Chapter 35 – Paul
Sunday, September 29th
Sunday morning Paul dreamed about the fire again. Afterward he remembered Dan Sutherland had been there with Clarissa, standing outside, while Joel lay in his crib in the house. He hadn’t thought about it before, since he hadn’t been sure if his perception of Dan being there had been accurate, but now he knew it was. It made sense. He had always thought Dan had just stepped in when Clarissa couldn’t handle his disfigurement, but now he knew that Dan must have been having an affair with Clarissa before the fire. He also knew that Dan had stood by and let his son die in the flames without trying to save him. And this also explained why Dan had named his son after himself. He may have thought it was his child at first.
All this came to Paul as he lay there recovering from the nightmare, and he became angry all over again. Angry because things were even worse than he had let himself believe for so many years. Dan, his best friend, first took his wife, then let his son die, and finally stole his remaining child.
As dawn approached Paul realized it was Sunday and that he would need to worship. He needed to worship anyway. He prayed silently until he felt the anger give way to praise. He knew he’d have to deal with this anger a few more times, but at least now he could turn to God where before, when it had first happened, he had been isolated except when his father had come to him.
He went to Elizabeth’s for breakfast, and then they loaded up the car for the trip before they went to church. After church as they were on their way out, Jay greeted them. “I see you’re back, Paul.”
Shelly Greene came up, greeted Paul, and then began talking to David and Beth about their trip to see Dylan Trent.
Jay motioned to Paul. “May I talk to you a minute?”
“Sure.” Paul followed him into an office at the back of the church.
Jay closed the door. “Forgive me for being blunt, but I’m concerned about Elizabeth and the way you’ve been treating her.”
“Excuse me,” Paul said, surprised. “How am I treating her?”
“You won’t commit to her. You take off for months without a word, and then you show up as if everything’s fine. I think she deserves a bit better than that, but she won’t even date anyone else as long as you’re playing the role of David’s father. Now I know you’re doing that just to hold on to her without a commitment.”
Paul shook his head. “Beth and I are just friends. I’ve been up front with her about that from the beginning. If she decided not to go out with you, it had nothing to do with me.”
“She said that it did.”
Paul was caught off guard. “I’ll talk to her about it and make sure she knows where I stand. If she still doesn’t want you, Jay, it’s really none of my business.”
“It’s not just me. She hasn’t dated anyone since she took in David. If you want to be David’s father, take him and let her have her life back. But don’t use him to keep control over her.”
“I do not use or try to control anyone. You really don’t know Beth at all if you think taking David from her would help her in any way.” Paul tried to keep his voice even, but he felt his anger building again.
“You probably don’t know this, but she has turned away from her whole family because of this kid. Family is important. I thought last fall it was a little misunderstanding that would work itself out, but this has been going on over a year. I’ve talked to her parents several times, and they’re really upset over this. They’d like to see her remarried with a new family so they can see her. Now I care about David as much as anyone, but I care about Elizabeth more. It would be better for everyone around here if you just took him back to Virginia with you.”
“I will talk to Beth, but I promised her I would never try to take David away from her, and I won’t.”
“You really don’t want to be his father as much as you claim.”
“Jay, we have nothing further to discuss.” Paul walked out of the office before he said something he’d regret.
Beth and David waited for him in the car. Paul said nothing as he drove out of the lot toward I-69.
When they were on the freeway Beth asked, “What’s up, Paul? You seem a little upset.”
“What have you been telling Jay about me?” He tried to say it calmly and almost succeeded.
“Not much. He’s asked about you a couple times, and I just told him you were fine, or lately that I didn’t know how you were, because you were away. He didn’t say anything about that, did he?”
“He acted like you should have called as if you weren’t doing something that important, or you had a responsibility to me. I don’t know. I think he thinks I’ll go out with him if he can get me upset with you.”
“Why did you tell him you wouldn’t go out with him because of me? You know I’m never going to marry you.”
Beth was silent, turning to face the window.
“I’ve told you that from the beginning, Beth. I’ve never tried to lead you on.”
“I don’t expect you to marry me. I know you won’t, so don’t get all upset. I just don’t want to date Jay. He asked if it was because of you. At the time I was tired, I had driven close to seven hundred miles, and I was hungry. I just wanted to get him off the phone. I’m sorry if it offends you that someone thinks I might care for you that way.” Anger made her voice sharp, but then she turned back to the window as if all discussion was ended.
They rode in silence again. Paul saw David slip his hand around the seat and grab hers. Near Lansing Paul pulled off the freeway and into a restaurant parking lot. He sat and waited for Beth to face him, but she was as motionless as she’d been for the last twenty-five miles.
“What?” she asked, not turning from the window.
Paul reached over, touching her shoulder to turn her. Damp streaks lined her face, tearing into his heart. “Oh, Beth,” he whispered. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“I’m fine.” She pulled away from his touch and opened the door.
“Would it be easier for you if I didn’t come around anymore?”
Beth raised her hand to her face, and Paul was afraid she would cry again. “What about David?” she asked, her voice cracking.
“Maybe it’d be easier for you if David came to visit me.”
“I’m not leaving Elizabeth. Ever!” David leaned forward, closer to Elizabeth as he shouted. “We don’t need you. If you want to leave, take us home and go.”
It was a quick thrust, and Paul closed his eyes against the pain. But he had to keep fighting, didn’t he? Or were they better off without him?
“No, David,” Beth said, and Paul opened his eyes to look into hers. “I’m sorry, Paul, for getting so upset. I just value your friendship, and I don’t want anything to come between us, whether it’s Jay or someone else or even our own emotions. You’re the only one who understands. You do understand, don’t you?”
She was right. Jay proved it. No one else really understands. And she was putting aside her own feelings again because David did need him whether David believed it or not. “Yes, Beth. I understand. I value your friendship, also, but I don’t want to hurt you either. I don’t want to keep you from being happily married just because I can’t commit to you.”
Beth stared at him, and Paul had no trouble interpreting the question in her eyes. Why? But she didn’t say it. “I told you when we first talked that I probably wouldn’t marry again either. I have a whole list of requirements a man has to meet, and most guys don’t even come close. Don’t worry. You’re not keeping me from marriage. I’ve done well enough avoiding it for the last five years in spite of Dylan and Kathy’s match making efforts. Good friendships are hard to come by. Let’s not worry about things that don’t matter. If I really find a man I can’t live without you’ll probably be one of the first to know.”
“You make sure you tell me, Beth,” he said softly, although it would kill him. “Let’s go get something to eat.”
David didn’t say anything during the whole meal, and He didn’t eat much either. He sat close to Beth and would occasionally glare at Paul. It wasn’t until they were almost finished that his anger seemed to dissipate. She was right. He was overly protective of her.
When they were on the road again, Paul said, “You know, Beth. I really don’t mind if you use me as an excuse not to date. I just had to get used to it. Tell me when you do it though, so I’ll be prepared.”
“Really? I mean, I didn’t try to mislead Jay. It was just easier than saying things like, ‘Although you’ve helped me a lot with David’s schooling, I really don’t think you understand him at all.’ I tried to tell him I wasn’t interested, but he automatically assumed it was you, and it was easy to let it go. But I did tell him you weren’t interested in me.”
“You did? Maybe that explains some of his comments. You’re right. He doesn’t understand David at all. He told me… never mind. It doesn’t matter. And David, I will never try to take you away from Beth, so you can stop worrying about it. Just because we do something alone, doesn’t mean I want to take you away from her.”
When Paul thought David’s anger had left him, he let him drive for a couple hours. They played music, and Paul was surprised when both David and Beth started singing.
When they arrived at Dylan’s it was almost ten. They carried in the luggage, and Dylan said, “No, David. The music room is in the new wing now. And the old music room is the guest room for now, until we can get the four rooms over the new music room finished off.”
After their luggage was moved in they sat outside on the patio and talked since it was still warm. “I hope you don’t mind, Paul, but we interrogated Elizabeth about you back in June,” Kathy said, handing him a glass of lemonade. She gave a glass to Beth, David, and Dylan before sitting down and setting the tray she had been carrying on the ground next to her. “We made Keith tell us all he knows, too.”
“All he knows?”
“It is a little like pulling teeth. His memory is selective. He told us more about your net adventures than what you were like in person.”
“I hope you’ve had good reports.”
Dylan laughed. “Don’t worry. We’re not going to attack you, and Kathy will refrain from the twenty questions she has planned. We’ve just known David from the beginning and were curious about the man who has decided to be his father.”
Paul thought David tensed up, but with only the light from a quarter moon above them, it was hard to tell. “That’s understandable.”
“So you two are pretty good friends, then?” Dylan asked.
“I like to think so. How about it, David? Are we still friends?”
David hesitated and then nodded. He grabbed Beth’s hand. Paul wondered if he’d ever turn to him like he did her.
“I imagine you talk about everything,” Dylan said.
Paul shrugged slightly. “We talk about whatever topic comes up. We were talking about the recording studio just before we got here. I’ve never seen a song recorded either. I hope you’ll let me tag along.”
“Of course, Paul. Beth, I know Kathy hoped you’d stay and visit with her tomorrow, but if you want to come, you’re welcome.”
“Yes, Beth. Stay here, and let the men go to work. We can go shopping until Rachel and Matthew get out of school, and then we can bake cookies or something. Come on. It’s been terrible since Kim went to school. You’ve seen her since I have.”
Beth looked at David. “Is it all right if I stay here tomorrow? Paul will be with you.”
“But Mom. I will miss you.”
“I’ll miss you, too, Honey. But it’s just for a day, and then you can tell me all about it tomorrow night.”
David looked from Paul to Dylan and back again. “I will go with them.”
A little later as they got up to go in, Paul held Beth back. “Why did you decide not to go, Beth?” he asked in a whisper, so he wouldn’t be overheard. “I thought you were looking forward to it.”
“I was,” she said, equally quiet. “But David does need to learn to do things without me. And you’ll be there for him.”
“I’ll be there for him,” Paul reassured her as they walked inside. She was a remarkable woman. She would do anything if she thought it best for him. I love her, Lord. If only I could marry her. If only… I know it’s wrong to question why things are the way they are. I am so thankful that you’ve brought these two into my life. And now there’s Daniel also. Please Lord, if it be your will, let him be one of Your chosen ones. Reveal Yourself to him.
When Paul finished in the bathroom, David was already lying on the couch, so he took the bed. He hadn’t realized how tired he was and soon fell asleep.
Monday, September 30th
He awoke completely alert – a skill that had kept him alive more than once. He listened intently and heard a small sound from the couch. Quietly he got up and went to David.
David twitched in his sleep. “No,” he moaned. “No.” And then there was a small whimper, like a kicked puppy might make.
Paul touched David’s shoulder. “David. It’s a nightmare, David.”
David awoke and sat up quickly. He stared at Paul in the dark and backed away until he was at the end of the couch.
“It’s just me, David. You were having a nightmare.”
David got up and walked out of the room. Paul followed. In the kitchen David poured himself some juice and sat down at the table. There was a dim night light over the range, and Paul could see that whatever the nightmare was about it hadn’t completely left David.
Paul sat across from him. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Do you have them often?”
“Often enough. I can take care of myself. You don’t need to lose any sleep.”
“David, I’m sorry about what happened this morning. You’re not still mad at me because of it, are you?”
“You hurt Elizabeth.”
“I don’t want to hurt her. That’s why I had to make sure she understood, so she didn’t fall in love with me. Then she would be hurt worse.”
“I don’t understand why you don’t love her. She’s the best person in the whole world.”
“David… I do love her. Don’t tell her though. I don’t want her to be hurt. I can’t marry her. She wouldn’t want to marry me if she knew why.” Paul didn’t know why he had said so much, but David’s gaze had remained on him, accusing him, and he had spoken. “Please don’t say anything. I know how much you love her. But Beth and I both seem to need the friendship we have, and I don’t want it spoiled by things I can’t change – things that happened in the past.”
David studied him and then nodded. “The past can’t be changed. I wish it could, too. Then maybe the nightmares would go away.” His voice no longer held any resentment or anger, as if David had understood his confession and would keep his secret.
They sat in silence until David finished his juice, and then they went back into their room. Paul was almost asleep when David said, “We must protect her. We must not let anyone hurt her. I don’t want her to die like your mother did.”
“Yes, David. We’ll protect her all we can, but there are things that only God controls. We have to trust that God is in control when we can’t be and even when we think we are.”
“I know He is in control. He has to be, because I can’t be.”
In the morning Dylan got them up early and drove them into Nashville to the studio. He surprised them by telling David he needed an extra musician, wanting him to help out.
Paul stayed outside in the control room and watched. It was a long, and sometimes quite tedious process as they recorded one instrument at a time, and sometimes went over one section of the song again and again. David was able to play the keyboard and then sing background vocals with Dylan and a female singer who also sang some of the counter melody that Beth had done.
They took a break, and David asked if he could examine the other instruments. The musicians were friendly, and they were willing to show David anything he wanted to see.
Dylan came up to Paul and stood next to him, looking through the window into the studio at David, the guitarist, Rand Thomas, and bass player, Steve Caren.
“It looks like you’ve got a pretty decent group of guys playing for you.”
“I’ve been working with those two for years. The drummer is new this album though. I hope you haven’t been too bored.”
“I never realized there was so much involved in recording just one song.”
“Some songs go faster than others. It also depends on whether you’ve worked with the other musicians before and how good they are at understanding what you want.”
Suddenly Paul noticed David staring right at him, and he looked very angry. “Oh no. I promised David I wouldn’t talk to you alone. This father thing never gets any easier, does it?” Paul headed into the studio and over to David and the other two musicians.
“You promised me,” was all David said.
“I’m sorry. I forgot.”
“You promised,” David repeated, and turned away. He picked up the guitar, sat on a stool and began to play. The notes he chose seemed to echo his anger.
David ignored him.
Rand and Steve looked at each other in amusement. “You must have really screwed up,” Rand said. “What did you do?”
“Broke a promise I didn’t realize would be so hard to keep. Look David, I’m sorry. You can either be angry all day, or you can join me for something to eat so I don’t have to do it alone where people can just walk up and start conversations.”
David stopped and handed the guitar back to Rand. “Thank you,” he said. Then he turned to Paul, his features and his voice hard. “Let’s go.”
When they were seated at the little cafe across the street, David asked, “What did he tell you?”
“What did Dylan tell you?” David repeated.
“We were just talking about how long it takes to record one song. How specific do you want me to get?”
Dylan entered the cafe and strode across the room. He grabbed a chair from another table and sat down with them. “David, what’s this promise that you don’t want me to talk to Paul alone? I told you in June I wouldn’t say anything, and I didn’t. But you should. I bet you haven’t told him anything yet, and it’s been six months since he became your father. What kind of father doesn’t even know where his son was born?”
Great, Dylan. I don’t know where either one of them were born so I must be pretty lousy by your standards, Paul thought.
“Stop it,” David said, his voice wavering and getting louder. “You promised you wouldn’t say anything, but you’re trying to again.”
“I’m not going to say anything except one thing. Paul, I think you should have him taken in for psychological counseling for this anger before someone is hurt. Beth won’t listen to me. If you even knew half his past you’d understand why.”
“Stop. You lied.” David stood and looked down at Dylan, trembling with anger.
“David, you have thirty minutes to get yourself back under control and into the studio. I hope you can do it, because you’re a very good musician.”
David ran out of the restaurant. Paul only glanced at Dylan an instant before following David out. He saw him turn a corner and ran to catch up. He thought he’d lost him, but then he saw him huddled in a doorway in the alley behind the studio. He sat with his arms wrapped around his legs, and he was shaking.
Paul approached slowly and crouched down near him.
“I’ll never hurt her. I never would. Kill me if I ever hurt her. I wouldn’t want to live if I became like that. God would hate me anyway, so it wouldn’t matter if I died.”
“David, I know you’ll never hurt her. And don’t you know that once God chooses you, you’re His forever? He would never hate you.”
“You heard Dylan. I’m a danger to everyone. I get too angry. I can’t help it. He lied to me. You lied to me.”
“David, it was an accident. Haven’t you ever done something and then realized you shouldn’t have? I thought when you made me make that promise that you were afraid of what I would say to Dylan, but that’s not it at all, is it? You’re afraid I’ll find out about your past.”
“You’ll hate me. You’ll look at me that way, and you’ll….” David started sobbing.
Paul drew him close as he had seen Beth do. David was stiff at first but then gave in and leaned against him. “I’ll never hate you, David, no matter what happened in the past. And I don’t care that you haven’t told me yet. I know how hard it is to talk about some things. I can’t talk about things very easily either. But it’s okay. The longer we’re friends, the more we’ll learn that we can trust each other. Maybe someday I can tell you my secrets, and you can tell me yours. But there’s no rush. It doesn’t have to be this year or even next year.”
David had stopped shaking and just rested against Paul’s shoulder. “I don’t want to talk to a stranger either. You never went to a psychologist, did you?”
“No. Well there are just those little evaluations they give you in the military, but they’re nothing. For the things which hurt me worse, I eventually was able to talk to my dad about them. He was with me through the hardest times, so he already knew most of it.”
“I talk to Elizabeth. She knows a lot. She loves me anyway. She would probably love you anyway, too, you know.”
Paul closed his eyes and rested his chin against David’s hair. “I’d like to believe that David, but I can’t risk it.”
David lifted his head and looked into Paul’s eyes. “I can’t risk it yet either. You have Daniel. You don’t need me.” He pushed away from Paul then and sat apart from him.
“I’d never stop caring for you because of the past or because of Daniel. But I understand why you feel that way.” They sat in silence until Paul looked at his watch. “We’ve got three minutes, David. Do you think you’re ready to go back?”
David stood. “Please don’t let him tell you anything.”
“I’ll try not to.” They walked back to the studio.
Dylan acted like nothing had occurred, and they started working again. They finished the song a little after six, and Dylan took everyone to eat. Paul sat next to David and listened as the rest of them talked. Rand sat on the other side of David and told him about some of his options in the music industry.
On the way home, Dylan didn’t mention the lunch time confrontation. Instead he focused on David’s music. “I think you should save all the songs you write from now on. Try to get ten of them together over the next two years, and maybe between me, Elizabeth and Paul we’ll be able to help you with the money to record an album. Then you can tour with me, and we’ll promote it. It may turn out that you’ll get a contract if you do well enough.”
“How much will he need to record?” Paul asked. Dylan told him. “I’ll cover it. Don’t even bother Beth with it.”
“We won’t need it for two or three years. Not until he’s ready.”
“It’s there. Even if something happens to me, it’ll be there for him.”
“You’ve written him into your will?”
“Of course. He’s my son, even if I don’t know where he was born.”
Dylan seemed surprised. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize how that sounded until just now. Although you do surprise me. You’re just like Elizabeth. She took David in before she knew one thing about him. It was one of the most dangerous things she’s ever done.”
“Not really. She told me about the day she met David. She knew his heart before she took him home. Remember David was a man after God’s own heart. So is our boy. He is well named.”
“Elizabeth came up with….”
“Don’t, Dylan,” David said firmly from the back seat.
Dylan sighed. “You haven’t told him anything. How do you feel about that, Paul?”
“David can tell me whatever there is to tell when he’s ready, but not before. Please don’t tell me anything.”
Dylan shook his head. “Things would move a lot more quickly if you people would just communicate, and I’m including Elizabeth with you two.” But Dylan said no more about it.
At the house Paul listened to David tell Beth all that had happened in the studio except the lunch time argument. That night David had another nightmare. After Paul woke him, David asked if they could read together, and they went through the first book of Timothy before they went back to sleep. No wonder Beth had looked so worn out by the end of her visit to Virginia.
Tuesday, October 1st
The next day Dylan went back into the studio to work on a different song. Paul, Beth, and David visited with Kathy most of the day. Beth was right about Kathy’s matchmaking. If she threw out any more hints, Paul thought Beth might sink right into the floor from embarrassment. It was a good thing she had warned him. The next time Kathy said something suggestive, Paul managed to catch Beth’s attention. He grinned and gave a slight shrug to let her know he found it amusing, so it wouldn’t bother her so much. She smiled back at him and seemed relieved.
That night Paul slept the whole night through without being interrupted by one of David’s nightmares. Before they left the room the next morning he asked him if he’d had one. “No. Not that I remember.”
“So you don’t have one every night.”
“Usually just when something happens during the day.”
“Does Beth help you through them at home?”
“I never wake her up at home. I’m glad our rooms are far apart because she works too much and needs her rest. I don’t want her to get sick again. I’m sorry I bothered you. If it weren’t for Dylan I would have slept somewhere else.”
“I didn’t mind. I’m glad we were able to be together.”
David nodded and went to take his shower.
Wednesday, October 2nd and following
They left for home after breakfast, and Paul let David drive over half the way, switching with him every couple of hours. Thursday Paul helped Beth catch up on some of her work and called Daniel in the afternoon to let him know he was back if he wanted to visit.
Friday Alisa called. Jared had the Chicken Pox and was too sick to come over. Elizabeth protested, but finally gave in. She told Paul later that she wasn’t sure if David had them or not and didn’t want him to get sick right when he planned to go hunting.
Paul took David to the music store that afternoon while Beth went to see her clients. They looked at the electric guitars, and Paul talked David into letting him buy one for him with a small amplifier.
That night Paul lingered at Beth’s apartment. David looked from one to the other and announced he was tired. Usually that was Paul’s cue to leave, but instead he asked if he could read with David that night. Beth let him.
Afterward he found her in the office in the chair next to the computer. He smiled, remembering the nights they had spent talking and came to join her. He sat in the comfortable desk chair that he had always used. “Do you mind if I stay a little longer? I promise to leave by midnight.”
“No need to make such rash promises,” Beth said with a smile. “I’ve missed this.”
“So have I.”
Beth glanced around the room. “It’s getting so crowded in here. I know he loves the guitar, and I was thinking about getting him one for Christmas, but still we need a bigger place.”
“I’ve noticed. It’d be a nice sized apartment if you didn’t try to put two home-based businesses in it.”
“I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I guess music is David’s business. If only we had a room the size of Dylan’s new music room. We could fit all this in there and a lot more. We’ve talked about it, and if we do get a house we want a place where we can both work together like we do now.”
“Have you looked any?”
“A little. But it’s hard to find houses with huge rooms that wouldn’t require a higher mortgage payment than I want to commit to. I’d like to spend only a little more than what this apartment goes for. Then I’d only have to come up with the difference, plus taxes and repairs and extra utilities.”
“I could help you.”
“Just checking to see if you changed your mind.”
Beth was silent.
“I didn’t offend you, did I?”
She shook her head. “No, I’m used to you volunteering yourself all the time. It’s just that I guess this is a good time to apologize, but it’s hard to do.”
“Apologize? For what?”
“You were right. It was a little silly to raise David’s allowance like I did. I’ve been thinking and praying, and… and I realized it was just pride again.”
“Yes. I never really thought I had a lot of pride, but lately I keep running into it. After you mentioned the car I started thinking, ‘I can provide that for him. I don’t need help.’ And then I realized what I was doing. I know there are things David needs that I can’t give him, but I guess it’s just pride that makes me not want any help where I think I’m doing great. It’s almost like I’m telling myself, ‘Hey, see, you can do it. They said you couldn’t, but you’re showing them.’ It’s all pride.” She hadn’t looked at him as she spoke, but now she raised her eyes to his.
Paul studied her. “I’ve never thought that you were bothered with pride.”
Beth smiled. “Are you saying I’m so obnoxiously prideful that it must not bother me? Or am I so humble that I’d be canonized if I were Catholic?”
Paul laughed. “Neither one. I’ve just never thought much about pride. Maybe I should. Maybe I’m the obnoxiously prideful one it doesn’t bother.”
“You’re not too bad, except once in a while.”
“Thanks. I’ll remember your kind words. Does this mean you’ll let me help more?”
“Probably not too much. I mean I can’t let you help pay for a house you won’t live in, unless you rent it.”
“I could buy it and rent it to you.”
“Yeah, right. I bet the rent wouldn’t cover the taxes if I know you. No. If I see something I really like, I can always rearrange a few things. And there is an account I was saving for David’s college or career, but maybe if you… if you….”
“If I promised to help out with David, you could use the money for a down payment. Well, don’t worry. I already told Dylan I would be responsible to help David all he needed financially.”
“Really?” She hesitated. “There were other reasons I was keeping the account, but I haven’t decided if it’s pride or real reasons.”
“You want to tell me? Maybe I can help?”
Beth looked up at him again and then shook her head. “No. I’m not sure where David has drawn the line on his privacy, and I don’t want to accidently cross it.”
Paul inclined his head slightly to indicate that it was okay. “Just remember, Beth, I’m here for you and David. I have no other family. It wouldn’t be a burden or a hardship for me to help you, and I know you won’t try to take advantage of that. I’ve never met anyone so hard to give money to.”
Beth smiled. “You’re not exactly easy to do things for either with your macho attitude toward restaurants.”
Paul laughed. “We’re back to the scathing insults.”
Beth laughed with him and then looked around the room again. “Maybe I can move the bookshelves into the hall and get a shelf so some of this equipment is stacked instead of out across the tables. Maybe with two strong men around next week, we could try to rearrange things.”
Paul laughed. “Yes, I’ll help you and David move furniture, even the piano.” He glanced at the clock. “It is after midnight.” He stood to leave. “I’ll see you tomorrow before noon.”
Saturday, October 5th
Saturday, Keith and Kim came. “Mom said she sent some things back for me?” Kim asked.
“She sure did. I thought I was going to have to ride home on the roof,” Beth said as she let them in.
“I think you’d make a good hood ornament, Beth,” Keith said, hugging her. He glanced into the office. “Hi, Paul.”
Paul came into the living room, and they sat down to visit.
Ten minutes later Daniel joined them. “You never told me you had a beautiful sister.”
“That’s because it’s my job to protect her from guys like you,” Keith teased. Paul wondered if Daniel realized just how serious Keith was beneath his humor.
“From me?” Daniel laughed. “How about it, Kim? Do you need protection from me when I take you out next Friday?”
“No, because I’m not going out with you.”
Daniel looked surprised. “Why not? I’ll only bite if you want me to.” He sat in the chair next to her.
“I don’t date guys who aren’t Christians.”
“What’s the use? I’d never marry them.”
“I’m not asking you to marry me.”
“No, you just want a little kissing and maybe more from me. Sorry. Both Keith and Dylan warned me all about men. And one thing about Dylan, he may be bossy, but he’s almost always right.”
“So you’d only date me if I went to church.”
Paul almost laughed at Daniel’s persistence. It appeared that he wasn’t used to being turned down.
“It takes a little more than church attendance. You would have to really know Christ.”
“It’s a little hard to know a guy that’s been dead for two thousand years.”
“But that’s just it, Daniel. He’s not dead.”
“I’ll have to let Kathy know that her worries were for nothing,” Beth whispered to Paul with a smile. She stood next to him, and suddenly he found himself consumed with fighting the temptation to put his arm around her waist. He tried to refocus on the debate.
“So, tell me, is there any guy I know who you might consider dating, so I know what you’re looking for.”
Kim looked past him, and Paul followed her gaze to see David standing in the doorway between the office and living room. Then he looked back to Kim. She wore a smirking grin.
“I’d date David if he was three or four years older.”
Keith laughed. “You should tell Mom and Dad that, only leave off the age condition. They love it when I tell them I’m going to marry Beth.”
“Marry Beth?” Daniel echoed Paul’s thought as he turned to look at Beth still standing next to Paul.
“It’s a joke, Daniel. You have to learn when to take Keith seriously,” Beth said.
“I am serious, but she won’t wait for me to finish college.” Keith tried to put a mournful tone into his voice, but his smile gave him away.
Daniel laughed. “So what’s so special about Beth?”
“It’s not every day you find a beautiful woman with the strength of Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
Kim laughed. “She sounds just like mom when she says that.”
“You told me last week that no one called you beautiful. I knew you were lying to me,” Daniel said, looking at Beth.
“Keith doesn’t count. He’s never serious. Of course you weren’t either.”
“Yes, I was. But, then, I didn’t realize you were an Amazon.” Daniel turned back to Keith. “Tell me about this phenomenal strength.”
“Well, she has to be pretty strong to lift Dylan.”
“I didn’t lift Dylan.”
“Let’s tell him the whole story. Beth didn’t tell you that she goes around picking men up along the side of the road, did she? And you have to be a pretty strong woman to lift a man, even though Dylan is kind of short.”
“That is not the whole story, Keith.” The phone rang in the office. Beth started for it, but David answered it.
He spoke a few moments and then came to Beth. “Apartment four on Cass Street has a broken pipe in the bathroom.”
“Did you talk to Rob?”
“Yes. He’ll pick me up in about ten minutes.”
“You’re not going away, David?” Daniel asked. “I still haven’t gotten to know the guy Kim says she’ll date.”
“I’m not dating anyone.”
“Ouch, David,” Kim said.
“He’s as blunt as Beth, Kim. You better get used to an unrequited love like mine. We’ll grow old together longing for them.” Keith and Kim broke into laughter.
“Don’t mind those two, David. They have a warped sense of humor that would shock poor Dylan and Kathy, especially when you get them both in the same room.”
“Don’t worry. They know we’re warped. Dylan kept complaining that Mom lost our instruction manual, so it’s not his fault.”
“But David,” Daniel said, ignoring Keith and Kim’s insanity for a moment. “Are you sure you’ve got to go?”
David looked annoyed at the question, but then said, “I need to learn this so I can take care of Elizabeth’s houses.” Then he disappeared into his room.
“He’s already preparing for you to buy a house?” Paul asked.
“Well, yes. We’ve driven around and taken some pictures of what we like.”
Paul saw Keith give Kim a look, and they started laughing between themselves again.
“Hey, you hyenas, what’s up?” Beth asked.
“Paul, did you hear her insulting me again? This is what I get for years of devotion.” Keith and Kim laughed again. “But really, we’re going to have to be leaving, too.” Keith stood.
“He’s got a date,” Kim informed them.
“We’re just studying.”
“Yeah, right. That’s one of the come ons you told me about.” She followed him to the door.
“I taught you too well, little sister.”
Beth went to get the things from Tennessee for them, and they left.
David emerged from his room wearing an older pair of paint splattered jeans and jacket. “You’re actually going to work on a house?” Daniel asked in disbelief. “I can’t believe you’d do that when you’re such a talented musician. It’s not even your house.”
David studied Daniel. “I must learn as much as I can.” A horn sounded outside. David glanced through the window and then left.
Daniel faced Beth. “I understand learning because you’re curious, but he sounds like he’s being forced.”
“He’s not being forced.” Beth went to the kitchen. “Do you want something to drink?”
“Yeah, sure.” When Beth returned Daniel asked, “So what’s this about picking up men like an Amazon?”
Beth laughed. “The real story is not quite so exciting. It’s true I met Dylan on the side of the road, but I had just seen the guy in front of me run him down. I stopped, helped him into my car, and took him to the hospital. And I did not carry him. He just leaned on my shoulder.”
“Kind of met by accident, then,” Daniel said.
“Nothing happens by accident. My life would be different today if I hadn’t met Dylan. God is in control of everything.”
They talked a little on the sovereignty of God and then went on to different subjects. An hour later Daniel left, saying he’d be back sometime next week.
Paul came in from walking with Daniel to the car. Beth sat on the couch in the living room, and he decided to sit on the opposite end, as close as he dared get to her. “What are you thinking about, Beth?”
“David.” She turned to him. “I had him start learning with Rob because I thought it would be something useful to know, and it is. But I don’t force him.”
“I didn’t say you did. But he did sound like he had to go.”
“Well, he’s never comfortable when the house is crowded, but it wasn’t that. He’s doing it for me again. If I didn’t watch him closely he’d be doing everything around here, or at least trying to. If I work a little over, he starts making dinner. He does laundry. Anything I don’t catch right away. Sometimes it’s too easy to just let him do it. I’ve wondered about this before. Is there anything I should do to stop him? Or would that just hurt him?”
“It’s part of his devotion to you, isn’t it?”
Beth agreed. “I’m afraid I’m hurting him by letting it continue, but then I don’t know how or what to say to change anything, and if it would hurt him worse if I tried to stop him. All I can do is try to keep up on things, so he doesn’t feel the need to step in.”
“He thinks you work too much.”
“Me? That kid is constantly learning or working. His only entertainment is when we can turn up the music and dance, or when he plays his own music, or we go to concerts. And working on his own music or his photo album is work, too. But then I’ve tried not to act like photography is work, although he has helped me on a few shoots, and I know if he had to he could earn a living from it.”
“I think he’s just following your example, Beth. But as far as your other concern, maybe you should divide up the chores into your work and his.”
“Tried it. He does his and then mine, too, if I’m not quick enough. This house has never been so clean.”
“Keeps you on your toes, huh?”
“I don’t know, Beth. He seems to like doing things for you. He may feel that he’s just repaying you for all you’ve done for him. As long as you keep letting him know that you appreciate him and that he doesn’t have to keep doing all that he is, then I don’t know what else you can do. He loves you.”
“Sometimes I think he loves me too much. I wonder if I do get married, if he would become jealous of my time or closeness with my husband.”
“I think you’d have to make sure that the man you married was aware of David’s need for you ahead of time so that he would be careful not to take all your time from him.”
“In my experience husbands aren’t that understanding. It’s probably good I don’t have to worry about one.”
“Don’t settle for a husband who isn’t that understanding, Beth. For both yours and David’s sake, don’t settle for less than everything on that list of yours.”
They sat in silence as the shadows deepened. Finally Paul asked her about what bothered him. “Beth, tell me what you really think of Daniel. Don’t sugar coat it; I want the truth.”
“The truth. He seems like a charming rogue. He tries to play his audience, but every so often he overplays his hand and changes tactics. He has a knack and could probably fit into most groups with a minimum of effort. I’m not sure, but I think his ethics are situation based. But then I am just drawing from two visits, and what little you said about your first meeting.”
“Pretty thorough, and roughly what I thought myself, but I couldn’t have defined it like you did. I really want to be his father, but I can’t seem to find any common ground. David may not speak much, but there’s always an intense honesty about him. With Daniel I feel I’m looking at a smooth surface, and I don’t know if there’s anything underneath the veneer.”
“You know, I don’t think Daniel even knows if there’s anything under the veneer yet. I don’t think he’s been challenged to really look. Maybe he will start looking a little now that his identity has been called into question.”
“I hope so. It’s just that sometimes he reminds me so much of his stepfather or his mother. Both of them were more society based. Dan and I used to joke about the rules of society and how a person could say something in such a way that no one would ever know if you were complimenting or insulting them. I think Daniel knows all the rules.”
“I imagine it’s hard on you to have to see the people who hurt you in him. I know it’s hard for me to see so much of Wes in Jared, and it just keeps getting worse. Hopefully for you in Daniel it will go the other way since he’s not living with them anymore.”
“Beth, you don’t know how much it means to me that you understand and that I can talk to you.”
“I think it means as much to you as it does to me,” she said softly. They sat in the darkness until David came home fifteen minutes later. Then Paul took them out to eat.
Go to Chapter 36
© 2013, 1995 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.