Chapter 8 – Elizabeth
Wednesday, March 8th
Elizabeth hadn’t wanted to leave David alone in the car when she went into the Hammond office building, but she knew it would be very unprofessional to bring him along. She had left the keys so that he could listen to music, but as the meeting wore on she began to wonder about the wisdom of that move. She hoped her nervousness about David hadn’t shown, but she was relieved when she was able to run down the stairs and out to the parking lot.
Would he be there? Would her car even be there? Would her battery be dead? Then she chastised herself. One minute you love him, the next you’re afraid he’ll steal your car. Well, you could love someone while acknowledging that they might not be perfect. He must be so bored just watching her all morning and now this. Jared would have been knocking on all the doors of all the offices in the building by this time. Either that or he would have wandered over to the shopping strip and gotten into trouble.
There was the car. And David was in it! Great. Now there’s just the battery to worry about. She was ecstatic. That quiet, frightened boy that needed to be loved so much had waited for her. Maybe someday he’d be able to trust her enough so that she no longer frightened him into those attacks of panic and terror.
David still watched her.
Elizabeth put her briefcase on the back seat. “Hello, David. I’m sorry it took so long, but they already had another project lined up for me. I hope you weren’t too bored.”
“I am learning the songs.”
“Good.” He actually spoke! Maybe he was relaxing with her. Elizabeth turned the key. The engine gave a halfhearted turn and then sprang to life. “Whew, that was close. I hope it didn’t get too cold out here for you.”
He shook his head again.
“We’ll warm things up now. We have to go to the printers. You can come in with me there.”
“This isn’t a piano or a guitar.” David said, referring to the song that was currently playing.
“No, it’s a dulcimer. I like that song, too.”
“Do you have one?”
Elizabeth tried not to laugh. Even though she thought it humorous she wasn’t sure how David would react, and she didn’t want a repeat performance from that morning. “No. I had enough trouble becoming semiliterate with the piano. I decided it was better to have one instrument I can play than ten I can’t. My sister Renae’s husband, Bill, has a guitar, a violin, a saxophone, a trumpet, and I don’t know what else, but he can’t really play anything well except the guitar. Renae gets so mad, cause when he gets drunk he’ll think he’s really good and torture everyone with the noise. I don’t think he has a dulcimer though, but who knows what he’ll pick up when the garage sales open.” Now why had she run on about Bill when maybe David might have more to say? She’d have to be careful.
David didn’t speak again though. He followed her into the printers’ and watched while she gave Fred, a man with graying sideburns, her orders. Then Fred brought out three boxes for her of work she’d ordered before her vacation.
“I’ll get Jack to help you carry those to the car, Beth.”
“Don’t bother, Fred. I’m sure David and I can manage.”
“David? You mean he’s with you?”
“Yes. This is David Timothy, my new son.”
“You’ve adopted? I had no idea.”
“We haven’t got all the legal work done yet, but that’s my hope.”
“Well, it’s good to meet you, young man,” Fred said.
David stayed by the door and shifted nervously from foot to foot. Elizabeth wondered if he might be getting ready to run.
Fred gave Elizabeth a searching look. “I remember when Jared used to follow you around as a little tyke. What does he think of his new brother?”
“Hasn’t met him yet.”
“Well, good luck. Come on, David. Let’s get these boxes to your mom’s car.” Fred picked up a box, but David didn’t move.
Elizabeth grabbed another box and brought it to David. “Here, take this one out, and I’ll get the last one.”
He took it from her and went out the door.
“What’s wrong with him?” Fred asked in a low voice.
Elizabeth picked up the last box and then turned to watch through the window as David walked to the car. “Nothing. Now.”
Fred didn’t move, as if waiting for more explanation.
“We’re still adjusting,” she said, hoping that would still his questions. It seemed to because he went to the door and held it open for her.
They delivered the boxes to three different companies. One box went to Elizabeth’s old work place at the Credit Union, her very first client. She told David he could come up with her. She wondered if she should ask him to carry the box or not, but he solved the problem for her by grabbing it as soon as she opened the back of the car.
“Thank you, David. I could get used to this very easily.”
He flashed her one of his shy, quick smiles.
“I love it when you smile like that, David.”
He stared at her, frozen.
Elizabeth smiled, her heart aching at his pain. “I’m so glad you came to be with me, David.”
They went into the building, and Lynn greeted her. “How was Florida? It doesn’t look like you laid out at all.”
“I told you I was going to a theology conference, not Miami Beach.” Elizabeth took the box from David and hoisted it onto the counter.
“Yes, but still, there had to be some time for fun.”
“Ah, but laying out would have been very boring. The conference was fun, though. I was able to hear some of the top theologians in the country speak on Defending the Faith. It was incredible.” Elizabeth and Lynn had joked about their differences for years, but Lynn was no closer to accepting that Elizabeth really didn’t miss or want the life that Lynn led.
“One of these days I’m going to have to take you out on Friday night with us girls and show you how to have a real good time. In fact, why don’t you come this Friday?”
“That’s Jared’s weekend.”
“Get a sitter.” Lynn opened the box and took out one of the booklets. She glanced through it as she spoke.
“I don’t think so, Lynn.”
“How about next Friday? Come on. You’ve been divorced four years, and you haven’t even dated anyone.”
“Little do you know.”
“Name one person you’ve been out with.”
“I can name four, but it’s not important.”
“Still four dates in four years is not that good. By the way, who’s your shadow?”
“This is my son, David. David, this is Lynn Pennington. I used to work here a long time ago.”
“Yeah, back in the horse and buggy days. You never said you were adopting, or is this some deep, dark secret you’ve been keeping from the rest of the world.”
“No secret,” Elizabeth said. If it were a secret, she certainly wouldn’t have told Lynn. “But you have to admit it’s never come up in conversation.”
“But really, and no offense, David, why would you want to adopt? It’s just going to be that much harder to interest a man.”
“Contrary to popular belief, I’ve never been concerned about being able to interest a man. I wouldn’t even consider marrying any man who didn’t want David for a son just as much as I do.” She was right, though. That is one more qualification to put on the list. But Elizabeth wished she wouldn’t have said that in front of David.
Lynn put the book back in the box and closed the lid. “Looks good, Beth. This your bill? I’ll give it to Jean.”
Elizabeth turned to leave. “Bye, Lynn. See ya next job.”
“You know, Beth. I bet there were a lot of preacher type guys at that conference you went to, weren’t there?”
Elizabeth shrugged. “I suppose so.”
“Like you hadn’t noticed. Now I know why you go.”
“You found me out,” she said, because she knew Lynn would not understand the real reason — that she enjoyed learning about God and grappling with eternal issues. “Bye, Lynn.”
They walked to the car. Elizabeth went over the conversation in her mind and hoped David was not misled by her joking. She had to set a good example for him. She waited until she had started the car. “I was just joking with Lynn, you know. She doesn’t think worship is ‘fun’. She doesn’t understand how exciting it is to be part of a group of people who all come together for the purpose of learning about God so that they can worship Him better. You want to go with me to the next conference, don’t you, David?”
David didn’t answer until she had pulled out of the parking lot. “Yes.”
“That’s great. I know you’ll like it.” She didn’t know if his hesitation was just his normal reticence, or if he didn’t know what she was talking about. Maybe it was both. She tried to explain. “It’s like church, except all day, and there’s more than one speaker. You like church, don’t you?”
She glanced at him as she waited at the next light.
He looked at her and then looked away. He glanced at her again. Finally he said, “I’ve never been to church.”
“You haven’t? Did a friend tell you about God?”
David looked away again, as if waiting until he could get up the nerve to speak. “Dylan told me. And then I listened to people talk when I ate. Gary and Michelle.”
“Were Gary and Michelle your friends?”
“No. It was their job. They left.”
“What was their job?”
David looked out the window and didn’t answer.
Apparently the conversation was at an end. She decided not to push him. But he mentioned Dylan first. Now, did Dylan tell him in person, or did he gather it from the songs on the tape? Is Dylan becoming forgetful, or does David have a very active imagination? Elizabeth turned into the parking lot of a large book store. As she got out she noticed that David still looked out the window, away from her. “Do you want to come in, David?”
“Yeah, sure. Work is done for today. This is just shopping.”
David opened the door and followed her inside.
Elizabeth found the section that contained educational materials. She chose a basic math book with work sheets, a beginning spelling book, and a phonics-based beginning reading book. “Find anything interesting, David?” she asked, turning around.
David stood near her. She didn’t think he had moved at all since the last time she had glanced at him.
He was always watching and afraid. When would he realize she wouldn’t hurt him? “Well, I guess I’m ready to go then.”
At the grocery store Elizabeth attempted to involve him in the shopping, but every time she asked if he liked something he just shrugged. Either he had no taste buds, or he didn’t want her to know what he liked. But why would he do that?
At home David helped her put the groceries away and watched her prepare a boxed hamburger mix for dinner. They ate in silence. He looked tired and not as alert as he had been almost ever since she met him.
Elizabeth took her plate to the sink and then turned to him. “You know it’s not too late to play the piano yet if you want.”
David lifted his head, and the fatigue seemed to leave him. He finished the last of the food on his plate. “Can I?”
“Sure. I’ll be in to listen in a few minutes, unless that makes you nervous.” She paused to allow him to respond, but he didn’t. “I have to clean up, but it won’t take long.”
He stood by his chair, but didn’t leave.
“What should I do?”
“Go play the piano if that’s what you want to do.”
He disappeared quickly and quietly. Elizabeth smiled.
As Elizabeth rinsed the dishes and put them in the dishwasher, she heard the piano start up. First the playing seemed random, but it was good. No hesitation. She wiped down the appliances. A knock on the back inside door stopped her just as she prepared to leave the kitchen. She assumed it was one of the upstairs tenants and was surprised to find Keith Jensen, Kathy’s oldest son.
“Hello, Beth. What’s up?” Keith hugged her just like Dylan and Kathy regularly did.
“You’re asking me? I bet Dylan sent you over to check up on me. He seems to think I need watching.”
“He did call me yesterday, but I’m crushed that you think that I’d only come to see you because he asked me to.”
Keith held up a notebook. “I came to use your color laser printer.”
Elizabeth laughed. “I love a man with a pure motive.”
They walked into the living room. Keith stopped and put a hand on her arm to halt her. He whispered, “Is my Dad here?”
“What makes you….” And then she realized David’s music had shifted to Dylan’s version of Psalm 23. David could actually play, and he was good!
“No, that can’t be him. Dylan would never modulate F sharp there. But it sounds good that way.”
Elizabeth stared at Keith in amazement. “You’ve been holding out on them. They think that you have no interest at all in music, and here you can recognize the exact notes played.”
Keith shrugged and smiled. “Don’t tell them. Dylan and Mom both expected me to become a musician. I can’t do what they expect me to do, can I?”
“Just as long as that’s not the only reason you’re spending four years and tens of thousands of dollars to get your degree in Computer Science.”
“No, that’s so I can have an excuse to come over here and see you all the time.”
“And I’m worth spending that much money to see? I think you need to get a better social life, Keith.”
Keith laughed and walked through the curtain to the office. He stopped so quickly that Elizabeth ran into his back. He stood, watching David play.
“I need to buy you some brake lights,” Elizabeth said, walking around him.
David looked up and froze with his fingers set in the keys. He slowly moved his hands so that they rested lightly on the edge of the piano.
He was getting ready to run away. She had to try to relax him. “David, this is Keith Jensen, Dylan’s son.” Elizabeth wanted to go to David and hold him and take the fear from him. But any move she made would do just the opposite, scaring him. She could only talk and hope the panic she felt didn’t show. “Keith, this is David Timothy.”
Keith started toward David with his hand outstretched.
David got up and backed away.
She grabbed Keith’s arm. “Keith, please….”
Keith stopped and turned his head to look down at her. “Yes?”
“It’s getting late. You better use the computer now because you might not be able to work when I’m talking to your dad. I promised I’d call tonight.”
“Sure, I can work and talk.”
“Well, I want to hear some more music right now. You’re really good, David.”
“Yeah, you are,” Keith said. “I bet my dad would love to adopt you. He always wanted me to play his songs with him.” Keith tried to walk toward the piano again, but Elizabeth held firmly onto his arm. He looked at her as if trying to figure out why she was clinging to his arm.
“Why don’t you get your work done, and then I’ll call your mom and dad.”
Keith shrugged. “Whatever.” He looked at David. “Please play anything but Dylan’s songs. I had to hear them a million times while he wrote and practiced them.” Then he walked to the computer.
Elizabeth immediately released his arm. She started to think that she had succeeded in avoiding another panic attack, but as soon as Keith reached out to turn on the computer, David bolted silently past her and out of the study. She closed her eyes. Please Lord, give me wisdom to help him. Please help him. Your will be done.
“Hey, where’d David go. I didn’t even hear him leave the room.” Keith had turned around to talk to her as the computer booted up. There was a thump somewhere in the house. “Was that the neighbors, or did David just go home?”
Oh no. No. David, no. Elizabeth ran from the room and first looked in David’s room. He wasn’t there. Neither was his cassette player or tapes that had sat on the small table next to his bed. “Oh, David,” she said softly, running into the kitchen. His jacket was missing from the hook by the door. Oh, no. Oh, Lord, please bring him back. That jacket’s not even warm enough for tonight.
She ran outside without taking her coat and looked around. “David,” Elizabeth called. She peered into the darkness, but she didn’t see anyone. The snow was so trampled it wasn’t possible to tell which way he had gone. She jogged to the street and looked both ways, calling once more. Please answer, David. No, I can’t see your head nod from here. Please answer. She waited over a minute, before she finally went back inside.
Elizabeth was careful to leave the door unlocked. When he came back she would have to have a key made up for him. He has to come back, Lord. She knelt down next to a kitchen chair and hoped Keith would stay in the office. “Oh Lord, my God,” she whispered. “I love him so much. Why do I have to lose all my children? I know I must trust You, and I’m so impertinent to question Your plan, but sometimes, like now, I feel like my heart is being torn out again. I know that you are working all things for David’s good. Please help me to remember if you don’t send him back here that he is Yours. He is, isn’t he? He was praying in the barn. He said Dylan told him about You and those two others, also. Please Lord, keep him safe. Bring him back to me. In Jesus name, Amen.” Elizabeth finished the prayer quickly when she heard Keith coming.
He entered the kitchen just as she stood. “What’s up?”
Elizabeth turned away and wiped the back of her hand across her eyes. “Not much. I’m just trying to figure out what to bring you to snack on.”
“Elizabeth, are you all right?”
“Of course, I am.”
He studied her. “Why are your eyes red? And why were you clinging to my arm in there? Are you afraid of David, or have you developed some affection for me that would shock my parents?”
Elizabeth laughed. “Oh Keith. I’m not going to shock your parents by my affection for you. They already know I’d try to steal you away as a son if I thought Kathy would let me.”
“Who is David, and what about him frightens you?”
“David doesn’t frighten me. But as you can tell, your presence made him too nervous to continue playing the piano. I hoped he wouldn’t feel the need to leave.”
“I don’t understand. Why would me going to shake his hand make any difference? I would think that my being friendly and including him in the conversation would have made him feel welcome.”
Elizabeth turned away. She was skirting the issue again, and she knew it. But she wasn’t ready to cry on Keith’s shoulder, and that is what would happen if she started telling him the truth about David. If it had been Dylan standing in front of her, or Kathy, she knew she would have broken and told them. Where was the line between David’s privacy and her need to talk to someone about what was happening here? He obviously didn’t want to tell anyone how his life was before, and she was just guessing. Maybe she should go talk to Pastor Nat, but he was new. She didn’t know him very well. What if he told her to turn David in to the police as a runaway? She couldn’t risk it yet. David didn’t even trust her. He may never even come back home, and then there wouldn’t even be any decision to make. She had to quit thinking or she was going to cry again.
Keith placed his hand on her shoulder, silently waiting.
“Well, Keith, did you get your printout?” she asked, turning to him and halfway succeeding to put a lift in her voice.
“Yes. And you’re changing the subject.”
“I promised Dylan I would call him tonight, and it’s after nine already. I better go do that.”
“Why won’t you tell me why you’re upset?”
“It’s nothing.” Elizabeth walked past him, and he followed her into the office.
“If I were Dylan….”
“But you’re not, so don’t worry about it.” Elizabeth reached for the phone and quickly dialed the number, putting it on speaker so they could both talk. “Hello, Dylan. It’s me. I didn’t forget you.” She sat in front of the computer.
“I was beginning to think I’d have to stay up until midnight.”
“Is it Beth?” They heard Kathy ask. Dylan must have nodded because next she said, “Hi, Beth.”
“Hello, Kathy. I got an eavesdropper here you might want to say hello to.”
“Hi, Mom, Dylan,” Keith said. He sat down in the armchair beside the table. “Twice in one week. It’s almost like I’m still in Tennessee.” They exchanged a few words, as Elizabeth waited.
“Beth, I just want to ask you one more thing about that drifter kid,” Dylan said finally. “Did he say where he was going?”
“No,” she said softly. “He didn’t say.”
“Well, I guess there’s nothing for me to do, then.”
“No, nothing. But… Dylan, Kathy, will you pray for him?”
“You really let him get to you, didn’t you?”
“Of course she did,” Kathy said. “I would have, too, if I had seen the poor kid alone at that age. Just hearing about him makes my heart ache. If I hadn’t had that headache you never would have been able to chase him out of the house.”
“I didn’t chase him. He left on his own.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Keith asked, leaning forward in his chair.
“Oh, there was just this drifter that came through and asked to live here. When I said no, he ran off. Elizabeth got home before we did, so she talked to him a little longer. By the way, Beth, what did happen between you and Ben, other than you think he was out to get the drifter kid?”
Elizabeth shook her head, but only Keith saw it. “Not much. He just told me he was going to marry me, and I told him he wasn’t.”
“And since he wanted to marry you, he’s a jerk,” Dylan said. “That would certainly make him one in my book.”
“Now who’s being sarcastic, Dyl? It was the way he said it, and it was the way he went after Da… the kid. You’ve already admitted that he influenced you against him. But Kathy, think about it. He just tells me that we’re going to be married next month and tries to give me Alice’s ring. Now would you marry him?”
“He tried to give you his wife’s ring? He should have bought you a new one.”
“He should have asked instead of assumed I wanted to marry him. Of course even if he just asked, I wouldn’t have. I didn’t even know him that well, and besides you know I’m not moving away from Jared.”
“I did notice he was rather decisive, but I figured that maybe you needed a strong man,” Dylan said.
“Yeah, right, Dylan. Strong, maybe. Insensitive jerk, no. I’ve been there, remember. Please, don’t try to fix me up with your friends again. I’d rather stay single the rest of my life.”
“You don’t mean that, Beth,” Kathy said. “I know how lonely it can get, and you don’t even have anyone like Keith or Kim to help.”
She winced at the reminder. Oh, how she hoped David came back. “I keep busy. I have friends. If God wants me to be married, He’ll let me know when, I’m sure.”
“But Beth, I think you’re too picky,” Kathy said.
“Did you settle for second best when you married Dylan?”
“You know God was very good to me when He let me marry Dylan, but even Dylan isn’t perfect.”
“Yeah, I figured that out. But I’m not looking for perfect; I’m just looking for someone who is….”
Kathy cut her off, “…very close.”
“Maybe I’ll rob the cradle and marry Keith,” Elizabeth said, winking at him.
“Elizabeth!” Kathy said. “You’re as old as I am.”
Keith laughed. “Are you really, Beth?”
“Actually I’m one year younger, but I am still old enough to be your mother.”
“So you’re what….” Keith paused to do a little mental arithmetic. “35?”
“I always thought you were younger than Dylan.”
Dylan laughed. “First I’m not perfect, and then I’m just a babe in the cradle. You three are really beating me up tonight.”
“You know, guys and Kathy. It’s been real fun, but I’m kind of tired. Why don’t you send your son home, and let me get some sleep.”
“Subtle, Beth,” Keith said. “I almost didn’t get that hint.”
“You learn to be that way when you’re as ancient as I am and need all the rest you can get.”
Dylan and Kathy laughed and said their good-byes.
Elizabeth walked with Keith out to his car. “You know, Beth, you’re not that ancient. And….” He unlocked the door and got inside the car. “If you just need a friend to hang out with, go to the movie or something, give me a call.”
“I don’t mean like that. It’s just what Mom said about you being alone. I never really thought about it before.”
“Keith, you’re alone, and probably eighty percent of the student body at U of M is alone. I don’t have some kind of unique disease that you must be extra kind to me because of my burdens.”
Keith’s jaw hardened a bit. “I’m sorry I said anything.” He started the engine of the Escort.
“Oh, Keith. I’m sorry. I’m just… cold. Can I hop in the other side for a minute?”
He looked surprised, but unlocked the door for her and closed his door as she got into the passenger seat.
“Keith, I do appreciate your friendship, and I know I didn’t show it as much as I normally do when you come by. I guess I’m still a little upset about what happened with Ben and… and the kid. It’s just hard for me to talk about right now. I’m sorry.” Elizabeth looked toward the door of the apartment, hoping to see David come home, but she didn’t.
“If I promise to treat you like my own mother, will you go with me to dinner Friday?”
“Friday is Jared’s weekend.”
“Sorry, I forgot.”
“Why don’t I just give you a call if I get particularly lonely and want to have a son for the evening?”
“Promise me, you’ll do it.”
“When I need a son.” And if David didn’t come back it may be tomorrow.
“Deal.” Keith squeezed her hand in a reassuring way. “I’ll be up again soon.”
“Thanks for coming, Keith. I’ll try hard to be in a better mood next time.”
He smiled. “Yeah. And I’ve got a great new way to tease Mom and Dylan. Think you can wait about four years to get married.”
Elizabeth grinned. “I’m never getting married, Keith. You’ll have to wait longer than that.” She left the car and waved to him from the back steps. After he pulled away, she closed the door but checked the locks to make sure they stayed unlocked.
She searched every room and closet to make sure David wasn’t hiding anywhere in the house. Then she checked the basement. The more she searched the more depressed she became until she finally went into his room and lay across his bed. She gave in to the tears that she had been fighting off and on ever since this emotional roller coaster ride started two days ago. After an hour she fell asleep.
Go to Chapter 9
© 2013, 1995 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.