Today’s prompt for Story a Day’s May challenge is: A [adjective, unlike you] [noun, like you] decides to [action – something reasonable] except [something unreasonable]. You can read the full prompt here.
A meek woman decides to move away from her controlling ex except he continues to harass her.
When the train pulls into the station, Julie steps off and takes a long, slow breath. The air is cool and crisp: she decides she likes it. There’s something new about it, something fresh. Satisfied, she begins to walk along the platform, dragging her heavy suitcase along behind her. The sign above her head says Birmingham, and although it had not been her first choice there’s something about it that feels right. Birmingham is the right place, and this is the right time.
She leaves the station and calls over a taxi, handing the driver the address she had written down on a slip of paper earlier that day. A misplaced pang of guilt hits her as the driver starts the cab, and she watches the train station vanish with both a sense of pleasure and a sense of dread. The address belongs to her friend Stacy, who she has not seen since they were in school together, but a brief reconnection over the internet due to shared circumstances is about to bring them back together.
It is not far, but far enough for Julie to wallow silently in her own thoughts and consider a change of plan. She could go back to Alan and forgive him, as he had sounded sincere when he had apologised to her. A large part of her wants to tell the driver to turn around and go back to the station so that she can board the next train back to King’s Cross, but she remembers Stacy’s words to her and bites her tongue.
It won’t get any better, Stacy had said, trust me. Julie does not want to believe that everything is over between Alan and herself, but the pain when she swallows is all too real. She cannot go back to him like this, no matter what he has said.
The taxi cab pulls up outside of a nice, semi-detached house on an estate. Julie peers out of the window at the place and wonders what Stacy did to deserve to live in such a good place. The neighbourhood looks prosperous and the gardens are neatly kept. Stacy clearly takes a great deal of care in making her home look presentable.
Two children come out of the house to greet her, followed by Stacy herself. She is wider than Julie remembers her. There’s a great deal more of her around the middle and much less hair on her head. She introduces her children and escorts Julie into the house, offering words that Julie knows are designed to be comfortable. Well done, it has taken a lot to do this, getting here is the start of a beautiful new life, she is a free woman now …
Julie misses Alan’s touch. Well, she misses it when he’s in a good mood, anyway.
A week passes. Then another. Things are tough one day and easy the next. Julie begins to realise that going back to Alan would be a mistake and that, despite how much she cares about him, he’s abusive and she needs to keep away from him.
If only it were that easy.
She doesn’t know who has given her away: her family know where she is, as do a few of her close friends. Any one of them could have let something slip to one of Alan’s friends or been overheard by one of them. Just three weeks after she arrived in Birmingham, he manages to locate her.
It surprises Julie how much Stacy is willing to take. Alan has been sending texts and trying to call ever since Julie left him, but all Stacy had to do to stop her from speaking to him was take her phone away and delete the messages. It was good to be so difficult to get in contact with. Every conversation Julie had had with anyone had been through Stacy, but when Alan found her things became more problematic.
Alan stands on the grass outside of Stacy’s house and shouts up at the window of the spare bedroom. When nobody answers him, he goes to the door, rings the doorbell, and yells her name through the letterbox. Stacy, who has admitted to receiving abuse from her violent ex, stands up to him and tells him to leave. Her children are frightened by the noise and she has to take them out through the back garden in order to avoid him. Julie feels terrible, hiding in the corner of the room with her knees against her chest and her arms wrapped around her legs.
She had thought she was strong before he had arrived. Now, she views herself as a coward. The urge to go over to the window, lean out and tell him to go away is almost overwhelming, but Stacy instructed her not to let him see her and Julie knows that the other woman is right. She must obey orders and stay on the floor in the corner.
When Alan throws a brick through the kitchen window, Julie thinks Stacy is going to ask her to leave. The children are eating at the time and they have to scatter as glass flies everywhere. It is distressing and Julie is thankful that she does not have any children of her own to put in such a horrible situation. Stacy does not ask her to leave, so she considers running away instead. Why the other woman allows her to stay when she brings such danger with her is beyond her; Stacy claims to see her former self in Julie.
It is a good thing to hear. Stacy is stronger now. If Julie can become like her, then she too can be strong.
Alan persists for a while, but Stacy seems to know what he’ll do before he does. Two further smashed windows and a broken fence, and he breaks down in tears on the front garden. That is Julie’s weakest point. She wants to go out and comfort him, to tell him that she believes his apologies, but Stacy locks her in the bedroom and forbids her from going over to the window. Again, she obeys.
Where formerly she used to do what Alan told her, now she does what Stacy tells her. It’s good though, because when he finally does give up, she knows she never has to do what anybody tells her ever again.