Chapter 26 – Paul
Saturday, April 6th
The next morning Jared kept up a running conversation while Paul fixed breakfast. He told him all about his sisters and baby brother, his pony and his dog. David silently assisted Paul when something needed to be done. He seemed more withdrawn than usual.
As soon as Beth was up and dressed Paul left for the store. He bought David some more weights and work out equipment since it was important to David to be able to protect himself. He also bought him a razor because it looked like he was coming to the point where he needed one. Paul stopped at the grocery store last, arriving back at the house around noon as Beth prepared lunch. David was in his room, and Jared was in the kitchen playing with his micro cars.
After lunch Paul drove the two boys to the apartment house that David directed him to from the back seat. Jared had jumped in the front seat, and David, it seemed a little miserably to him, got into the back seat.
Paul’s attention was divided between working on the apartment and watching David and Jared. Both listened well to Rob — David with an instantaneous obedience and Jared with questioning curiosity. David helped Paul ready a room for painting.
“I need to clean out these drains,” Rob said. “Jared, can you get the pipe wrench from the truck?” Jared ran outside to the truck but came back with a ten inch crescent wrench. “David, will you go get it?” Rob asked.
David quickly left what he was doing and went outside. Jared followed him. Paul watched through the window he had opened earlier to ventilate the paint fumes. A mini-van drove by and then stopped quickly at the corner. A medium built, blond haired man jumped out of the driver’s seat.
“Daddy!” yelled Jared, running to him. Obviously the infamous Wes Weaver.
Wes picked up Jared and lifted him into the air before setting him back down. “What are you doing here? Your mother isn’t here, is she?”
“No, but we had to bring the wimp. Look, that’s him.” Jared pointed at David who made a large circuit around them on his way back to the house with the pipe wrench.
“So that’s the stray she attracted. Come here, boy.” Instead of complying, David darted back into the apartment. He gave the wrench to Rob. Wes and Jared were right behind him. “Hey, Dad. What’s going on that Elizabeth can’t even take care of her own family for forty eight hours that you have to help her?”
David jumped away from Wes into the living room, standing slightly behind Paul.
“She’s sick, Wes.”
“So she’s playing the sick martyr again. What you got the wimp for? He’s not family.”
“Aren’t you a little old for name calling?” Rob got up from his position under the sink.
Wes ignored him. “I guess that means you can go with us, Jared. We’re going to Aunt Lorraine’s. You can see Raymond.”
“No. Wes,” Rob said firmly. “This is still Elizabeth’s weekend. He stays with me until Paul takes him back to her.”
“Paul?” Wes finally focused on Paul.
“Yeah, Daddy. He’s in the army, and he’s been in all kinds of wars and stuff.”
“Oh?” Wes looked from Jared to Paul. “You’re not seriously dating her, are you?”
Paul was tempted to lie. He didn’t like Wes’ attitude toward David or Beth. But he didn’t. “No. We’re just friends.”
“A wise decision.”
“Is it?” If things were different….
“Trust me. I wasted ten years of my life with her.”
“I wonder if she thinks ten years of her life were wasted.”
“Who cares? I’ll give you some advice though. For your own good, and the good of any child, don’t get her pregnant.”
“I wasn’t planning on it.”
A woman with dark, fluffy hair and carrying a baby stepped into the kitchen. “Wes, honey, what’s up? Are we taking Jared?”
“Mommy!” Jared said, and hugged the woman. Paul was surprised at Jared’s warmth after the cool way he had greeted Elizabeth the night before.
“Dad says he stays here.”
“But I want to go with you, Daddy. I want to see Raymond.”
“No, Jared,” Rob said. “You won’t get to see your mother for another two weeks.”
“I don’t care. Please, Daddy.”
“Dad, I’m taking him.”
“No, you aren’t, because I’ll make sure she takes you back to court for violating the custody agreement.” Rob stared directly into Wes’s eyes.
Wes hesitated. Then he turned to Paul. “It’s pretty pathetic when your own father turns against you.” He looked down at Jared. “I’m sorry. You’ll just have to stick it out in boresville. But maybe Paul will tell you some more of his army stories. Come on, Alisa. We better get going.” They walked out the door. Jared followed them.
Rob watched from the doorway until they said good-bye to Jared one more time and drove away. “I’m sorry. Wes just has this thing against Elizabeth that the years don’t seem to diminish. He’s really a decent guy, other than that.”
“I’m sure he is,” Paul said, hoping his sarcasm wasn’t too obvious.
Rob turned back to the sink. “David, I’m going to need some other things. Why don’t you just get me the red tool box?” David went back outside, and Paul returned to the living room to paint.
“Hey, Wimpy. Why don’t you hit me?” came Jared’s voice through the window.
Paul looked out the window.
Jared threw a stone, hitting David’s shoulder. “Come on, hit me, Wimpy.”
David ignored him and pulled the red tool box out of the large tool keeper in the back of Rob’s truck. He started back toward the house, but Jared blocked his way.
“You know everyone loves me better than you. You don’t even belong. Grandpa loves me better. Mother loves me better — she’s not your mommy. She just feels sorry for you. You don’t even have a daddy to love you. Even Paul likes me better.”
David tried to go around Jared, but Jared hit him in the stomach. David ignored it and made it past him.
“Hit me, damn it,” Jared yelled.
Paul went outside. David stared right at him, but then walked past without saying a word, going into the house, apparently believing everything Jared had said.
Jared grabbed a stick and beat it against the telephone pole. His stick broke, and he sat on the ground with his back against the pole.
Paul walked over and squatted down next to him. “Why do you want David to hit you?”
Jared looked at Paul, his chin thrust forward. “I hate him. I want him sent away.”
“Does your mother know this?”
“I told her when he first came, but she wouldn’t make him leave.”
“And if David hits you, you think she will?”
“I’m her only child. She loves me.”
“Jared, she won’t send David away. Not even if he hits you.”
“Then Daddy will make sure that I never have to go over there again. And then she’ll hate David.”
“You really have it all worked out, don’t you? But David isn’t cooperating.”
“He won’t hit me. He’s just a wimp.”
“I could hit you.”
Jared stared at Paul. “You wouldn’t.”
“I could spank you.”
“You can’t. It’s in the agreement. Mother can’t, and no one else can either.”
“Oh? Well, what does your mother do when you do something that you know is wrong?”
Jared’s light eyebrows scrunched together as he glared at Paul. “You can’t ground me, or send me to my room.”
“Come on.” Paul stood. “We’re going to tell your grandfather that you need to spend some time in your room. I don’t want to ever catch you hitting or throwing rocks at David again. I also don’t want to hear you calling him names and mocking him. I’m sure your mother will agree with me.”
“He’s seven years older than me. He wouldn’t need to hide behind you if he wasn’t such a wimp.”
“He’s not a wimp. You should be glad he doesn’t want to hurt you, because he could hurt you pretty badly. Are you going to get up on your own or do you need help?”
Jared took his time pushing himself off the ground before following Paul into the house.
“Sorry to bail out on you, Rob. But I’ve got to take Jared home. Come on, David.”
“I will stay here,” David said with the same hard look he had given Paul when he came into the house.
“David.” Paul approached him.
David retreated into the living room.
Paul followed, and fear filled David’s features. “David,” Paul repeated softly, hoping to reassure him. “You can stay, but we have to talk later. Jared was lying. I’m taking him home to be grounded to his room for a while.” He started to turn back to the kitchen and then paused and looked back at David. “And David, I do love you better.” It had been hard to say it but he knew David needed to hear it. He could tell it had surprised him, but he turned away and left.
At home Paul sent Jared straight to his room before he went into the office. The curtains were still tied back.
Beth saw him and started to rise from the recliner. “What happened?”
“Sit down.” When she complied he told her all that he had witnessed from the window. “Did you know this was happening?”
“I… not to that extent.” Beth shook her head. “I grounded him last fall for harassing David when Billy was hurt. I told David not to let Jared pick on him. I told him to come to me. He hasn’t said anything has been happening. I don’t even understand what Jared hopes to gain by picking on David. He could be hurt, and it’d be his own fault.”
“He wants David to hit him, Beth. He wants you to be forced to make David leave.”
“No. I will never make David leave. I don’t care what you or anyone else says, David belongs here. Jared doesn’t even want to be here. If he doesn’t like it he can… he can….” She started crying.
“I’m not making David leave.”
“I’m not suggesting you do.” Paul crouched down beside her and placed his hand on her shoulder.
Beth looked at him through her tears. “What are you suggesting?”
“Nothing, Beth. I have no experience with children. I just know that David needs you. I think the reason he doesn’t come to you with this is because he believes that you’ll always choose Jared over him because Jared is your real son. It’s what Jared tells him.”
“I wouldn’t. David is my real son. I understand him. We get along well together. Jared is his father’s son. I don’t understand him at all. He just wants to try to control me, all my time and attention, and when he has it, he doesn’t want it.”
Paul wondered if she realized how much she just told him about her marriage. If she was right, was Jared’s coolness toward her an act to try to control her? Either way she must feel that she had lost him completely. Paul rubbed her shoulder softly.
Beth put her hands together in front of her mouth. “David has been hurt so much, and he’s still not safe in his own home. He’d probably be better off with you or Dylan, but I’m so selfish. I want him with me. I love him so much.”
Paul didn’t know how it happened, but he was holding her as she cried with the chair arm between them.
“I’m sorry, Paul. I’m sorry.”
“Sssh. It’s all right. It sounds like you’ve been going through this alone for a long time without anyone who really understands that you and David belong together.” When Beth pulled away from him, he looked in her eyes. “You can’t send David to live with anyone else no matter how much better that place may seem. You’re the only one he trusts. If you send him away, he may never trust again. He needs you. He needs that strong will of yours to fight to keep him.”
Tears filled her eyes again. “You’re the only one who understands. Everyone else thinks Jared needs special attention, and I do try to give it to him. But Paul, he has a daddy, and he has a mommy, and it isn’t me.”
“I know. I met them.”
“You saw Wes and Alisa?”
“Jared called her mommy, didn’t he?”
Paul hesitated before agreeing. He thought she would start crying again, but she swallowed hard and took a few deep breaths. He handed her a tissue, and she wiped her face.
“The custody battle never really ended. It just went underground. Wes wants Jared completely. Sometimes I think I should just give in. He’s won his heart, his emotions. But then I remember that if Jared doesn’t come here he won’t ever go to church. He won’t ever learn about God, except when Rob can talk to him some. And I can just hope that while he hates church now, that maybe someday when the time is right the Word he is learning will come back to him, and God will use it to change his heart. That’s really the only reason I make him endure my presence.”
“Oh, Beth,” Paul said softly. He wanted to hold her again, but she sat stiffly against the other side of the chair. He wished he could say something — give her some words of comfort. But what was there to say? “I understand.”
Beth looked at him before her eyes started to close. She jerked them open again. “I think I should rest.”
“Yes, of course.” Paul felt her forehead. It was warm again. He picked her up.
She smiled. “Don’t you ever get tired of babying me like this?”
“No, not really,” Paul said, and realized it was true. It made him feel needed in a way that the military never had. Beth and David both made him feel needed. He took her to her bed and then got her medicine for her. “Get some sleep, and don’t worry. I’ll check on Jared and make sure everything is okay.”
“Thank you, Paul. I keep saying that, don’t I?”
He smiled. “You don’t have to. I do understand, you know.”
“You understand that I’ll be in your debt forever.”
“Yes. But don’t worry. If I ever need a shoulder I’ll come to you to collect payment.”
“You better do that, Paul.”
He just grinned and turned off her light, leaving the room.
Paul talked to Jared for a few minutes and then returned to the office to work until he heard David come home. He turned to watch him.
David started for his room and then came to him. “Where is Jared?”
“In his room.”
“Sleeping. Sit down, David.” Paul indicated that he should use the chair that Beth had been sitting in.
David studied him and then sat.
Paul knew that he had to tell David what he thought, no matter how difficult it was for him to say it. David needed to hear it. “I meant what I said, David. I love you. You have become like a son to me — like a beloved son in the faith. It is interesting that your middle name is Timothy because I’ve been thinking about Paul and Timothy’s relationship since I’ve been here. Paul found a boy who shared his love of the gospel and who wanted to know more. Timothy worked with Paul, and Paul loved him as a son. David, I feel like that is how we are. We work well together, and we both love our Lord. And maybe I’m stretching the connection because of our names, but I really would love to consider you my son, and… and maybe someday you’ll be able to consider me a father.”
David didn’t say anything, but sat motionless watching Paul, listening.
Paul struggled to continue. David wasn’t making this easy. “Jared’s wrong. You belong here, David, with Beth. She loves you very much. She is your mommy. You’re special to her. Alisa is Jared’s mommy. Don’t ever believe Jared when he says that Beth doesn’t love you as much as him. She loves you more. You’re her beloved son in the faith, just as I feel you’re mine.” Paul didn’t know what else to say.
David still watched him, not speaking.
“Just think about it, David.”
Paul started to turn back to the computer, but then remembered David’s reactions to Jared. “There is one other thing. I don’t want you to let Jared treat you that way.”
“I don’t want to hurt him.”
“I know, but you don’t have to hurt him to stop him. If he tries to hit you, grab his hands so he can’t move. If he throws stones go to him and stop him. You can also grab him behind his neck. It will be uncomfortable enough to make him stop, but it will not hurt him.” Paul tried to demonstrate first on an imaginary Jared and then on his own neck, but his hand was at the wrong angle. He noticed David looking beyond him. Beth stood in the doorway. “Do you agree, Beth?”
“Yes. I don’t want you hurt, David. You must stop him physically. But you can also tell him that he will be grounded when you are forced to do that, and I will back you up. It’s crazy. You shouldn’t feel threatened in your own home.”
David stood, moving out of the way so that Beth could sit in the chair, but she didn’t.
She placed her hands on his arms and looked into his eyes. Then she wrapped her arms around him and held him. “I love you, David. You are my son. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not. This is your home. You belong here. I am going to tell Jared that you have the authority to ground him and that he is grounded for the rest of this visit and the next. When he speaks rudely to you, David, you must send him to his room for ten minutes just as I do, even if you have to grab his hands and the back of his neck, like Paul said, and force him there.”
David backed away a step and shook his head. “If I touch him at all his dad will make it so he can never see you again. Then you will hate me.”
“I will never hate you. And don’t worry about what Wes will or will not do. He doesn’t have as much power over me as Jared likes to think.” Beth left to talk to Jared.
“Come on, David,” Paul said. “Let’s get dinner started.”
The rest of the evening went fairly well. Jared was quiet when he came from his room, but he kept looking at David suspiciously. David hid in his room right after dinner and avoided any chance to exercise his new authority. After both David and Jared were in bed, Beth went into the office, and she and Paul discussed what they planned to do for David’s birthday.
Sunday, April 7th
The next day Paul drove them all to church, and David played the piano. Paul enjoyed worshipping next to Beth, listening to her enthusiastic singing until her weakness forced her to stay seated. Jared only distracted him a little and settled down after a short command with Paul’s hand on the back of his neck.
Afterward Paul took them out to eat. Beth tried to pay, but Paul wouldn’t let her. “But Paul, you’re doing too much. The least I can do is pay for you to be here.”
“No. I pay my own way.”
“Beth, I said no. You won’t win this one.”
Beth clamped her mouth shut.
He could tell she wasn’t happy, and she was also in pain. He should have taken her home and gone to get take-out. On the way to the car he tried to talk to her again. “You’re mad at me.”
“You’re too macho, Paul.”
“You can’t accept anything from anyone, can you?” She got into the car and slammed the door with more force than he thought she’d have, being in pain. But perhaps the pain fueled her anger.
David got into the car behind her. “Mom?”
Beth didn’t say anything. Paul drove in silence. When they were almost home, Beth said meekly, “I’m sorry, Paul. I guess I’m feeling extremely guilty for taking up all your time. I just don’t understand why you keep doing things for me. I don’t deserve all this special treatment.”
Paul pulled into the driveway. He waited until Jared hopped out of the car before he turned to Beth. “Beth, I know how you must be feeling. It’s hard to be ill and dependent on someone else when you’re used to being so independent. But, please, just accept it. Humor a lonely man for a little while longer, okay?” He hadn’t meant to say that last line. And after he said it, he realized he really had been lonely for so long, but she didn’t need to know it, did she?
“You’re not mad at me?”
“Your insults have devastated me. Being called macho and self-contained is a little too much for my ego.” He tried to fight his grin, but didn’t succeed.
Beth laughed. “Oh, Paul. Sometimes I think I could love you too easily.”
Really? She’d never know how much he felt the same way.
In the house, Beth and David went into the office, and Paul began to follow. “You don’t want to go in there, do you? They’re just going to sing church songs.” Jared grabbed his hand. “Let’s do something else.”
“No. I’d like to join them, if that’s what they’re doing.”
Jared rolled his eyes in disgust but followed him into the room.
Afterward Beth took a nap, and David continued to play the piano. Paul decided to log on to the computer and see what was happening at the various web sites he frequented.
Jared sat beside him and asked a lot of questions, mostly out of boredom. Someone came on the porch, and Jared rushed to answer the door. “Keith! I can’t believe you’re here.”
“Wait a minute. You’re not bringing presents for David, are you?”
“But what about me?”
“When it’s your birthday, I’ll bring you something, too. Where is David?”
“At the piano. Let’s do something. It’s so boring here.”
“You’re not grounded again, are you?”
“How did you know?”
“Why do you keep getting yourself grounded? We could have done all kinds of neat things. Are you grounded from the computer this time?”
“No. But Paul is using it. He’s not even playing a game or working.”
“Paul?” Paul turned to watch Jared drag a young man into the office. “Hey, you’re Paul Israel. I recognize you from David’s pictures. I’m Keith Jensen, the one who had to force Beth to sign on the first time.”
Paul stood to shake Keith’s hand. “Good to meet you, Keith. Missed you at the conference.”
“Yeah, well, you know how instructors are. They won’t conveniently schedule their exams when you want them to. Where’s Beth?”
“Bed? In the middle of the afternoon? She must be sick.”
“She had her ‘pendix out,” Jared said. “She’s been sleeping a lot.”
“You’re kidding? Mom and Dad didn’t say anything last night… Beth hasn’t told them, has she, David?”
“I… I don’t know.”
“Dylan’s going to be upset.”
“About what?” said Beth, coming into the office.
“You not letting them know you were sick.”
“I haven’t had the time.”
“Call them now.”
“Keith, it’s David’s birthday.”
“You don’t mind waiting, do you, David?”
Keith went to the phone and dialed the number. After he greeted his parents he told them about Beth’s appendix.
“Elizabeth! Why didn’t you call?” Dylan asked. “You could have let me return the favor and help you out.”
“I would have sent him, Beth,” Kathy said.
“If I had the brains to call anyone it would have been an ambulance. I know you’d want to help, but isn’t it a little out of the way for you to drive me to the hospital.”
“You know what I mean, Beth. I could have come and stayed with David. I’m not touring right now, and you know it.”
“Well, God provided as you know He always does.”
They talked for a while about the details of Beth’s illness and then Dylan asked, “Has David opened his presents yet?”
“No. And if we don’t hang up soon it will be midnight before he does. I promise I’ll call back when I don’t have quite so many people in the house.”
“You’ve company? Well, promise you will call back sometime tomorrow.”
“Okay, Dylan, Kathy. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” After they were finished, Beth turned to Keith. “Happy now?”
“Yes. Now Dylan can’t yell at me for not letting him know as soon as I found out.”
“I always knew you were a spy.”
“Oh, Beth,” Keith said, clutching his heart. “You wound me, cruel woman.”
“She is rather free with those scathing insults, isn’t she?” Paul said, giving Beth a teasing grin as they walked toward the kitchen.
Paul watched David intently. He was always quiet, and the party was no exception. He opened his gift from Keith carefully and thanked him properly. After he had opened the razor from Paul he studied him and then said, “Thank you. Will you… will you show me the right way to use it.”
“Of course, David.”
There was a gift from Dylan and Kathy and computer software to help write and edit music from Beth. She had told Paul that she wanted to wait until after Jared left to give David the keyboard. When Rob came to pick up Jared he left David a tool box to start his tool collection.
That night after everyone left, Paul carried the keyboard from Beth’s closet to David’s room while David and Beth talked in the office. Paul set it up, and David found it when he went to get ready for bed.
That night Beth suggested that Paul might be more comfortable sleeping in Jared’s bed than on the couch. Paul moved his luggage out of David’s crowded room into Jared’s.
Monday, April 8th thru Thursday, April 11th
The next morning Paul showed David how to use his new razor. Then they went into David’s room and worked out together. Paul demonstrated the proper way to use the new weights he had gotten him. “Thank you for helping me protect myself,” David said. “I will try to never hurt anyone.”
“I know that, David.”
The keyboard was moved into the office that morning and set near the piano. It was getting a little crowded in there, but so was his room. Beth would kill him if he suggested helping to buy them a house so they’d have more room. Paul thought about saying it was because he was acting as David’s father, but then guessed that would still be considered far too macho.
He smiled at the memory. He had been surprised at her outburst but more than understood what had prompted it. And she was right. He did have a hard time accepting anything, but so did she. He wished there was some way he could help her out. She could probably buy a house if she didn’t have so much invested in computer equipment and now music equipment. David’s schooling cost her enough, also. But she needed the computer equipment for work, and David’s talent in music definitely needed feeding. And this school situation was probably the only way he could learn right now. She certainly hadn’t wasted any extra money on her car. He wished he could replace the nine year old Cavalier. He’d have to think of something.
Jay called to move David into seventh grade. Paul and David stopped by the school to pick up the books while they were on Beth’s rounds. Jay was not pleased to see that Paul was still around, but he was too polite to indicate it by anything other than a tightening in his jaw.
That week Beth began joining them at the breakfast table, and they studied together after eating. Then she would go over David’s school work with him. Next they would go to the office and work together. Sometimes Beth worked on her laptop while Paul used the main computer, and sometimes she just gave advice to Paul and David while she rested in the recliner. Beth made sure that David worked on his studies and his music before he helped Paul with her work.
Every night after David went to bed, Paul and Beth stayed up talking for an hour or two. He could sometimes hear David sneak into the living room to listen behind the curtain, but he never mentioned it. He and Elizabeth talked about theology or the work they were doing together. Once Paul told her a little about his work in the army. Beth told him more about the people he had met. It wasn’t until then that it clicked that Dylan was Dylan Trent whose CDs he had. Then quite a few of her comments about him finally made sense.
Paul couldn’t believe how hard Thursday night was for him. He knew he’d never have an excuse to stay with her and David again. Next time he visited he would have to get a hotel room. He had been pushing the line on propriety by staying this time, but justified it by telling himself that she was sick and needed him.
It was after midnight, but he kept finding things to talk about. He wondered if she felt the same way, because every time there was a lull in the conversation she never suggested going to sleep.
During one lull he searched his mind desperately for one last thing to talk about. He looked around the room and noticed again the tightness of all the items in it. “Beth, um, since David is now like a son to me, I wondered if you’d let me….” Her expression suddenly became guarded, and he wasn’t sure if he should continue. “I mean, you know when a father doesn’t live with his child he usually sends some kind of monetary support to help out. Would you mind if I started sending….”
“No, Paul. I don’t need any help.”
“But Beth, I know it’s costing you a lot for all you’ve done for him and all you continue to do. The schooling, the musical instruments, the computer, and he’s going to be driving soon, isn’t he? The insurance will go up.”
“Paul, I’m doing fine. I don’t need any help, and I don’t want it. If you send me any money, I’ll just send it back.”
“Why? The government pays me well enough. If I don’t spend it on David, I’ll just waste it somewhere else.”
“Paul, please. Don’t fight with me on this. I already owe you for two weeks’ worth of work. In fact, I should write you a check now.” She started to get up.
“Wait a minute, Beth. I didn’t help you because I expected anything. I will not take a penny from you. You need the money far more than I do.”
“I can take care of myself, Zachariah Paul Israel, and I can take care of David. You act like I’m on the verge of bankruptcy. Well, I’m not. I don’t need anyone’s charity.”
“I didn’t realize you felt so strongly. But please do not try to pay me for the work I did here. I did not consider it charity.”
“Oh, Paul. I’m sorry,” Beth said, suddenly contrite. “I don’t want to fight with you. I really do appreciate everything you’ve done. I’m not even behind on anything now. Paul….” She put her hand in front of her mouth. They were silent, and he could tell she was trying not to cry. “Paul, I’m really going to miss you.” She got up quickly, and holding her healing side, she almost ran from the room.
Paul leaned his head back on the chair, looked at the ceiling, and took a deep breath. He was going to miss her, too. Beth and David. He took the most recent picture of her and one of David from her photo albums and ran them through the scanner. After printing them, he turned off the equipment and cut out the pictures from the larger piece of paper, placing them in his wallet. Finally he forced himself to go to Jared’s room and try to get some sleep. O Lord, if only things were different. If only… if only….
Friday, April 12th
He dreamed he was on fire again and awoke in a cold sweat as the pale dawn light threw the room into hazy shadows. Paul knew he couldn’t go back to sleep, so he got up and started for the bathroom to shower. He was surprised when he found David was already up.
“I couldn’t sleep,” David said in response to his query.
“Neither could I.”
“Do you… do you want to use the equipment?”
How had he known that’s what Paul needed? “Thanks.” Paul followed David into his room and lifted the weights in repetitions until he felt some of the tension leave him. He knew David watched him as David used the hand held weights, but it didn’t matter. He ended with repetitions with his legs. He thanked David again and went to take the shower he had started for.
Afterward Paul took all his things from the bathroom and packed them back in his suitcase. Then he went to the kitchen to have a cup of coffee.
Soon David joined him, hair still wet from his shower. David had never drank coffee with him before, but he poured himself a cup now and sat down at the table with him. He didn’t seem at all surprised by the taste, so Paul assumed he’d had it before. “I’ll miss you, David.”
David took another sip of his coffee. “I will miss you. Thank you for helping Elizabeth.”
“I wish I could help her more, but she won’t let me.”
David nodded slightly.
That’s right. He’d still been listening on the other side of the curtain when he’d asked her. “You’ll tell me if either of you ever need anything, won’t you?”
David hesitated and then nodded again.
They sat in silence for a few minutes. “Please write whether you need anything or not.”
Beth came out to join them. Paul started to get up to make breakfast, but she placed a hand on his arm. “Let me, please,” she said softly.
He almost protested, but he saw her eyes, and they were pleading. He wasn’t sure why it was important to her, but he gave in. After breakfast and Bible study he took his luggage to the car.
They stood out there awkwardly. He gave into the impulse and hugged her tightly. She hugged him back, and he knew he held her longer than he should have. When they finally pulled apart her eyes were wet.
Paul looked at David. “May I?” He lifted his arms slightly. It surprised him when David came to him and held him as Beth had done. He hugged him back. “I won’t forget that you are my son now, David,” he whispered.
David backed away a few steps when Paul released him. Then he nodded.
That was as much confirmation as he’d ever get. Paul got into the car and drove away from them.
Go to Chapter 27
© 2013, 1995 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.