“Alecia,” he says kindly, and kisses my cheek. “How nice of you to visit. It’s been, what, at least six months?”
“Three years,” I reply, and blink back tears. Why does this always surprise me?
Mom frowns and begins gathering lunchmeat, cheese, and bread to make sandwiches.
“No, it can’t be that long,” she says and shakes her head. “I’m quite sure we spoke to you at Christmas.”
“No, you didn’t,” I reply firmly. This is what I’m here for, right? I might as well start standing up for myself now.
“Well, it’s good to see you,” Dad says with a grin. “How is Sedona?”
“Seattle,” I say between gritted teeth. “Why can’t either of you ever remember that I live in Seattle?”
“Do you want ham or turkey, dear?” Mom asks Dad.
“Turkey, please. Alecia, come sit.” He gestures to the chair to his left, and I lower myself into it, set my handbag on the floor, and take a deep breath.
I wish I had a good, strong drink.
“I won’t be here long,” I begin, and bite my lip, mustering up courage.
“What is it, darling?” Mom asks kindly and cuts dad’s sandwich in two, diagonally, just the way he likes it.
“If you didn’t want me, why did you have me?”
They both still, then frown at me, flustered.
“What are you talking about?” Dad says.
“I know I wasn’t planned,” I continue, tracing a pattern on the table with my fingertip. “That was never a secret. But, if you didn’t want me, and I was an accident, why didn’t you give me up for adoption, rather than keeping me and ignoring me my whole life?”
“Ignoring you?” Mom demands, and sits at the table, the sandwich forgotten.
“Let’s not mince words,” I say, and look them both in the eyes. “I was never allowed to eat with you. You kept me busy in school to keep me out of your way. I hated sports. I didn’t even particularly like the piano.”
“Do you have any idea how much it cost to keep you in piano lessons? In sports?” Mom sits back, angry now, her brown eyes wide and frustrated. “We gave you everything. Sent you to the best schools. The best college.”
“I had everything so you wouldn’t have to be bothered with me,” I interrupt her. “And it’s the past. There’s no changing it. I just want to know, why? What was it about me that was so unlovable that you couldn’t bear to even eat meals with me?”
I hate that I hear the catch in my voice, but I firm my lip, refusing to back down.
“That wasn’t it,” Dad says softly. “You were always such a self-sufficient child, Alecia. You played well alone.”
I shake my head, and can’t help but laugh humorlessly.
“Dad, I learned to be self-sufficient. You two never made a secret of the fact that you’d wished it was just the two of you. I’ve always, always felt like a third wheel. You didn’t want me.” I shrug as Mom gasps, covering her mouth with her hand in surprise. “Really, Mom? You don’t even know what city I live in.”
“Maybe we could have paid more attention,” Dad says thoughtfully. “But I, for one, thought we were giving you the best of everything. The best music lessons and sports programs. The school. Your mother and I worked very hard to be able to afford those things for you, Alecia.”
“I worked more than full-time just to pay the tuition for the private school,” Mom adds.
“I’m not saying that I did without things.” I swallow and fist my hands, pissed that they’re starting to shake. “I had plenty of things. But I didn’t have affection. I didn’t feel loved. And I just want to know what it is about me that is so unlovable.”
“My God, Alecia!” Mom exclaims. “Of course we love you. You’re our little girl!”
“I don’t remember you ever saying I love you to me. You didn’t hug me. You’ve never said you were proud of me.”
They stare at each other in confusion, then look back to me.
“You hugged each other. I come from a very loving marriage,” I continue. “But I don’t come from an affectionate family.”
“I guess we weren’t terribly demonstrative when it came to affection,” Mom says.
“Some people just aren’t,” Dad says with a shrug. “But we never mistreated you. We didn’t hit you or yell at you or even punish you very often.”
I sigh and rub my hands over my face. “Why do I feel like I’m spinning my wheels?”
“Are you saying we’re shitty parents, Alecia?” Dad asks.
“Yes! And I want to know why you don’t love me!” I yell and stand, my hands in fists at my sides. “I want to know why you never held me, or said kind fucking things to me! I want to know why you always sent me away rather than keeping me close to you!”
“Watch your language, daughter,” Mom warns sternly, but I just shake my head and pound my fist on the table.
“I didn’t deserve that!”
“We didn’t do anything wrong,” Mom says with a sniff, her nose in the air, and I know that they aren’t going to answer me.
“Maybe,” I begin thoughtfully, “you’re just too self-absorbed to realize that you did anything wrong. Maybe it’s easier to live in denial, in your perfect little home, your perfect little bubble, and believe that you treated me well. But I came here to tell you that you didn’t. And that it’s not okay. It’s made me question myself my whole life.”
I sit back in the chair and clasp my hands together. “I’ve always wondered why I was so unlovable. What did I do? I ran into the arms of the first man—boy then—to show me attention, and I ran as fast and as far as I could when I graduated to escape the loneliness of this house. You don’t want to acknowledge that you’re shitty parents? Fine.”
I stand and lift my handbag. “You were shitty parents. But I love you, because you’re my parents.”
I turn to leave, but when I get to the kitchen door, I turn back to them. “If you ever want to have a relationship with your only daughter, you call me. I’m not going to chase after your love. I’m not going to beg for it. For the first time in my life, I’m at the top of someone’s priority list: mine.”
On shaky legs, I walk through the home of my childhood, out the door and to my car. It takes me three tries to get the key in the ignition, but I finally pull away, breathing hard, trembling, but so fucking proud of myself.