Chapter 18 – Elizabeth
Sunday, August 20th
Elizabeth watched David suddenly get up and walk away. She longed to go after him. He needed reassurance again. Especially after hearing everything those well-meaning idiots had to say. It was so hard for him to understand what it was like to have someone really love him no matter what. It was hard for him to understand that someone loved him at all. It was still there in his eyes sometimes. O Lord, give me wisdom and the right words. I know You have a great plan for that boy’s life. He hungers for You, but he also hungers for the love he never had. Please help me with the responsibility and honor You have given me. Sometimes, Lord, I just wish there was one other person who really understood him like I do. One other person You could show his potential to who would not try to take him away. Someone I could talk to….
“Beth, you’re spacing out on me,” Keith said, waving a hand in front of her eyes.
“I’m sorry, Keith. It’s been a long weekend. Can we log off? You can use Jared’s room tonight. I hope he left it in decent shape. I haven’t had time to check it.”
“No problem, Beth.” Keith signed her off the network and shut down the computer. “Just point me to your linen closet, and I’ll change the bedding.”
“Thanks.” Elizabeth pointed out the closet in the hall and then knocked on David’s door. It wasn’t latched and opened a little. The lights were out already. She peeked in. “David, are you sleeping?” she whispered just in case he was.
Elizabeth opened the door further and went inside. He was already in bed. “Did you want to read tonight?”
He shrugged, but she only knew it because the sheet moved slightly around his neck in the moonlight from the window over his bed.
Elizabeth sat on the edge of the bed. “I missed you. I miss the way we talk about the sermon and sing the songs on Sunday when Jared isn’t here. I wish he didn’t make it so difficult to sing when he’s around. I think we should try to sing anyway next time he is here. Do you think you could?”
“If… if you did.”
Elizabeth took his hand and held it. “I will. You know we have to do as much as we can while he’s here to tell him about God. I know it’s hard for you. We just have to keep praying for him and for wisdom. I’m glad you’re here, David.”
“You… you want me to stay?”
“Yes. I would miss you so much if you went away. And I would be so lonely without you. You won’t leave me, will you? I was afraid you might have when Dylan said you left.”
“I don’t want to hurt you, Mom. I almost hurt you once, and I hurt those other people.” He spoke in a low voice, almost a whisper. “I hurt Billy really bad. My teeth were never hurt.”
“I asked about that. Billy didn’t lose any teeth. His mouth is still sore, but he’ll be okay.”
“Thank you, Jesus, for protecting him from me. Mom, I didn’t know what was happening. I… I got scared and couldn’t think. What if I get scared and hurt you?”
“That is one thing I am not worried about. You are not a violent person. I don’t care what happened or what anyone says. I know you don’t really want to hurt anyone, do you?”
He shook his head.
“I know it’s just when you’re afraid of being hurt again that you try to fight. If you’re afraid, David, stay near me. I don’t want to punish you by forcing you to stay near me; I just want to help you feel safe and keep Jared and others out of mischief. Of course, you won’t have to worry about Billy and Kenny anymore. We are banned from family gatherings. Bill and Renae hate us, and Tony does not want his children near you. So you can take it as good news or bad, depending on how attached you were to seeing good old Bill again.”
“You’re not mad at me?”
“Of course not, David. It’s not your fault.”
“I love you, Mom.” He sat and put his arms around her.
“I love you, too, David, my son.” Elizabeth held him. Then she suggested they read a little further in the Bible.
Monday, August 21st
The next morning Elizabeth tried to keep to their routine as close as possible with Keith around. It had made sense for him to stay while Dylan and Kathy visited with their friends, Sam and Stacy in Midland, but Elizabeth couldn’t help but wonder if Dylan had suggested it because he wanted him to keep an eye on David.
David was timid around Keith and didn’t participate in the devotional reading and ask questions as he normally did. Elizabeth did not want to be rude to Keith, but she knew she had to stay on schedule with both David’s school work and her own work, especially with company taking up her evenings most of the week.
Elizabeth went over David’s school work first. David asked few questions. He glanced toward the kitchen door several times, and she knew he was having trouble concentrating with Keith in the other room.
When she finished she went into the office to work. David followed her. He normally worked on the end of the table near her, but today he sat on the piano bench, resting his papers on the closed keyboard. It looked awkward, but Elizabeth said nothing to him.
Keith asked her so many questions about her work that she had trouble finishing all that needed to be done. But Elizabeth explained everything as well as she could, especially when she noticed that David listened intently also. Keith accompanied her and David on her rounds that afternoon.
When they got home Keith asked if he could attempt creating the new database she’d been asked to write. Elizabeth did mostly desktop publishing now, which paid all her living expenses, but a good database project often gave her the extra money she needed to upgrade her equipment or make investments.
Keith laughed. “Hey, I’m not looking for pay yet. But if I learn it now, maybe I can pick up some of this kind of work in Ann Arbor. Will you help me if I get stuck?”
Elizabeth agreed, and promised to give him tips on finding work when he was settled in Ann Arbor.
After dinner she let Keith persuade her to log on to the net again. “Let’s see if anyone responded to what you said,” Keith deftly clicked his way through the screens and menus until he came to the theology discussion. “Hey look at this, Beth. The next message after yours says almost the same thing you said. Looks like it was written about the same time, also. Someone named Paul Israel — a pseudonym if I ever heard one.”
Elizabeth read the message. Paul had gone into a little more depth than she had, but he said everything she said and would have said if she had thought of it all. “A man after my own heart. He even quotes Romans.”
After that message was an assortment of entries, several commenting on the similarity between Beth and Paul’s postings. A few asked if Beth was Paul’s alias or vice-versa. There were also what seemed to be angry responses by several young earth proponents.
The original writer, Bruce, wrote again. “Well, I’m relieved to know that there are a few xians who recognize reality. However, for a group, you’re pretty pathetic arguing among yourselves like this.”
Elizabeth wrote again, responding to those asking for sources and more information. She listed several books and authors.
“You didn’t address the young earthers,” Keith said.
“I’m not going to argue with them, Keith. It’s exactly what Bruce points out. As a group we sometimes argue about unimportant things, and it doesn’t help anyone. But for someone like Bruce, and I suspect a large number of people who are reading this, that view will never replace what they’ve learned in school. These people will never consider a religion where you are required to leave your brain at the church entrance and take everything on faith. Faith in what? Christianity is an intimately rational religion. It makes rational sense to be a Christian and to follow Christ. However most people don’t know that, so if I’m going to waste my time on this net thing, that’s what I’m going to tell them. Why waste time arguing about the insignificant?”
Keith looked at her intently and then stuck out his hand, grabbing hers. He shook it. “Nice sermon. What do you have in mind for next Sunday?”
Elizabeth pulled her hand away from his and slapped his upper arm playfully. “You asked, Keith.”
“Is she always like this, David? Pulling sermons out for every occasion?”
“How long have you known me, Keith? This is hardly every occasion, but I don’t think it’d be such a bad thing to be able to know God’s thought for every occasion.”
“Okay, maybe not every occasion, but every time we get on the net. Aren’t you interested in anything else?”
“When I am, I’ll look it up.”
Tuesday, August 22nd
The next evening Dylan and Kathy sat with Elizabeth on the front porch. Keith was in the office at the computer. David sat at the piano, but hadn’t started practicing the lesson he had just had.
“Beth. Guess what?” Keith called through the open window. “That guy, Paul, was on last night about the same time you were again. He recommended the same books and more. But you’ll never believe this. He says the same thing you did about Christianity being a rational religion, except he wrote it down.”
“I think I could get to like that Paul. I’ll have to read it later, Keith.”
“Yes, Keith, come on out and visit with us.” Kathy shifted little Naomi Ruth to lie on her left arm instead of the right as she was. “I’m not going to see you until November after we leave.”
“Okay, let me shut down in here.”
Before Keith was out, Jay Mittleson pulled up. “Oh, no,” Elizabeth said, as he got out of the car. “I forgot all about my appointment with him tonight.”
Kathy studied him with a critical eye. “Not bad,” she whispered. “Dark hair, not thinning too badly. Not much grey. Medium built. Taller than Dylan, but not by much.”
“Kathy!” Elizabeth said in a sharp whisper.
“Well you don’t have to call a date an appointment.”
“It’s not a date. He’s only been widowed two months.” The last sentence was barely audible so that Jay would not hear it. She hoped he didn’t hear it. Elizabeth stood as Jay climbed the steps of the porch. “Hello.”
“Hello, Elizabeth. Becky decided to stay with a friend, so she didn’t come, but I see you have company.”
“Yes. I’d like you to meet my friends from Tennessee. This is Dylan Trent, his wife, Kathy, and Baby Naomi. And here comes their oldest son, Keith Jensen.”
They said hello and shook hands. Then Jay turned back to Dylan. “Elizabeth never mentioned that she knew Dylan Trent.”
Dylan laughed. “She never mentioned that she knew Jay Mittleson either.”
“Ah, but I’m not anyone important or famous.”
“What do you think, Dylan? Should I get a button made up that says, ‘I know Dylan Trent!’ and wear it around.”
“Maybe you should get one of those for me,” Kathy said. “I’ve had people ask me the same thing.”
They visited until late, and the subject of David’s test never came up, Elizabeth noticed. Neither did the work he had mentioned for the school. He didn’t ask about David, either. Jay seemed totally taken with meeting Dylan. The three men got along well. Kathy and Elizabeth mostly listened. The only time David was mentioned was when he began playing the piano and his music drifted out onto the porch.
“Is that David?” Kathy asked quietly.
Dylan glanced over, indicating that he had heard Kathy’s question, but still kept the main focus of his attention toward Jay and the story he was telling. Elizabeth nodded. Dylan raised his eyebrows a little and even turned to glance into the window to see David sitting at the piano.
“He’s good,” Kathy said, and then laughed in the appropriate spot as Jay finished up.
Jay left at nine thirty, and that was only because he was late picking up Becky, or so it appeared to Elizabeth.
David had ceased playing, but Dylan mentioned it as soon as Jay drove away. “You told me he was good, Keith, but I guess I didn’t trust your judgment in music. But you haven’t mentioned anything, Elizabeth. Why is that?”
Elizabeth shrugged. “My judgment is not as good as Keith’s. Besides what difference does it make? You definitely didn’t like it when you thought he might be someone who wanted to work with you.”
“Maybe I should take him back to Tennessee where he could learn from the best people, and you’d….” He paused.
“I’d be what, Dylan? Safe? What about him? He’s only fourteen. He needs to finish school before he starts a career.”
“I agree, but he can go to school down there as well as here.”
“No, he can’t. He doesn’t go to the school. I teach him at home. You know that. Jay is the school administrator who allows me to do that.”
“But Beth, how much can he really learn? You know he has a learning disability. If we focus on his music at least he’ll be able to do something besides collect welfare checks his whole life.”
“He won’t collect any welfare checks. And even if he breaks all his fingers he still won’t need to collect any. He has no learning disability. The only thing that keeps him from learning is people like you who don’t think he can. When he finishes all twelve grades then you can try to convince him to work with you, but with your attitude I doubt he will.”
Elizabeth got up and walked into the house to prevent herself from saying anything else. She knew her anger had run away with her again, and she already regretted it. She turned around and went back outside.
Kathy comforted the baby who had awaken from Elizabeth’s vocal storm.
Dylan looked up from his chair. “Are you finished?” he asked quietly.
“No,” she said just as softly. “I’m sorry. I know you’re just trying to help.” Elizabeth turned away from them and looked out across the front yard to the street. “You helped me keep him once, Dylan. Don’t change your mind now. It would be worse than if you had never helped at all.”
Dylan stood and put his hand on her shoulder. “Elizabeth, I’m not trying to take him away from you. I just don’t want you hurt, but I guess you’ll be hurt either way, won’t you?”
“If someone tried to take Matthew away from you, I think you’d feel the same way.”
“It’s not the same.”
“It is.” Elizabeth turned to look at him in the darkness. “The thing is that I do agree that his music is important. It’s a gift that God has given him to use. But he’s not ready yet, Dylan. If it were Matthew or even Keith, wouldn’t you want them to finish school first? Wouldn’t you want them to mature a little before they had to face whatever challenges there are in the music business? I’m sure that if you would care to help him, you can find some things that he can do here to prepare him.”
“Okay, Elizabeth. I’ll try to help him that way. But I really wish you had someone here with you. I don’t suppose you’d consider moving closer to Ann Arbor so Keith can stay with you.”
“No.” Elizabeth glanced at Keith. “Don’t you love how he volunteers you? Don’t let him know U of M has a campus in Flint, or he’ll make you switch.”
“That’s a good idea. I bet the tuition is less, also.”
“Then I’d be with you all the time, Beth. That might be fun.”
“I don’t have any more room here. I’d have to rent you an apartment.”
“That would be defeating the purpose,” Dylan said.
They left the next morning. Elizabeth regretted that she was not able to speak with Kathy like she used to. It seemed that Elizabeth’s life was so filled up with David that there wasn’t any safe subject to speak about. Kathy could talk for hours about her children, but she felt she was betraying David’s confidences to say much about him, especially when she knew that he listened intently to every word she said.
When she tried to speak about Jared she discovered she was still angry with him about the weekend. She told Kathy about it, but instead of seeing things the way Elizabeth did, she tried to defend Jared. That was when Elizabeth realized that Kathy didn’t understand David or her love for him either. Oh, my God, my Father. Am I wrong? But how can it be wrong to love David and care for him? How can I be misinterpreting his actions and intent? Is there anyone else who could possible understand?
Wednesday, August 23rd and following
Jay called her the next day and asked about Dylan and how long she had known him. They talked about ten minutes when he finally rescheduled his appointment with her about the work for after Labor Day. He decided to have David come into the school for his test the following Friday.
Elizabeth signed on the net each evening in spite of the time constraints. She enjoyed trying to explain the reasons for her faith to the skeptics, but she was aware that most of them just joined the group to stir things up. It was a challenge not to let herself be drawn into useless debates. And she had to admit, she enjoyed reading Paul’s responses and seeing how close they came to her own. She was very pleased one day when she read in one of Paul’s entries, “…as Beth says….” It was already a joke how close their responses were and after Paul acknowledged it, Elizabeth felt free to joke along with them.
Sometimes Paul wrote a long article about a subject. They became known as his sermons. Elizabeth started downloading and collecting them. Several people asked if he was a minister. “No,” he responded. “I’m just a student of theology, and I thought maybe someone else might be interested.”
David was interested in the group, also, so Elizabeth made sure that she signed on before David went to sleep. They read the items together, and she would ask David what he thought about a possible response. He always agreed with her, but she knew asking him would start him thinking and that was the important thing.
Thursday, September 7th
Jay and Becky Mittleson came over the Thursday after Labor Day. Becky was a slender girl with shoulder length, brown hair. She was not quite as tall as Elizabeth, and seemed a bit withdrawn when they first entered the house. They went into the kitchen and sat around the table. Jay asked David what his favorite subjects were.
David glanced at Elizabeth before he answered. “Theology and music.”
“Theology and music! You must be one of Dylan Trent’s biggest fans. I don’t meet many fourteen-year-olds who claim Theology as a favorite subject. Most don’t even know what it is.”
David looked at Elizabeth in alarm. “It’s… it’s the study of God, isn’t it?”
“Yes, David,” Elizabeth reassured him.
“Do you play an instrument, David? Or do you just like to study other people’s music?” Jay winked at Elizabeth.
“I… I play the piano and… the guitar, not as well.”
“The piano is Becky’s instrument, also. She’s quite good. Why don’t you two go and impress each other with your talent while we talk? We’ll be in to listen in a little bit.”
David didn’t move, looking at Elizabeth.
She knew he didn’t want to go anywhere alone with Becky. “Why don’t we all go into the other room? The piano is in my office.” Jay agreed.
David walked out of the room, and Becky ran to catch up with him. “I’ve had lessons for four years,” Becky said. David disappeared into his room.
Great. David was afraid to play now. He didn’t realize his own talent. She directed Jay and Becky to the office.
Jay went to the computer and then looked around the room. Becky hovered quietly behind him. “You really do have a lot of equipment.”
“Have a seat.” Elizabeth indicated the chair next to the computer and her chair in front of it. She sat in the chair David normally used when he did his school work that was next to hers. “What kind of work were you thinking about, Jay?”
Jay glanced at Becky and seemed to sigh before lifting his briefcase to his lap. “Guess we can work on this.” They went over the items Jay had brought, and Elizabeth gave him quotes.
“Now that business is done, perhaps we can listen to Becky and David play the piano,” Jay suggested.
“I’ll go get David.” Elizabeth went and knocked on his closed door. She tried the knob, but it was locked. “It’s me, David.” The door opened. “Are you okay?”
“Do you think you could come out and play a little for Jay? He’s enamored with Dylan’s music.”
“Becky can do it. She knows more than I do.”
“I doubt it, but even if she does, it doesn’t mean that you can’t play well, also. What would happen if people only did the things that they were better at than anyone else in the world? No one would ever learn anything new.”
“David. I love you. I know you can play very well. You play in front of Shelly Greene. She wants you to start playing at church. Don’t you think this might be good practice for you?”
David hugged her tightly. Elizabeth returned the hug until he released her. Then he followed her into the office.
Becky played well and confidently. Elizabeth made sure that she commented positively, because she knew that her proud father expected it. In fact, she wondered if he had wanted to show off her skill from the beginning. Of course, isn’t that what she was doing? Showing off David’s skill. Becky stood near her father after she finished.
“Okay, David. It’s your turn. Elizabeth says you can play Dylan’s music. Which song?”
“All of the first three tapes.”
“Really? How about A Shelter from the Storm, from the third album.” David nodded and sat down before the piano. “Where is your music?”
“He doesn’t need it for Dylan’s songs. He knows them quite well.” Elizabeth decided to stand next to the piano off to the side so that David could see her. He glanced at her and relaxed. He played the song through once, and then without pausing he started a second time. He looked at Elizabeth as he began singing. She smiled and glanced at Jay to see the effect. She was not disappointed. When David stopped playing, Elizabeth hugged him. “That was wonderful, David.”
“It was more than wonderful,” Jay said, coming up to David. “Are you sure you aren’t Dylan’s son?” He put his hand on David’s back in a friendly inclusive way.
David quickly twisted away and stood behind Elizabeth. He grabbed her hand tightly.
“No, he’s not Dylan’s son. He’s mine.”
“But I bet you had to fight Dylan for him,” Jay joked.
“Dylan didn’t want me,” David said unexpectedly, and Elizabeth wondered if Jay heard the pain in his statement. She wanted to hold David, but instead gave his hand a reassuring squeeze.
“I’m sure that’s not true,” Jay said.
Becky looked at David with an awestruck expression. “Did you sing with Dylan?”
Elizabeth felt David start to tremble a second before he let go of her hand and left the room.
“What’s wrong?” Becky asked in concern.
“Nothing, Becky. He’s just not used to performing in front of anyone. Weren’t you really nervous the first few times you played for other people?”
“I suppose, but he’s so good.”
“Well, Elizabeth, it’s getting late, and I don’t want to overstay my welcome again. I’ll see you tomorrow for David’s test.”
Elizabeth walked with them to the door, and then she returned to her computer to finish her work.
Saturday, September 9th and following
Saturday morning Elizabeth called Robin. She hadn’t spoken to her since the picnic. “Do you still want to cut David’s hair today?”
“Yes. I can do it.”
“If you are still upset about the picnic or anything….”
“What kind of person do you think I am, Elizabeth? I’m not upset, but even if I was, I wouldn’t take it out on him. That’s what you’re afraid of, isn’t it?”
“I just don’t want him hurt anymore.”
“I know. But, you know, Tony has forbidden David to come near the kids.”
“Yeah, he told me.”
“Is he really worth all this fighting in the family?”
“Are your children worth it to you? I know he’s not biologically mine, but I feel like he is. I can’t explain it. I just know he’s my son, and yes, he’s worth it.”
“Okay, Beth. I don’t understand it, but I’ll be here when you need me. Only don’t tell Renae. She’s still on the warpath and trying to stir things up.”
“Sure. I’ll see you at one then.”
Elizabeth and David settled into a routine that was only broken by Jared. Since it was getting colder, and there was no more work to be done on the houses Rob did not come around except to drop off Jared and pick him up. Rob had been taking David to work on both Elizabeth’s and his rental property, but Rob hadn’t come for David since the fight. David needed a man he could look up to, but no one really had the time or patience to get past his fear. But I know that You have chosen him, Lord, and You will provide what he needs. Thank You for Your grace toward us.
Once a month Elizabeth and David would go to the school, and Jay would give David tests to make sure he was still learning. Sometimes the school took field trips that they joined, but David always stayed close to her, not mingling with the other students. Becky would try to talk to David, but he avoided her.
A theological conference was scheduled for the fourth weekend in September in Grand Rapids. It fell on the right weekend, one without Jared, and Elizabeth and David made plans to attend. Elizabeth decided to mention it on the net. One other person said that they planned to go to the same conference. Paul said he didn’t think he could make it, but he always attended the Ligonier conference in Orlando, Florida in March.
Elizabeth told him (and all who read the posting) that she had attended the Florida conference the last two years in a row and planned to go next year, also. Within two weeks after that posting six people had decided to go to Florida next winter, all stay at the same hotel, and meet afterward.
“We’ll get to meet these mysterious people — these faceless writers.”
“And Paul,” David said.
“Do you want to meet him, David?”
David shrugged. “You do. And he writes like you.”
“I hope he doesn’t look like me.”
David hesitated and then gave a low little laugh, shaking his head.
It was the first laugh Elizabeth had ever heard from him. She was ecstatic. “I love a man who appreciates my humor. I should warn you, though, when I was on the net years ago I met some of the people I wrote to. It was an interesting experience, but most times people are not what you expect. They look different, and even their in person characteristics are different from their net persona.”
“What do you think Paul will look like?”
“Not what I want him to. He’s either married with ten children, or he’s under twenty-one. Or he could be seventy. What do you think he’ll look like?”
“You never said what he’ll look like. You said what you thought he was. Why don’t you ask him?”
“No way, David.” She laughed. “If I ask him, he’ll think I’m after a husband, and I’m not. I’m just curious. I can wait. I just want you to be prepared to abandon any preconceived idea you might have.”
Go to Chapter 19
© 2013, 1995 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.