Chapter 16 – Elizabeth
Sunday, July 9th, 1995
Elizabeth’s sister, Renae, was waiting when Elizabeth, David, and Jared came home from church. Her four children were with her, and Elizabeth was just thankful that her husband, Bill, was not. But that was why she had come – to complain about him again. Elizabeth tried to listen sympathetically, but Jared, Billy and Halley kept running in and out. It was a perfect July day; she wished they would stay out for a while. The two younger children tried to follow them and kept coming and complaining that the older ones wouldn’t play with them.
“Mom,” Billy said, running up to Renae and being trailed by Jared and then Laura and Nicky. “David has a weight work out bench in his room. Can I have one, too?” It was the same question Jared had asked Friday night when he first saw it.
“No,” Renae said.
“But how come he gets one?” Again Billy echoed Jared’s words, and Elizabeth wondered if he had been coached.
“I don’t know. Why does David have one, Beth?” Renae asked. “Don’t you think you’re spoiling him a bit?”
“No, I’m not spoiling him. He saved up his allowance and bought it from Richard, the guy upstairs, during the rummage sale last weekend. Richard is a salesman by profession, so David didn’t stand a chance from the moment he looked at it.”
“You don’t give me an allowance,” Jared complained.
“I know your father does, and you don’t need two.”
“Why don’t you two go find something to do?” Renae said, waving them off.
“Come on,” Jared said. “Let’s go play with the weights.” They ran out of the kitchen.
“Kids. I feel like I have five with….”
“Excuse me, Renae. I’ll be right back.” It had taken a minute to realize they were invading David’s room, and when she entered it was obvious that they had been in it for a while. His few possessions were no longer neatly on the shelf that Elizabeth had placed in the room for him, but were instead on the floor and twin bed that now sat in the corner. Halley sat Indian style in the middle of the bed, taking the last of the photographs out of his photo album.
“Out. Out now!” Elizabeth yelled.
Halley ignored her.
“But Mom,” Jared said, “We’re playing with this.”
“You are not allowed to play in here without permission.”
“David doesn’t care.”
“David does care. Now get out.” Where was David anyway? “Halley, you too. Go on.” She was not even going to try to get the kids to clean it up. They would just make it worse.
“I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m just rearranging these pictures.”
“You are doing something wrong. You are not to rearrange any pictures in this house, and you know it.”
“But these are just David’s.”
“Shall I send him to your house to rearrange your things?”
“I have a little brother and sister for that.”
Elizabeth grabbed Halley’s arm and dragged her off the bed, hoping none of the pictures would be bent.
“Mom!” wailed Halley. She ran from Elizabeth out of the room.
Elizabeth looked around David’s room in despair until her eyes focused on Jared. “You know better than to let this happen. Go to your room, now.”
“But Billy’s here.”
“Both Halley and Billy must sit for fifteen minutes also. Now go.”
Billy ran out of the room to his mother.
Elizabeth took a step toward Jared, and he ran down the hall to his room. “You love him better,” Jared yelled, as he slammed his door.
Renae met Elizabeth in the hall. “What’s going on?”
“Halley and Billy need time out in separate corners. I cannot allow them and Jared to tear apart this house. Jared is in his room already.”
Renae hesitated as if wanting to argue, but then she gave in, turning to yell at her oldest two.
Elizabeth went to the office. David was at the piano as she’d hoped, but the keys were covered. He had his head down in his arms over them. Her heart went out to him, this scared, timid, fourteen year old boy she’d adopted into her heart. She quietly leaned over to put her arms around him.
David jumped up and turned, his fist stopping less than an inch from her face.
It happened so quickly that Elizabeth didn’t realize what had almost occurred until David stood frozen, staring at her, his arm still in the air. Then he started to tremble.
Slowly, so as not to frighten him further, Elizabeth raised her left hand and placed it on David’s to lower it.
Renae came into the office. “Doesn’t he get sent to his room, also?”
“I’ll be out in a minute, Renae,” Elizabeth said, not taking her eyes from David’s. She held onto his hand. Renae did not leave but continued watching them.
David’s fist opened, and his hand turned to clutch hers. His trembling seemed to be getting worse.
“Come on, David. Let’s go to your room.” Elizabeth started to lead him from the office. “I may be a few minutes, Renae. Please keep an eye on things.”
“Just send him to his room and be done with it.”
Elizabeth ignored her and walked David past Halley and Billy sitting in the living room. As soon as they were in his room she shut the door. “David….”
“I’m sorry,” David whimpered softly. “I’m sorry.” He backed away until he was against the bed. “I didn’t know it was you. I’d never hurt you. Never.”
Elizabeth hugged him.
He stiffened and then collapsed against her, crying.
With one hand she reached down and pushed some pictures away from the edge of the bed, and then she sat with David. She continued holding him. “I know today has been hard for you.”
“You won’t send anyone to hurt me, will you?” he asked meekly, holding her tightly.
“You know I won’t hurt you or let anyone else if I have any control over the matter. But David, you are not to hurt anyone, either. Who did you think had come up behind you? Jared? Billy? You could have hurt them badly.”
“I didn’t want to hurt them. I tried to go away from them. They kept trying to hurt me. I can’t let them hurt me, can I?”
“David, they weren’t near you for at least ten minutes.”
David looked away from her and slowly let his eyes wander around the carnage of his room. “I left. I didn’t want to hurt them. I thought they had followed me again.”
Renae came into the room without knocking. “This place is a wreck. Beth, you spoil him. I’d make him clean it up before he was allowed out.”
“This room did not look like this until Halley, Billy and Jared were in it.”
“You are still trying to make him sound like a saint. He’s only been here five months and look at all this.”
Elizabeth needed to get Renae out of here. Her presence was making David agitated. She focused on him and kept her voice soft. “We’ll talk later, Sweetheart. You may lock your door if you don’t want the others to bother you.” She stood to leave. Renae left ahead of her, and Elizabeth turned back to David who was still sitting on the edge of the bed. “I love you,” she whispered, and then kissed the top of his forehead.
The rest of the afternoon David stayed in his room. Elizabeth kept hoping that Renae would leave for David’s sake mostly, but Renae suggested they go half and half over pizza for dinner. Since Elizabeth had already been accused of being antisocial toward the family because of David, she agreed. She wished they could see what a special person David really was, but so far among her family there had been an undercurrent of resentment. David didn’t react the way they expected, and they thought she catered to him to Jared’s disadvantage. Jared helped that misunderstanding along to get extra attention from Grandma and Grandpa.
She’d been letting herself forget where he came from or this wouldn’t have happened. She should have kept a closer eye on things. It wasn’t David’s fault. She had to figure out what to tell him so that he could have a plan to deal with this kind of thing in the future.
“Elizabeth Marie!” Renae yelled loudly near her ear. “I don’t think you’ve heard anything I’ve said. I need fifteen dollars for your half of the pizza.”
“Fifteen? How much pizza did you order?”
“Oh, come on, Beth. Don’t act cheap.”
Elizabeth went to the office and took the money from her purse. When the pizza arrived she put three pieces on a plate and took that with a can of pop Renae had also ordered and started inside.
“I thought everyone was eating on the porch?” Halley said, picking off her mushrooms and dropping them into the low bushes next to the porch.
“Beth, you’re not spoiling that kid again, are you?”
Elizabeth ignored them and continued inside. She knocked on David’s door. “It’s me, David. Can I come in?”
The door opened quickly, and she went inside. Everything was in order. Even the pictures were stacked neatly on his desk, and she could see that he had been working at replacing them into the album. “Are they gone?” David asked, as he took the plate she handed him.
“No. Afraid not. I have to go out and keep an eye on them. I’m really sorry, David. I was trying to listen to Renae, and I didn’t realize what was happening in here. If things ever start to get out of control like this again, come to me for help.”
“I… I didn’t want to bother you.” He set the plate and the can of pop on the desk.
Elizabeth placed her hands on his shoulders. “David, please remember you are not a bother to me. I love you.” She lowered her voice. “Now I better go before Nosy starts looking for me again. I’ll let you know when they’re gone.”
When Jared’s grandfather, Rob, came to take Jared back to his father’s house, Renae was still there. After he left she asked, “Do you think you could put us up for the night?”
“I just want to give Bill something to think about.”
“Why not? I’ve got the kids sleeping bags in the car, and I can sleep in Jared’s bed.”
“No. You don’t understand. I’ve got to get started working early tomorrow. David has schooling, and I have clients.”
“It’s David. He doesn’t want us here so you’re kicking us out and catering to that… that….”
“Don’t you dare say anything against my son. David belongs here.”
“He’s not your family. We are. But blood means nothing to you, does it?”
Elizabeth stood. “I think it’s time you went home, Renae.”
“I’ll go, but I won’t go home. Maybe I’ll just go to the park, and we’ll sleep on a bench for all you care.”
“Do whatever you want; just don’t do it here.”
Renae gathered her children and huffed out of the house, slamming the screen door.
Elizabeth tried to calm her thoughts so she could talk to David. Renae’s poor attempt at guilt made her angry. If anyone had talked about her kids the way she referred to David she would have been furious, but since David was new and different she thought it was okay. But it wasn’t. David was just as much Elizabeth’s son as Billy was Renae’s. My Lord, help me adjust my attitude so that I can go talk to David with wisdom. Please forgive me for my anger.
Elizabeth knocked on the door to David’s room. “They’re gone, Honey.”
David opened the door immediately and went straight into her arms. “I love you, Mom.”
“I love you, too, David.” He must have heard the fight. They talked and Elizabeth held him, giving him the reassurance he always needed after Jared left.
“I’m writing notes to put next to my pictures like you do. I don’t know how to spell a lot of words, but I can fix them later.” David showed her how he had been taking paper the size of a picture, writing on it, and putting it in the album next to the picture. Elizabeth’s notes were mainly to help her remember the date, location, which client, and where the picture had been used. From the few pages Elizabeth interpreted it looked as if David was starting a journal with the pictures as reminders. He had been using a roll of film a week since he arrived. He would be working on this a while, and it would help him with his English and spelling.
When David was ready for bed she tucked him in, and then they took turns reading from the Bible. Elizabeth helped David with the difficult words when he read, and he followed along when she read. He had completed his phonics course, and his reading improved daily.
Tuesday, August 15th
It was over two weeks before Renae would speak to Elizabeth again, and then she pretended that nothing had happened. Robin, Renae’s twin, called to make plans for the annual family picnic and swim at Bay City State park. It would be the third weekend in August so Jared could come.
Elizabeth decided to take David up to the park alone before the picnic so that he would be familiar with the area. She bought him some swimming trunks. She had bought him shorts to wear during the hottest days, but he never used them. She’d had to request he use the short sleeved shirts she bought before he actually wore them. When he did she had noticed that he had more scar lines and burn marks on his upper arm than the few she had seen on his lower arm before. At least she assumed that the square, rectangular, round and oval smooth sections of scar tissue were burn marks. There were three or four of the burn marks below his T-shirt sleeve line on each arm.
“David, I’ll change to my swim suit, and you get into yours. Then we’ll go to the park.” She started out of the room.
“Mom, I don’t know if… you really don’t….”
Elizabeth turned around, surprised. He’d never refused to do anything she asked.
He studied her as if wavering between fear and something else. Then his jaw set in a stubbornness she hadn’t seen before. “As you wish.”
Really? Elizabeth wondered what he was really thinking. She changed into her own suit. When she returned, she tapped on his closed door.
David opened the door and then stood back by the bed and looked at her with what appeared to be a challenge. “This is what you wanted to see, isn’t it?” He wore only the swimming trunks.
The scars on David’s arms were small and far spaced. His legs sported like scars, but his chest, upper shoulders and back were covered with lines, burns, gouges, and ink tattoos that had later been partially scratched or burned out.
Elizabeth’s stomach turned at the thought of how each of those marks had been purposely inflicted on this young boy. “Oh, David, my son.” She forced her frozen legs to go to him, and she wrapped her arms around him.
David held on to her, and his bravado left him. “Mommy, I don’t want to be hurt anymore.”
“No, my son. No one will ever hurt you like that again. We won’t let them.”
“No one is allowed to hurt you like that, ever. The people who did this need to be put in prison. Someday, David, you must go back and put her in prison for this.”
“No. I can’t go back. Please. Don’t ever let her know where I’m at.” His pain had turned to terror. He climbed on his bed and backed into the corner, holding his legs.
“No, Honey. You don’t have to go.” Elizabeth sat back on the bed near him, drawing him close. “She doesn’t have to know where you are. You’re safe here.” She caressed his hair and his back and kept repeating, “You’re safe, David. You’re safe here,” until he calmed down. David had made so much progress with her over the last few months that she thought he might be ready, but he wasn’t. She could understand why now more than ever.
David pulled away from her and looked into her eyes. “I don’t want people to stare at me or touch me.”
“Maybe you’d be more comfortable if you wore a T-shirt, also. Do you want to try it? We’ll go today when there isn’t anyone we know and see how it goes.”
“I… I’ve never been swimming.”
“You don’t have to swim to enjoy the water. We’ll just not go very deep.”
During the forty-five minute drive northeast, Elizabeth told him all the water safety and swimming tips she could think of. She had brought the beach blow up rafts and other toys that she had from last year when she and Jared would go swimming. They only blew up one raft before she took him to the water. After an initial wariness David entered the water and let Elizabeth lead him in up to his neck.
“We won’t go any farther, although I think it gets shallower again before it gets deeper here. Just hold on to this raft if you start to panic.” She led him back toward the shore, and they sat in a fairly clear shallow section, letting the small waves lap against their necks.
A couple women with four children came into the water about fifty yards down the beach from them. David watched them playing. The kids took turns putting a foot in the women’s hands and half jumping into the water.
“Is that their mother?”
“I assume so.”
“Are they having fun?”
“It looks like it.”
David was quiet, watching as they played with their blow up water toys. “Do you do that with Jared?”
“Jared usually has more fun playing with Billy and Kenny than me.” Elizabeth watched him as he continued to watch them. She put her arm on his shoulders. “Do you want to get the other raft, and we can do like they’re doing over there?”
“They’re pretending they’re horses.” David rushed back to the other raft and started blowing it up before he reached her again.
They played until early evening, and his timid smiles were worth the exhaustion. Elizabeth drove home and wished that she was the one resting in the passenger seat instead. She had too much work waiting for her at home.
That night after she had showered and changed from the beach she went to work in the office. After while David came in, and instead of playing the piano he watched her. “You like to do that a lot, don’t you?”
Elizabeth shrugged. “Sometimes. It’s better than some jobs.”
“You mean you do it when you don’t want to?”
“Sometimes. A lot of times.”
“Because this is how I earn my money. It pays all the bills for the food, clothes, car, piano lessons – you know, the important stuff.”
“I thought you got checks in the mail.”
“I do. Some people don’t pay me right away, instead they send the money.”
“You spend a lot of money on me. Is that why you work all the time?”
Elizabeth took her eyes from the monitor and looked at him. “I don’t work any more than before you came, but… I just used to work more during the day.”
“You spend all your time and your money on me. Why?”
Why twenty questions when I have to finish this by morning? she felt like saying, but instead said, “Because I love you, David.” She hoped she sounded more loving than she felt at the moment.
“I wish I was smart enough to help you.”
“Just keep working at your school work. That’s enough help for me.”
“You’re the smartest person I know.”
“You don’t know many people.”
“I love you.” David kissed her forehead in the same way that she always kissed his and then went to the piano. That kid was constantly surprising her.
Thursday, August 17th
Thursday evening as Elizabeth worked the phone rang. She reached over to press the speaker button. “Hi, Elizabeth? This is Jay Mittleson, from the school.”
“Oh, hi. What can I do for you?”
“I know you’re all set for school, but I’d like to give David another placement test before you start.”
“I wondered when you wanted to schedule that.”
“I thought if Becky and I came over he could take it in a more relaxed atmosphere.”
“Well, if you really want to do it here that would be good. I knew last spring that he was doing better work at home than was reflected on the tests because the school made him nervous. But Jay, you really don’t have to. You are already going out of your way just letting me teach him this way. I know I can never repay you.”
“Well, maybe you can. I really have an ulterior motive for inviting myself over. I just found out that you put together the church directory and newsletter. Pastor Nat said that you have all kinds of equipment and suggested that I talk to you about some things I’d like to do at the school.”
“I’d like to see what options you can suggest for the yearbook, the report cards, and a few other things.”
“Okay, when would be good for you?”
“How about Tuesday evening? I’ll be there at seven.””
That was late to talk about business and give a test, but he was the one doing her a favor. “That’s fine.”
After Jay hung up Elizabeth wondered if she should have asked how he and Becky were doing since his wife, Cheryl, had died in June after only a two month fight with brain cancer. But then she thought maybe it was better not to bring up such a painful subject for him unless he wanted to talk to her about it.
Elizabeth had just become engrossed in her work again, and the phone rang a second time. “Hello, Beth. Guess who.”
“Keith! Are you back in Michigan yet?”
“No. But Mom and Dad are coming with me next week since you won’t come and see them.”
“Yes,” Kathy said, and Elizabeth knew they were using the speaker phone as she usually did. “I still haven’t met David.”
“And I haven’t met little Naomi. I hope you’re bringing her.”
“Of course, but Mom Trent and Kim will watch Rachel and Matt,” Kathy said.
“So when will you be here?”
“The early part of next week. It depends on how quickly we get started.”
“Are you on the net yet,” Keith asked.
“Beth, trust me.”
“I don’t distrust you, Keith. I’ve been on the net before. I just don’t know if I have time for it right now.”
“But that was years ago. Things have improved a lot since the stone age.”
“Keith!” Kathy said.
Elizabeth laughed. “Okay, Keith. When you come, I’ll pull my wheelchair up to the computer and let you show me what’s new.”
“You’ve got to watch him, Beth. He fails to mention that you have to pay long distance charges for all that web surfing.”
“But that’s just it, Mom. She can get local access. She doesn’t live in the middle of nowhere like we do. I’ve already told her that. She could have been on the web all summer if she had listened to me.”
“Okay, Keith. I’ve given in. I’ll cruise the web with you, but I can’t promise how often.”
Go to Chapter 17
© 2013, 1995 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.