Chapter 20 – Elizabeth
Monday, December 25th and following
David’s gift had been a shock. Elizabeth had assumed that he had bought her something since Keith took him out, but never anything so expensive. The store label on the box told her it was, as well as the size of the stones.
That evening after Elizabeth had shown David how to use the word processor on his computer, she signed on to the net and checked her mail. As she suspected, she had a letter from Keith wishing her a Merry Christmas. Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder. David was busy looking at his pictures and pecking at the keyboard. Elizabeth decided now was as good a time as any to respond to Keith’s message.
“Merry Christmas to you, too, Keith. Why in the world did you let David spend so much money on me? That’s crazy. He’s just a kid. I knew he was saving his money, but I’m sure he didn’t plan to spend it all on me. I appreciate you taking him out and all, but next time… I just hope he doesn’t think that he has to spend that much every Christmas.”
Next Elizabeth went to the theology discussion to see what was happening. “It looks like Paul has posted another of his sermons. I’ll print it before we read it.” She paused. Now it was time to suggest another great teaching opportunity. “You know, David, we’ve collected quite a few. I bet they would look nice in booklet format.” She turned to face David, who was now looking at her. “Would you like to learn a little more about what I do?”
“If you think I can.”
“I know you can. With all your help around here now, I think we have time to try something just for fun. We could turn Paul’s articles into little booklets. Just for our own use of course, and we could do it together. Maybe we’ll even give Paul a copy when we see him. We can use some of your pictures for the covers. What do you think?”
“I like to work with you. Paul’s articles are good, but sometimes I don’t understand what he says until you explain it.”
“We’ll do some editing. Hopefully he won’t mind. If he does we can always destroy what we’ve done and not do it again.” Elizabeth faced her machine and transferred the article to her word processor.
The next day Keith wrote back to Elizabeth. “Beth, I tried to tell David that you’d like anything, and he didn’t have to spend so much, but he wanted to. You sound as if you didn’t even like the jewelry. I hope you didn’t say that to him, because it seemed to mean a whole lot to him what you thought. He was also upset because he realized he missed your birthday and Mother’s Day. So take it as a three in one gift and be a little more thankful.”
Elizabeth responded. “Keith, I love the set. It’s beautiful. I’m sorry if I sounded like I didn’t. I guess I should let David worry about his own money. It’s not like he has ever wasted it before now. I know these pieces will certainly always be special to me, not because they are the most expensive pieces of jewelry I own, but because David wanted to and did give them to me.”
Later that day Elizabeth helped David sign on the net with his own ID. She watched and occasionally helped him as he looked around. A few days later she noticed that he had made his own posting. Elizabeth told him that the next time the conference in Orlando was mentioned he should say that he was going, too.
Tuesday, January 9th, 1996 and following
Rob came by one day in January and asked David if he wanted to help him repair and paint one of his apartments. Elizabeth saw David hesitate. “If you’d like, David, I’ll take my laptop and work while you two are doing your work.” David agreed then.
When she was alone with Rob, Elizabeth asked, “So, what’s up?”
Rob shrugged. “I guess I’m starting to think that Jared’s telling me a lot of stories, and I better find out the facts again. Tell me, has David ever hit you?”
“No! The only time things got out of hand was that picnic.”
“I wondered. Jared has an imagination.”
“And I bet he’s feeding it to his other grandparents, too. It makes sense.”
After that Rob began taking David with him on maintenance jobs again. Elizabeth had to go with him for the first three times as she had at the beginning, but soon David relaxed with Rob again.
David would come back from his outings and give her a detailed account of the work he’d done and what was said.
“You’re learning a lot, aren’t you?”
“I like to find out how to do stuff. He says that in a few years I’ll be able to take care of all your apartments by myself and that will save you money, so I want to learn as much as I can.”
Elizabeth was glad Rob was working with him. David needed a father figure, and she hoped eventually their relationship would develop so that David could ask him the questions a boy needed to ask his father, whatever they may be.
Thursday, February 8th
It was mid-February when Jay came over one evening. “Hello, Jay. What’s the occasion? Can I take your coat?”
He stepped into the living room. “No. I’m just stopping in quick because I wanted to let you know about the field trip I was able to line up today. The whole school will be able to tour the GM Buick Factory in Flint. They are going to show us everything from the factory floor to the offices. The kids will see and learn a lot about how a factory is run.”
“Sounds good, Jay. When are we going?” Elizabeth sat down on the arm of the chair.
“The last Friday of the month, only a couple weeks away.”
“Oh no. I’m sorry, Jay. That’s the weekend we’re going to be at the Ligonier conference in Florida. I’m sure I told you about that.”
Jay shook his head. “You may have said something, but this was hard to schedule. Maybe you could cancel.”
“I don’t think so. David and I have been planning this trip since last September.”
Jay sat down. “Well, if you don’t want to cancel, then maybe you should at least let David stay home. I’m sure he’ll be bored at a conference like that. He can stay at my house while you’re gone.”
“No, Jay. David is not staying home. He wants to go. You know, you could always take vacation and come to the conference.” She knew she shouldn’t have added that dig, but if their plans were so unimportant….
Jay stood. “Forgive me, Elizabeth. I thought you’d be interested.” He walked to the door and then turned back toward her. “Are you going with the junior and senior high students to the art museum Friday?”
“Yes, we were planning to.”
“Good. I’ll see you then,” he said, and left.
Elizabeth tried to understand why she felt so disappointed. She was sure it wasn’t because she was missing out on a factory visit. She went back into the office.
David looked up from his computer. He was on the net. “Thank you for not making me stay home.”
“You know I wouldn’t do that to you after we made all our plans and even made these books for Paul.”
“Why doesn’t Jay want to go to the conference?”
Elizabeth shook her head. “I don’t know. Maybe he couldn’t get that much time off of work.” But Elizabeth knew that wasn’t the reason.
“I only wanted to be with you, anyway,” David said, turning back to the computer. “Paul has written another one. It will go with the Romans book. Do we have time to add it?”
“Maybe. I’ve got to get a whole lot of things done before we can leave. If you want, you can copy that file to your machine and play with it.”
“What if I mess everything up?”
“Don’t worry. I have the originals on my hard drive and on floppy. And you don’t have to do anything with the cover, just the text and the index. Print me a copy of the new article. I’ll red pen it for you, and you can make the changes.” Elizabeth sat down at her machine to work.
Tuesday, February 20th
Less than two weeks later they were on their way to Florida. David had managed to add the additional article with only proofreading and editing changes from Elizabeth. It took him a long time, but Elizabeth knew that he learned a lot. And Dylan thought he’d have to collect welfare checks. Hah! He’d only been with her a year, and he could do all kinds of things. He could be a photographer, and before long she bet he could do all her desktop work. He was learning property maintenance. He could get a job doing any of those things if he weren’t going to be a musician.
Elizabeth looked over to David sitting beside her in the car. Her boy had grown physically in the last year also. He would be fifteen in a little over a month. He was now taller than she was, and he was no longer scrawny. His workouts with his weight bench were starting to show in his arms and shoulders. He was doing fifth grade work now, but she wondered where he’d be after the next placement test.
Elizabeth had decided to visit Dylan and Kathy for a few days on the way down, and then after the conference spend a few days with David in Florida.
They pulled into Dylan’s driveway late that evening, and Dylan came out to help them unload. “I’m thinking of adding on this summer,” he said as he led them to their rooms. “David, you’ll be in Keith’s room, and Elizabeth, you’re in Naomi’s room. Don’t worry. We moved the crib to our room for your stay.”
They visited a while, and then Dylan asked David if he wanted to go into the music room. David looked at Elizabeth. When she nodded he got up and followed Dylan. A short while later Elizabeth and Kathy could hear them playing music together.
“I have to admit, Elizabeth, that boy is talented,” Kathy said. They talked for a while and Elizabeth had to stop herself several times from bragging about David’s progress.
Kim, Keith’s full sister, came in to join them, and she told Elizabeth about being accepted into the pre-medical program at U of M. She would be living with Keith next fall.
David and Dylan came through on their way to the kitchen. Kim stared after them. “I think I’m in love. Who is that good looking guy with Dad?”
“Calm yourself, Kim. I’m going to have to tell Keith to put a leash on you.” Kathy teased.
“Don’t worry. I’m not getting married until after I get my career started, but I can still look, can’t I?”
“David is two and a half years younger than you, my dear.”
“That’s David?” Kim looked at Elizabeth and then back at her mother. “I thought Ben said he was a….” She stopped as Dylan and David came back through with their sodas. She watched them disappear down the hall. “I guess Ben was wrong,” she whispered.
“Is he still hanging around here?” Elizabeth asked.
“Yes. He, ah….” Kathy looked embarrassed.
“He got married last summer. He didn’t wait that long after you said no to find someone else. I’m sorry. I’m glad you said no though. I don’t think his wife is very happy.”
“What’s the secret?”
“I thought you’d be upset.”
“No.” And Elizabeth felt nothing. She had never felt anything for Ben.
“What about you and Jay?” Kathy asked. “How is that going?”
“Going? He’s never even asked me out.”
“But you’ll go out with him when he does, won’t you? Or does he have some deep, hidden flaw that only you can see.”
“If he does ask, I might. I don’t know. He is really nice, and I know he treated Cheryl well. Becky’s a nice girl, too. And Jay does seem to like David. Right now he’s just a friend, and I don’t think he’s even looking, yet.”
“Why look? You’re right there.”
“There are other single women around, you know.”
“But they’re not like you,” Kathy said, smiling. “You’re special.”
Elizabeth laughed. “In a strange sort of way, right?”
“Well, don’t let this one get away.”
Wednesday, February 21st
Wednesday after breakfast Dylan, Kathy, Elizabeth and David sat in the living room to visit one last time before Elizabeth and David left. Kim, Rachel, and Matthew were in school, and Naomi was on her blanket on the floor.
“You’ve really grown up this past year, David,” Dylan said. “I’m impressed. Do you think you’re ready to go back to Chicago and testify?”
David stiffened and stared at Dylan. “I am never going back. No one can make me go back.” It was a hard voice that Elizabeth had never heard before.
“You should…,” Dylan started to say.
“I am not going back. Even if I must leave Elizabeth, I will not go back.”
Elizabeth was unnerved by his tone, but she reached for his hand. At her touch his stiffness left. He turned to her, and his voice was no longer hard but had the insecure tone he used when he was upset or scared. “You won’t make me leave, will you, Mom?”
“No, David. I won’t make you leave, and I won’t make you go back.”
David immediately scooted closer to her and hugged her.
Later when they were loading the car and David had run upstairs for Elizabeth’s camera, Dylan said, “He’s too dependent on you, Beth.”
“Dylan, will you never be satisfied? Look at all the progress he’s made. Give him some more time.”
“Maybe you’re right. I just don’t like the thought of that woman running loose after what she’s done.”
“Neither do I, Dylan. Believe me, neither do I. I’ll let you know when he comes to the point where he’s ready.”
“But it’s not just that. He looks to you for everything, and he even imitates you. When we were in the music room he said something that was so like you. I even heard him talking to his computer like you do.”
“I hadn’t noticed. I wish he felt comfortable enough with you or Rob to talk about whatever things boys and fathers talk about. Every time you two start connecting, you go screw it up by talking about Chicago.”
“Someone has to stay rooted in reality.”
Elizabeth shook her head and opened the car door. David came out then and hurried to his side of the car.
That night Elizabeth and David arrived at the hotel Paul had recommended that everyone from the group stay at. Eight of them were to come. As they settled into their room that night, David and Elizabeth reviewed the little they knew about the people they would meet. Julie was a seminary student and believed women should be allowed to pastor, which Elizabeth didn’t and had said so before she actually knew that Julie was pursuing that career. Len was a pastor from Georgia and his wife Brittany would be with him. Mark was charismatic and very Armenian in his comments. He was coming just to ‘check things out.’ Brent’s comments lined up on the reformed side for the most part, but he had trouble with predestination. Elizabeth told David that he really didn’t understand reformed theology if he didn’t understand Romans and predestination. Elizabeth secretly thought that Paul’s series of articles on Romans may be directed at Brent’s claims.
“Do you think Paul will like the books?” David asked. He had changed to his pajamas and now sat cross legged on his bed.
“I hope Paul likes them. Maybe we should have asked him before we made them. I don’t know.” Elizabeth wished she wasn’t so nervous. She hoped she could concentrate on the speakers and not worry about meeting these people the whole time. Who was she trying to fool? She was worried about meeting Paul. “Maybe we should wait to give him the books when the other people aren’t around.”
During the night Elizabeth awoke suddenly and listened. She heard the whimpering noise again. She quickly got up and went to David, who was curled up and shaking. She reached out and touched his shoulder, and he flinched away from her. “David,” she said softly. “David, wake up, Sweetheart. You’re safe now.”
David sat up quickly and grabbed her, holding her tightly. “Mommy, mommy. Please don’t send me back. Please let me stay. Don’t let them hurt me anymore.”
Elizabeth wrapped her arms around him and caressed his head. “It’s all right, David. They can’t hurt you anymore. You’re safe.” If Dylan ever mentioned this to him again, she didn’t know what she would do, but… Lord, please comfort my child. Help him to know that he is safe, that You are in control. Please.
Elizabeth continued to hold him. She rocked slightly, kissing his forehead occasionally. When he was finally still she thought he had fallen asleep in her arms. But then he started to talk.
“There were a lot of them. She was having a party. They had beer and crack. I couldn’t leave. She never let me leave when there was a party in case someone wanted me. When they came for me I couldn’t get away. They held me down, and they burned me. They laughed when I screamed. If I didn’t scream they hurt me until I did.” He paused.
Elizabeth stroked his hair and kissed his forehead again. She didn’t know what to tell him or to say.
“I’m not big enough to fight them all. I’m not strong enough, and neither are you, Mom. Maybe someday I’ll be strong enough, but I know I’m not now. I could stop her, and maybe one friend. Maybe two. I don’t know. I don’t know anyone who could stop them all.”
Now the weight lifting made sense. He was preparing in case he ever had to protect himself again. She had thought that he had been conned by a good salesman when he bought it, but that hadn’t been the case at all.
“Is it all right, Mom? I don’t want to hurt anyone, but if they try to hurt me, I will not let them without trying to hurt them. I know Jesus didn’t do it that way, but… I’m not as good as He is.”
“David, this isn’t the same thing. Jesus didn’t try to stop them from hurting him because he knew that by his sacrifice we would be saved. What happened to you in no way compares to that. I think there isn’t many times when God wants you to stand by and let evil people hurt you. It’s all right to defend yourself, David. Just make sure before you do that the people are actually trying to hurt you. And… and be careful. Remember how bad you felt when you hurt Billy.”
Elizabeth squeezed him tight and kissed him again. “Oh, David. I wish I had all the answers. I don’t. I haven’t been hurt like you. Wes only was drunk a few times so I didn’t have to worry very often. I think I would just try to get away. Defend myself until I could get away. I would be afraid of killing someone.”
“You don’t think I could kill someone, do you?” David raised his head and looked at her face in the dark.
“It happens. You hear about it all the time. People just defending themselves end up killing someone. Not because they want to. I don’t know. I wish there was someone else who knew more about these things who could tell you what to do. But David, most people live out their lives and don’t have to defend themselves physically. Chances are you won’t have to.”
“But if she finds me….”
“That’s what Dylan was talking about. If you tell the police and the lawyer they can fight for you. You will just have to go to court and tell everyone what she did.”
“No. You don’t know her. Even if they have her, she’ll send her friends. I can’t.” He started to shake again.
Elizabeth kissed his forehead. “It’s okay, David. You don’t have to. We’ll wait. She won’t find you.” She held him a long while. She wasn’t sure if he was asleep. “David,” she whispered.
“Do you have nightmares like this a lot, or is it just because of what Dylan said today?”
“Yes, both, I guess.”
“Why haven’t you told me about it?”
“I just thought maybe… I don’t know. What do you do when you have nightmares at home?”
He was silent a while before answering quietly. “Sometimes I just listen to the music that’s playing, and that helps me to remember Jesus is with me. Sometimes I have to get up. Since I can read now, I can go to Psalms. Before I would just go to my pictures and remember that I’m with you and safe. Tonight I would have had to do all three. Some nightmares are worse than others.”
Elizabeth thought about what he said. It was good that he could go to their Lord when this happened. Dylan thought he was too dependent on her, but it was probably better that she hadn’t known before. “How often, David?”
She felt him shrug and smiled against his forehead before she kissed it. “It depends. More when other people come, or we have to go around a lot of people. Not much when it’s just you and me.”
They were quiet now. Elizabeth did not know when she dozed off, but she awoke up with the images of David’s dream in her head. She almost wished he hadn’t told her, but she knew that he needed to tell someone. She was still holding him, and he was sleeping. She should have left him before this. She didn’t want to hurt him by staying too close when the little boy part of him didn’t need her, and she didn’t want to hold back when he did. She prayed almost every night to keep the balance that he needed.
Elizabeth tried to leave him, but his hold tightened, and his arms were like an iron bar around her. For a moment she was reminded of Wesley and the times he had held her down. She pushed against David, and he woke up.
“David, please. You’re holding me too tightly. Let me get up.”
David released her and sat up. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“It’s not your fault. I just get a little panicky when I’m held down is all.” She stood and went toward the bathroom and turned on its light.
Elizabeth looked back at him as her eyes adjusted to the light. She realized he understood much more than she could.
Thursday, February 22nd
Elizabeth and David enjoyed the first few sessions of the conference. Since David was sensitive to being touched even accidently they stayed in their seats a few minutes until the auditorium cleared out a little before they were able to leave for dinner.
When they arrived at the restaurant Paul had selected, they asked for the Israel table and were led to the back of the restaurant.
“Here are our wayward ones,” said a young, balding, slightly overweight man. Elizabeth looked for his name tag, but he wasn’t wearing one, neither was anyone else. He grinned. “Have a seat. Since we had to wait for you two, you have to guess who the rest of us are.”
Great. She was glad there were two seats left together on the corner. She let David have the corner seat so he wouldn’t be crowded. “Well, I’m not too good at guessing, so I suppose I’ll be calling you all ‘hey you’ for the rest of the meal.”
The mustached man sitting across the table from David smiled. The smile reached his hazel eyes. “I’ve been called much worse, Beth.” He spoke in a tenor with a slight roughness as if he had a trickle in his throat.
She returned the smile. “Most people have, I suppose. I prefer to save those names for people I know well.”
He laughed slightly and smiled. He focused on David. “I expected you to be older, David. Unless you just look very young for your age.”
David glanced at Elizabeth and then back to the man. “I’m fourteen.”
“I thought he was your husband,” said the thin black man. Next to him sat a petite black woman with straightened red tinted black hair.
That must be Len and Brittany. Unless…. “No, my son.”
“Well, that’s obvious now,” said the other woman who was across from Elizabeth. Her hair was brown and cut in a short boyish manner.
“Of course.” Julie. Was it her imagination, or was she a bit defensive? That left the three men.
“Well, have you figured us out yet?” asked the final man to speak, a dark-haired, bearded one.
“Maybe a few. Don’t be upset if I’m wrong.” Elizabeth pointed and named Len, Brittany, and Julie.
“We’re the easy ones,” Julie said. “What about the other men?”
Elizabeth shook her head. “I’m still debating.”
“What about you, David?” the balding man asked. “Who do you think I am?”
The man laughed. “Good answer.”
David frowned and reached for Elizabeth’s hand under the table.
She smiled reassuringly and squeezed his hand. The man across the table watched them. The waitress came to him. “I see your group is all here now. Are you ready to order?”
“Yes, we are,” he said. He gave the waitress his order.
“Are you Paul?” Elizabeth asked, when the waitress went on to Julie who was sitting next to him.
“Yes. And I assure you, the guessing game was not my idea. But you’ve done quite well for someone who claims not to be very good at it.”
“Well, what about us?” asked the bearded man next to Julie.
Elizabeth shrugged. “I have a fifty/fifty chance. So how about Mark.”
The balding man made a loud buzzing sound. “Wrong.”
“Okay, you’re Mark. Hey, I only got one wrong. Sorry Brent.”
“That’s two wrong,” Julie said.
“As you wish.”
They talked about the preconference seminars they had just attended until the waitress brought their food. When there was a lull in the conversation Mark asked, “So Beth, where is your husband?”
“I don’t have one.”
“Divorced, widowed, or sex without marriage?”
Elizabeth looked at him, her fork half way to her mouth. “Excuse me?”
“Why don’t you have a husband?”
Was this another punishment for being late? “Why don’t you have a wife?”
“Haven’t been able to convince anyone I want to marry to marry me.”
“I wonder why.” Elizabeth said under her breath.
“It is a mystery, isn’t it?” Paul said just as quietly. Elizabeth looked up at him, and he was smiling in an amused way at their comments. She returned the smile.
“I answered you, but you haven’t answered me yet.”
Elizabeth gave a slight roll to her eyes and then looked back toward Mark. “Is the past so important?”
“Not important. I’m just curious. I’m going to ask Julie next. Although maybe you’ll answer me first, Julie. You seem to be a bit more open.”
“I’m still looking. No major prior attachments.”
“See, that wasn’t so hard,” Mark said.
“I never said it was hard. I just don’t normally talk about personal subjects with people I’ve known less than half an hour.”
“You’ve known me over six months on the net.”
“Not the same thing.”
“What have you got to hide?” Julie asked, picking at her salad.
Paul’s expression became serious.
“What happened to your father, David?” Mark asked.
David looked at Elizabeth nervously but didn’t say anything.
“Are we going to meet tonight?” Paul asked suddenly.
Several people commented positively. “We’ve barely had a chance to get to know each other,” Brent said.
“And we haven’t had a chance to talk about your studies, Julie,” said Len.
“Anyone interested can meet in the hotel lounge after the last session,” Paul announced, as the waitress came by with each one’s bill. “We better get moving, or we’re going to miss the beginning of the next session.”
As everyone headed out Elizabeth lagged behind to avoid the rush. Paul came up behind her in the parking lot and touched her elbow. “I’m sorry, Beth, David. I hope I’ll see you tonight.”
Elizabeth glanced into his eyes. “Thank you, Paul. I should have admitted I was divorced and not made a big deal about it. It just took me by surprise.”
Paul inclined his head slightly. “If you had he probably would have wanted details. It’s best this way. We should go. See you tonight?”
Elizabeth smiled and agreed. She and David got into the car and drove back to the conference.
“Paul is nice.”
“Yes, he is. I’m so relieved that he seems to live what he writes.”
“I don’t like Mark or Julie.”
“It’s true they didn’t make a very good first impression on me either, David. But they’re still our brother and sister in Christ so we’ve got to try. And I’m saying this more to remind myself than you, you know, David.”
That evening they all gathered again, and the conversation went much better for Elizabeth than at dinner. She spoke mostly to Len, Brittany, and Brent. Mark and Julie had seated themselves next to and across from Paul. Elizabeth and David were on the opposite end of the table. Elizabeth tried not to be too disappointed. After Paul’s kind words that afternoon, she had hoped to get to know him better before she admitted what she had done to his articles.
David didn’t participate but just watched her. Occasionally she saw him watching Paul. David leaned over to her and whispered, “May I go take some pictures?”
“Sure, Sweetheart.” Elizabeth dug in her purse and handed him the key to the room. She watched him leave. Then a few minutes later he was taking pictures from the perimeter of the room.
“If those pictures turn out, could we have a copy, also?” Brittany asked, inclining her head toward David.
“Sure. Anyone who wants them can E-mail me or David their address.”
After David had used up his film he came back to sit by Elizabeth. When she saw him yawn, she decided it was time for them to excuse themselves.
As they got up, Paul said, “Again tomorrow night, Beth?”
Elizabeth nodded and smiled at him before she turned and followed David to the elevator.
Friday, February 23rd
Friday evening the conversation started out around the topics that had been discussed at the conference. “What do you think, David?” Len asked him unexpectedly.
David had been listening intently, but Elizabeth could see him tense up.
“Perhaps he doesn’t think,” Mark said.
Paul turned to David. “I always appreciate your comments in the group. You always say the one sentence or ask the one question that brings everything together and helps us get to the point.”
“I know I’d much rather read David’s one line comments than your tombs, Paul,” Brent said. “I can understand him better.”
“Does anyone even read your novels, Paul?” Mark asked. “I see how long it is, and when I know it’s another sermon I just skip it. How many of you guys read them?”
“I must admit that I skip over quite a bit of them,” Brent conceded.
“I would read them fully,” Julie said, “if I didn’t have so much reading for school.”
“We read them,” David said quickly.
“Really,” asked Mark, leaning toward him. “Does your mother force you to? She can write a sermon herself once in a while. It must have been awful growing up. You’d do something, and she’d come in with a Bible. You’d probably be saying ‘No, please, Mom, not another sermon. Anything but a sermon. Spank me, beat me, just don’t preach to me.’“ He put his hands over his ears. Brent and Julie laughed with Mark.
David stiffened in his chair, and a touch of his memories filled his eyes.
She glared at Mark. “There are hundreds of thousands of abused children who would disagree with you.”
“But David isn’t one of them so lighten up.”
Elizabeth clamped her mouth shut, but knew only divine help would keep it shut. Lord, help me be quiet. Help me control this anger. He berates Paul’s writing, and then he harasses David. Paul’s not upset, is he? She looked at Paul. He was watching her, and their eyes met. Slowly she felt the anger leave her.
David grabbed her hand, and she glanced back at him. His eyes spoke of his love. She squeezed his hand and smiled at him.
“Well, people, it’s been good meeting you, but I’ll be leaving tomorrow right after the last session,” Paul said. Elizabeth quickly looked back to him. He had stood to leave.
“What about lunch?” Julie asked. “Whoever wants to could meet at McDonald’s for lunch.”
“Yes, let’s do that,” Len said, and Brittany nodded.
“Will you come, Paul?” Julie asked, standing, also.
Paul hesitated, and then he looked into Elizabeth’s eyes.
She wanted to see him one last time to give him the books. She nodded as she returned his look.
“Yes. I’ll come. Good night.” He gave a slight nod and left.
That night Elizabeth switched her purse to her book bag so that she could carry the small box with the booklets. She couldn’t procrastinate any longer. David had another nightmare that night, but they didn’t stay up as long talking afterward before he was able to get back to sleep.
Saturday, February 24th
Paul was the last to arrive at McDonald’s the next day. He sat at a table across from Elizabeth and David. Julie moved her tray next to him, and Mark followed. They got into a debate over something that was said earlier that morning with Paul taking the speaker’s position.
A tall man with a dark haired woman approached Paul. “Zach?”
Paul’s face lit into a warm smile, and he stood to shake the man’s hand. “Derek, it’s been a long time. And it’s good to see you too, Kris.”
“Yeah, I’ll be retired five years in August. Are you still in?”
“You know me. I’ll be in until they kill me or force me out,” Paul said.
Derek laughed. “Is this your wife?” he indicated Julie who had been sitting closest to him.
Paul shook his head. “No, just a fellow conference attendee.”
“Yes, just an attendee,” Julie said. “You called him Zach. We all call him Paul. Has he been holding out on us?”
“Paul?” Derek asked.
“It’s my middle name. I’ve been using it in civilian life lately.”
“Colonel Zachariah Paul Israel. I assume you are a full colonel now.”
Paul inclined his head to the right with a small smile. “Of course.”
“And you’re still attending Ligonier conferences. I nearly had to tie you down to get you here the first time.”
Paul laughed. “Best thing anyone’s ever done for me. I was going to head back right away, but maybe we could get together afterward and catch up.”
“I’d like that. How about we meet at that little place we went to the first night we were here?”
“I’ll be there.” After Derek left Paul picked up his tray and emptied it.
“You’re in the military?” Mark asked.
“A colonel is pretty important, isn’t it?” Julie asked.
Paul glanced at his watch. “It’s time to go. Maybe we’ll meet again sometime.” He turned and walked out the door.
Oh no, the books. Elizabeth looked at David and he seemed just as surprised.
David’s single question spurred her to action. She jumped up and ran out the door. Paul was pulling out of his parking spot. She waved to get his attention.
He stopped his tan Grand Am and put down his window. “Yes, Beth?”
“I… We… Paul….” Her mind raced, and she couldn’t think. She reached into her bag, grabbed the box, and held it out to him. “We wanted you to have this, me and David. It’s something that… Well, there’s a letter. I hope you like them. I’m sorry.” She backed away from the car after he took the box from her.
“Thank you, Beth, David.” He set the box on the seat next to him. “I’ll look at it later. Bye.”
Go to Chapter 21
© 2013, 1995 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.