Chapter 17 – David
Saturday, August 19th
David carried the cooler out to the car. He didn’t want to go to the picnic. There would be too many people there, and Jared would have his cousins to inflict on him.
Jared came up behind him as he put the key into the back hatch lock, running into him and jabbing him with the box he carried.
David resisted the urge to turn around. He didn’t want to see Jared’s taunting grin. He knew he had no choice but to endure Jared. He was the real son. David was not. He put the cooler into the back of the station wagon and then the box of food Jared had brought out.
Elizabeth came out. “Are you two all set? Do you have everything you wanted to take? Do you have your camera, David?”
David nodded, looking into the car.
Jared pushed past him and opened the front door. He got in and threw the camera into the back seat.
David watched it bounce and almost fall off the edge of the seat to the floor. If he really thought Jared’s father would take him away from here forever without Elizabeth hating him, David just might give in to the temptation to punch him. David silently went into the back seat. He watched Elizabeth get into the car. My Lord, please don’t ever let her hate me.
Elizabeth’s sister, Robin, with her husband, Tony, and children, Kenny and Krystal were at the park when they pulled in. Grandma Karen and Grandpa Craig pulled in while they were unloading. Billy and Halley were with them. Craig had the charcoal lit on the grill before Elizabeth’s other sister came with her two youngest children. Nicky and Laura. David tensed when Bill got out of the car and brought a twelve pack of beer to the picnic area.
Elizabeth didn’t seem to need him, so David escaped from the group to take some pictures. He had spent a little of his hoarded allowance to buy an extra roll of film this week when he bought another photo album. He had two hundred and ten dollars at home hidden under the carpet in the closet just in case he ever needed it. He kept close to twenty in his wallet at all times. He didn’t like to think that she might suddenly not want him, but he planned for it. And even if Elizabeth wanted him and that woman found out where he was, he might need to leave quickly.
“Hey, there he is.”
David looked back to see Jared pointing at him.
“I don’t know,” Kenny said.
“He won’t hit you,” Billy said, throwing a stick at David. “He’s a wimp.”
David avoided the stick and walked away. He hoped they wouldn’t follow him, but they probably would.
“Come on, Kenny. I want him to hit me,” Jared said, repeating what David had heard him tell Billy last month. “Mother won’t stand for it if he starts beating up on her only little boy. She’ll kick him out so fast he won’t know he’s gone. And if she doesn’t Daddy will make her.”
“But my mom says he doesn’t have any place else to go.”
“He can go to an orphanage or something. He can even go to your house if you like him so much. Let him have your mother.”
They were following him in spite of Kenny’s protests. David tried not to think about the last time three people followed him. A stone hit his back, and he gave into his impulse to run.
“Hey, David,” Jared said, “Where you going? You know your mom should have named you Wimpy. You’re older and bigger than all of us, and you’re running.”
“Yeah, Wimpy. What’s the rush?” Billy called.
“Jared, your mom’s coming.”
David heard them stop running, but he continued on. When he did look back, he could barely see them through the trees. He wondered what they were telling Elizabeth. He wished he was with her. He wished it was just him and her, like it had been last Tuesday. David focused the camera and took first Elizabeth’s picture and then the boys’ picture. He skirted the picnic area and took pictures of all of Elizabeth’s family. He changed the film and took a few pictures of the scenery.
David saw Elizabeth and Robin take Laura and Nicky out into the water. He snapped a few pictures of them playing.
“Hey, Wimpy. What are you doing spying on people?” Jared said, coming up behind him and slapping his hand down hard on his back. David had long ago made the mistake of asking Jared not to touch him, so Jared did at every opportunity.
David twisted away from him and took the camera back to the car. Jared and his two cousins followed. To avoid them he decided to go to Elizabeth. David ran to the beach and waded out half way to the women before glancing back. Jared and his friends were gone. He didn’t know if he should go directly to Elizabeth or not.
Elizabeth saw him and waved for him to come closer. She had the littlest girl, Laura, on her shoulders. “Take a deep breath,” she said to her. Then Elizabeth disappeared under the water for a moment, coming up in the same spot with Laura laughing.
“I wanna jump,” Laura said, trying to stand on Elizabeth’s shoulders.
But then Tony called them from the beach. “Robin, where did you put those onions?”
She started to yell back at him, but then began walking out. “I think that’s our cue to get back to work.”
Elizabeth laughed and followed her with Laura. She glanced at David. “It’ll probably be another half hour before the food is ready. You can stay out here if you want.”
David wasn’t sure if she wanted him to stay or was just making suggestions. He decided not to bother her. He may have to go to her later, and he didn’t want Bill to upset her with his talk again like he did the first time he met them all.
David walked along in the water chest deep, staying even with the curve of the shoreline. Suddenly something grabbed his legs. He couldn’t get away. He fell, his head submerging. He kicked, hit, and clawed, trying to free himself, connecting with something soft several times. Water entered his lungs, and he choked. He was going to die. He kicked again, hitting something sharp with his heel. Then he was free. His feet found the sand. As the panic started to overwhelm him, he lifted his head above the water and coughed, standing on very weak legs.
Someone was crying, and between coughs David turned to see Jared and Kenny with Billy between them. Billy held his face, and he was the one crying.
Anger swept through him, taking the last of his weakness. They had tried to kill him! He walked toward them to go to Elizabeth. They reached the picnic area just before he did.
“Oh, no,” Renae said, turning Billy and grabbing a napkin. Blood ran down the side of his chin from his mouth. “What happened to you?”
“David kicked me.”
“David?” Tony asked. “Why would he do that? He’s twice your age?”
Elizabeth. Where was Elizabeth? David looked desperately around the picnic area, but he didn’t see her anywhere. “They shouldn’t have tried to kill me. God does not like murder.”
Kenny went white. “We didn’t try to kill you. We were just trying to dunk you.”
Renae left Billy and stalked toward David. “You had no right to kick anyone in the face let alone an eight-year-old boy. His teeth are loose. I should kick you.”
David backed away. She wanted to hurt him, too. Where was Elizabeth? He stumbled backward and then turned to run.
“I’ll get him,” Bill said. “No one does that to my son.” He chased David, grabbing him at the treeline.
David made a fist. As Bill twisted him around, he punched. He kept punching. Someone punched him. Someone else grabbed at his arms. He kept swinging. Then they had him–two people.
And then David heard her through the haze, “What are you doing? Stop it! Leave him alone!”
“Elizabeth, he went crazy,” Craig said.
Craig and Tony held him. Elizabeth was right in front of him now. Please, Mommy. Please make them stop. Please help me.
“Let him go. Now!”
“He broke my nose, that bastard.” Bill advanced toward them.
David tried to get away. “Please, Mommy.”
Elizabeth glared at Bill. “Stay away from him.” Then she put her arms around David. “Let him go.”
David’s arms were released, and he clutched Elizabeth tightly. They were the same height now. He rested his chin on her shoulder, and he felt her chin on his. She stroked his head and his back with one hand and held him tightly with the other. Oh, Mommy.
“Bill,” Craig said. “Go back over there.”
“He’s not going to get away with this.”
“We’ll take care of it,” Tony said. “Robin, Mom, Renae, take the kids back over to the picnic table.”
“You better take care of it,” Renae said. “You better make sure that kid is sent so far away he’ll never find his way back here.” Her voice trailed away.
“You, too, Bill,” Tony said.
“I’m not some woman or kid that you can tell what to do.” Bill leaned against an oak tree and held a bloody napkin to his nose.
“What happened here?” Elizabeth asked in a hard voice, almost next to his ear.
“Shut up, Bill,” Tony said. “I guess it started with the boys sneaking up and dunking him by surprise. He apparently thought he was being killed and kicked Billy in the mouth. Renae went after David. David ran. Bill chased him. David punched him, and then Craig and I had to break up the fight. Is that about it, Craig?”
“That’s the way I saw it.”
“So what are you going to do about him?” Bill asked. “He needs a good beating, and then he needs to be sent back to whatever orphanage you took him out of. This is what happens when you take in scum.”
Oh, Mommy, please don’t let them hurt me. David’s shaking, which had started to subside, increased again.
Elizabeth held him tighter and whispered into his ear. “It’s all right, David. I’m here. I won’t let them hurt you. I love you.”
“And take your damn arms off him, Elizabeth. He doesn’t need your babying.”
“Bill’s right about one thing, Elizabeth,” Craig said. “He’s too violent for you to keep. This is what we were worried about to begin with. You’ll have to send him back.”
“No, oh please, Mommy,” David cried in a whisper.
“He stays with me.”
“Beth, he could have kicked Jared. You have to think about your own son,” Tony said.
“I warned Jared, Kenny, and Billy twice already today to leave David alone. They apparently didn’t listen. I hate to say it, but it’s their own fault. Come on, David. Do you think you can make it back to the car with me?” She turned so that she was beside him and between him and the three men. They started to walk toward the parking lot.
Bill left his tree and stalked toward them. “So he’s allowed to kick out the teeth of an eight-year-old and get away with it.”
“I’m sorry if Billy lost any teeth, but I can’t do anything about it.”
“You can let me knock out a few of his.” Bill reached for David. Elizabeth intercepted his arm and tried to push him away. He grabbed her hair with his other hand and pulled her out of the way.
“Mom!” David lashed out, his fist connecting with Bill’s jaw.
Craig and Tony grabbed Bill’s arms and dragged him away. Bill cursed in frustration.
Elizabeth wrapped her arms around him.
David faced her. “He hurt you.”
“I’m okay, David. I’m okay. Let’s just get to the car.” She faced them in that direction again and started walking. “Tony, can you send Jared to the car? We’re leaving now.”
“Yes. I suppose that is best. We’ll talk about this later.”
“I don’t think so,” Elizabeth said, not looking back. They walked in silence to the car. She opened the passenger door and had him sit down half in the car. Then she took out a small first aid kit from the glove compartment. Tearing open an antiseptic wipe, she began cleaning his face. “This might sting a little, Honey. It looks like you’re a bit scraped up.”
David felt the slight pain in his left cheek and on his chin. Then she started to wipe his right hand. He looked down at it. His knuckles were covered with drying blood and sand. “Where were you, Mom? I looked and you were gone.”
“I’m sorry, David. I went to the outhouse. I….” Elizabeth shook her head, and there were tears in her eyes.
“Mom? You are hurt! He hurt you.”
“It’s not that. Oh, David, I just wish I had been there for you. I wish I could have stopped Bill from hurting you. I wish I could have stopped the boys from teasing you. I wish I could take away all the pain that is in your eyes, but instead I couldn’t stop them from adding to it.” The tears fell freely from her eyes now.
David stood and wrapped his arms around her. He needed to protect her, but he wasn’t sure from what. He saw Jared coming toward them, and he released his hold on her, almost pushing her away.
“What is it, David?” Elizabeth turned to see what he was looking at. “Oh, Jared. I’ll tell you again, David, don’t let him pick on you. Tell me about it. He’s becoming too much like his father.”
David shook his head. He could tell her almost anything, but he knew he wouldn’t win if she had to choose between him and Jared. He was glad that he hadn’t hurt Jared. She would have let Bill hurt him then, wouldn’t she have?
David watched as she maneuvered out of the parking place and started home. He loved her so much. Jesus, my Lord, she is everything to me. I have no one else on Earth to love me. Please don’t let Jared tear her away from me. Jared pulled a small section of his hair. David sunk lower in his seat so that less of his head was showing.
There was nothing to unload when they arrived home. “You forgot your cooler because of him, Mother.”
“Robin will save it for me.”
“Is he grounded?”
“No, you are.”
“Me? But I didn’t do….”
Elizabeth whirled around and grabbed Jared’s shoulder. “I told you again and again to leave David alone if you couldn’t act decently toward him. But you didn’t listen. It’s your fault Billy was hurt. It’s your fault David was hurt. Now I don’t know what your little game is, Jared, but it better stop right now. I want you in your room for the rest of the day, and you’re grounded tomorrow and the next time you’re here. Now go!”
“I hate you. I hate him,” Jared yelled, as he ran to his room.
David watched Elizabeth as she watched Jared disappear down the hall. Her anger left as quickly. She saw him watching her. She returned his look and then took a deep breath. “I better get some work done.” She went to the office.
David decided he better go to his room, too. He turned on the CD player and picked up the book he was trying to read from Elizabeth’s shelf. He hoped Elizabeth would come and talk to him.
A while later Elizabeth brought in a plate of spaghetti and a glass of milk. She set them down on his desk and then left. A minute later David saw her take a similar plate down to Jared. He waited for her to return and then realized that she was staying to talk to him. David tried to ignore the pang of jealousy. He ate quickly and then took his plate and glass into the kitchen, rinsing and putting them in the dishwasher.
David went to sit in the armchair next to her computer. The computer was still on, showing a section of a newsletter. He leaned back and closed his eyes. Elizabeth was always working for him. She was always doing things to help him, and yet he wanted more of her time, especially right now.
He wanted to tell her that he was sorry — that he hadn’t wanted to hurt anyone. He wanted to hear her tell him that she loved him, and that she wouldn’t let anyone tear them apart. Elizabeth was everything to him. She was his mommy, his teacher, and the only person he had ever been able to talk to. She was the only person who had ever loved him. He needed to know that she still did, even if she loved Jared better.
Elizabeth came into the office a little later. They talked about what had happened, and she did tell him that she loved him, and that no one would ever tear them apart. Then he got ready for bed, and she tucked him in, reading and praying with him. He knew Elizabeth stayed up long after he went to bed working on a newsletter.
Sunday, August 20th
It didn’t take Jared long to inform Rob of all that had happened the day before when he came to pick him up. Rob barely had a chance to ask questions when Craig and Tony joined them. They were all telling Elizabeth to send him away. Even Rob, who David was starting to think may like him a little, seemed worried that David would hurt Jared or Elizabeth.
David didn’t want to listen anymore. He didn’t want to hear her say she would send him away. He didn’t want to keep seeing Jared’s gloating face every time he looked at Elizabeth. He walked outside to the far end of the porch in front of the office. Sitting on the wooden railing with his back against the house, he rested his feet against the center post to balance himself. He could hear the rumble of their conversation, but couldn’t make out the words. He was glad of that.
He sat there for five minutes when a car pulled to the curb in front of the house and stopped. Dylan, Keith, and a woman with a baby who David thought might be Dylan’s wife, Kathy, came to the house. More people to tell her to send him away. O Lord, is there any way I can stay here? I promise I’ll try not to hurt anyone ever again. But maybe I should go away. Please don’t ever let me hurt Elizabeth. Send me away if it will keep me from hurting her. Your will be done, as Elizabeth says, it always is. In Jesus name, Amen.
“David, is that you?” Dylan asked from the steps of the porch. He came toward him. Keith and Kathy followed. “Sounds like Elizabeth has some company.”
“Still not talking, huh?” Keith asked.
“It’s good to finally meet you, David,” Kathy said, coming toward him. Dylan took the baby from her, and she leaned against the post where David’s feet rested. The voices raised inside. “It sounds like they’re arguing.”
“What about, David? What’s going on?” Dylan asked.
David started to shrug, but Dylan’s gaze stayed on him. He’d find out sooner or later. “They want Elizabeth to send me away.”
“Why?” Dylan studied him. “You’ve been in a fight, haven’t you?” He reached out and gently took David’s chin, turning his head.
David submitted a moment before the touch became unbearable. All touches made his stomach churn except Elizabeth’s. He twisted away from Dylan’s grasp and fell the six and a half feet to the ground. He landed on his feet and walked away from the house. He didn’t turn around when Keith and Dylan called after him.
David walked until he came to the Flint River. Then he sat on the bank to stare into the current until the sun’s light faded and the stars began to appear. He better go back and start packing. He wondered how much she’d let him take. David walked home. He had hoped that everyone would be gone, but when he went inside he saw that Keith was at the computer with Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard him she came and hugged him. David was afraid to ask what she had decided. He looked into her eyes, willing her to tell him he could stay.
She took his hand. “Come on, David. Keith has logged me onto the computer net, and we’re looking around. He’s showing me a theology discussion group now.” Elizabeth led David into the office and sat him into the chair next to Keith that she had been in. She stood behind him and put her hands on his shoulders.
“Hi, David,” Keith said, briefly glancing at him before turning his attention back to the screen. “Listen to this one, Beth. ‘I really have a hard time taking anything you xian’s say seriously when you take proven facts and rationalize them away. For instance, you take the scientific evidence for the age of the universe and say it’s wrong and your God created the universe with the appearance of age. Now it seems to me that if the xian God made something to appear as something it was not, then he would be lying. Signed Bruce.’”
“I’d love to respond to that one,” Elizabeth said.
“Go for it.” Keith relinquished his seat.
“I don’t know.” She hesitated. “I can edit before I send, can’t I?”
“Okay.” Elizabeth sat down and started composing. “You are right, Bruce. If God made something to appear to be something it was not then he would be lying. But we know that God cannot lie. If He did He would not be God, the holy, almighty, and just creator of heaven and earth and everything in it. Not all Christians (xians for you) believe the appearance of age theory. I have read books and articles by scientists that are Christians that agree that the universe is somewhere around 17 or 18 billion years old. This does not disagree with the Bible, because what God revealed in the Bible cannot and does not disagree with what he revealed in Nature. Either there is something wrong with the way the scientists are measuring the universe, or we are allowing our preconceived ideas to influence how we read the Biblical text and not considering how the translators were influenced to translate the text. If you’d like I can summarize several old earth Christian views next time I’m on. — Beth”
“Hey, Beth. What were you worried about? I think that’s a good response, but you know what that means — you have to sign on again.”
Elizabeth turned away from the computer and looked up at him. “It’s a trap. This whole internet thing is a giant trap to suck up more of my time.”
Keith laughed. “Just wait until next week, and I start sending you E-mail, and you’ll be forced to write to me, which you didn’t do this summer.”
“You can’t force me to write. And you can’t make me feel guilty. You only sent one postcard in three months.”
“Yes, but it was a large postcard with some very cute deer on it. And I would have written you a lot more if you had gotten the E-mail address in May like I asked.”
“But then I wouldn’t have the cute deer picture.”
“I could have sent you deer pictures through E-mail.”
David listened to them continue to banter back and forth and felt lonely in a different way than when Jared was around. Would he ever be able to laugh with her that way? Was he just a job to her like he had been to everyone else who ever seemed to care? Was he a job that she sometimes didn’t want to do, like the newsletters, but she did anyway? David stood and went to his room.
Go to Chapter 18
© 2013, 1995 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.