It was 10pm on the same night. Julie was sitting at her desk in the dark, drinking coffee by the light of her laptop. She was working on a logo for “Mama Rosa’s Handmade Pizzas”. This was her “day job”. She made logos, banners and brochures for companies. They were mostly small companies, who had chosen her based on price alone. They always wanted something stupid and cute, like the damned smiling pizza she was working on for Mama Rosa. She hated creating things like this….stupid cute things for companies who would probably be bankrupt in 5 years time but it paid the bills, and so Julie worked.
Sometimes, she worked all night long and slept all day. This suited her well enough and so she continued paying her bills by doing freelance graphic design. She made other art; real art but she hadn’t had an luck selling any of it to a gallery or collector.
When she had dreamt of becoming an artist, the dream looked nothing like this. She didn’t imagine herself setting in the dark in the middle of the night, designing logos. She had had dreams of gallery openings and art shows; maybe even illustration for games and movies. Really, those were the reasons for her moving to the city in the first place.
The fact that she had failed so miserably was killing her. That, and the fact that with every cutesy logo she designed and sold, she felt like she was selling a little piece of her soul.
It bothered her, to the very core. As an artist, she was fundamentally opposed to capitalism. “The system” was the thing that had tried to stuff her into a box; to kill her creativity. The irony of the fact that she now used that creativity to support the system of capitalism was not lost on her. It was just another thing to add to the ever growing list of things she hated about her life.
Her phone had been ringing all evening long. It wasn’t the landline phone, the one that only her mother (and now Susie Beechum, apparently), used to call her. It was her cell phone, which meant that it was a real person. Either Tawny or a friend, calling her to apologize or invite her out for a drink. She didn’t have the energy to answer it.
She knew that whomever it was probably wanted something from her. Even if they didn’t realize it, they wanted something from her. Even if the only thing they wanted was her company, Julie was sure that it was more than she could give. Between the phone call with Susie, the fight with Tawny and the pizza smiling at her from the screen of her laptop, she had nothing left to give.
She would ignore them, she decided, until whomever it was stopped calling or drove to her house and forced her out into the world. She would just sit in her chair, staring at her laptop screen with only Mama Rosa’s fucking smiley Pizza for company. She would not even change clothes or take a bath. At least then, she thought, she would have a good excuse for not attending Susie Beechum’s wedding.
Julie was trying to figure out what she to do about them wedding when, suddenly, she had to go to the bathroom. Then, the phone rang, again. This time, it wasn’t the soft, melodic ring of her cell phone. It was harsh and it rang all around her. The sound pulled her out of her own head and before she had really thought about it, she was on her feet with the landline phone in her hand.
“Susie?” She answered.
There was a long pause and then a deep chuckle. “No, son. It’s me, dad.”
Julie was immediately disappointed.
“Oh. Hi, dad.”
“Well, don’t sound so excited to hear from me.” He teased.
Julie softened. “I’m always happy to hear from you, daddy.”
“Great. How are things in the big city?” He asked.
“Everything’s good..Well you, know, I pretty much just work and things.”
“That’s great. Well, listen…” he trailed off.
“Your mom wants to talk to you” Julie mouthed the words as her dad spoke them.
“Yeah, okay. I love you, dad.”
“I love you too, son.” He replied. Julie took a deep breath and then sat down.
“Hey, honey! It’s been awhile, how have you been?” Her mom’s voiced chirped through the phone line. Before Julie could answer the question, her mom was already talking again. “Where you gonna call you momma and tell her that you were coming home?”
Julie looked at the clock. It had been 5 hours since she had talked to Susie Beechum on the phone. “Word travels fast” she thought but she didn’t speak aloud. She just waited for her mother to speak again.
…and she did. “Anyway, I was thinking that maybe we could all go to the park and take some pictures…you know, like old times…and I KNOW that your brother is going to want to see you. You haven’t even met Lilly yet. She’s lovely. I think you’re really gonna like her. We spent the whole weekend together, last weekend…”
Her mother’s voice went on, carrying through the phone line into Julie’s ear but they were just words. She was too lost in her own thoughts to comprehend, as her mom recounted all the things that she and Lily were doing together. “The daughter you never had” Julie thought and she tried not to listen. She tried not to feel like she was being replaced by this faceless woman; her brother’s lover but she couldn’t will herself to feel any other way.
It was what it was and every conversation with her mom these days left her feeling this way. No, she didn’t want to meet Lily. She didn’t want to see exactly what her mom REALLY wanted her to be. Still, she couldn’t stop herself from picturing the two together and her mind made an image of LIly, for her.
She was probably blonde and perky. She wore little black dresses and heels to formal events. Julie was sure she loved makeup and manicures, cleaning supplies and doing stupid little crafts. She laughed at Julie’s mother’s jokes and charmed Julie’s brother with her long eyelashes. She was perfectly girly and perfectly straight. She was normal. Most of all, she was the exact opposite of Julie in every way. This was enough to make Julie’s mom love her, for real.
“Anyway” Her mom digressed. “We’ll have to go shopping when you get here…to get you something you can wear to the wedding.”
Julie knew that her mom meant “I want to buy you a dress” but she did not argue, or refuse. She figured they could sort all that out, when she got there. Still, she could hear her mom’s breath on the other end of the phone. She sensed that her mom was anticipating Julie to rebel but she didn’t. She didn’t agree, but the didn’t protest and this seemed to be enough to satisfy her mother.
After a brief moment of silence, her mother spoke slowly. “I can’t wait to see you, you know.” It was the same sequence of words Susie Beechum had uttered earlier in the day but her mom’s were more careful and much, much heavy.
Julie felt a stirring inside her; one that she didn’t quite understand. She had to fight the tears welling in her eyes, so that she could speak. “Yeah, me too.” She was surprised that she had meant it. “It’s been a while.”
“Yeah. Well, I better go feed your dad. I’ll see you soon.”
“Yeah, see you soon.”
There was silence on the phone and then a dial tone. Julie hung the phone on the wall, walked into her living room, and collapsed on the couch.