Up until I was 11 I had a best friend, like most kids do. We’ll just call her Julia. She was in the same class as I was in school, and lived only a few houses away from me. I’d met her around grade 1, and we’d been inseparable since we met. We had the same interests and they both developed as we grew up.
I had my first sleepover with her when we were roughly around 9 years old. Her mother had met my parents, we had playdates with each other at one another’s houses, but it was our first sleepover together, which was like a whole new experience. Nothing exciting ever happened, other than me meeting her father for the first time. He was tall, sandy blond hair and he wore glasses. Overall, he was a fairly nice man.
Back then, he didn’t seem weird and I didn’t get any vibes from him. Looking back, I remember some weird things now. He’d always disappear from the room once we came in. Whenever he did stay, it was for a few minutes, before he started fidgeting and shifting.
Moving on, after that first sleepover myself, as well as a few other of our mutual friends, were all invited over for another sleepover. There were around 3 or 4 of us girls, all in my friends basement, as her room was too small for all of us. I remember at one point during the night, one of the girls had to go to the bathroom. It was fairly early, around 7 or 8 o’clock. Julia directed her to it, just a small room up the stairs and down the hallway.
She left, and we continued talking until she came back. When she came back, she was kind of shaky. She was a bit pale, and had a confused expression on her face. She approached Julia and tapped her shoulder. The girl asked Julia if she could call her mother, to come pick her up. We were all disappointed, and urged her to stay, but she declined profusely and was on the verge of tears.
Julia’s mother called the girl’s mother, who picked her up around 10 minutes later. We were all standing around the porch, saying goodbye to her. Julia’s mother apologized about the girl not wanting to stay, and suggested that maybe she could visit when she was feeling better. Eventually, Julia’s father came to say goodbye too. He stood behind Julia, his hands on her shoulders. I didn’t notice at the time, but thinking back to it now, Julia seemed very uncomfortable around him as well. He was smiling at the girl, who had dipped her head anxiously when Julia’s father showed up.
After the girl was gone, we continued our sleepover as normal, before morning came and we all went home.
Around a week later, while on the weekend, my mother approached me. She told me that I wasn’t allowed to go to Julia’s house anymore. She said I couldn’t have sleepovers, playdates or anything.
When I asked her why she said, “Her parents and I got into a fight.” As a child I thought their fight would end soon, like how Julia and I would argue, before getting over it less than a day later. I kept my hopes up and continued asking my mother, day after day if I could go back to Julia’s house. She said no every time.
Of course, I still spoke to Julia at school. All the time.
One day, she got sick at school. I volunteered to go with her to the office to call home.
When we got there the lady at the desk said, “I’ll call your father, to come pick you up.”
Julia seemed to panic at her words and before the lady had a chance to pick up the phone she said,”Call my mom, please. Not my dad.”
As an adult, like I am now, that would’ve gone up as a red flag, immediately. I don’t know what was wrong with the woman at the desk, as she just shrugged it off and called her mother instead. I stayed with Julia until her mother showed up.
Julia and I had very close birthdates. Mine is on March 15th and hers was on March 9th, so usually, we’d have a shared birthday party. It was less work for the parents, and more fun for us. For my 11th birthday I, like always, expected a shared birthday party. As you might have guessed, we didn’t have one. In fact, I didn’t see Julia for the entire time between around March 5th and around March 23rd.
When I asked my mother about it, she passed it off. After March 23rd, she showed up again. We talked again and when I asked her about her disappearance, she got mad at me. I apologized, thinking that maybe she had to visit a family member, as I remembered how she always hated visiting family. I never knew why, but I always assumed it was just because of how smothering aunts and grandmothers can be.
Julia and I didn’t talk for a while. We kind of began to drift apart, speaking occasionally. My mother told me that’s just what happens sometimes to friendships and I remember her being happy that I wasn’t as close with Julia.
I also remember being suspicious. Yes, she was drifting away from me, but she was drifting away from everyone else, too. Not getting new friends. Just sitting by herself, ignoring everyone, doing her work.
Her silence never stopped news from spreading, though. About a month later, we all learned that her parents had divorced. I approached her on the day I heard about it. I told her I was sorry.
She said, “My mother is moving away. I’m going with her.” I was shocked by what she said. In the end, I wasn’t as devastated as I thought I was going to be. We’d grown too far apart for me to be extremely upset.
Anyways, I never learned where she moved away. But a week or two after she left, her father was on the news. I never saw it as a child, but I recently approached my mother about it.
She explained to me how at Julia’s sleepover with the other girls, the girl who had gone home had left because when she went to the washroom, Julia’s father followed her. Apparently he touched her for a few minutes, even hit her once.
My mother told me she confronted Julia’s mother about it. Her mother was in denial and just said it didn’t happen, that her husband was good.
My mother also told me that during Julia’s disappearance, her father was being investigated and that they kept Julia indoors for the entire time they suspected people were watching her father. I’m not sure if that’s how things work with suspected pedophiles, but I would’ve burst into that house and arrested him on sight.
My mother said that after Julia’s mother finally accepted that her husband was a child molester, she divorced him. I learned that he was touching Julia as well, explaining her skittish behaviour. My mom told me that after Julia and her mother had moved, her father was on the news because he was arrested, for being a pedophile, amongst other things.
I never really thought about that situation when I was younger. I only really thought about it recently, how suspicious everything was. I really hope that wherever Julia is now, she is safe and happy. No doubt, she would’ve been scarred by those memories, I just hope that they don’t affect her for the rest of her life and I hope her father rots in jail.