'If it were your daughter, it would be different.'

Submitted into Contest #114 in response to: Write a story that involves sabotage.... view prompt

7 comments

Drama Coming of Age Contemporary

//Hi everyone! I feel like I should put a warning here. The story deals with emotional gaslighting, manipulation, emotional abuse, and people coming to terms with it. This is based off of a friend's situation in real life and they gave me permission to make a fictionalized story around it. If anyone has gone through this I’m sorry for you and my heart goes out to you. God Bless//

“It’s a long story.” Malcolm avoided eye contact with the young woman who he once knew.

“You lied to me and lied about me, I have time.” Alison stepped out on her front porch with her arms crossed. She looked like a guard dog defending its territory. Her stare was expectant and demanding. This made her seem taller and more frightening than she was. An average height woman now seemed like a giant with righteous judgment and anger, ready to exact bloody revenge on him that had been several years in the making.

“I had no other choice, Alison....” He was surprised had gotten this far without her chasing him off her property. Well, her landlord’s property, but her place of dwelling. She was his friend, she was already stressed enough, he cared about her. Also, what did anything of the past matter now? It was dead. They’re friends all long gone to strange lands. His once comforting friendship had turned into burned bridges. The bridge known as Alison burned the most vibrant and everlasting. Like a coal fire that chose to exist and burn out until it no longer could. His vanishing was none of her problems, and while he understood her anger, he was not going to cower like a scared dog with its tail between its legs. Malcolm felt the need to push back against her impending judgment and accusations.

“You had no other choice?” Her tone stayed controlled and stoic and her eyes shifted from almost indifference to the accusation. That was the problem with her. Her cleverness was evident in the way she approached things. Even looking at her, you could see a sharp, decisive, cunning mind. Alison’s eyes were locked onto me in silence. Whatever was boiling in her mind felt like the stabbing of an icy, sharp, metallic knife into his gut. Malcolm finally felt what he had been dodging, guilt. Guilt, that he had so desperately fled for his unrepented actions. Guilt, that over the years he had ignored like a drip in the ceiling, but was now coming to a building vantage point. Guilt that he would have covered to avoid if he had not come to his friend for fear of her well-being in the current conditions of their world.  The tragedy of his sin was most visible in the jaded young woman and the boy who had run off to never return that was not standing with them.

Malcolm doubles down, sticking to what he can to avoid getting worked up. “I had no other choice.” The problem with lying is that it asks the person doing it to remain an actor in their own life. Malcolm telling Thomas ‘Alison is dating someone else she met at college’ and by telling Alison ‘You left and Thomas slept with the first girl who approached him’ only served to make him a tragic, and ever-performing actor in a show he wrote. Alison and Thomas were free to express their feelings in reaction to these remarks. 

“That’s funny Malcolm, you had a lot of choices and you obviously made one and it hurt your friends.” Malcolm could feel a lump in his throat as he said this. He made this choice to get her, he wanted to keep her, he felt inferior. Thomas, regular and trite, was seen so highly by her even if she tried to hide it. The look in her eyes when Thomas indulged her made Malchom sick. Malcolm could still picture Thomas on a warm Summer’s day, leaning over a counter and trying to get her to talk. As Alison’s voice became more demure and feminine, Thomas’s would seem slightly lower and teasing. They were only in college. What could Malcolm expect out of two kids who were stuck together all day?

In all these images, Malcolm still felt whisperings of some silenced longing when they came to mind. Why him? Malcolm would think. Why not me? “You wouldn’t listen to me!” Malcolm screams at her doorstep. Her eyes narrow and her nostrils flare.

“You never listen to me!” She scolded back. Her face spelled out pure and vitriolic rage but with sad, sad eyes. His heart was heavy for the house he had set on fire, yet his hands were too weak to even attempt to put it out. It would be useless.

“Take that back, you know that’s wrong.” Malcolm pauses, conviction settles in while he doubles down. He tries to ignore it. For all his wanting and longing of her, she had never wanted him, and he more than likely saw her as someone she was not. She was no more than an idealized, pretty, two-dimensional object to him. He wanted her to be someone for him who she would refuse to be.

“Oh, is it?” She trails off and crosses her arms. “You never respected when I told you no, embarrassed me, and don’t get me started on the grooming!” Memories flood into Malchom’s mind of their interactions again. Something grave sets into him. She knows what was going on in my head. In all the time he knew her, he thought she had been too distracted with Thomas but she was like a silent but vigilant creature, who knew someone wanted something from her. 

He towered her in age by at least 15 years. At the time though, that word never came to mind. He felt like a peer to her, not a superior. He felt like a friend, or rival to Thomas, not a foreman. “I never groomed you, why would I-”, as he sees rage swell in her eyes Malchom swallows his retort. The years that had passed between nineteen and twenty-five had made her somehow more compassionate and also more aware than she may have already been. Alison defended her younger self like a protective mother would defend a child. If no one would come to battle for the emotionally vulnerable girl she had been, then picking up a verbal sword and being that protector was to become a precept.

“You approached me when I was nineteen. You cornered me into a place of telling you everything! I was vulnerable and you took advantage of that! You saw me as some dumb little girl you could harass, I’m not stupid enough to let you do the same things again!”Alison can feel her heartbeat out of her chest with both anxiety and strength. She did not hold ill-will towards Malcolm, or Thomas, or herself. She held anger about the actions Malcolm had taken that made her believe an older man to be a friend to a naive girl for no reason, or the actions she had taken toward Thomas which directly opposed her feelings at the time, and there were things in all of them that she had to let go and move on from. In her own stupidities, she tried to be gracious, but she wanted them not to cause her further trouble. She had picked up this cross a long time ago and had no intentions of dropping it. 

“You were an adult.”

“I still had the mind of a child, really what difference was there between me and any other seventeen or eighteen-year-old?”

“You were in college. You were old enough to drive. You were old enough to work. If you were in another country you could buy alcohol on your own!” Malcolm tries to give himself comfort, Alison had long since ripped that wall down in determination to shed light onto the darkened and avoided corners of something that had caused her soul to rot for years and had only recently been lifted off her shoulders.

“You saw a lonely, vulnerable, young girl and planned on taking advantage of her!” There it was. Silence encroached the night. There were no neighbors out to hear the fight on the porch. For all the two of them knew an atomic bomb had gone off in that moment and cleared the world of anyone but them. This did not erase the fact that Alison had parents, who loved her and valued her, while Malcolm had a daughter, who he felt the same. “If it were your daughter, you would feel differently.”

October 08, 2021 22:57

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

7 comments

15:51 Oct 14, 2021

Wow, at various points throughout the story, I found the hair on back of my neck standing up straight. To know this was based on true events, thank you for sharing this story with us.

Reply

L.J Sunwing
21:31 Oct 14, 2021

Your welcome, I'm happy I got to write it and people are enjoying it.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Kurt Karl
12:45 Oct 14, 2021

Nicely done. The ending was prefect, and it was the title. All the emotions come out and Alison's strength and Malcolm's weakness are clear. In writing the story, you obviously chose to not be highly specific about the prior relationship between the two key characters -- I think this worked well and was one of the story's strengths. If it were too explicit, the emotional impact would have been weakened.

Reply

L.J Sunwing
21:28 Oct 14, 2021

Thank you, I really appreciate your insight on it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Stevie B
11:47 Oct 11, 2021

L.J, this was a very emotional story, which you told very well, and I hope your friend's OK.

Reply

L.J Sunwing
15:59 Oct 11, 2021

Thank you, I appreciate that! She's been doing better, she had to do a lot of work to move on.

Reply

Stevie B
21:58 Oct 11, 2021

You're welcome and I'm glad your friend is recovering.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply