Chapter 9 – David
Wednesday, March 8th
As soon as David was outside the house he started running. He ran for three blocks before he slowed down. He didn’t care if Keith was Dylan’s son, he wasn’t going to be sold to him tonight. No one would touch him ever again. He should just go. He was safer among strangers. Only people who were close to you hurt you. He had let Elizabeth become too close. He would leave and not come back.
David came to Main Street. He walked past the silent store fronts until he reached a bench in front of a laundromat. He sat down and twisted to rest his arms on the back of the bench. Putting his chin onto his arms, he stared absently into the laundry.
A man and a woman sat in chairs at the end of one of the folding tables. They seemed only aware of each other. A small, dark haired boy ran up and pulled on the woman’s arm. David cringed as the woman’s other arm came up. But instead of hitting the boy, she caressed the top of his head. Then she picked him up and set him on her lap. The boy wrapped his arms around her neck and rested against her. The woman rubbed the boy’s back and then kissed his forehead – just like Elizabeth had kissed his!
But then the woman handed the boy to the man. David tensed, not wanting the boy to be hurt. But the boy sat on his lap and rubbed the man’s chin with his small hand. The man smiled and said something to the boy. The boy clapped his hands, and in an instant the man stood and lifted the boy onto his shoulders. Then the man helped the woman fold laundry while the boy rode his shoulders and played with his hair.
A longing shot through David so sharp that he had to close his eyes. What was it like to be cared for like that? What was it like to have a mother and a father you could go to without fear? A mommy and a daddy. He had heard the words said on TV and by a few of the students in his class.
David shook his head, trying to clear it of the picture of the family, but even when he faced away from the laundry the image stayed with him. No one would ever love him like that.
He started walking again. He could walk forever in these shoes that Elizabeth had gotten him. And this jacket was much better than extra shirts. She had gotten him a lot of things, but he hadn’t taken the time to pack. If only Elizabeth was his mother and loved him like the mother in the laundry. But Elizabeth did say she loved him. And she had touched him like that. And she had called him her son. And she had fed him and given him all these clothes. And she had given him a bed, a whole room even.
But then she had let Keith come.
The image of the father returned. Was it possible that Keith wasn’t going to hurt him? Maybe Keith just came to see her. Another emotion came that David couldn’t define. She didn’t need Keith. David wished it was only him and her. He wished there was no Jared, either. He wouldn’t mind if she… if she touched him. Maybe she wouldn’t hurt him.
He shook his head, angry with his own thoughts. No. It was sin. God didn’t like it. That’s what they said at the mission when they were talking to those two that were caught behind the church. It didn’t matter whether it hurt or not. It only mattered if you were married or not. She could marry him, and they could be like Gary and Michelle. No, she wouldn’t do that.
He thought about the scene at the laundry again. What he really wanted was to have a family like that little boy had. He wanted a father and mother he could go to without fear. A mother and father that would never hurt him and never stop loving or caring for him. Is that possible, Jesus?
David had crossed some railroad tracks and was now at the end of the street. He didn’t know which way to turn. He guessed it didn’t matter if he was leaving. There was nowhere to go anyway. He’d never see her again, just like he’d never see Gary and Michelle again, and he’d never believe Dylan cared again.
He crumbled to the ground and hugged his knees. Was there any reason to go on? No one cared. No one…. But then his gaze fixed on the jeans covering his no longer bare knees. Elizabeth. Beth. My mom, the man had said. Oh mommy. He rocked and cried. Please Jesus, can she be my mommy?
David stood and ran back the way he had come. At the laundry he paused to look through the window, but the family was gone. He started running again, but stopped a little later. Which street? Had he passed this? He needed to find her. He needed to get home. Where was his home?
David searched every street until he finally found the house. Relief flooded through him. Light came from the office windows. He hoped that Keith was not there, but even if he was, Elizabeth had let him live there. Elizabeth was his. Keith had Dylan. He didn’t need Elizabeth, too.
David tried the door, and it opened for him. Quietly, so that he wouldn’t disturb them, he hung up his coat. He peeked around the curtain into the office. No one was in there. They must be in bed. You don’t need him, Elizabeth. You don’t need….
He walked into his room. A large shape was outlined on his bed in the dark. She gave his room to Keith! As he turned to run out, though, light from the kitchen filtered into the room and reflected off her long auburn hair. His hurt stopped and he looked closer. She was fully dressed down to her shoes, but asleep. Was Keith in her room? He walked down the hall and looked through the open doors of both bedrooms, but there was no sign of Keith.
On the way back to his room, David stopped by the hall closet where Elizabeth had told him the extra blankets were kept. He took one back to his room. He threw the blanket on the floor in the corner, curled up on it, and went to sleep.
Thursday, March 9th
He sat up quickly, all sleep leaving him. Early morning light came through the window making the kitchen light less noticeable. Elizabeth knelt beside him. “Oh, David, I’m so glad you came home. I was afraid… Never mind, I….” She quickly leaned over and hugged him before backing away again.
It was over before David realized what she was doing. He had never been hugged like that before. He wanted to tell her to do it again. He wanted to hug her, but he couldn’t. So he just watched her.
Elizabeth looked right back at him. “Oh, David. I was so worried. Maybe whoever you lived with before didn’t miss you when you would go for walks like that, or maybe I just worry too much, but David, do you think that you could tell me next time before you go for a walk again? I was afraid that maybe you… maybe you didn’t want to be here anymore, and… Please promise me that you’ll tell me next time before you leave. Please.”
If he told her she might try to stop him, and next time she might hurt him. But she hadn’t hurt him yet. And he didn’t want to leave her no matter what she did. He almost couldn’t find her again. He could promise her until she hurt him really bad. He finally nodded.
“Thank you, David. Why were you on the floor? You should have woke me. I didn’t mean to fall asleep in here.” Elizabeth stood and pulled back the covers of the bed. Then she turned to him. “Take off your shoes, and you can sleep like you are if you’re comfortable.”
David did as she asked and climbed into the bed. He wasn’t sure what she was going to do, but she just pulled the covers up around him. Then she bent and kissed his forehead. “Good night, David. I love you.” She went around the bed to the door and was gone.
She loved him, and she had kissed him again in that nice way. And Keith wasn’t here. It didn’t even look like she had taken off her clothes for him at all. It was good that he had come back. She still loved him.
Bright sunlight lit the room when David finally woke up. He was careful to shower and put on all clean clothes before he went into the rest of the house. The curtain before the office was pulled apart and held open by two ties. Elizabeth worked at her computer. He was hungry, but he didn’t know if she would be upset if he went into the kitchen and ate something. He decided not to risk it. He walked into the office to the stuffed chair, but she saw him before he sat down.
“Good morning, David. Have you eaten yet?”
He shook his head.
“Well, let’s go get you something. I saved the lesson for you.”
David followed her to the kitchen and watched her fix him a dish of cereal. She always fed him. She is good to me, Jesus. Thank you for sending me here. Elizabeth read the morning’s lesson, as David ate. He finished his cereal about the time she finished reading.
“David, I think it’s time we talked about chores and allowances.”
She could talk about anything.
“Usually in a house everyone works together to keep things up, like vacuuming, laundry, mopping, cooking, snow shoveling, lawn mowing, and probably ten million other things I can’t think of right now. Now, I don’t know how much you know about doing any of those things, so I figure that you’ll just help me do them for a while. Then maybe after a month or two we can divide things up between us. Does that sound okay to you?”
He’d do anything she wanted as long as she didn’t hurt him. He nodded.
“Good. And then there’s your allowance.” Elizabeth stood, grabbed some books from the counter and sat back down. She opened the top book and took out some money. “I’m new at this allowance thing, so we’ll see how this is to start. Every week I’ll give you this much money.”
“Yes, you. Now there are exceptions, like if you decide not to help me around the house or something.” Elizabeth pushed the money across the table to him. “Do you know how much money this is?”
David hesitated. Was it a trap? Slowly he reached for the money. When she didn’t move he drew it closer and started to count it. “A ten.” He looked at her, and she nodded. “Four ones and four quarters.”
“I’m trying to find out how much education you have had, David. Do you know how much it is all together?”
She wanted to know how stupid he was. Why couldn’t he just help her like she said? Why did she have to know exactly how dumb he was? But he tried to count because he didn’t want to upset her. “Fifteen,” he said, after he had considered it.
“Okay, good. Now God requires that we give ten percent of all the money we earn to Him. That’s called the tithe. How much tithe is there on fifteen dollars?”
David shook his head. How could he answer when he didn’t even know what she wanted? How did a person give money to God, anyway?
Elizabeth pulled some photocopies out of the book where the money had been. “Can you add and subtract numbers, David?”
“These are books that help people learn. You would normally go to school, but that’s not possible under the circumstances, so I must teach you here. To do that I have to know how much you know so I’m not wasting time and boring you.”
“I can’t learn.” She may as well know now that he was a lost cause like Mrs. Cleets said.
“I don’t believe that’s true, but someone has told you that, haven’t they?”
He looked into her eyes. “I am mentally challenged.”
“I think you were incorrectly labeled, David.” She studied him a moment. “In fact, I’m sure you were. I don’t believe in labels for just this reason. You’ve heard it and believe it’s true. I think that I can teach you. I can teach you to read, and I can teach you math. Will you let me? Will you work at it with me, David?”
He watched her face. She really seemed to believe that she could teach him when no one else could. No one else had done as much for him as she had. And she was so smart. If anyone could help him, she could. But could he even learn? “Will I be able to read the Bible?” Then he would know the answers to his questions.
“Yes, David. It will take time, but I bet you will be reading the Bible just fine by yourself next year at this time, if you keep working with me.”
A year. That was a long time. Even if he didn’t learn, he would be with her. “I want to.”
“Good. We’ll start today. I’ll work with you every morning on weekdays, and then I’ll give you things to do while I work on my stuff. On our way home today, we’ll stop at the computer store and see if they have any good programs to help you learn, too.”
She moved to the chair next to him instead of across from him and spent the next two hours working with him. He felt stupid every time he couldn’t answer a question. She never berated him or became angry. After while his discomfort started to disappear, and he was able to think about how to come up with the answer. When he was right, she seemed very pleased. When he was wrong, she just said, “That’s all right,” and explained the problem a different way.
After lunch, Elizabeth said, “How about learning something completely different now?”
How many things were there to learn? He didn’t want to learn anything else right now. He just wanted to listen to music. David nodded, and she led him into the office.
Elizabeth reached under the table to a cabinet underneath and pulled out a brown leather case. “This is my old camera, the first one I bought when I started taking pictures for my job. It’s still good, it’s just heavier than my new one.” She explained how to use it, and David remembered some of the things that she had told him back at the motel room. “I have to go out to shoot some pictures this afternoon. I thought you might like to practice taking pictures with this camera while I’m using the other.”
In the car Elizabeth explained the type of pictures she had to take to make an advertisement for the newspaper.
At the car lot, David watched the way she talked to the people, and he watched when she started taking the pictures. Most of the people ignored him. When he looked through the camera, trying to frame a good picture, he quit thinking of them at all. He thought he got a fairly good picture of a squirrel on a nearby tree when Elizabeth came to him.
“How’s it going, David?” she asked softly.
He shrugged, not knowing what she expected.
“How many pictures did you take?”
“I… I don’t remember.”
“That’s okay. I just thought if you finished that roll of film we could drop it off to be developed on the way home. Let’s see.” She reached out and tilted David’s camera so that she could read the picture count. “Looks like you can take three or four more pictures today.” She pointed to another tree. “A cardinal.” And then she went to meet the man that was coming toward them.
David pointed the camera at the cardinal and adjusted the lens, snapping the picture just as the cardinal opened his wings to fly away. He hoped he got the picture. He didn’t want to disappoint her. He aimed the camera at Elizabeth as she spoke.
They dropped the film off on the way home. The rest of the day passed peaceably for David. No one came to the house, and Elizabeth divided her time between teaching him and working.
Elizabeth suggested that he could have lessons on the piano so that he could read sheet music. She showed him the music and played a piece for him. “A piano teacher can show you things about music that will make you an even better musician than you are now.”
“Can you teach me?”
“Only a little. You’re far more gifted than I am in music. You need someone who can teach you basic and advanced techniques at the same time. I’m afraid I don’t know that much.”
David didn’t believe that she couldn’t teach him. She knew everything, and he didn’t want anyone else. “Will you be with me?”
“Yes, David. If it would make you more comfortable, I’ll stay with you during the lessons.”
After Elizabeth had tucked him into bed and read to him that night, David heard her go out to the office. When he didn’t hear her come back through to her room, he got up and looked into the office. She worked all the time, but she didn’t make him. He wished he could help her with that, too. But he would never be that smart. He watched her a while longer and then went back to bed.
Tomorrow Jared would come. David had seen his picture, a blond haired boy with blue eyes. Jared was six and a half years old and in first grade, Elizabeth had told him. David wished that Jared didn’t have to come. He liked it here with just Elizabeth. He didn’t want to see how much more she loved Jared than him. He didn’t want to be reminded that he wasn’t really special to her and that he didn’t belong to her. He went to sleep wishing that he was her real son and Jared was not.
Go to Chapter 10
© 2013, 1995 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.