They shared a room – Liberty and Unity. In a 1600 square foot white frame house on P Street in a northeastern U.S. neighborhood, they weren’t wealthy but they weren’t poor. Mom and Dad provided all they needed and a little more. Mom (Rosy) was always the generous one, giving them some of anything she had, and even sharing her own bed with them if they were too cold or frightened to sleep. Dad was a little different but in just as loving a way, in that he spent more time trying to teach them to provide for themselves and be resourceful, and often didn’t seem to appreciate Mom giving up his bed space when they could be warmer by simply turning the heater up a notch. Mom and Dad saw things differently, but the balance is what made the House run well. Back then.
Little Liberty was mostly oblivious to the family stressors. The Washingtons had a heavy student loan and credit card debt, and they couldn’t seem to agree on how to manage the budget. One insisted they should “spend money to make money” and the other would often exclaim that they should pay off the debt first, and then re-invest from a solid ground position. The funny thing was, they seemed to switch perspectives based on who wanted a new lawnmower or sewing machine, or boat, or fresh landscaping. So they paid the minimum principal payments and lots of interest, and only dealt with the budget once a year, often ending up with the electricity getting shut off around Thanksgiving each year while they argued and scraped up the money to pay the bill.
But Liberty knew nothing of this, because they didn’t bother her with such adult matters. And though it sounds silly, they convinced themselves that these “adult matters” didn’t affect her. But they did.
Liberty and Unity shared a birthday each year. They weren’t twins – Unity was just a couple of years older than Liberty – but they were both born in July, so they celebrated together each year. And they were happy to do so. Mom and Dad Washington had always made that day a big deal, almost to the embarrassment of the girls, because for all their differences, they loved their girls. There would be streamers, and gifts, and a party for friends, and fireworks. Liberty especially loved the fireworks, because they reminded her of the stories Grandpa would tell about the fights he had fought to keep their land safe from strangers. To Liberty and Unity, and even Dad and Mom, those stories seemed like fairy tales sometimes, because they had never seen anything like the stories in real life, but Liberty had an especially close relationship with Grandpa, and she believed what he said about the old times, and how scary it was, and she was thankful for him as only a little grand daughter could be.
Preceding each birthday, Dad would spend a day cleaning his gun and mumbling about “keeping the neighborhood boys away from his pretty daughters,” while Mom would be preparing party favor bags and inviting all the kids to the house. This never created much of a scene, thankfully, but Liberty sensed the tension and Unity wished they could just enjoy the day.
But that was before Unity was taken. They laughed off their differences and made the best of things then, but ever since that September day, well, they just haven’t been able to laugh things off like they could before. Dad is more serious now about his guns, and protecting Liberty, and he has become a little paranoid about Mom wanting to get rid of them, and Mom is still inviting the neighborhood over and rescuing stray animals out of her love for living things to the point that Dad complains about where their income is going and who it is benefiting.
It’s affecting Liberty.
And not just because she misses her sister, which she most certainly does. It’s because Reagan’s efforts to protect her, while well meaning, can sometimes be stifling. And because Rosy’s generosity and love for people of all sorts can sometimes expose her to threats or dangers, though unintentionally. It seems that since Unity has been gone, instead of mom and dad balancing each other out for the benefit of Liberty, they have been so singularly focused on her and their own way of protecting her that they have forgotten to maintain their marriage, for her best interest.
And that is what’s tearing her up.