Chapter 30 – Elizabeth
Friday, June 14th
When Paul took Elizabeth’s hand and led her out to dance she forgot about everything else. They spoke little but continuously stared into each other’s eyes, moving to the music. She had become adept at reading David’s eyes, because he rarely spoke, and she was sure that she read love and longing in Paul’s eyes now. The music changed several times, but she didn’t notice. Then it slowed, and he put his arms around her waist. As she leaned against him, she knew she wanted to stay in his arms forever.
Then Saul was with them. “I hate to interrupt you two, but it’s after nine and, we’ve got to get the kids out of here.”
Kids? What? Where had all these people come from? Oh no. “David. Where’s David?”
“I don’t know. He took off about ten minutes ago.”
“Why didn’t you get me before this?” Paul asked.
Elizabeth ran back to the table and looked around. Where was he? Where would he go? Outside. He must be outside. She grabbed her purse and took off as Paul reached her. She was barely aware that he was following her. Outside she paused. Paul stood beside her. “The car! Where is the car?” she asked in panic.
Paul pointed the direction, and then she remembered it was a tan Grand Am she was looking for and not a red Cavalier. She ran through the lot to the car. Where was he? Elizabeth circled the car and found David sitting on the ground near the front passenger side tire. He had his legs drawn up to his chin.
David jumped up and clutched onto her. Tremors of terror shook his body. Someone shouted to someone else a little ways away. David’s tremors increased.
“Paul, open the car. Let’s get out of here.”
Paul unlocked it as he told Saul that he would meet him back at the hotel.
When the door could open, Elizabeth climbed into the back seat with David. She barely saw Paul’s surprised look. He got in and started the car.
“I’m so sorry, David. I didn’t notice the crowd. I… the music… oh, David, I’m sorry.” They rode in silence, and Elizabeth held him close, waiting for the shaking to subside.
“She wanted to have sex with me,” he cried.
“Who did?” Paul asked, pulling into an empty parking lot. He stopped the car and turned to face them.
“I don’t know who she was.” David began trembling again.
Elizabeth pulled him close. “I’m sorry, Honey. I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault, Mommy. You never touch me there. You don’t pinch me like that.”
“Oh, David.” Elizabeth, felt rotten. She’d been enjoying herself while her precious son was molested by a stranger. After all he’d been through. She felt tears come and couldn’t stop them. She held him tightly.
“David, Beth. I’m really sorry. I didn’t realize how late it was. I didn’t even think about this when Dad suggested this place. We always come here. But at six o’clock we should have been finished long before the night crowd came. I’m sorry. I didn’t think.”
“Mom, why did she do that? Why did she pinch my butt? She couldn’t have had sex with me there, could she? She couldn’t have taken me anywhere. I’m stronger than her. You and Paul would have stopped her if she sent her friends after me, right?”
“Oh, David. I don’t know why she would do that to you.” She wasn’t going to tell him that she’d been so wrapped up in Paul that she wouldn’t have noticed. Oh God, forgive me for not protecting this precious boy you’ve given me. Forgive me for lusting Paul.
“David, it’s usually not common this early in the evening, and most times it’s the men grabbing the women’s behinds, but some women figure it can go both ways. She probably just thought you were a good looking guy and never realized you were only fifteen. It doesn’t necessarily mean that she was ready to haul you into bed, either. Although it does mean you might have had the choice.”
“But God doesn’t like that.”
“No, David. I’m sure He doesn’t. I’m just explaining what happened and what happens when people have too much to drink and get together like this. I’m really sorry this happened to you. Please forgive me.” Paul watched David a long time, but David never responded. Paul finally turned around and refastened his seat belt. He drove them in silence back to the hotel.
When they arrived Saul and his family were waiting in the lounge. Saul came to David as they entered. “Why don’t you go bring the kinnor down and show me if your father is just letting off hot air about your talent?”
David turned to Elizabeth. “I need the key.”
“Are you ready to play, Sweetheart?” she whispered. “Or do you just want to call it a night, and we can go up together.”
“I will play.” He seemed resigned now, as if he had no more emotion to spare, but knew his fate was sealed.
Elizabeth wanted to protect him, but didn’t know how or from what. She handed him the key, and he left.
Paul touched her elbow. She turned to face him and found herself looking into his eyes again. They were troubled this time. She wondered if she had imagined the love and longing in them earlier. “Yes?”
Paul led her a little way from the group. “I won’t blame you if you leave in the morning. With what happened to David, and the way I… I touched you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I promise I’ll never do it again. I don’t want to lose your friendship over this, but I know neither of you should be treated like that.”
He was promising to never hold her close again? Why? It must be it wasn’t love in his eyes at all. It was just the memory of past sins. Left over lust. She wanted to run upstairs and hide in her room to release the tension her shattered emotions were exerting, but there was no place to be alone. She stood stiff and stared straight ahead, willing herself not to give in to them. She didn’t want him to know how much it hurt. He warned her how many times, and her heart refused to listen. She had made up stories about his eyes, pretending lust was love, and she had ignored her beloved son for this fantasy.
David came back down with the kinnor in its case and went directly to her. He grabbed her hand, and she knew he needed her support now to help him have the courage to face Saul. Elizabeth walked with David over to the furniture where Saul and the rest of them were sitting. She didn’t see Paul’s eyes or the pain in them. She didn’t even realize that she hadn’t responded to him.
David pulled a hard chair away from the wall and brought it next to an empty soft chair. His eyes asked Elizabeth to sit next to him in the soft chair. She did. He pulled out the kinnor and tuned it briefly.
“So you will play for me,” Saul said, teasing him.
“Only if you don’t have a spear.”
“Spear?” Then Saul laughed. “That’s good, David.”
“That wasn’t funny,” Sheila said. “Why would you have a spear?”
“He’s referring to King Saul who tried to pin David to the wall, what was it? twice? with a spear.” He turned back to David. “Your dad said you knew your Bible.”
“I still don’t think it was funny.”
“Don’t worry about her, David. She’s a tough audience.”
David reached for Elizabeth’s hand briefly. She squeezed it. His humor had surprised her, but David wasn’t smiling. He was worried that Saul would attack him because of the dent.
Then David began. He played the two songs he had played for Paul, and then he kept playing. His eyes were closed, and he seemed to be aware of nothing else. He was making it up as he went along. It was his emotions he was playing.
Elizabeth looked around the room to see how the others were reacting. Saul seemed a bit awed. Sheila hung on his arm and watched, but tried not to appear too interested, especially when she caught Elizabeth looking at her. Holly, that shy girl who had barely spoken all evening, sat forward in her chair, watching David intently. She was a year and a half older than him, but she was looking at him just like Becky did.
Elizabeth looked back at her son critically. He did have that dark wavy hair and large brown eyes. His features weren’t too coarse or too fine. In fact he was very handsome in her opinion which she didn’t think was too biased. Elizabeth returned to her study of the people. Greg was lounging back tapping his fingers against the arm of the chair. She could tell it was not in time to the music.
Then her gaze came to Paul. He sat a little apart. He watched David, and then he looked at her. Their eyes met, and she thought she saw pain. Why? She continued to meet his gaze. What was he asking? He was so alone over there. If he were closer… Stop it! She was making up fantasies with his eyes again. She turned to David and then couldn’t resist the urge to look back at Paul. He still watched her.
The music ceased, and Elizabeth looked at David. His eyes were on Saul. Saul started clapping. So did Holly. Then the night clerk at the desk across the room and a couple he had been assigning a room clapped, also. David was surprised.
“Zach, he is as gifted as you said. David, that was great. I can only imagine what you’d do with a large harp. Maybe I’ll get you one of those next time.”
“What do you mean next time, Saul?” Sheila asked. “You’re not buying him expensive musical instruments. You have kids of your own to buy for.”
“I can do both. It’s a grandfather’s job to spoil his grandchildren. And with David I wouldn’t even be spoiling him. It’d be like investing in his career. Right, David?”
“You’re not buying him expensive gifts. Let Zach waste his money if he wants to.”
David watched them argue. Then he placed the kinnor in its case and took it over to Saul. Saul looked up as David handed it to him. Then David turned and walked down the hall toward the steps to their room.
Saul watched him depart and then looked at Elizabeth in confusion. “What just happened? Where is he going?”
“To bed, I imagine.”
“But what about his kinnor.”
Elizabeth studied him. She knew how much David had enjoyed the gift, but she guessed that Sheila’s rudeness had prompted its return. “What do you think, Saul?”
Saul got up. “Which room?”
“305.” Saul followed David with the kinnor.
“Saul, what do you think you’re doing?” Sheila asked. He ignored her and kept going. Sheila turned to Paul. “If you want to adopt children you should provide for them and leave him out of it.”
“He sent it on his own. I did not ask him to. Just because you hate me is no reason to treat David so rudely. He didn’t deserve that. If you were upset about Dad’s spending you should have waited until you were alone.”
“Don’t tell me how to run my marriage. You couldn’t manage your own for three years.”
Paul stood and walked out the front lobby door. Where was he going? What time would he come by tomorrow? What did they have planned? Then she remembered his words, “I won’t blame you if you leave in the morning.” Did he expect them to leave? Then she realized she hadn’t told him that she didn’t blame him for what happened tonight. It was just as much her fault.
Sheila was saying something, but Elizabeth didn’t hear her as she left the lobby and went up to her room. She realized she didn’t have the key and knocked. Saul let her in. Then he went to sit on the bed that David sat on with his arms around his knees. The kinnor was between them. David acknowledged her with his eyes but didn’t move.
“David, I don’t understand. Most kids wouldn’t give Sheila a second thought. Why are you letting her come between you and this kinnor which you obviously must have liked to have learned how to play so well in such a short time? Is it me? Have you decided that Zach and I aren’t for you, and you’re cutting the ties? Tell me.”
“Look at it. Then you won’t want to be my grandfather. Then you would wish you had spears.”
Saul looked at Elizabeth. She sat next to David, placing a hand on his shoulder. “My younger son knows how much it means to David, and he managed to put a dent in the back. David is afraid you’ll be upset with him.”
Saul opened the case and studied the instrument. It took him a few minutes to find the place Elizabeth had referred to.
“Jared has been jealous, for lack of a better word, ever since David came to live with me.”
Saul looked back at David. “It least he didn’t break it. You play it well, and I’m glad I gave it to you. I want you to keep it. Maybe you’ll play for me again sometime. And David, don’t mind Sheila. Half the things she says are just to get to me, not anyone else. This marriage is a tremendous power struggle, but she will not win. She will never control my money or how I spend it, even after I die. Zach is my son and my best friend. What’s important to him is important to me. That will not change no matter how much she dislikes him. So don’t let her words bother you. You either, Beth. I know she was a little rude to you earlier.”
A pounding on the door interrupted them. “Are you in there, Saul?”
“Speak of the devil and who should arrive. I’ll see you both tomorrow.” Saul started for the door and then stopped. “Do you know what we have planned for tomorrow?”
“I’ll go down and ask Zach.”
“He left. He and Sheila had words.”
“Great. I’ll have to call him. I’ll let you know what’s up at breakfast.” Saul left.
David stared after him and then looked at Elizabeth. “You knew he wouldn’t hurt me.” He almost seemed surprised.
“I told you he wouldn’t.”
“But he drank alcohol.”
Elizabeth caressed David’s arm, realizing he’d only been exposed to people who abused the drink. “He only had one glass tonight. Paul knows him best, and he trusts him. And we trust Paul, don’t we?”
David didn’t answer right away.
“Not everyone who takes a drink gets drunk, Sweetheart. Remember, Jesus turned water to wine. It’s okay. It’s not okay to get drunk.” She kissed his forehead. “Let’s get ready for bed.”
That night David had severe nightmares repeatedly as Elizabeth suspected he might. She was up, holding him, most of the night. Somewhere before dawn as she rested and held David on the couch she started wondering about why Paul didn’t want to get married. What reason could a man have for never wanting to marry? Granted the bad past marriage and his father’s remarriage were great discouragements. But twenty years? What if… No. She saw Paul in her mind again. No. she didn’t think he was impotent. Of course when his face was hurt… but no. He seemed too familiar with bars and dancing and picking up women.
Maybe he had some incurable sexually transmitted disease from his sinful past, and he didn’t feel he could ask a woman to share that with him. She wondered if it was AIDS. No. He couldn’t stay in the military then, could he? Something a little painful and annoying, but not fatal. Her knowledge of sexually transmitted diseases was limited to the ones with the most press, but even those she knew little about. Yes. He really loved her, but he couldn’t because…
Oh, you stupid fantasy maker, she chastised herself. You just want an excuse to pretend he’s really desiring you as much as you want him. Face it. He’s not attracted to you in that way. He just wants a friend, and his hormones got the best of him on the dance floor. Why was she so obsessed with this man? That was easy. He was the only guy she’d ever met that has met every one of her silly qualifications except one. That one being that he loved her to distraction and would never leave her or do anything to hurt her like Wes did.
Elizabeth fell asleep with David in her arms.
Saturday, June 15th
She awoke a couple hours later to a knock on the door. Daylight came in through the window, and she looked around blinking. The knock came again. David stirred, and Elizabeth managed to get off the couch. David sat up, watching her as she pulled her robe over her pajamas. She looked out the peek hole in the door and saw Saul in the hallway. She opened the door.
“Hi. Rise and shine. We’re going to the Smithsonian. Zach will be here in about a half hour. We’ll all go in my van.”
Elizabeth caught herself yawning and forced her mouth closed. Saul laughed and she smiled sleepily at him. “Thanks for the warning.”
Elizabeth and David rushed through their showers. She was still blow drying her hair when there was another knock on the door. David answered it, and Paul came in. She turned off the dryer. “I’m sorry we’re running behind. I didn’t know what time we were supposed to get up.”
Elizabeth set down her comb. “You want us to, don’t you?”
“Yes, of course. You’re not mad at me?”
“No. Should I be?”
Paul studied her and then relaxed. “I hope not, but I warned you a while ago I hadn’t had too many close friends, so I’m never sure how bad I’m messing up.”
“Close friends will always forgive each other for messing up.”
“Thank you.” Paul turned to David. “Do you forgive me?”
“Everything. Last night.”
“I don’t know what you did wrong.”
Paul looked from one to the other. Then he laughed. “You know I was awake half the night wondering if you two would forgive me, and you both act like nothing happened.”
“It’s a good thing Saul is driving, because it sounds like none of us got much sleep.”
“Why couldn’t you sleep, Beth?” Paul asked her seriously.
Elizabeth looked at David. She didn’t know if she should say anything.
“I had nightmares.”
There was another knock on the door. “Come on, you guys. We won’t have time to see anything if you don’t hurry,” Sheila called.
They left, and Paul had his father go through a drive-thru so David and Elizabeth could eat.
“You won’t let us eat in here,” Greg complained.
“Well, he’s obviously changed the rules, so next time you’ll be able to Greg,” said Sheila. “I can’t believe you two wore long sleeved shirts again.” She indicated Paul and David with a sweep of her hand. “It’s going to be almost ninety degrees today.”
“We’ll be in the air conditioning so it doesn’t really matter, does it?” Paul said.
Elizabeth wished they weren’t trapped in a van with the disagreeable woman.
After they arrived at the Museum of Natural History, it was so large that they agreed if anyone got separated from the group that they’d meet at the cafeteria at 11:30. Elizabeth and David took that as an excuse to wander away from the others. Paul stayed with them, and soon it was just the three of them. After lunch they pulled the same trick.
After wandering through as much of the museum as they could in the allotted time, they headed back toward the entrance. The others were late, so they looked through the gift shop. David seemed intrigued with the stones and gems. As he looked at the large cut agate geode bookends Paul came up beside him. “What are you thinking about?”
“Which ones do you like, David?” Elizabeth asked.
“I don’t know. What do you think, Paul?”
“I’m always partial to brown. It goes with everything. But then the blue is nice, also. Pick out whichever ones you like for your room. I’ll get you a set.”
“You don’t have to do that. I have money.”
“Save it. Come on, David. Let me do things for you. Let me be your dad.”
David looked at him and then studied the bookends. He finally chose a blue set with a nice crystal formation. He handed them to Paul as Saul and his family came into the shop.
David flashed him one of his rare smiles. “Thank you.”
They went back to Paul’s apartment where David’s keyboard was still set up. When Saul saw it he insisted that David play it. Greg was much more interested in this instrument than he had the harp. He sat close to him and kept asking him questions. Since Greg was close, Holly went to sit next to him, also. Elizabeth could see David becoming tense, especially when he was interrupted so often. Finally David left the keyboard, and Elizabeth knew he was hiding in the bathroom.
Back at the hotel room, as they both lay in their respective beds, David said. “I left Paul’s Father’s Day card and his bookmarks on his bed. I had it in with some of my sheet music over there. Is that okay?”
“I’m sure it’s fine.”
“Why do they have to keep bothering me?”
“Holly and Greg? They like you.”
“You and Paul like me, but you don’t keep bothering me like that.”
“Well, I’m sure they didn’t mean any harm.”
“I suppose.” He paused. Right when she was sure he must have fallen asleep, he said, “I’m glad you’re my mother and not Sheila.”
Sunday, June 16th
The next morning Paul again arrived before they were quite ready to leave the room. “I’m sorry. I was just anxious to come and thank you for your card and the bookmarks — all ten of them. I know you made the card, but some of the pictures on the bookmarks looked familiar, too, like the one with the kinnor on it.”
“Yes, I made them. Elizabeth helped me.”
“I bet she has all kinds of tricks of the trade that we didn’t even get near to learning.”
“Have you eaten, Paul?” Elizabeth asked, picking up her purse.
“I thought I’d eat with you two.”
“Then since it’s Father’s Day, we’ll treat you.”
Paul shook his head. “No. We’ve been here, Beth.”
“But this is a special occasion.”
“Doesn’t matter. Call me macho again if you want.”
“You… you man,” she said with a smile.
“Ow. The insults are getting worse.”
“I’d call you something else, but it wouldn’t put me in the proper attitude for worship.”
Paul smiled. “I’m glad it’s Sunday, then.”
They met Saul in the hall. There was an argument about whether Saul’s group would attend church with Zach, and this time Saul gave in to Sheila. They decided to meet up afterward at a restaurant for lunch.
They visited with Saul and his family for a couple hours at Paul’s apartment after church, but then Saul said he had to start back home. Sheila and the kids went down to the van to wait for him. “You picked a good son, Zach.” Saul turned to David. “I’m proud to be your grandfather, and you can bet I’ll be telling all my friends how great you are.” He gave David a hug which Elizabeth could tell he wasn’t prepared for but handled well. “Your mom’s a pretty neat lady also, isn’t she?”
Elizabeth was only slightly more prepared than David when Saul put a hand on her shoulder and leaned to kiss her cheek. “Take good care of my grandson for me.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Saul turned back to Paul. “If I don’t hear from you by the end of the week I’ll give you a call. Happy Father’s Day, Zach.”
Paul laughed. “Happy Father’s Day to you, Dad. Hang in there.”
Monday, June 17th
The next day they planned to go out to one of the parks, have a picnic, and walk some of the trails. Elizabeth talked David into wearing a short sleeved shirt since they would be outside in the heat all day. She was surprised to see that Paul wore a long-sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up to just below his elbows. That was odd. He must have some short-sleeved shirts.
As they sat and ate their lunch, Elizabeth saw Paul studying the scars on David’s arms. David rubbed his hands over them self-consciously.
Paul met David’s eyes. “I’ve seen quite a bit of wildlife on the trail we’re going to take. Do you think you have enough film?”
“I have two more rolls.”
“Good.” He started putting their picnic supplies away.
They hiked a long way in a generally upward direction. The dirt path sometimes angled so steeply Elizabeth was forced to grab the saplings and tree limbs along the path to help pull herself up. Occasionally Paul silently pointed at a flower, a bird or a small animal that Elizabeth would have missed. David adjusted his camera and took the picture. When they reached the end of the path, a stone shelf overlooked the valley below.
They sat on the rock outcropping to rest, David with his arms around his legs, Paul more loosely with his arms resting lightly on his knees. Elizabeth almost didn’t see it as she sat cross legged next to him, but the sun was shining on him. White lines crossed his lower left arm. Scars.
She looked away to the view before he could catch her. He was injured! Why was he hiding it? It was just like his face surgery. They never would have known if it weren’t for the pictures. Her strange thoughts from the other night came back to her. She tried not to speculate on the extent of his injuries, how he got them, and if he had completely recovered.
On the way back down the mountain they talked and joked. As they drove back toward the city, Elizabeth rested contentedly in the seat next to Paul. She could spend a million days like this and never get tired of it. Just the three of them.
Tuesday, June 18th
Tuesday morning Paul met them for breakfast on his way to the base. When they were seated he handed her a check. Elizabeth barely glanced at it, but saw it was for $1040. “Paul! I’m not taking this.” She thrust it back at him.
“Give me half a chance to explain. It’s not for you. It’s for David. I want to give him an allowance of twenty dollars a week. I was hoping you’d take care of it for me. This is for the whole year.”
“David already gets an allowance.”
“Use this money instead. Or give him both, I don’t care. But take it for him. If you don’t, I’ll just send him a check every week.”
Elizabeth studied him. Fine. She’d just raise the allowance she gave to twenty, also. He wouldn’t be able to get her on this. “For David.” She took the check and put it in her purse.
David had watched them intently. After the check was out of sight the tension left the air, and it was as if they had never disagreed.
They stood outside the restaurant, and Paul hugged David tightly. “I’ll miss you. I’ll try to visit even if it’s only for a couple days.”
Paul looked at Elizabeth. What was he asking with those eyes? “Do I get a hug, also?” she asked, shamelessly.
Paul hesitated and then grabbed her tightly. It surprised her when he sunk his face into her hair. “I’ll miss you, Beth, my very close friend,” he whispered hoarsely. “Please don’t be afraid to call.”
“You either, Paul. I l… I’ll miss you, too.”
As Elizabeth drove toward Tennessee she couldn’t help the tears that fell. David must have understood because he did not question her.
She had underestimated the time it would take to get through the mountains, and it was late evening when they reached Dylan and Kathy’s. “I hope it’s all right,” she said voicing her concern to David as they approached Westmoreland. “I didn’t call ahead of time.”
They arrived, and Kathy opened the door for them. “Beth! Where have you been? Jay’s been looking all over for you.” She ushered them into the living room. “Dylan, guess who’s here.”
“Jay?” Elizabeth asked. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. He couldn’t find you and got worried, so he called down here.”
“How’d he get your number?”
“I assumed you gave it to him,” Dylan said, coming into the room.
“No, I wouldn’t do that to you guys.”
Dylan shrugged. “No big deal. You probably should call him, though, so he doesn’t worry.”
“I haven’t memorized his number, and I don’t carry it with me.”
“No problem,” Kathy said. “He made sure that he left it. Do you want to call first or unload? Since Keith’s home, and we’re remodeling I wonder if you two would mind sleeping on the couches in here.”
“That’s fine. We don’t mean to cause a problem for you. We just thought we’d swing by for a night while we were road running.”
“Just for one night? Next time you have to promise to stay longer,” Kathy said. “Dylan, why don’t you help David with the luggage?”
“Yes, dear,” he said, teasingly. “Come on, David. You heard the boss.”
When Dylan and David went outside, Kathy said, “Come on. Let’s go call Jay. I’m curious about what was so important that he tried tracking you seven hundred miles.” She led Elizabeth to the music room.
“I hope it’s nothing bad about David’s schooling. I know he probably didn’t show as much improvement on this last test as he had been. There were just too many other things going on with me sick and all.”
“You don’t think he’d track you down for test results, do you?”
“I can’t imagine what else. Unless there’s been a change in David’s driver’s training. No use speculating.” Elizabeth picked up the phone and dialed the number that Kathy gave her. “Hi, Jay? What’s up?”
“Where are you? I’ve been worried about you.”
“I’m at Dylan and Kathy’s.”
“Don’t you tell anyone before you go out of town?”
“Yeah. I tell the post office and my clients. What’s the problem, Jay?”
“I just wanted to see you last Friday, and you were gone.”
“About what? Is anything wrong with David’s tests or his class?”
“It’s nothing like that, Elizabeth. I just wanted to see you. And when I couldn’t find you I was afraid you were back in the hospital.”
“No. I’m fine.”
“Where did you go?”
“What’s in… You went to see Paul?”
“He’s David’s father.”
“Who is David’s father?” Kathy said, listening to half the conversation. Elizabeth indicated that she’d explain later.
“Are you dating him?” Jay asked quietly.
Elizabeth wanted to lie. She was afraid of where this conversation was heading, but she didn’t. “No. Nothing’s changed since the last time you asked.”
“But it has. When are you coming home?”
“Tomorrow night or Thursday morning, but I’ll be swamped with work.”
“How about Friday night? Can you take a break and have dinner with me?”
“Jay, I….” Dylan and David came into the room and started setting up David’s keyboard. “Jay, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Why, Beth? You know I’ve been wanting to ask you out for a long time.”
“No. I didn’t know.”
“Just dinner. No commitment.”
“Jay, I just don’t think….”
“It’s Paul, isn’t it? Tell me the truth, Elizabeth.”
“I don’t know. Maybe if I’d never met him… He’s not interested, but Jay, I can’t… I don’t want to start something I’m not sure I can finish. I’m sorry.”
“I see. You know, I haven’t ever considered anyone else. I just waited because I told Becky I’d wait a year. Maybe I shouldn’t have.” Jay paused. “Thanks for your honesty, though. I’ll… I’ll talk to you later.”
Elizabeth hung up the phone. She had hated to tell him no after all he’d done for her and David. But there was no way she could date him with a clear conscience as long as her unruly emotions longed for Paul. She turned to find Kathy, Dylan and David all watching her.
“Did Jay just ask you out?” Kathy asked.
“And did you just turn him down?”
She nodded again, too tired to do more.
“Why? I thought he was a great guy. I thought you were not going to let him get away.”
“I never said any of those things, Kathy. You did.” Elizabeth closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I just hated to do that.”
“Then why? It sounded like you told him there was another man. Is there?”
“Kathy please. I need to sit down.” Lack of food and nerves made her weak, and she had to catch her balance as she turned to find a chair.
Dylan noticed and was next to her in an instant, leading her to an armchair. “Kathy, go get her some juice.”
David knelt beside the chair. “Are you all right, Mom?”
Elizabeth grabbed his hand. “Yes. I’m just tired, hungry, and a little emotional. I kept thinking we’d get here, and then I forgot to stop for dinner. Sorry.”
“That’s okay,” Dylan said. “Here, drink this.” He handed her the juice Kathy brought. “Is there anything you can fix up quick for these two, Love? They forgot to eat.”
“Be right back.” Kathy rushed out of the room.
“What can I do, Mom?”
“Play me some of that soothing harp music. Maybe it’ll calm my nerves.”
David was out the door before Dylan asked, “Harp music?”
Elizabeth just nodded. Soon David was unpacking the kinnor, and he began playing.
There was more than one way to show off her son’s talent. Not that she was faking it with her jangled nerves. She just hadn’t needed Jay to say that right now. But even if Paul never wanted her, if she started dating Jay it would never be the same between her and Paul, and she didn’t want to give up what little part she had of him. Please Lord. I love him. Help me to be content with the friendship he’s willing to offer.
Kathy brought in two plates, closely followed by Keith with two glasses of milk. “The wanderers have shown up,” Keith said, handing them each a glass. “Where’d you get the harp, David?”
“Grandfather?” Dylan asked. “Your family has come around, Elizabeth?”
“No. David has a new father and grandfather. You met Paul, Keith. He’s unofficially adopted David.”
“Really? That’s great. And when are you two getting married?”
“We’re not. Paul told me quite early that he’s planning to remain a bachelor the rest of his life.”
“But you two would be perfect for each other.”
“What’s this, Keith?” Kathy said. “You’ve been holding out on us.”
“I told you that guy from the net was at David’s birthday party.”
“Yes, but you didn’t say he was perfect for Beth.”
“Please stop. He’s not interested in me. He’s David’s father, now. That’s all there is to it.”
“Maybe I should talk to him,” Dylan said.
“And tell him what? You’re perfect for my friend. Why don’t you marry her?”
Dylan raised his eyebrows. “That’s not what I had in mind, but if you want me to… No? Okay. I just thought maybe since I went to Chicago….”
“No!” David stood and shouted. “Don’t tell him anything. You’ll ruin everything. You’re wrong, Mom. I can’t trust him. He just wants to tell everyone everything all the time.” David ran out of the room, and then the front door slammed.
Elizabeth leaned back in the chair. “I should go after him,” she said tiredly, but she didn’t have the energy to move.
“No, Dylan. Leave him. He just needs some time. And I wish you’d stop bringing up Chicago every time you see him. You know how sensitive he is. You would be, too, if you had been through what he has.”
“But if Paul is taking on the role of David’s father then he should know.”
“Let the relationship proceed on its own. You don’t tell a person your whole life history when you first meet them. Don’t expect David to. If they are really meant to be father and son, David will eventually confide in him.”
“But it may proceed quicker if he knows what he’s dealing with.”
“Paul’s an intelligent man. He’ll figure it out on his own. Leave it be.”
“Doesn’t he feel like you’re hiding things from him?”
“No. We’ve talked, and he’s agreed that David needs to tell him on his own.”
“So, you’ve told him.”
“No. I told him I can’t tell him, and he understood. I told you, he’s an intelligent, sensitive man. He doesn’t want David hurt by having his trust violated.”
“Okay, Elizabeth. We’ll do it your way. But can you tell me more about this intelligent, sensitive, understanding man who is a confirmed bachelor? If I recall Keith said he was a Christian who wrote long sermons on the computer.”
“That’s right,” Keith said with a grin. “In fact at the beginning he and Beth kept writing the same things at the same time and not realizing it until the next day. It was funny.”
Elizabeth smiled. “Paul is… There’s no one to compare him to. He likes to go to conferences like we do. He is so compassionate. You know he came to have me do a book for his father and ended up staying with David while I was in the hospital and….”
“That’s how he got to know David.”
“And you were visiting him.”
“Yes. He’s in the Army. A Colonel. You should see him in uniform, Kathy. In fact David has pictures we took through the one hour photo shop this morning. We haven’t had a chance to look at them. Let me get them.” Elizabeth quickly went to the living room and pulled the large bag of photos from the suitcase. When she was back in the music room she sorted through them. “This is Paul.”
“He does wear that uniform well, doesn’t he?” Kathy admitted.
Elizabeth looked up as David came back in. “Don’t worry, Sweetheart. Dylan has agreed not to say anything.”
David came to sit on the floor next to Elizabeth’s chair.
“Who’s this?” Kathy asked, holding up a picture.
“Saul, Paul’s father, and that’s his new wife and family.”
“Whoa, look at this Dylan.” Kathy held up another picture, this time in Dylan’s direction. “Look’s like you and Paul are closer than you’ve led us to believe.”
“What are you talking about?” Elizabeth reached for the picture they had and stared at it. Paul held her, and she had her head against his chest as they danced. Good job, David. He’d captured her sins on film for all to see.
“Wow, Beth. Here I thought you were saving yourself for me.”
“It’s a joke, Mom.” Keith winked at Elizabeth.
Elizabeth rubbed her forehead and hoped they’d talk among themselves until they forgot she hadn’t explained the picture, but Dylan was persistent.
“Beth, I’m worried. If he says he has no intentions of marrying you, why are you letting him hold you like that? I don’t want to see you hurt.”
Why had she stopped here? She couldn’t seem to remember anymore. “Dylan, he… It was a mistake. We both got carried away by the music, and he apologized afterward. Nothing happened, except what you see.”
Kathy had been looking through some other pictures. “What about this?” She held a close up of her and Paul’s face. They were both smiling over something.”
“I don’t even know where that was taken.”
“At the museum. You were looking at the insect displays,” David said.
“Insects make you smile like that?”
Elizabeth laughed. “No. Paul was telling me about the time he met up with one of those large beetles in Africa. It was funny the way he told it.”
“Let’s see,” said Kathy. “We have an intelligent, sensitive, compassionate, understanding, humorous, Christian, take-charge military man. And you love him.”
Kathy’s last statement caught her off guard. “And I love him. I love him so much. Please don’t anyone tell him. Please, Keith?”
“No, Beth. I won’t. Not if it means that much to you.”
“I was starting to think you’d hardened your heart a little too much,” Dylan said softly. “I guess I was wrong.”
“Please, you guys. I don’t want to lose his friendship because he thinks I’m after him. Please don’t say anything.”
“Or have you only fallen for him because he’s safe, Elizabeth?” Dylan continued quietly. “He’s already declared himself, and you now have an excuse to reject others.”
The room was silent waiting for her to respond. “I don’t know, Dylan. I really don’t know,” she said in quiet despair.
Go to Chapter 31
© 2013, 1995 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.