No Love

Deanna Salser

© Copyright 2018 by Deanna Salser


Photo of Deanna, her brother, and foster siblings.

I have spent practically my whole life with strangers. Since being taken from my mom after I was burned at age 7 months, I bounced from foster home to foster home, joined by my baby brother when he was taken away as well, it was stipulated we not be separated. Different homes wanted to keep me or him but never us both, so we were moved again. The next home was of a Southern Baptist Preacher and his wife and four kids who were looking for more children to care for. It should have been the ideal situation for us. Turns out it was only ideal for my brother.

 I knew from the first day I spent at the foster home that it would never be home to me. The mom lost her smile as soon as we pulled out of my own dadsí driveway. Her face without it was cold and distant and her eyes were as shards of ice as she looked at me. My brother brought the smile back to her face as her glance passed over me, to him. He was clinging to me and looking back at her distrustfully from under my arm as I held him tight. She continued to make eyes at him during the drive home and I could see that she disapproved of something, but she kept her silence in the car. As soon as we got to the home, we were separated and told that in this house, male and female children didnít cuddle together like that. Like it was somehow dirty and that's how it made me feel. I remember trying not to cry as my brother had to be physically peeled away and restrained from me. His panicked cries flew out behind her as if they traveled along his little arms, spraying from his outstretched hands as they reached back over her shoulder towards me as she carried him out of the room. One of the other children was holding me back from following and none of them appeared to think this was strange, so I kept my feelings to myself. My young heart was heavy with dread as I tried to sleep that night in yet another unfamiliar bed. Time did not endear this home to me but it did to my brother, so I pretended to be okay for him. I was far from okay. The mother and I had a tense relationship from the very beginning. I might have rejected her earliest advances because, even at that that tender age, I knew what I wanted and did not want. I was four years old.

I hadn't been there a year when one of the boys in the home, one of the mother's natural children, (they had four of their own kids), began slowly grooming me, sexually. The family had an old blue Chevy station wagon, the kind with three seats. The third seat was the least desirable because it faced backwards. Anytime we would go anywhere, he would maneuver until he was sitting next to me in that third back seat. Then, with the adults unable to see what he was doing, he would try to get me to put my hand in his pants and fondle him while we traveled. He was very persistent, offering me treats I didn't normally get. As a five year old, I knew what we were doing was wrong but he hadnít hurt me and I had no intimacy with the mother that would make me want to tell her, so I went with it. It was attention. It continued and progressed until he was putting his fingers inside me and making me give him oral sex. For the next seven years he played with my body and made me play with his and by the time I was twelve he was trying to get me to have sex with him. He tried once but he was large and I was small and I started to make noise, so he stopped. He did apologize to me years later, after we were grown up, and he seemed sincere so I forgave him but I still suffer from trauma during certain sex acts.

The next five years passed slowly and painfully as I tried hard to conform to the rules of the home without much success. The rules were different for me and changed often. I was almost always in trouble, despite my best efforts, and as a result, became withdrawn and wary. I began to be depressed and cried every night in private, having learned that public displays were forbidden to me at great personal cost. I had been badly burned over a large part of my body as a baby and my scars were still very painful and prominent. My complaints of pain were scoffed at or ignored altogether and I went through surgery after surgery without the comfort of a mother's arms. In fact, I remember her turning a look of satisfaction my way when the nurses came in my room one day with a huge needle that scared me. I realized very quickly that I was on my own emotionally. Somehow I knew that I shouldn't be treated that way and wished every day that I had a mother who cared about me and would cuddle me on her lap. I spun elaborate daydreams of being rescued by my real mother who visited on occasion. I never told her what my life was like because I knew I was watched while she was there and that I would get in big trouble after she was gone, if I did.

There is a memory I have of my mother. She had come on one of her rare visits to us, Mike and I, where we lived behind the Colfax high school. We were sitting side by side in what must have been my room that I shared with Judi but it was the first bedroom and that's the only memory I have of being in there. Anyways, we were sitting on the bed and I was just breathing her in, a little shy of her and wanting so much to touch her but knowing I needed to be careful what the other mother would see me doing. She always chided me later about being "all over her" or "trying to get attention" when after all, she was there to see me, and Mike too of course, but I was in there. She was my real mom and I was desperate for her and when she did come, the time seemed to just fly by. I could never get enough of her and I felt rushed and watched and so achingly lonely for her all at the same time, every time she came so I would hover, hoping she would hug me and touch me and pick me up onto her lap and then I wouldn't get in trouble later, or not as much trouble, anyways. So, I was sort of leaning close, not against her, but touching and I was giddy with it. She was talking to me about something, I don't know what but then she started talking about some of the ways I was like her and she asked me if I could scrunch my toes and I showed her I could. We sat and scrunched together, looking at our toes and then she laughed and hugged me and rubbed her nose on mine and I was in heaven.
I never told her how I felt and how hard things were for me and lonely I was. I knew she had enough things hurting her and didn't need any more. I was supposed to take care of my brother and be a good girl and do well in school. I couldn't have been more than five or six in this memory but I already knew that I could take more and was stronger than other people, and I knew somehow that she couldn't bear the knowledge of my pain. She said she was trying and that someday she would be able to take us home, and I wanted that so badly that I wouldnít even let myself think about it not being true. And then they told me she died and my world descended into an inescapable hell of no more hope. I was nine years old.

Four more loveless years passed. No one ever touched me except to punish me. No hugs or cuddles or even verbal approval. I became so starved for attention that I felt like I might fade away. All the feelings stored inside me unable to be expressed kept piling up and I kept stuffing them down. I had to be okay for my brother. I felt he still needed me. I very carefully kept our motherís memory alive for him. It had to be a secret because we were forbidden to speak of her. I didnít really believe that she was dead. I thought it was a lie to make us forget her. I lived much of the time in my daydreams of her and of being loved. I would craft long fantasies in my head and used them to distract myself with, and to make time pass more pleasantly for me while I did my many chores or while I was in trouble or being punished. I created contests in my head and tried to do my chores quickly and well as if I were competing. I was always the best and fastest bed maker and dish washer and furniture duster and chicken feeder and weed puller and paint scraper. You get the point. It didnít matter how well I did my chores. It was never good enough for her. I wasnít allowed to have an opinion about anything. I had to do everything her way and even brushing my teeth or blinking my eyes my way was not tolerated. And I was watched closely and my every move reported back to her. I learned that no one cared how I felt and I began to actively wait out my childhood.

The year I turned 13, a new foster boy came to the home. His name was Joseph Salser. He was my age and there was an instant attraction when we met. He was beautiful with his long blonde hair and blue eyes. By that time I was very good at not attracting the mothersí regular attention. I kept my nose clean. It didnít keep me from getting into trouble, far from it, but it kept the punishments to a minimum. I made her work hard to come up with a reason concrete enough to be punished for. So I didnít act on my attraction to Joe and at first, I actually tried to avoid him. But he had fallen in love with me and was persistent and I couldnít resist that level of devotion for very long. I was starved for love and touch, no one hugged or held me, even when I was sick or hurt and I craved it. After what I had been through with the other brother, it took some time before I let him touch me, though. As soon as I did I was addicted. This was different, this was right. The way Joe touched me was reverent, as if I were holy. Swept along by new emotions, we had our first sexual experience together. I fell in love with him that night. He was so patient and sweet. He kept kissing my neck and chest and apologizing for hurting me and he treated me so gently and lovingly that night. I hadnít been held in love since I was a very little girl. It felt like it was us against the world.

Then the mother found out about our relationship and started keeping us apart, telling us that plans were in the works to transfer Joe to another foster home. In a panic of desperation we ran away. Managing to stay ahead of our searchers for nearly a week, we relied on each other and he took care of me. We walked at night and hid during the day, making love and talking for hours at a time. It was the best few days I had had since I went to live at the home. But it was not to last as we were tricked into giving ourselves up. We agreed not to run again if we didnít have to go back to the home and the adults agreed only to abruptly separate us as soon as they had us in custody. I went back to the home and Joe went Ösomewhere else. No one would tell me where and I wasnít allowed to use the phone, so he was lost to me and I was devastated.

I ran away again as soon as their vigil of me relaxed and this time I stayed gone for several months. I roamed around Auburn as a runaway for the whole summer that year. The next time I was caught and brought back, I couldnít get away and had to stay for over a year before I was able to escape. Finally I found my opportunity to run again when I was 16 and I eluded capture until I turned 18. But I never heard from Joe again. Unbeknownst to me, he had tried to get back to me repeatedly for the next few years but the mother never relented. She kept it from me that he called and told him I wasnít there when he did. I never forgot about my sweet Joe and thought about him often over the years but I had no way of looking him up. Thirty three years would pass before I would find him again.

The divorce was final. It was my second marriage, the first one having ended when he punched me as I held our baby daughter. I had one relationship in between him and the second husband, but we never got married. I did have two sons from that relationship but no children from the second marriage. I hadn't thought about Joe for years.

I had tried dating but none of the men I dated were interested in a commitment with me. Men didn't ask me out. My scars had followed me into adulthood and it took a special kind of guy to find me attractive; he had to get to know me. I had gone online to meet some new guys and I had a profile pic taken from an angle that didn't show the scars so I was able to attract them initially. But when they met me, most of them were unable to get past the physical. It started to seem to me that I would never find anyone again and I became depressed.

One night after a particularly depressing date where the man had rude and persistent interest in only one thing and it wasn't my mind, I began to think about the men who had loved me. I thought about the circumstances of each courtship and relationship and I realized that the men who had loved me had pursued me from the beginning. Men that I had pursued had not treated me well even if I had been successful. I thought back over the men who had wanted me first and sadly, there werenít that many. Then I remembered Joe. As I thought about him, I had a strong feeling that I should look for him. Thankfully, Facebook was just starting to become popular and I had grudgingly made a profile a few years back. I went to my page with a prayer in my heart.

I found him in the middle of a long list of Joe Salsers. I wasn't sure it was him but the picture was somewhat familiar. His profile was sparse and he only had two other pictures but his features pulled at my memory so I left him a message. 'Hey did you spend a year or so in a foster home in Colfax, Ca. when you were 13 or 14?' That was October 31st 2011 and I didn't hear back from him until December 28th. 'Oh my God, how are you doing? I was just thinking of you the other day and this is the first time I've been on Facebook in a long time and here you are!!!!!! Yes it's me and believe me I thought about you for so many years after we were separated. Where are you? What have you been doing? I want to hear everything. Call me, Joe.' He messaged me back but because of life, we didn't really connect until that next April. We had texted a few times but I was reluctant to open myself up again and didn't mention my feelings until then. We were texting and I casually asked him if he thought there was another chance for us. He immediately responded.

"Of course there is." And we began to make plans.

Joe was on probation in North Carolina. He had a long record of criminal activity, including several felonies. The probation had been going on for years past the original termination dates merely because he couldn't pay his fines. They were astronomical and there was no way he was going to be able to pay them on his salary. So the probation continued even though there had been no violations for years. As far as he was concerned, that was going to be his life. He had a daughter he was raising but he had been single for years. He had a good job and a few good friends and he had only recently found and reconnected with his brother, but now and then he would slip into bouts of depression from sheer loneliness. He hadn't been able to find anyone real either.

When we decided to try and be together, I suggested flying out for a visit. I wanted to know if the chemistry was still there. He agreed and I booked a flight for June. The six weeks leading up to the day of my flight were filled with anticipation. I could already tell from the way I felt during that time that the feelings were still there but Joe was being careful. He didn't want to get his hopes up in case we weren't able to make it happen. We knew the first thing we had to do was apply for an interstate transfer. I had just bought my first house and my children were still in school so we agreed he should come to me. He put in his first application and we waited. The next month he had a new probation officer. It soon became apparent that the old one hadn't turned in the application so he applied again. This happened another time before the ball was fully rolling, but by June when I flew out to visit, we were waiting for a reply.

The four days we had together in June solidified our desire to be together. We conducted a hand fasting ceremony in private, tying our hands together and pledging ourselves to each other forever. We made love desperately, knowing our time together was limited. At the airport on my way home, I struggled to keep from crying as I said goodbye to him. After I passed through the line and was waiting at the gate for my plane, I let the tears stream down my face as I hid it next to the windows. I missed him already. Six months would pass before we would have the answer we both desired. Another two before we could pull it together enough to get him out here to California.

It hasn't been easy but through it all, the love we began as kids has endured. He is my husband, the love of my life and the only man who has ever been my equal. I thank God every day for finally allowing me to feel what being truly happy feels like.

My name is Deanna Salser. I am currently working as a Drafting Tech for a company in California that makes crash cushions, among other things. I've always loved to read, in fact, I don't feel right if I don't have at least one book going. I've always had a fantasy about being a writer and I actually had a few good book ideas but I never felt like I had the time to write a novel. About seven years ago I had a story coming out of me so I decided to write when I had time and see how it went. It went slow but great. My first story is finished and I am doing what I can to get it published. In the meantime, I thought I would enter a few contests and see where it would get me. I need the publicity after all. So, here I am.

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