If you love something set it free. . .

In The Gutter, freedom comes at a high cost.

Lydia by Mark McConville

She throws the ring into the reservoir, crying over lost love, striking a cigarette, smoking it frantically. She puffs and then exhales, coughing like a rookie even though she has been smoking for over thirty years. She calls it thirty years of misery, years upon years of despair and misfortune.

The subtleness of the stream calms her restlessness, the torrid thoughts are eased, the overgrowth a comfortable seat. Her eyes are drowsy, a prime example of lack of sleep and abuse of painkillers. The pills help the niggling pain, but they’re also addictive. And the addiction is only one flaw in a long list. Lydia is an alcoholic, sneaking out at night to buy cheap wine, adding fire to a destructive path.

The horizon looks eloquent in between the branches of the trees, the British Countryside looks picturesque this time of year and Lydia observes it, hoping her world will miraculously rejuvenate.  

Lydia rises up from the soft overgrowth, shakes off the loose grass, and then walks away from the soothing place which recaptured her youth. Lydia wrestles through the bushes and makes her way to the pavement. She unlocks the door to her battered, rusted car, and starts the ignition.

Lydia reaches the destination, a massive superstore full of essentials and alcohol. She is craving the cheap wine that’s been her true friend for years. The bright lit sign is a shining beacon for the wrong reasons.

The automatic doors open and the repetitive music begins to blare. Conversations begin to unravel, as the colossal shopping hub is busy. Lydia is here for three things: bleach, a mop, and cheap wine. So she goes her own way, not making eye contact with anyone.

Lydia walks down the long aisle full of cleaning products. She grabs a bottle of bleach and a mop and heads for the alcohol aisle with anticipation bubbling inside her. The mecca of alcoholic drinks is a paradise for the addict. Lydia takes two bottles of her usual wine and heads to the checkout.

She places the products on the conveyer belt and waits until the store worker scans the first item. 

She begins to feel like she’s being quietly ridiculed and judged. She tries to refrain from saying anything, but steers her rage at the clerk, pointing her finger at him. His face turns red and his defences seem weak. Lydia throws her cash and walks to the exit, leaving the clerk bemused by her reaction.   

Lydia opens up the door to the beat-up car. Her anger takes time to dissipate. She looks at her aging face in the mirror, frightened by the reflection, scorning the deep wrinkles.

She starts the ignition, wishing it could restart her sorry existence. It can’t, so she drives off, far away from the uproar that was started in the superstore.

As she drives on, the rain starts to pour, the tears begin to stream, the anger reaches fever pitch. By hitting the wheel, she loses control of the car, missing two oncoming vehicles. Her car skids and smashes into a barrier.

Lydia opens her eyes to the blinding light coming from a torch. She focuses them on the prominent badge of a police officer. He looks at her with worry etched on his face.

He asks if she’s okay.

Her reply is a faint yes, then the ambulance appears.

As the sirens begin to fizzle out, Lydia fears she needs to go to the hospital. But she can’t, she has so much to do. She needs to go home and clean up a mess. A significant mess.

The police officer insists she must go and get checked out. She reluctantly says yes.

As she steps onto the ambulance, her heart sinks. She really doesn’t want to go to the hospital, she doesn’t want to be fussed over.

She just wants to go home and clean up.

At the hospital, the nurse, expressionless and empty, stitches Lydia’s cuts as she sits on the generic chair . Lydia’s stomach churns, her mind overdriven by worry and dread.

The anger starts to take hold again, rage fizzing up inside her. She can’t see the mop or the bleach anywhere. She demands that the nurse retrieve her goods.

Thankfully, the bag is in the next room. 

Lydia signs herself out, bruised and brushed with fear, but hung together.

The doors open to the outside world. The frost has started to cover everything from the grass to the pavements. The British Summertime is erratic nowadays.

She walks away from the hospital in disarray. She refused a lift home, as she didn’t want anyone to disturb her clean up.

Nervous Lydia flags down a taxi. She has enough money to get herself home.

The taxi driver tries to start a conversation, but Lydia is deep in thought. He asks her how she got the bruises and the cuts. When she doesn’t answer, he stops talking.

The taxi arrives at Lydia’s house. She pays him and offers no communication.

The taxi rushes off as Lydia looks at the house. She hates the sight of it. It’s grey and lacks vibrancy. But she walks up the driveway, still feeling the aftermath of the crash.

She puts her busted hand into her pocket and grabs the door key. It falls onto the tarmac. By bending down to retrieve it, a sudden pain goes up her back.

Although the pain is agonising, she places the key into the lock, turns it, and opens the door. 

A putrid smell attacks her nostrils.

She walks into the living room.

There lies the perpetrator of all her woes.      

A man who showed her disdain.

Lydia has killed a soul.

The devil has got blood on the cream carpet.

Lydia looks at his bludgeoned head and the numerous holes stabbed into his chest. 

Each hole is a reminder of the times he hit or mocked her. 

The clock strikes midnight, but Lydia has work to do. She must clean up the mess and then drink to the night.

She kicks him again and again, his blood splashing all over her face.

There’s even blood on the divorce papers, signed by her but not by him.

Mark McConville is a freelance music journalist from Scotland. His work has appeared on music sites including Punktastic, New Noise Magazine, Discovered Magazine, and many others. He’s written extensively about music for years and has dabbled in other forms including short stories and poetry. His short story was published in an anthology by Centum Press.