Julia had imagined this interaction a thousand times. Her mom would show up, or her dad would show up; maybe both. The scenario would change for her every time. Sometimes, in her head, she would open the door and be hostile. Yell. Insult. Disparage. Make the situation as absolutely painful as she possibly could for those who had caused her so much pain. Other times she imagined sitting in her bedroom, listening anxiously as her partner handled her parents. Other times, she imagined just calling the cops so they’d get off her doorstep and be too scared to come back.
The paranoia of them showing up outside of her door waxed and waned as the time away from them increased. Some days were harder than others. After a considerable amount of time and therapy though, she had begun to feel safe in her apartment. She noticed her quality of life improve, and the periods of sadness and anger she felt dwindled. They definitely weren’t as common as they had been in the beginning.
So when Julia stared out of the peephole in her door, taking in the warped faces of the people who used to be her parents, at the people she had grown to hate, everything she had ever imagined in a situation like this came flooding back to her. She shook with both fear and adrenaline as she considered her options, trying to keep her breathing still and silent so they wouldn’t be able to hear her through the heavy metal door.
Julia once again thought about throwing open the door. It seemed today’s fantasy was to cause as much pain as possible.
“What do you want?” She would say, struggling to keep her voice under control, barely holding the door open. She would glare at them with an accusatory expression, to try and get the message across that they were not welcome here. But of course, true to reality, they would never get the message.
“We just wanted to talk to you. We’ve been so worried. We miss you.” They would probably say. Her mom would most likely take control of the conversation. Her dad was just there for sympathy. For muscle. For her mother’s own moral support instead of hers.
“Yeah well, did it ever occur to you that I didn’t want to speak to you?” Julia would spit. She would open the door a little wider, stand up straight with the new fury burning deep in the pit of her stomach.
Her father would have that pitiful expression on his face, pleading with her for his own sake, hands spread beseechingly. Her mother would give her nothing. She acted concerned on the surface, but ultimately her face was blank. Julia would be able to tell that she was actually incredibly pissed. Her mother would feel forced into this.
“We figured you had blocked us.”
“We knew you hadn’t been getting our texts.”
“We just don’t know what we’ve done wrong.” These are just some of the things they would say. Julia may even fly off the handle at that last one. She indulged herself further, allowing imaginary Julia, already seething with so much buried rage, to fly off the handle.
“Oh you don’t know what you’ve done? Let me lay it out for you then. For an entire year I have done nothing but try to get you to respect me. We’ve had conversation after conversation about it. I’ve even tried to set boundaries so that I can heal and maybe be more comfortable being around you. But you never listen! You’ve never listened! I really don’t think you even care. We just have these circular conversations and you make me apologize for everything anyways, because there’s no peace until the two of you are the ones left blameless. No, it’s always ‘Julia never takes responsibility’, ‘Julia’s unreasonable’, ‘Julia is always so rude or unhappy when she comes over’.” Here she would maybe take a breath, blow out her bangs, but the fire wasn’t out of her stomach yet. She’d continue.
“I came to you at least twice to tell you what behavior made me uncomfortable. I explicitly told you I didn’t feel like you guys even liked me as a person. And you cried, and you said you felt bad and that you never meant to make me feel that way. But then I’d ask for you to respect a boundary, and everything is a debate all the sudden. You need to explain yourself. You feel the need to argue and twist me and tell me all the ways I’m wrong, until I’m confused and so tired of all the conflict that I give into your demands, and I take all the responsibility again. It’s an endless cycle of misery for me.
Not only that, but you treated me like that my entire childhood. And it’s literally taken me all year to come to terms with that. Yet you show up here, on my doorstep, to tell me, what that you miss me? I see through you.” At this Julia would turn to her dad and point an accusing finger at him.
“You only text me when she tells you to. You only join her crusade when she asks you too. I’ve tried to tell you that she’s manipulative and controlling, and even abusive, and that you may even be a victim of her abuse. But you won’t see it, and you never will. You will never stand up for me. So you don’t get to tell me that you care about me, or that you miss me, because you haven’t made it true.” Turning to her mother, the main object of her ire, Julia would clench her fists, the fire sputtering but reigniting.
“And you. How dare you actually presume I would want to talk to you after the shit you pulled? Especially over the holidays. You try to control me and walk all over me, fine, I can handle that. But my partner? You decide to throw a fit whenever I never meet your expectations. But here’s the thing, ‘Mom’, I know I will never meet your expectations. I’ve never been good enough, and you told me my entire childhood that you and I weren’t friends and that we never would be. But yet you’re here, on my doorstep, and you want a relationship now? To be friends? Aside from ingraining in me that we’d never be friends, you have done and said things to me that I would have dropped even the closest of friends for doing. And I know I’ve said all that before. Let me restate it one more time though. No mother who actually loves her daughter treats her the way you have treated me. My own friends have never treated me the way you have treated me. So congratulations, you’ve fulfilled your own prophecy. We are not friends, and I want nothing to do with you.”
As she would go to close the door, her parents would stand there, maybe looking dumbstruck. Maybe they would try to argue, to say something. Today in her fantasy they were just dumbstruck. As she reached to close the door again in her head, she would finish her rant by saying,
“So let me make it abundantly clear, although I’m sure I made it pretty clear the last time you tried to mess up my life. Do not continue to call me. Don’t text me. And if you ever show up here again, next time, I’ll call the cops. I want nothing to do with you, and we have no relationship.” Always, always in her head, one of her parents would try to have the last word, a last ditch effort to guilt her.
“We love you.” Her mother said this time, acting tearful.
“Yeah right.” She snorted. “You’ve done a real good job of showing it.” And then she would slam the door.
Julia blinked as the door in her mind slammed and she reentered the real world. Her parents were still out there, both of them, waiting for her to answer the door so they could try to worm their way back into her life. She was still shaky, but the fear had left her. Julia knew that if she responded, if she opened the door and had the conversation she wanted to have, it would just fuel them, and her safety and happiness would come crumbling down for another month or two. So she did what she knew was safe for her.
Slowly, she backed away from the door, making sure to be as quiet as she could in case they didn’t know she was there. She sat down in her living room, put in an earbud, and tried to occupy her mind with something else as if they weren’t there. She heard them once in a while, on the other side. Discussing if she was there or not, discussing other errands they would have to run later. She even jumped when they knocked a second time and called for her. She pretended to evaporate. At the moment, she was a chameleon, a ghost in her own home.
Eventually, they left about half an hour later, and Julia hadn’t realized how loudly her heart had been beating until now. She continued to take care of herself, still trying to calm herself down after the stress she had been put through. She ate yogurt, turned the TV on and upped the volume so a comedy show drowned out every other thought in her head. She even put on fuzzy socks, pajama pants, and a blanket to make herself feel comforted. She even decided that she would be taking a bath later this evening.
Another half an hour later, her partner returned home from work. She briefly told them what had happened, and they sympathized with her and made sure that she was gonna be okay. They hugged her for a long time in their kitchen, and in that moment Julia finally felt all the anxiety leaving her lungs, giving her room to breath. Her partner promised to try and be there next time, and Julia just smiled and shook her head.
“Hopefully, they won't come back again. Hopefully my silence was louder than anything I could have ever said to them.” And privately, to herself, Julia thought that if in some way they didn’t get the message, she would have her partner answer the door next time.
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This is a great new addition to your work, Aimee! I love the narrative, it's so strong and the voice is nice and clear. The ending was good, too, I was so happy that she eventually just sat down and didn't get into it with her parents. That being said, though, the argument in her head was organized and effective in telling the reader how Julia felt about the whole situation, not just the present one but her whole life regarding her family. I think that was a super helpful way of explaining why she didn't want to talk to them anymore without ...
Oh thank you so much for your kind words! This story is really important to me right now because it does incorporate some truth about my own life, so I'm really glad that I was able to communicate some of that effectively. Also aaah I really tried to be less redundant when I briefly went through and edited but I must've missed the double hopefully. Oh well! Thank you again for your feedback!