Chapter 10 – Elizabeth
Friday, March 10th
Ever since David had come back from his long outing Wednesday night he seemed less afraid of her. Several times Elizabeth saw him cringe with fear as if some secret memory had been triggered, but he no longer tried to run from her. When David went with her to visit clients he stood closer to her instead of the door now. It was a small victory.
Elizabeth had tried to prepare him for Jared’s invasion of their peaceful domain, but she wondered how David would react. He helped her clean all afternoon for the weekend and company. David worked hard when he knew what was expected of him, but Elizabeth suspected it was still fear of her retribution that prompted him. She wasn’t sure why, when physically they were almost the same size, and he was most likely stronger. But just as he feared her, he also clung to her. Rarely did she leave the room, but that he followed her immediately.
Now David played the piano while Elizabeth looked over her pictures on the computer. David’s had turned out fairly well. A few were unfocused or not completely in frame, but the others were good, especially the cardinal as it spread its wings. She had complimented him on it, and it seemed to take away his disappointment at the missed pictures.
Even here, though, when Elizabeth had thought he was occupied with the camera, he’d been constantly focused on her. Three-fourths of the film were images of her as she worked. But she’d tried to encourage him instead of let her surprise show and promised he could use the camera whenever he wanted. If he wanted to use more than one roll of film a week though, he would have to pay for the film and development out of his allowance.
David didn’t seem at all anxious to spend any of his allowance, as Jared was whenever he had a little change. He never even looked around when they had stopped at the store that morning. He just followed and watched her. One time she caught him watching someone else. It was a mother with two small children. As soon as he realized Elizabeth was looking at him, he turned back to continue watching her.
Elizabeth looked at the clock. Five after seven. Where…. She heard the sound of footsteps on the front porch. “They’re here.” She jumped up and went to the door.
“Hi, Mother,” Jared said, racing past her to his room.
“Hello to you, too.” Elizabeth stared after him.
“I’m sorry I can’t stay and visit a few minutes,” Rob, Jared’s grandfather, said.
Elizabeth refocused her attention to him. He always brought and picked up Jared so that Elizabeth hadn’t seen Jared’s father at all since the divorce almost four years ago.
“Erin’s out in the car. I’ll try to come a little early on Sunday, if it’s all right. I’d really like to hear about the conference.”
“That’ll be fine, Rob. And the conference was great.” It seemed like a month ago instead of a week ago. Elizabeth closed the door.
Jared ran back into the living room. “Where are my Legos and K’nex’s?” he demanded.
“I told you last time you were here, Jared. If you didn’t pick them up off the living room floor before you left you would lose them for three months.”
“You can’t do that.”
“I can and I did.”
“But Daddy and Mommy gave me some of those. You had no right to take them. Where are they?” Jared stomped his feet to get his point across.
“You knew the rules, and you were warned when your time was getting short. It’s your own fault.”
“You’re mean. I hate coming here, and I hate you.” Jared ran down the hall to his room.
Oh Lord, what am I supposed to do about him? One kid hates me, and the other fears me. David looked out from the office. She tried to greet him, but her voice refused to work. She hated these confrontations with Jared. She never seemed to be able to do the right thing. It was just like it had been with his father. She shook her head to try to clear her eyes and throat. “I’m sorry, David.” She moved over a few steps and sat down in a chair, leaning forward with her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands.
“Who are you?” Jared stood with one hand on the corner of the hall. He was looking at David, and then he turned to Elizabeth. “Who’s he?”
“David Timothy. David, this is Jared Ryan.”
“I’m Jared Weaver. Jared Ryan Weaver. My grandpa owns Weaver Construction Company, and my dad is going to own it soon. My Dad and Grandpa build all kinds of houses and buildings. They’re building a restaurant in Flint right now. What does your dad do?”
“I… I don’t have a dad.”
“Did he die, or did he just not want you?”
“I never had one.” David disappeared into the office.
Jared started to follow. Elizabeth restrained him, taking his arm. “Please don’t bother David.”
“What’s that kid doing here?”
A knock sounded on the door and Elizabeth released his arm to answer it. Dylan stood on the porch. “Hi, Beth.”
“Dylan! What are you doing here?”
“May I come in?”
“Yes, of course.” She backed away from the door as he stepped in.
“Why are you here? Why don’t you go home?” Jared’s voice came from the office.
“Excuse me, Dylan.” Elizabeth went through the curtain to the office. David was on the piano bench. He was crunched over, looking only at the keys, as if he wanted to curl up into a ball right there. “David is here because he lives here. Now please be polite.” She might as well let Dylan hear it, too. That’s why he was there, she was sure.
“He can’t live here. You’re not his mother.”
“Yes, I am.”
“No, you’re mine. Don’t you love me anymore?”
“You know I do.”
“Then make him leave.”
David suddenly ran past them out of the room.
“David,” Elizabeth called, running after him.
Dylan grabbed her arm. “What’s going on here?”
Elizabeth pulled away. “Not now.” She went through the hall to David’s room. He was packing his clothes into the bag he had brought with him. She had to stop him. Elizabeth went and turned him to face her.
The fear came into his eyes, and he jerked away, backing up against the wall.
Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. David, you promised me you wouldn’t leave.” That wasn’t necessarily true, but it sounded good.
Dylan looked in. “Beth…?”
Elizabeth went to the door and whispered, “Please look after Jared for a few minutes for me.”
“Dylan, please trust me and give me five minutes. I’ll explain later.”
“Five minutes,” he said, before turning away.
Elizabeth shut the door and locked it. Then she sat on the bed near David. “Please don’t leave,” she whispered. “I don’t care what Jared says or what Dylan says or what anyone says. Please don’t leave, unless you really don’t like it here with me. Unless you… you hate me like Jared, please don’t leave.”
David’s gaze changed from fear to disbelief. His breathing was quick and shallow, almost as if emotions were choking him, but he had no tears or sobs. He closed his eyes a moment and then refocused on her. Then he spoke in a steady, even voice. “Why do you care whether I live or die? I’m just a… I’m useless and worthless, and I’ll never be a man. I’m not good for anything. I’m better off dead.” He slid against the wall to the corner and then sunk down, wrapping his arms around his knees.
It was the first time he had spoken more than a few words at one time. She knew they must be words he had heard about himself for a long time — words that had hurt him as deeply as any hand ever had, and he was throwing them out to her to see what she would do.
Someone pounded on the door. “I want my mommy.” Jared had called her mommy for the first time in almost four years, but Elizabeth couldn’t let herself think about that right now.
“Let’s go in the other room, and she’ll be out in a minute.” Thank you, Dylan.
Elizabeth sat on the floor next to David. He closed his eyes and she knew he was scared. Gently she put her arm around him and drew him to her until his head rested on her. Then she stroked the back of his hair, trying to comfort her scared, little boy.
“None of those things are true about you. You are not useless; you help me all the time. You are not worthless; you are worth more than money or even Dylan’s friendship to me. And to God you are worth enough that He let His son suffer and die so that you could know Him. David, you will be a man – a strong, good man – a man after God’s own heart. And you are good at a lot of things, especially music. You’re very good at music. I bet in a few years you’ll be better than Dylan, but don’t tell him I said that, okay.” She kissed the back of his head because it was closest to her lips, and continued rubbing his arm in a reassuring way.
David started shaking, and Elizabeth knew he was crying. She continued to hold him and occasionally kiss his head. “I love you, David,” she whispered. He cried harder.
Dylan knocked on the door once, but she ignored him. It was well over ten minutes before David was still. A few minutes later he pushed himself away from her and then turned to face her. He tentatively lifted a hand to her face and touched her cheek. Elizabeth hadn’t realized that she had been crying, also.
Dylan knocked again. “Elizabeth, if you don’t come out, I’ll unlock it myself and come in.”
Elizabeth smiled. “Dylan hates it when he doesn’t know what’s going on. He’s really a good guy once you get to know him. Should we dry our eyes and let him in?”
“You’ll always love me?”
“I’ll always love you, David. Whatever happens, remember that.”
“Do you love me as much as Jared?”
“Yes, David. I do. I can’t explain it, but I do.”
David suddenly wrapped his arms around her neck and hugged her tightly, resting his head next to hers.
Elizabeth heard someone playing with the lock. “David, Dylan’s going to have that door open in a second.”
David jumped up just as the door swung open. Elizabeth got up a bit more slowly.
“What were you doing, sitting behind the bed on the floor over there?”
“Talking. What were you doing picking the locks?”
“Getting upset. Beth, you lied to me.”
“So I was longer than five minutes.”
“That is not what I mean, and you know it.”
“Name one lie I’ve said. I may have failed to mention that David came home with me, but I never lied about it.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“The same reason that I’m not going to talk about it right now. If you want to stay until after I put the boys to bed in a couple hours, we can talk about it as long as you like.”
Jared came into the room. “Make him leave, Mommy.”
“No Jared. This is David’s room, and this is his home.”
“I’ll call Daddy, and he’ll make him leave, or he won’t let me come over anymore.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “It was less than an hour ago that you told me you hated me. I don’t see what difference it makes to you if I adopt another son.”
“I changed my mind.” Jared climbed over the bed and hugged her.
“I’m glad to hear it. I love you, too, Jared.”
“Now he can leave.”
Elizabeth laughed. “You’re as stubborn as your father. David stays.”
Jared released his hold on her and bounced down on the bed.
“I’d say he was as stubborn as his mother,” Dylan said, sitting on the edge of the bed.
“That may be so, Dylan. Why don’t we all go into the living room? You have half an hour until bedtime, Jared.”
“No. I’m not listening to you anymore.”
“It’s your choice. You can get ready for bed now or in half an hour.”
Jared ran out of the room. “I changed my mind. I hate you.”
“You know, I was starting to think you were exaggerating Jared’s attitude, but I changed my mind,” Dylan said. “Now you.” He pointed at David. “You said you wanted to live with me. I want to….”
David cringed and backed into the corner.
Dylan turned to her. “Elizabeth, I….” His gaze fell to the foot of the bed where David had been packing. He reached over and picked up the five tapes and the small New Testament. He set aside the two new tapes and looked at the older ones, turning them over in his hands.
Then he looked at David. He spoke quietly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t remember. The funny thing is, I still pray for you sometimes. You were shorter then, and your hair wasn’t quite so long. But I should have known. You still have that same look in your eyes. But I didn’t look in your eyes until now.”
David moved closer to Elizabeth. She reached for his hand and held it.
At a crash from the office, Elizabeth let go of David’s hand and ran out of the room two steps behind Dylan. The computer monitor lay shattered on the floor, and Jared stood on the desk.
“I dropped it.”
“Dropped it? How could you drop it when you have no business picking it up? And what are you doing on the desk?” Elizabeth hesitated, looking from the broken monitor to Jared, still standing on the desk. She tried to fight the rising panic. How could he do this?
“Elizabeth,” Dylan said in a low voice. “You better discipline him and do it good, or this is just going to get a lot worse.”
“But how?” She tried to keep the hysteria out of her voice, but it wasn’t working.
Dylan took over. He put both his hands on Jared’s shoulders and stared into his eyes. “You knew you weren’t supposed to be up there, and you definitely knew that if you pushed the monitor off the desk it would break. You did it on purpose, didn’t you?”
“She took my toys away on purpose, and she won’t make him leave.”
“She doesn’t have to do what you want. You have to do what she says, because she’s the one responsible for you. Let’s finish this talk in the bedroom where you’ll stay until tomorrow morning.” Dylan picked Jared up and carried him over his shoulder.
“Let me down. Mother! Stop him.” Jared pounded Dylan’s back.
Elizabeth collapsed on the floor and started crying as Dylan carried him away.
David tentatively came to her. “You’re not going to let him hurt him, are you?”
“Oh David, I don’t know what to do. Dylan won’t….”
Elizabeth got up and ran to Jared’s room. David was behind her. “Dylan?”
“I haven’t touched him, yet. But he needs his behind paddled.”
“Just leave him in there and close the door.”
“Beth….” Dylan started to protest, but he did as she asked. “It’s just going to get worse,” he said, as they walked back to the office.
“I know, Dylan. But if he gets a spanking I may lose all visits. It was one of Wesley’s stipulations.”
“So he’s allowed to treat you like dirt, and I suppose his father won’t do anything about it. Have you even mentioned it to Wesley?” Dylan turned over the monitor and started placing the glass from the broken picture tube inside the case.
“I’ve tried a couple times, but it does no good. He just says that maybe Jared shouldn’t come over here.” Elizabeth crouched down beside him to help pick up the glass.
“How about Rob?”
“Rob does enough he shouldn’t have to. Besides he’s Wesley’s father. And….”
When she didn’t continue, Dylan said, “And…?”
“I don’t want to find out that he lied when he says he should have supported me in the custody battle.”
“And you don’t want him to think you can’t handle it.”
Elizabeth sat on the floor, put her hands to her face, and started crying. “I can’t handle it. I’m a terrible mother.”
Dylan shifted to go to her.
David reached her first, putting his arm across her shoulders. “No you’re not,” he said fiercely. “Jared is wrong. You’re far better than that woman. You love. You care. You don’t hurt me.”
Elizabeth grabbed David and held him. He stiffened an instant before hugging her back. When she could control herself a few minutes later, she whispered, “Thank you, David.” Elizabeth released him, and David sat next to her.
Dylan had seated himself on the floor, also, and watched them. “You’ve started the adoption proceedings?”
“No. I can’t.”
“Isn’t that what you’ve been telling Jared?”
“David, you know that I want you to legally become my son, don’t you?”
He hesitated and then nodded.
“I need to know where you’re from. We have to go back there and go through the legal system.”
“No.” David stood and backed away. “Don’t make me go back.”
“You have to David,” Dylan said.
“No. Don’t make me go back to that woman. Don’t make me leave here.” He ran out of the room.
Elizabeth went after him. She found him in his room in the dark and in the corner again. “It’s all right, David. You don’t have to go back to… to that woman. We just have to talk to the lawyers and stuff. You have to tell them what happened, and then we can make it so that you’re really my son.”
Dylan came in and sat on the bed.
“I can’t tell anyone. She’ll send them after me. Don’t tell her where I am. Don’t let her hurt me.” He became hysterical, crying again.
Elizabeth held him. “It’s okay. I won’t let her hurt you again. We can wait. We don’t have to do it right away. We can keep things the way they are until you’re ready.”
“She’ll hurt you if she knows you care. She hurt Jerome. I know she did. Don’t let her know.”
“It’s all right, David. We won’t let her know. We don’t need to go. It’s all right.”
“But Dylan knows.”
“Dylan won’t tell anyone you’re here. You’re safe here, David.” Elizabeth held him for a long time until he stopped shaking. “Why don’t you get ready for bed, Sweetheart? Then I’ll read you some more about the Kings of Israel.” He nodded, and Elizabeth got up to leave the room. “Let me know when you’re ready.”
Dylan followed her from the room.
Elizabeth got a box from the basement and the vacuum to finish cleaning up the broken monitor. Dylan helped her. “You know, I just upgraded all my equipment last month, too, except the monitor. I was hoping I could wait another year on that.” She looked up to see David in his pajamas, watching her. “I’ll be back in a few minutes, Dylan.”
When Elizabeth came back into the office, Dylan had vacuumed and hauled the box out to the trash. “I take it you’ve had quite a week,” Dylan said, settling into the armchair next to the monitorless computer as Elizabeth seated herself in front of it.
“Oh, Dylan, I love him so much. Please don’t tell me that he can’t stay with me.”
“It’s quite obvious that the two of you have grown quite attached in the last five days, and it’s just as obvious that he’s been hurt pretty badly. I could see that two years ago, but I assumed that the people at the mission would have stepped in to help him.”
“Where’s he from, Dylan? He won’t tell me anything. In fact, tonight’s the first time he’s spoken more than one sentence at a time.”
“Chicago. Remember when I sang at that inner-city mission? I told you about the kid that tried to steal my tapes.” Elizabeth nodded. “That’s him.”
“So you don’t know much more than that about him either.”
“I didn’t even know his name until tonight.”
“You still don’t know his name. I gave him that name Monday, and he seems to like it.”
“Maybe I could go to Chicago and ask around about him. I won’t say where he is or anything, but since I don’t have a name… You wouldn’t happen to have a picture.”
Elizabeth brought her current photo album to him. She showed him the pictures from the hotel before David was cleaned up and the few she had taken since. “Let me take a before and an after. I’ll nose around and see what I can find out for you.”
“Okay. But please don’t take him from me. I was….” Elizabeth knew she had to tell him the truth now. “When I found him crying and praying in the barn and I prayed with him, I just knew he needed a mother to love him. And I wanted to have him for a son. But I knew that if you knew everything, you would take him. I knew he’d be better off with you and Kathy, but I wanted him so badly. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t know what I would have done that night. Right now I am tempted to take him home. He needs a good strong family and….”
Elizabeth stood quickly. “Dylan James Trent, if you ever try to take David away from me then you can say good-bye to four years of friendship because I will fight you.”
They stared at each other. Then Dylan held up his hands. “I will not fight you. But I want you to promise me that if David ever becomes violent with you or hurts you in any way, you will let me know. Don’t put up with it. You see how bad Jared is now. Just think about a kid David’s size acting like that and a kid that has obviously seen a lot of domestic violence. I don’t want you hurt.”
“He’s never tried to hurt me at all, Dylan. He’s been afraid of me most of the time. He’s finally starting to trust me.”
“Promise me that you won’t keep any secrets from me anymore. I care about him, too.”
“As long as you promise not to take him away from me.”
“I’m not Wesley, Elizabeth. I only want what’s best for you and for David. David needs a good male role model. Let me work with you on this. I just wish we lived closer.”
Elizabeth sat back down. “Okay, I’ll try, but you know I’m not very submissive. And you aren’t my husband that I have to be.”
Dylan shook his head. “I noticed that. It would have been better if you had married Ben and moved to Tennessee.”
“Dylan! You want me to marry a jerk just so you don’t feel like you have to keep an eye on me anymore? Well I never asked you to. That’s something you’ve tried to do on your own.”
“Hold it, right there. It’s not because I don’t want the responsibility of watching out for you. I was thinking of a father for David and that you’d live a lot closer.”
“Ben’s the last person I’d want for David’s father.”
“Elizabeth, please explain this to me. What exactly is wrong with Ben besides the way he proposed to you?”
The calm way in which Dylan had asked the question made Elizabeth realize that she was beginning to overreact again. She forced herself to take a few deep breaths and try to think through the true reasons before she answered. “Ben is the kind of guy who likes to be a Christian because it’s convenient for him to do so.”
“That’s a pretty strong accusation. That’s almost like saying he’s not a Christian at all.”
Elizabeth shrugged. “Only God knows for sure.”
“There must be a reason you feel this way.”
Elizabeth thought a minute. “He’s friendly with a person when it’s good for him to be. If the person can’t benefit him, then instead of showing compassion and charity, he shows anger and hate.”
“I think you’re being a little too hard on him, and I guess it won’t help that he didn’t say too much about you. Whether he was being a gentlemen or whether your unflattering assessment that it wasn’t in his best interest to malign you to us is true, I don’t know. Now about Jared.”
Elizabeth winced. She hated it when Dylan went into his lecture mode.
“You want to know what I think?”
Not really, but she knew he was going to tell her. She nodded submissively.
“I think that you have so wanted Jared to like you that you’ve tried to be his friend instead of his parent. You’ve not punished him because you’re afraid that he won’t want to be with you. But it hasn’t worked, has it? Jared knows what’s important to you, and he uses it to get what he wants. He knows he can control you.”
Elizabeth wanted to deny everything he said, but she couldn’t. He knew the truth that she had discovered a few months ago, but she wasn’t sure how to change things. The confrontation about the Legos was one of her attempts to regain control, but his actions tonight completely overwhelmed her. She didn’t know where to start. “What do you suggest I do?” she asked quietly.
“Ground him, restrict privileges. What were you going to do tomorrow?”
“Go to the museum in Ann Arbor.”
“Does he know that?”
“Good. Don’t take him. You and David go without him.”
“I can’t just leave him at home alone.”
“Get a sitter.”
“I bet you’ve never gotten a sitter in four years.”
“I don’t have him often enough.”
“I’ll call Keith. I bet he’ll watch him.” Dylan grinned.
“What’s the grin for?”
“Keith’s not a push over. He’s had practice. If you tell him Jared’s grounded, he’ll make sure that Jared remembers it. I want you and David to go and have a good time. Maybe you can buy David a souvenir that Jared can see he missed out on.”
“But isn’t that mean?”
“Elizabeth, discipline isn’t supposed to be fun for him. He has to realize that he can’t treat you any old way and still get to do whatever he wants. If he doesn’t learn there are consequences to his actions now he’ll learn it later, and it will be a lot harder on him than a few missed weekend trips. Also when he mouths off disrespectfully send him to his room for ten minutes, and every time he does it, it’s ten more minutes. Try this and by the end of the summer I bet things will settle down a bit.”
“And if they don’t?”
“We’ll have to involve Rob and Wes.”
“I don’t know, Dylan.”
“It’s not just you anymore. It’s David too. You have to be firm with both of them so that they both feel safe here. How can anyone be comfortable in a home where one person is attacking another, either verbally or physically? You can’t allow it. You have to use some of that stubbornness of yours to be firm with those boys. I know it’s hard, and I know Wesley makes it harder for you. But in the end Jared will see for himself what is right. Don’t worry about it now. Just be firm, loving, and consistent.”
“You make it sound easy. Five easy steps to better parent-child relations.”
“It’s not easy, Beth. It’s hard. Believe me, I know. I’m going to ask Keith to check in here more often.”
“I care about David, but Elizabeth, what if he knows how much you want him to stay and starts taking advantage of you. I don’t think you should let him know how much his presence here really means to you.”
Elizabeth wanted to protest. David needed to feel loved. But she was too drained to argue. He wouldn’t be here most of the time anyway. “Is that how you treated Keith and Kim when you married Kathy?”
“Perhaps I worded that wrong. But….”
“Okay, Beth. My lecture is done. I’ll type up some study notes if you need them.”
“I’m sorry, Dylan. It seems like it’s been a very long day. I do appreciate your help. I’m willing to try just about anything right now.”
“Keep me informed,” Dylan insisted, staring at her until she nodded. He stood. “I’ll call Keith in the morning before I leave, and hopefully he’ll be free to stay with Jared tomorrow. I don’t suppose you could put me up on the couch tonight.”
“Yes. I suppose I can.”
Go to Chapter 11
© 2013, 1995 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.