“Yeah, that’s it.”
I shake my head when I realize that he’s made me smile. How?I huff and he just laughs more. “Your mood swings are even more out of control than last time.”
Rolling my eyes, I try to ignore the jab. “Jenny was beautiful,” I blurt out, and both of us hold our breath.
After a few moments of silence he sighs, “You remember her.”
It wasn’t a question. “Why wouldn’t I?” I swallow the lump in my throat and it gets stuck in my chest, causing my heart to lurch. “She’s a very memorable girl.”
“I suppose,” he answers, and I look over to him for the first time tonight. What is that supposed to mean?
“You suppose she’s memorable?” I laugh humorlessly. “That’s great, Liam.”
“You didn’t call,” he says in a rush, and I wonder for a second how many times this boy is going to give me whiplash.
“I did,” I say, my voice comes out wobbly. I think back to the night I lost my pictures from the summer; the night I met Graham; the night he convinced me to call Liam. “But you didn’t pick up.”
“You said you’d call back,” he says, as if he didn’t even hear my former words. He sounds defeated. “You said you’d be there.” At his last words, he looks up from his coffee mug and into my eyes. My heart stops. His eyes are now ice and they’re glistening, as if full of unshed tears. His shaved hair is sticking up haphazardly, and his clean face is crippled with anxiety. “You said....”
No, I think to myself. “You said,” I whisper, “you loved me... and then....”
“Your dad called me.” The words hang in the air and I’m left speechless. I remember faintly of Dad calling him once before, and how broken he was left afterwards. He was convinced that I should go back home.
“You said you wouldn’t let go,” I choked. “That you’d stay with me.”
“You were going to be happier,” he continues. “You were going to be more free, more loved. You’d have your family back, and your friends.”
I want to cry. ”You were my family! You were my freedom. You were who I loved,” I collapse. I somehow get the coffee mug away from me and its damned coffee-cozy and I hug my knees close to chest, burying my head in the blankets.
“I know.” His voice is rough, tires against gravel. “I know.”
Something touches my back but disappears almost immediately after. He probably figures his hand has no place in caressing me anymore.
“I lost you.” Silence. “And I find myself needing you every goddamn day, Lib.”
I pick my head up a little from my legs and sigh. “I needed you, too.” My chest shudders. “I still need you... every goddamn day.” My face is wet from crying and the wind is freezing them into ice. “I’m cold.” I whirl my head in surprise when I hear him laugh. It’s a small laugh, but still... weren’t we just crying? “And you say I have mood swings.”
“I’m an ass.”
“Yes, and stupid.”
“And an ass.”
“We’ve gotten that already.”
“I just wanted to say it again.”
“Any time, you stupid asshole.”
There’s a long silence, just us two studying the night again. The apartments from across the street are dim and the windows are blacked out. There’s an occasional car alarm that goes off and people yelling in the distance.
Something touches the back of my neck. “Liam-” I start, but when I turn to face him, our lips meet. I don’t know if it’s by accident or if we are just magnets inevitably attracted to each other, but we’re kissing and I want it to last.
I love you, she said.
I back away. He opens his eyes in surprise and I see now how long we’ve both been wanting this. “I can’t.”
He quirks his head to the side. “I’m... I’m sorry.”
“She loves you.”
“I never said the words back, Lib,” he says, but I don’t care.
“You can love her, Liam,” I nod, although the words hurt my throat as they come out. “You deserve someone who will love you indefinitely.”
“Of course I do,” I say, though I’m barely even speaking anymore. “She... she’s here, though.”
“And you’re going back,” he finishes, his words biting me without intention. “And... you love him.”
I jump in surprise. “What?”
“Him,” he says, nodding his head back to the apartment. “Graham.” His words are soft and understanding, but it hurts knowing that he knows.
“You heard?” I ask, thinking back to the phone call in the bathroom.
He shakes his head though and gives me a sad, crooked smile. “The guitar case.” I remember now how Graham’s guitar case has his name carved into it in his ugly handwriting; how Liam must’ve seen it when making his speech. How that must’ve hurt him.... “You love him.”
I find myself nodding. “I do,” I say, the words inaudible. There’s silence and I can’t stand it. “But not like I love you.”
Another sad smile. It seems forced. “You’re going back for him.”
“I have to.”
“I’m glad.” I roll my eyes at this but he just laughs lightly. “No, I am. Even though your dad is an ass (like me) and stupid as hell (also like me), he was right. I’m... not right for you.”
“Not in the way you think, Liam,” I sigh, and I find myself scooting across the blankets to where I’m sitting side-by-side with him, leaning against his arm and my head lying on his shoulder. “He’s home.”
And then something occurs to me right then and I tell him to wait as I hurry to scootch out from the covers and carefully tip-toe back inside the apartment, leaving him dumbfounded. I hear Jere snoring in his twin bed and I can’t help but feel a small pit of anxiety in my stomach. Today... hasn’t gone as planned, but... maybe better. I got answers. Things make sense.
When I enter Jimmy’s bedroom across the hall I hurry to get my camera from its case and head back to the terrace. Liam’s lying down now in the blankets while smoking a cigarette, and I try to ignore my thoughts and focus on my mission.
I fall to my butt on the pile while hugging the coat he put on me earlier tighter around my torso.
“Jesus it’s cold!” I shiver, but he just laughs and holds out his arm for me in a gesture for me to come closer. I give him a sheepish smile and scoot closer, and when he’s arms-reach he snatches my wrist and pulls me close - too close. “Liam,” I caution, but he just chuckles lightly and gives me a crooked smile. I can’t help but stare at his lips and when he catches me, he presses them lightly against my forehead.
When he parts, I open my eyes and watch as he puts out his cigarette on the concrete.“I need to take a picture,” I say, thinking back to my assignment in photography for over holiday break.
“Of what?” he asks, and I almost tell him.
Take a picture of your favorite place in the world.
We just sit there, our breaths shuddering with the cold. I turn the camera to where we can take a selfie.
“I love you,” he whispers, and I smile.
“Silly Liam,” I whisper, my heart hammering with every syllable. I snap the picture and turn the camera around so we can see the outcome. “I knew I loved you before I even met you.”
And suddenly, as we look at the picture we’d just taken - my head on his shoulder, his eyes cast down, watching me - it’s alright. Suddenly, despite the cold, I can feel my own personal sun shining within me.