I Will Stay With Julie

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Kristie recalls the night before, when she and a little girl Julie, shared a goodbye she would always remember.

Submitted: April 30, 2012

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Submitted: April 30, 2012

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Since the first day I arrived at that house, I came to anticipate the evenings with both happiness and unease. After spending hours outside, Julie would come in with something cradled in her little hands and present it to me. The year I arrived, she found a battered picture frame, scorched with remnants of a torn photograph under the last shards of glass. A couple months later, she brought in a scarf unraveling at its seams, almost reduced to its original threads. A year after, she carried in a heart-shaped locket that she had lost before I arrived. Then the night before I left, she walked up to me, opened her gloved hands, and I found there several large icicles shaped like arrowheads.

Julie smiled when I asked why she had them, but she remained silent. I did not comment thereafter. Perhaps then, I would have never voiced an opinion, feeling that it did not matter with how little time I had in place after place. Julie’s parents, Mr.—I liked to call him by his first name, Parker—and Mrs. Barin, chuckled, also trying to goad the girl for an answer. She would not answer them either though. Parker offered to preserve the icicles and gestured at me to comply. Even as I started leading Julie towards the kitchen, I was curious to hear her reply.

Her smile dropped. “No,” she cried. She complained the freezer was too cold and the icicles were too hard. Ice melts into water, she reasoned, she wanted to see them melt. She wanted to see them when they were not so hard. I joked, asking cold water or warm water, but Julie thought I was serious. She grinned and cried “Warm, definitely warm.”

For some reason, her answer shocked me a little and for a few moments, I did not know what to do. Parker encouraged Julie to do what she wanted. If she wanted to watch them melt, then go ahead. Hearing him encourage her, I snapped out of the stupor and headed to the kitchen to get out a bowl. Julie hopped onto one of the stools surrounding the kitchen counter. I slid the bowl to her and she carefully laid the icicles on its bottom.

Julie stared at the icicles for hours, even as her parents said good night. Mrs. Barin approached the girl to hug her, but Julie protested as her mother’s arms wrapped around her, crying “Mom! Let go of me. I’m watching them melt.” Yet her mom would not let go and the petite nine year old struggled for a few more minutes before she gave up. “Good night,” she mumbled.

Mrs. Barin smiled, kissed Julie on the head, and on her way back to Parker, though she whispered, I heard her loud and clear as she muttered “Julie has been getting colder and colder since that girl arrived.” And she stopped at Parker’s side, mumbling, “I can’t wait until she’s gone.” She glanced at me, missing when her husband frowned at her. From beside her, Parker asked to speak with me. I followed him and Mrs. Barin to the base of the stairs. I never would have thought then that Julie trailed behind us, cradling the bowl of melting icicles.

She told me she did this morning, right before I left.

Parker became solemn, affirming that I was leaving tomorrow. Mrs. Barin said something about not telling Julie, but I asked if I complied, what they would tell Julie when I did not come back with her father. Mrs. Barin looked away, muttering that she was only thinking of Julie, which was truer than she would ever admit. Parker shook his head, agreeing with me and smiled with a silent apology on her part. “I’m sorry we couldn’t keep you.”

I told him it was fine and I was glad to have met them, but even as I said those words and more, the despair bearing on me for my imminent departure drowned in my chest like a person with cement feet thrown into the sea. I wanted—needed to cry, yet I would cry too much before that I could not anymore. My misery tipped back and choked me with guilt at its bottom as I said that I would never forget them. The truth was that I would, without a doubt, forget the three of them. At least, I figure I will. I thought that all I would ever remember of family is the one I lost in the fire eleven years ago, the fire that took my whole life away.

Mrs. Barin added they were sorry, but when I glanced at her, already knowing she did not mean it, she could not face me. I did not mean it either, answering “I know and I’m glad you tried for me, Mrs. Barin.” Parker did not see it, but I caught the grimace she made before spinning around and ascending the stairs. Parker watched her go and then peered at me. I assured him “I won’t tell Julie I’m a foster child, so you can come up with something for yourselves.” He thanked me and followed after his wife who stared at me from the top of the stairs. Then they were gone.

I stood there a few moments longer, reaffirming my resolve to consider this house just one more place I did not belong in. However, as soon as I tried to affirm that there was nothing here for me, I stopped, catching the sound of Julie’s humming. I spun around and sauntered towards the joint kitchen and living room. As I passed the counter, Julie stated, “Do you remember the scarf?”

I picked up the remote and plopped down on the couch. “What scarf?”

“The scarf, the one I brought in with all the threads and—.”

“That scarf—What about it?” I slumped into the couch. There was a comedy playing, but I could barely muster a single smile or laugh. Nothing seemed funny at the moment.

“Mom’s going to help me fix it.” I tried to imagine that woman trying to fix something—anything. She could spoil her child, but she could hardly teach the girl to garden, let alone mend a scarf. “I’ll fix it myself then.” I peeked over the couch at her. “You don’t think mom can fix it, so I’ll fix it myself.”

Why would she fix it? The threads of the scarf had become dull and faded, and it had unraveled within days after Julie brought it in. She showed it to me the day before it lost its last threads and was no longer a scarf. She showed me several days after, when the scarf had completely fallen apart. The day after she showed me, I realized I would not be adopted. After that, I did not want anything to do with Julie or Parker or anyone in this area, feeling that I would rot from pain come the day it was time for me to leave, yet Julie and Parker were the most persistent people I have ever met. They even forced me into all kinds of family pictures.

My mind wandered to the picture frame. It seemed impossible to repair with broken glass and no back, edges scorched and blackened with smoke. Amongst the shards, in the fullest remnant of the torn photo, I saw a kid’s face, slightly smudged, but a kid in the photo.  The rest were bits and pieces with some color, mostly black though. The frame was so hopeless to repair that she should have simply spent the money for a new one. But would Julie still attempt to fix that one too? “What did you do with the picture frame?”

I glanced up and found Julie grinning at me. “I’ll give it to you later!” Her eyes gleamed from the kitchen light.

“You don’t have to.”

She shook her head. “I have to. I put pictures in it. And you should see the locket too.”

“Why?”

“Because I put your picture there and I put mine in the frame.”

The first thing I thought was “How did she even get my picture?”

Julie resumed watching the icicles melt. “They’re melting,” she cried.

I shook my head, but stopped within a second. How much longer would she watch? She would probably stop soon. It would have been better to leave them frozen and hard than to have melted them into water, which is easily used and wasted. The icicles should never melt. At least, that was what I thought, but it was Julie’s choice.

Flipping off the TV, I stood and trudged my way to Julie’s side. When I glanced in the bowl, what were once elongated arrowheads had wheedled away into mere fangs. So I agreed with her. They were melting.

“Come on.” I paused, staring at Julie’s shoulder. I rarely touched her. Right then, it was a fact glaring at me in the face. My resolve dwindled, gazing at her shoulder. Julie started singing. In between, she mixed a familiar tune with the words “What do you mean come on?” Somehow I found the strength to put out my hand, but as I grasped her shoulder, “Julie—.”

She stopped singing and whispered, “You’re leaving tomorrow.” I flinched, feeling guilt rise into my chest like cars slamming into each other in an accident. I retracted my hand and tried to avert my gaze, knowing that she was staring at me. “Why are you leaving?” I did not want to look at her. How could I? I wanted to turn away and go to bed, say goodbye and leave in the morning. But I knew I could not do it because Julie was waiting. Why did she make it so hard?

I faced her. Even as I attempted to meet her gaze, I still could not speak. But I managed to say “This isn’t my home.”

“I thought this was your home.”

If my heart was a wrecking ball at that moment, it fell off the chain and struck the cement. “It’s not,” I choked. Why did I have to shake now? “I’m a—.”

“Foster child.” I peered at her, but she was not looking at me. Her eyes were transfixed on the melting icicles. “But I thought this was your home.” I hung my head. The guilt became surprise, watching her hands clench around the edges of her chair with her arms trembling. When I glanced at her face, I stopped before I could see her expression.

“Do you want me to stay?”

She faced me, sniffling as she nodded. “I don’t want you to go, Kristie.” I leaned closer to hear “—don’t leave me.” I wanted to hold her, but I had never held her before. Julie surprised me, reaching out her arms towards me and pleading with me using her eyes. All I had to do was copy her. I did.

In her arms, I felt an unusual kind of warmth. The last time I felt it was when my real family was still alive. As I held her, I glanced down and saw the icicles were gone. Only water remained.

“Let’s put it in the freezer,” Julie stated. She pulled away from me. I backed up, so she could hop off the chair. With her instruction, I set the bowl in the freezer. She ran off and I heard the patter of her feet on the stairs and the small thumps she made on the carpet upstairs.

As I closed the freezer door and walked over to the couch, Julie came running up to me with the picture frame in her hands. She’d cleaned up the edges, replaced the pieces, and fixed the back of the picture frame. Behind the new glass, a picture of Julie smiled back at me with all of the last remnants sticking out on the picture, even the splotched face of the kid.

“This is yours,” she cried, trying to force my hands to grasp the frame. I glanced down, discovering the locket around her neck, never having noticed it before the moment I slipped the picture frame out of her hands. The girl perked up, realizing that I was staring at the locket. She opened it and showed me my picture.

I couldn’t help smiling and, as I usually would, was about to say “Thank you for saying goodbye” or “I will miss you.” Instead, I whispered “Thank you, Julie.”

Now, in my heart, I know I cannot forget her.


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