Chapter 15 – Elizabeth
Saturday, March 18th
“I’m sorry about that, David. I hoped Bill wouldn’t show up, but he didn’t have the common decency to stay home when he was drunk. I know I shouldn’t let it get me so angry. The few times Wes, you know, Jared’s dad, got drunk was with Bill, and it wasn’t pleasant. And Bill’s the kind of guy that if he feels a little intimidated by you, he’ll either try to suck up to you or cut you down to size. I’m sorry, again, David. I shouldn’t be speaking so harshly about other people.” Elizabeth forced herself to be quiet.
At home she worked on her computer until nine thirty, and then she suggested to David that it was time for bed. As she suspected, her suggestion was his command. After she finished reading Paul’s second letter to Timothy to him, she asked, “Do you have a preference what we read tomorrow?” She didn’t expect a response.
“What did you mean about Egypt and the land of milk and honey?”
Elizabeth smiled, hoping to encourage his questions. “The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, and then God led them out of Egypt….” She saw his puzzled look. She wasn’t explaining things clearly enough. “I think that I cannot give you a quick answer. You need background. We can start reading from Genesis tomorrow, and then you can learn about how it all started. By the time we get through Exodus you’ll understand what I meant.”
David relaxed into the pillow, accepting her answer.
“Get some sleep. We’ve got church tomorrow.”
Sunday, March 19th
The next morning Elizabeth arrived at church early so there would be less people around when they found their seats. A few people came to greet them. Among them were Jay Mittleson, the school administrator, his wife, Cheryl, and his daughter, Becky. Elizabeth introduced David to each of them.
David clutched her hand and managed a small “hi” to each person. She noticed that he tried to sit up straight and not cringe. His hand would tightened on hers instead, betraying his nervousness.
David stood when she stood, and sat when she did, but he didn’t sing. She expected he’d follow her example at communion also, but he refused.
Elizabeth let the plate pass him by, but realized she needed to talk to him later about it. She led David out of the sanctuary during the closing hymn to avoid the crush of people. She didn’t want anything but the conviction of God to make David uncomfortable in church.
They went home and Elizabeth fixed lunch. After grace was said, Elizabeth asked David why he hadn’t taken communion. He cringed and looked wary. “It’s okay, Sweetheart. I just want to know if there’s something I can help you with.”
David looked at his sandwich, not raising his eyes. “I’m not worthy. I can’t take it. God would be angry,” he whispered.
Elizabeth put her arm around him. “No one is worthy, David. Each time we must pray for God to forgive us of what we have done wrong, what we can remember, and what we can’t.” She was glad he was concerned and tried to explain it to the best of her ability, reading all the sections in the Bible she could find about it.
He looked into her eyes. “I’m sorry. I’ll do it right next time.” He seemed a little frightened as if he expected punishment.
“David, you didn’t do anything wrong. Please, Sweetheart, I’m not going to get angry if you don’t understand something. Maybe now would be a good time to talk about the sacrament of Baptism, also.” After she explained it to him, she asked, “Have you been baptized?”
He shook his head.
“You understand that you need to be, right?”
“Will it be all right if we make an appointment with Pastor Nat next week to talk about when you can be baptized?”
David hesitated. Then she saw the indecision leave his eyes. “God wants me to, right?”
“Then I will.”
Elizabeth knew that David would be more comfortable with a sprinkling than an immersion. In fact with his fears, she didn’t think an immersion baptism would be possible.
David seemed to gain courage from their discussion because he asked her a question about the morning sermon. Elizabeth answered as encouragingly as she could, and she was surprised at the things he asked. She’d known there was more going on inside him than just fear, and by their discussion, she realized he’d relied on his scant knowledge of Jesus to make it through his difficult life. She prayed that now would be a time of growth for him, in understanding of the God he trusted as well as in maturing emotionally and physically.
Later David began trying to imitate some of the songs he had heard on the piano. Elizabeth sat near him, picking up a magazine. Suddenly he turned to her. “Is this right?” he asked, and proceeded to sing one of the choruses he hadn’t sung that morning.
“Yes, that’s good. Can we sing it together?” She set down the magazine, realizing he wasn’t going to clam up again right away.
He started to nod and then said, “Yes.”
David watched Elizabeth as he sang, and she saw him become more confident. When the song was over he said, “How about that one where the men sang…” and he sang the men’s section. Then he said, “And the women sang….” He then sang a section of the woman’s part.
“Yes, we can sing that. You have such a good voice, David. I hope you’ll sing more often.”
David flashed her one of those quick, rare smiles of his that she loved.
After that song Elizabeth took out some of her worship music books and her hymnal, showing him the songs inside. “It won’t be long before you’ll be able to read all these, but with your memory it will be a race to see if you can read first or memorize them all.”
David let his excitement at the new music show this time, and they sang and played songs until Elizabeth’s stomach warned her it was past dinner time.
March 20th thru April 5th
The next week passed quickly as Elizabeth and David settled into their routine of school work in the morning and then appointments and errands in the afternoon. David practiced his music when he wasn’t working on school work or following her to visit clients.
Several times in the afternoon when she knew the upstairs tenants were gone, she would turn up the music to dance and stretch after sitting at the computer most of the day. The first couple times David just watched her. She first saw him sway to the music and then hesitantly begin to join her.
That weekend, Jared was still not happy about David’s presence, but after being sent to his room for mouthing off a couple times, he settled down. David stayed in his room to avoid Jared unless he was forced out.
The following Wednesday David and Elizabeth met with Pastor Nat and two of the elders, Jay Mittleson and Brad Strickland, to talk about David’s baptism. They settled into the living room chairs, and Elizabeth brought them coffee and soft drinks, before sitting next to David.
The visit started with a little background information about Elizabeth meeting David at Dylan’s and arranging foster care.
Then Nat asked David how he came to know Christ.
David gripped her hand. He spoke hesitantly, glancing at Elizabeth often. “Dylan told me. And I knew. I tried to follow. I… She… later I prayed, and Jesus helped me find Elizabeth.”
“Dylan gave a concert at the mission in the neighborhood David lived in. Then he learned more from the mission workers.”
“Gary and Michelle,” David said.
After the interview, Nat said he’d call and let her know if the baptism would be next week or the week after.
When they left, David turned to her. “It was okay that I didn’t tell them about her, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, it’s okay,” Elizabeth reassured him.
Sunday, Nat told them that the baptism would be on the ninth of April.
Wednesday, April 5th
Wednesday evening Elizabeth paused and turned back to face David as she was leaving his room after their nightly Bible reading. “Ah, we need some milk for tomorrow morning. Do you mind if I go to the store, now? I won’t be gone long, but you’ll probably be asleep by the time I get back.”
“I don’t mind.”
Elizabeth drove to the store. David’s birthday was Friday, and she had only had a chance to pick up one present. That was the New Geneva Study Bible that she had bought right in front of him. Of course he didn’t know it was for him yet. This was the only way she could come up with to get out alone. His birthday had to be a surprise, because she guessed he had not had too many good surprises.
She found the portable CD, Cassette, stereo system right away. She knew he’d probably love to be able to listen to any of her CDs in his room and not just the old tapes that she had made for her car years ago before she got the CD player in it. He sometimes played them on his little, old tape player with the cheap headphones that had no padding. She imagined the sound quality was terrible.
Elizabeth also bought wrapping paper, a cake, candles, and ice cream. She wrapped the CD player in the car and then headed for home. After turning out all the lights in the house, she rushed the present down the hall to her room. Then she made a second rush trip with the cake. She hid them both in her closet.
On impulse she called Keith. A roommate answered and had to wake him.
“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said quietly. “I didn’t think that you were probably in bed.”
“What’s up, Beth. Is everything okay?”
“Yes, fine. I just wondered if you were doing anything Friday afternoon.”
“I don’t have to be if you need me.”
She lowered her voice, in case David was awake and listening. “It’s David’s birthday. I want to surprise him. I thought maybe just you, me and Rob. I still have to ask Rob, but a party needs more than just me.”
“I’ll come. You can’t get any of your relatives to come to make it bigger?”
“I could, but I don’t want too many people, because David wouldn’t enjoy himself.”
“I’ll be there. What time?”
“Around three, I think. Is that okay?”
“Perfect for me. See you then.”
“Good night, Keith.”
After Elizabeth finished on the phone she turned on the computer. She wanted to work ahead as much as possible so she would not have to be concerned about it Friday. It would be Jared’s weekend, also, and she never got much work done when he was there. She worked until after two.
Thursday morning she called Rob’s cell phone number from her room and was relieved when he answered it. “Rob, tomorrow is David’s birthday, and I just wondered if you had time to stop by tomorrow around three?”
“Sure, I can probably get away. I doubt I can get Jared early though. He’ll still be in school.”
“I didn’t expect that you could. I just thought you and Keith could come.”
“Keith? The guy that Jared said knew all kinds of fun things that he could have done, but couldn’t because he was grounded?”
Elizabeth laughed. “That’s the one. He’s Dylan’s son.”
“I’d like to meet him. Jared seemed impressed with him.”
“Yes. I’ll be there at three tomorrow.”
Friday, April 7th
Friday, Elizabeth tried to contain her excitement and act the same as always. She wondered if David even knew it was his birthday. He didn’t seem to. She went over his school work like she normally did, and then they both worked in the office. She altered their schedule enough to take them to the printer and a few clients before lunch. After lunch David continued working on his school work in the office.
As the clock inched toward three she found it harder to concentrate on her work. She was glad David didn’t have the same problem. At five minutes to three she left David in the office working, making sure the curtain between the office and the living room settled back into place, blocking the rest of the apartment from David’s view. She brought the presents and cake to the kitchen and set everything up on the table. Then she went back into the office to check on David.
“I’m done,” he said, handing her his school work. He stood and stretched.
Elizabeth stacked his papers together to go over later, as she heard Keith and Rob on the porch.
David glanced at her in alarm. He was still nervous when others invaded their home, but he hadn’t had a panic attack in almost a week.
“Don’t worry, David. I’ll get it.” Elizabeth slipped through the curtain and let the men in, leading them to the kitchen.
“You’ve already got everything set up,” Keith said. “Does he know?”
“Not yet. We have to try really hard to make sure he doesn’t get scared.”
“No problem. I’m a friendly kind of guy. These all from you?” Keith set his gift with the others.
“No. Dylan and a kid from Chicago, Jerome, sent one.”
“Oh, yeah. Dad told me about him. I think he wants to study to be a minister or missionary or something. Dad was impressed with him anyway.”
“Why don’t we light the candles, and you can call him in here, Elizabeth?” Rob said.
“Okay, but don’t yell surprise when he comes through the door.”
“Aww, Beth,” Keith teased.
“I think I may need you to keep him in line, Rob.”
Elizabeth walked back to the office. David studied her nervously. She wished she could take all the fear away, but at least he didn’t seem to fear her touch anymore. She hugged him to reassure him. “I love you, David. Rob and Keith are here. You know who I’m talking about, right?”
He nodded, still wary.
“You know they’re nice people, right? They’re not going to hurt you.”
David looked into her eyes. There was a question in them, but Elizabeth didn’t know what he wanted to ask. “They’re in the kitchen, Sweetheart, and we’d like you to come out and be with us.”
Fear crossed his features again, but then he took a deep breath and grabbed her hand. A pleading look came into his eyes now.
She was getting quite good at reading his eyes, but sometimes she just wished he’d tell her what he was asking her to do or not to do. “Come on, Sweetheart. It’ll be all right. You’ll see.” Elizabeth led David from the office.
In the kitchen Rob was lighting the candles on the cake. David hesitated at the doorway. Then he pulled away from her, backing into the living room.
She put an arm on his shoulders, drawing him back toward the kitchen. “What’s wrong, Honey?”
David looked into the kitchen. His breathing came in short, panicked gasps. He began to pull back again.
Elizabeth kept her arm around him, just firm enough to let him know she preferred he didn’t run. Then she followed his gaze. He seemed to be staring at the cake. “Do you know what day it is, David?”
David didn’t respond. He kept staring at the cake, and he began trembling.
Elizabeth knew she had to distract his thoughts, but was it from his birthday or from something else? Why was he so scared? She attempted to ward it off with a soothing monologue. “It’s your birthday, David. We’ll….”
“How does it feel to be fourteen, David?” Keith asked. “It was so long ago, I don’t remember.”
David’s gaze left the cake and looked at Keith. “Fourteen? I’m fourteen?”
“You sure are,” Rob said, setting the matches on the counter behind him.
“Yep. It’s been a whole year since your last birthday,” Keith added.
“I… I never had a birthday.”
“You haven’t? You don’t know what you’re missing out on,” Keith said. “Look at all these presents for you and cake, and I bet Beth has some ice cream in the freezer. But you better come over here and let us sing to you, or your frosting will be all wax.” He pulled out the chair in front of the cake and motioned David to sit in it.
“Do you want to go sit in front of your cake, David?” Elizabeth tried again to lead him into the kitchen.
He clutched her hand and walked slowly into the room, sitting in the chair Keith had pulled out. His gaze never left the quickly shrinking candles.
Keith started them singing, and Elizabeth felt David untense only slightly as he watched Keith.
“Now you better blow those candles out quick-like,” Keith said.
David stared at the candles again. Elizabeth saw the terror return to his eyes. Fire. He was afraid of the fire.
“I’ll help you, David.” Elizabeth leaned over and started blowing the candles out. “Come on, help me, David.” He watched her as she blew out the rest of the candles. “There you go, Honey.” When Elizabeth started to back away he tightened his grip on her hand. She squeezed it gently.
“Rob, do you want to get out the ice cream?” Elizabeth asked.
David always did better when he knew what was expected and what to expect, so Elizabeth went over the routine. “First, we’ll all eat some cake and ice cream, and then you’ll open up your presents.” She motioned to the pile at the back of the table.
David glanced at the packages again and then continued to watch Elizabeth cut and serve the cake. They all sat at the table crowded around the front three sides. David sat on one end with Elizabeth next to him. Rob was next to her, and Keith was almost directly across from David. David didn’t start eating until everyone else had, and then he barely glanced at his food, instead watching the others.
“Do you like it here so far, David?” Rob asked.
David nodded after his initial wariness subsided.
“I thought this summer I might fix a section of the roof and paint the trim on this house. Do you think you could help me?”
David looked at Elizabeth with questioning eyes.
“Dylan always has me help him with the house. I think I’m going to have to paint this summer, too,” Keith said.
“What do you think, David? Would you like to learn to fix houses?” Elizabeth asked.
He studied her and then nodded.
“Good,” Rob said. “It won’t be long before we’ll be able to begin. Maybe early next month if the weather is good.”
Keith winked at Elizabeth and then said, “So, David, what is the best thing about living with Elizabeth? Is it her scrumptious cooking, her sparkling conversation, or her classic good looks?”
Elizabeth shook her head and smiled. “Obviously, you must have me mistaken with someone else, Keith.”
“I’m asking David, if you don’t mind. What do you like best about living here?”
David hesitated while everyone stared at him. Elizabeth took his hand and squeezed it. “Elizabeth,” he almost whispered.
“And what do you like best about Elizabeth?” Keith insisted.
“Let him answer,” Rob said. “It is his party, after all. We’ve come to visit him.”
Elizabeth shook her head and smiled. “Remember these guys are friends, David,” she said to him softly. “You don’t have to try to please us with your answers. They’ll still be your friends. And you can ask them questions, too.”
“She’s right, David,” Keith said. “We just want to get to know you better. We’re not trying to harass you. So, what do you like best about Elizabeth?”
David still hesitated and looked from Elizabeth to Keith. Then looking straight at Keith, he said, “She loves me.”
Elizabeth knew Keith was rarely at a loss for words, but now he was the one who stared. Finally he said quietly, “I know she does, and that is important.” He finished his last bite of cake and pushed the plate aside. When no one spoke, he continued. “Tell me, David. Do you love her?”
David nodded. Elizabeth resisted the urge to squeeze his hand again.
“That’s good,” Rob said. “If you always remember those two things then perhaps you two will do okay.” He finished his food, also.
Elizabeth stood to gather the plates. David wasn’t finished, but he didn’t seem to want the rest. He gave her his plate, and she put them all in the sink. “Now, my son, it is time to open your presents.”
David looked at the boxes. “Those aren’t really mine, are they?”
“Yes, they are, but before you’re overly impressed you better open them,” Keith said, handing him the top one. “I think this is from Rob.”
David hesitated and looked at Elizabeth before taking it from him. Then he studied the box. He looked at Elizabeth and shrugged.
“Just rip the paper off, David,” she said, realizing that he didn’t know what to do.
David started to obey, glanced at her for approval and then continued when she nodded. Elizabeth motioned for him to place the ripped paper into the trash basket she pulled over. Then she indicated that he should open the box. Inside was a large photo album and several rolls of film. He looked at Elizabeth again.
“Elizabeth told me that you liked to take pictures, so I thought you might need something to keep them in,” Rob said.
David looked at Rob, back at the contents of the box, and then at Rob again. “Thank you,” he said, and then looked back at Elizabeth.
She nodded and smiled to reassure him he was doing the right thing.
David flashed her one of his quick smiles.
“Grab another one, David.”
He did, and with each gift he seemed more relaxed. After he had opened Keith’s, Dylan’s, and Elizabeth’s Bible, he took the last small package and showed the label to Elizabeth. “This is from Jerome Johnson. He sent it back with Dylan.”
David froze and stared at her. Fear came into his eyes again. Fear and a question.
“What’s wrong, David?”
“He knows where I’m at?”
“Did he hurt you?”
David shook his head and seemed frustrated. Finally he said, “No. But she will find out where I am.”
“I don’t think Dylan told him where you were,” Keith said. “Just that you were safe. He said Jerome was really glad that you were all right. He had been praying for you since you left Chicago.” Keith’s words didn’t seem to comfort David at all.
Elizabeth placed her hand on his shoulder and rubbed it. He looked at her, and she didn’t know what he wanted. He just seemed so upset. “I love you, David,” she whispered. She knew that Rob and Keith could hear her, but it didn’t matter. “If you want, we can save that for later. Why don’t you see what’s in the big box?”
David did as she suggested, but when he tried to grab the large box it didn’t move as easily as he anticipated. He looked back at her.
“It might be easier if you stand up for that one.”
He didn’t move. “From who?”
“But you….” His hand rested unerringly on the Bible.
“Mom’s are allowed to get their kids more than one present for their birthday.”
David seemed to relax, looking at the package with new interest. He ripped the paper, and then Keith helped him open the box and pull out the CD player.
“Aww, Beth, you should get me one of these for my birthday. It’s only five months away.”
David turned to Elizabeth. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, David. I thought you might like to have it in your room.”
“Well, David, I have to put in another appearance at work before quitting time, so I’m going to leave you. I’ll be back at seven with Jared. Happy Birthday.” Rob left.
Keith offered to help David set up the stereo in his room. After a quick glance at Elizabeth David nodded, and watched Keith carry the box into the bedroom. David didn’t let go of Elizabeth’s hand though. He apparently wasn’t ready to be left alone with Keith.
After Keith left, Elizabeth helped David take his presents into his room, including the unopened one. Then she went back to the kitchen and started cleaning up. When she was finished she looked into David’s room.
David was listening to something that she hadn’t heard before. At first she thought it was the radio, but then she saw that he had opened Jerome’s package and was looking at a cassette tape cover. He glanced up at her with a troubled expression. “Mom?”
Elizabeth went into his room and sat down next to him on the bed. It was the first time he’d called her Mom. “Yes, Honey?”
“You are my mom, now, right?”
The troubled look eased only slightly. “Everyone knows, don’t they?”
His distress increased. He left the bed and turned off the tape. “They know I’m a dog. They know I’ve been hurt. They know I’m not David. Everyone knows.”
Elizabeth held out her arms to him. “May I hold you, David?”
David sat beside her and wrapped his arms around her.
She rocked him slightly. “I don’t know how much Dylan told Keith. I don’t think they will repeat it, but I can ask them not to just in case. Rob only knows what was talked about when Dylan and the lawyer were here, but he will not tell anyone, especially Jared.”
David held her tighter. “I want to be your real son. I wish I was Jared.”
Elizabeth smiled into his hair. “If you were Jared, you’d have to live with Wes and Alisa.”
“I want to stay with you.”
“That’s good, because I want you to, also. And David?” She waited until he looked up. “I feel like you are my real son… my real son, David Timothy.”
He put his head against her neck. “I love you, Mommy.”
Elizabeth kissed his forehead. “I love you, too, David Timothy.”
Later that evening David brought her a letter as she worked on the computer. “I can’t read this,” he said, handing it to her.
Elizabeth took it. “I can see why.” She glanced at the signature. “Jerome needs to take a class in penmanship.”
“It was with the tape.”
She began to read. “David, I am so glad that you are safe. When I found out that doctor lied to me about his name and about what we should do to help you, I was afraid maybe he hurt you instead of helped you. I’ve been praying for you and will keep praying for you.
“I am sorry I didn’t try to help you sooner. Everyone thought someone else would help you, but no one did. Celia did not hurt me. I will not call her your mother. She does not deserve that title. My lawyer friend threatened her, and she left. No one knows where. Hopefully, she will not return unless it is to go to prison.
“Dylan will not tell me what your address is, or I would try to visit you and write. I put my address on the bottom of the letter in case you want to write to me. I hope you are very happy with your new family and that you can continue to worship Jesus with your music. Dylan says that there is a piano there. I am glad.
“I know you may never want to come back to this neighborhood, but if you do, look me up. May Jesus keep you and bless you, Your friend, Jerome Johnson.”
David listened intently to the letter. He took it back when she was finished reading. “I am very happy with my new mommy,” he said, and then left the office.
“I’m very happy with you, too, my son,” Elizabeth whispered after him. She bowed her head where she sat. “My gracious Father and my King, thank You so much for the gifts that You give me. Thank You for this new son and for working everything together so that he and I would meet. Thank You for letting him find Dylan. Thank You for letting me go to the conference. If I hadn’t gone to the conference… If the conference had been on Jared’s weekend… If I had Jared every weekend….” She paused. “Oh, Lord, is this..? I never would have started going away to conferences if Jared was with me all the time. I may not have even desired to have David if… Is this what You planned all along? Is this the good to work out of what happened four years ago? You really do work all things together for the good of those who love You. I still don’t understand everything, but thank You so much for bringing him to me. Thank You that I am not alone and that You have chosen to send me someone who loves and knows You. Thank You for Your wisdom and care. In Jesus name, Amen.
Go to Chapter 16
© 2013, 1995 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.