Summer of David

Elizabeth Lloyd

© Copyright 2019 by Elizabeth Lloyd

Photo of a figure in a dark room.

This is a true story.  However when sitting down to write it, the only way to alleviate the writer’s block that was happening was to change the names in the story.  It was easier to write it in the third person rather than insert myself into the story again.

Are the doors locked?” He sounded pissed that he was getting this question again. “I said yes!” Even though he was a little pissed, she couldn’t help but put it out there again. “If I go up there and check the doors, they will be locked, right?” “Yes, the doors are locked.” “Well sometimes I’ve gone up there and checked the doors after you told me they were locked, and they haven’t been locked.” He sighs “Then go check the doors.”

They have this conversation, at least twice a week, sometimes more. It made him crazy, but she couldn’t help it. On a few occasions she had tried to explain to him. She just really needed to be sure the doors were locked.

It had taken ten minutes to get her side of the bed warm. The thought of flipping up the covers to make the journey upstairs was irritating. Beth wished she could forget about the doors, but she lay there debating with herself for several minutes. Sleep would not come until she was absolutely sure that the doors were locked. The need finally forced Beth from the warm bed. “Crap!” Her feet searched the chilly wood floor for her slippers. She started toward the stairs. Knowing she was double checking already locked doors.

As her feet hit the first step, memories of a very hot summer drifted into her thoughts. She had turned twelve that summer. Halfway up the stairs, anger and betrayal, as her thoughts locked on David. Her then new step-father. How everything had changed that summer. She and her brother had been happy when her mother married him. At first. Before they were married, he had been nice, he had done stuff with them. The landing in the entryway found her still thinking about what a deviant and cruel person David turned out to be. Beth double checked the already locked doors.

Beth hurried back down the stairs. At lease now she would be able to sleep. Maybe. Thoughts of that summer were stuck in her mind. How could another person be so cruel, and selfish to the people around them? How things had changed after David and her mother were married. They had changed so slowly that it was impossible to pinpoint exactly when it happened. Exactly when things turned bad. It started with small things.

Before David, dinner had been fun. Weekends in the summertime would find Beth and her brother playing outside all day. Kick the can, touch football, racing their bikes, any invented game, with the rest of the neighborhood kids. Then their mothers voice would echo through the neighborhood, calling them for dinner. By that time, they would be starving. Anything she made would taste like the best dinner they ever ate. Seconds were always requested. There was never anything considered leftovers. After dinner they would be allowed to return to the neighborhood games until the sun when down. When the street light came on, it was time to go in. For the most part Beth had always felt safe in her neighborhood, and her house.

Searching for a moment that she could pinpoint, Beth’s thoughts turned to one of the first incidents of change. The memory stuck with her, because it took her by surprise. It was the beginning. They had all sat down for dinner. Halfway through dinner, without saying a word, David reached over the table and smacked the top of Beth’s hand with his fork. Hard. Then he said “Get your arms off the table while we are eating.” She glanced at her mother hoping for a defense. Her mothers’ eyes were smoking just below the surface. “David!” Beth knew this had took her mother by surprise too. David had wanted to start a fight, and her mother knew that. His instigations had been coming more frequently. His reply “Well, these god damn kids have no manners.” Beth knew that was the end of her defense. She could tell her mother did not have the energy to battle that night.

After that first incident, dinner became a torturous endeavor of how much food could be consumed with fear hanging over their heads. How much dinner could be consumed, before Beth or her brother would be sent away from the table, because of some invented crime. Funny how the food did not taste as good anymore. Funny how there was more silence at the table than conversation. Funny how they did not feel as safe in their own house anymore. If one of them was sent from the table, the other would always find a way to sneak some food up to the other.

Now sitting on the edge of the bed, thoughts of David were inching their way towards memories of one particular night. She tried to chase them away by focusing on sleep. It would take ten minutes to get the bed warmed up again. Maybe she should just leave her slippers on. Her little brother Eric drifted into mind. How mean David had become to Eric. He had been just a small boy in need of a father. Yes, David had been wicked.

Beth and her brother Eric would fight like crazy. But Eric was her brother. No one else had the right to be mean to him. Even though Beth would get pissed at Eric, she also had an intense desire to protect him. She knew if David was focused on her, her brother might escape some invented punishment. Eric had it worse. Her brothers small size made him a target for her step-father. David was a sick predator. He would hunt out the most defenseless. She had witnessed his cruelty on the dogs every now and then.

Dinner was sometimes torturous, but the kitchen cleanup ritual, could be worse. Whoever received dish duty would shuffle to the kitchen with a heavy feeling. It was rare if it went well. David would wait until almost all the dishes were done, and then come into the kitchen to check them. If he found anything wrong with any dish, the entire load would go back into the sink. Everyone of them would have to be washed again. Many of those times Beth knew there had been nothing wrong with the dishes. There were times when she had spent three hours at the sink, washing and rewashing dishes. He would put all of the dishes back into the sink and grin at her. She hated the stupid smile on his face. He was just showing her how much power he had. He was twisted. Too bad her mother hadn’t realized that before she married him. The marriage didn’t last long, but it was long enough to create some damage on them all.

Beth slipped off her slippers and snuggled back into bed, pulling the covers up to her chin. His voice came muffled and sleepy from the other side of the bed. “I told you the doors were locked.” “I know, but you know why I need the doors locked.” Then he said, “Are you sure you just didn’t dream all that?” His words created instant anger. “What! I can’t believe you said that to me!” Now pissed at him too, she replied “You call my mother and ask her.” Sleep seemed farther away then ever. The events of that hot summer day and night began to penetrate all other thought she was having.

That summer, the days had been exceedingly hot and getting hotter. The heat had been rolling into the nights. On that particular day, she had done something to piss her step-father off. More than likely it had been nothing. To this day she knew the punishment had not fit the crime. To this day there was no memory of the crime. He had put out a punishment. She was grounded from using the telephone. No phone.

When the telephone began to ring, and ring, and ring, and ring, until it was completely impossible to ignore, she wondered why David had not answered it. How could he not hear it? She knew she was grounded from the telephone. But it rang for so long, that she was sure it had to be important. What if it was her mother? Her mother had left for work hours ago. She picked up the telephone. “Hello” The man on the other end asked “Is David there?” David appeared from around the corner. He had a flyswatter in his hand. She extended the telephone toward him, and said “It’s for you.”

Beth was sure she could detect that stupid grin of his, just behind his eyes. David took the receiver from her and said “I’ll have to call you back.” How did he know who it was? He hung the receiver back on the wall. Turned to look at her. It wasn’t a mad look. She couldn’t exactly read the look on his face. The hint of a smile under his serious look confused her. The distinct feeling of a set up sank in. A wave of fear washed over her. Trapped between him and the wall, there was no escape. David grabbed the back of her tank top, and began hitting her with the flyswatter. The flyswatter caught more of the skin on her legs, than the cloth on her shorts. Surely, he had to be finished, but then the plastic flew of the flyswatter, it seemed to prompt a new round of whipping. Now the metal prongs caught pieces of her skin.

When he finally released the back of her shirt, she was biting back tears. She didn’t want him to win. The throbbing across the back of her thighs, propelled her toward her room. She remained there for the rest of the day. He was in a rare mood, seeming to enjoy handing out the punishment more than normal. She did not want to tempt him again. If he seen her, he would invent a reason for another punishment.

Late in the afternoon Beth heard the jingle of keys coming up the sidewalk. The side entry screen door slammed. “Beth, Eric, I’m home.” Beth felt that she could safely leave her room, and made her way down stairs. “How was your day?” The question was asked with David standing behind her mother. Wanting so badly to relay the days events, wishing that she had some kind of ability to silently communicate with her mother, to tell her what an asshole he was, to tell her. David gave her a “Go ahead, I dare you” look, Beth could almost read his mind. “Go ahead, tell her, but next time will be worse.” There would be a next time, her mother would have to leave for work again. “Fine.” she uttered.

The sun disappeared on the horizon, but the dark did not provide any relief from the heat. No relief from her anger. No relief from her sadness or worry. Her bedroom was upstairs. It was hotter up there than downstairs. If it had been this hot the summer before David, she might have gone downstairs and sleep on the couch.

A fan sat in the hallway between her and Eric’s room. They had to share it. It did little good out in the hallway. Eric would always try to turn it toward his room a little, and then she would notice, and tip it back toward her room. The never-ending fan fights. The fan did little good out in the hallway. It was just blowing hot sticky air around. The air movement would barely touch them anyway.

Her bed ran the length of one wall. At the foot of her bed was a window. It was slightly cooler near the window. Her pillow made its way to the foot of the bed. There she could catch pieces of the small breeze. It was heavy and muggy out. Even in the heat, she had the need to have something cover her. She pulled a light sheet up to her chin. It gave her a safe, content feeling. She was thinking about how much she hated David, when a restless sleep finally found her.

Deep in the night something pulled her from sleep. Beth blinked her eyes a couple times. Attempting to focus, her eyes were immediately drawn to the only light. Focusing on the street light outside her window on the corner. The street light was giving off enough of a glow creating long distorted shadows cascading off trees and houses. Fixated on the streetlight, the one that let her know when it was time to go in the house. A very light breeze caused shadows from the neighbor’s large oak tree to dance in the street. The shadows danced in thick silence. Beth scanned the street below. Her mother’s car sat parked in front of the house. The shadows from the big old tree danced across the car too. The house was located on a dead-end street, the second one from the corner. The rail road tracks were at the end of the block. Except for the trains, it was always quiet. The sign “dead-end” use to scare her.

Had a bad dream woken her? A heaviness, that was not caused by the heat, penetrated the air. Beth was paralyzed by a very bad feeling. Without moving, her eyes strained to see parts of her room, but she was facing the wall and the window. Her eyes could not adjust in the dark. Her focus kept being pulled to the street light outside. Beth wished she was out there. She strained to hear anything. She realized the sheet was not covering her. Maybe the heat had caused her to kick it off while sleeping. Maybe that was why she woke.

Something in her was telling her not to move, but she slowly reached down, blindly searching for the sheet with her finger. She found a corner of the sheet and pulled it back up over her. It did not help relieve the goose bumps that were racing up and down her body. She felt her heart beating faster. Pounding. The hair on the back of her neck was standing up. A paralyzing fear had her. It would not allow her to move or roll over. Something was wrong. Here eyes could not focus, she was so tired. She wondered what time it was. For a moment sleep almost grabbed her back.

The house was old, very old. It had been updated and remodeled. It didn’t look old, but it did sound old. The creeks and groans it made, had become familiar. So familiar she could determine what part of the house was settling, or if someone were on the stairs. She lay straining to hear something other than the constant hum from the hallway fan. She was listening so hard that the sound of the fan was lost to a background of intense quiet. Still caught in limbo of sleep and awake, but closer to sleep, her brain could not really figure out what was going on, why she woke, or why she felt so afraid.

A small creek of the floor next to her bed, was not one of settling. It was one of someone’s weight shifting. The overpowering feeling of fear was justified. Beth could feel another presence in the room. Of someone standing there, looking at her. She felt a slight touch on her shoulder, and the pounding in her chest started all over again. She felt the sheet, which was keeping her safe, begin to slide down her body, and then it stopped at her feet. Her heart was pounding so hard she could hear it in her ears.

Wearing only underwear and a tank top, she became keenly aware of how much of her was exposed. Her brain scrambled with several possibilities of who might be standing at the side of her bed, looking at her. Gut instinct said it was not her mother. The presence behind her was too big to be her brother. Her mind began to calm just a little bit as the day’s events made their way back into her thoughts. She slowly reached down and pulled the sheet up to her chin again. She was sure it had to be her step-father. She figured he was looking to see if he had left any marks on her.

She lay there for a while, still caught in a limbo, but now more on the awake side. Then the touch at her shoulder again, and the sheet slide down her body again. She felt the eyes on her. She had to do something to end this.

Still facing the wall, she sat straight up in bed. She heard the figure behind her hit the floor. She heard a shuffling, whoever was behind her was now trying to inch their way under her bed. She could not suck in a breath. Positive whoever was in the room could hear the shaking in her arms and the pounding in her chest. She made her way to the headboard of her bed. Beth pulled the sheet and all of the covers on her bed over her. Now facing the room, her eyes attempted to focus in the dark. Her eyes fixed on one of the only lights in the room. The green glowing lights on her clock. 3:15, and she watch the numbers click by, 3:16, 3:17….at 3:22, her ears caught the sound of movement from under her bed. She lay as still as she could. Why would her stepfather hide? Why wouldn’t he just turn and leave? She was too tire for any thought to make sense. She was hoping this was all a bad dream.

She pretended to be asleep. Half closed eyes watched a large man, who had just shuffled his way out from under her bed, rise from the floor. In the dark room, distinct features were lost. The glow from the alarm clock illuminated the man just a little. All Beth could make out was a shadowy form. She knew he was a big man, with a beard. David had a beard. It had to be her step-father. It had to be David.

He was standing right in front of her. His metal belt buckle caught the faintest glow of the green clock light. He was wearing some kind of vest over a tee shirt. The metal buttons on the vest also caught a slight green flow from her clock. Her fist clung to the covers. He stood above her. Staring at her for what seemed like a long time. She stayed as still as she could. She did not want him to know she was awake. Terrified to look directly at him, terrified to move, terrified to breath, terrified that he would hear the pounding in her chest. Her brain couldn’t make sense of it. Why would David hide under her bed? It had to be David.

Finally, the large man turned and left her room. The pounding in her chest over powered all sound of the house, and all logical thoughts. She sat up in her bed and focused hard on her doorway. A faint glow from the stairway light illuminated the hallway. The light did not make its way into her room. It dissipated just before the bathroom door. The shadowy place between the hallway light and her room now scared her. She stared into the hallway for a long time. When she was sure the man was gone, she got dressed. She sat on the edge of her bed for a while and watched the hallway. There was no sign of movement. Slowly she was able to regain her breathing, and her muscles.

The pressure in Beth’s bladder was immense. Finally, she had to move. She made her way toward the bathroom. She clicked on the bathroom light. Went to the bathroom. She had an overpowering need to brush her teeth. She leaned over the sink, brushed her teeth and splashed water on her face. She didn’t turn the bathroom light off. Back in her bedroom she sat perched on the edge of her bed, staring at the hallway. Her brain could still not make sense of it.

Then to her horror, she saw the large man emerge from the bathroom. She had just been in there! Where had he been? He had been in there too! The only place he could have been, was standing in the shower. A new wave of fear washed over her. The shaking started again in her arms and legs. She could not catch her breath again. Her brain went back to a place where nothing really made sense and she couldn’t figure it out. Nothing about this night was logical. An intense fear replaced anything that made sense. The only thought that made sense to her was she needed to hide. She needed to be safe.

She sat a little longer, watching. Shaking. Unable to breath. Her brain screaming “Hide, hide, hide, hide.” Now afraid that he might come out of any corner or doorway. Part of her brain was trying to tell her that the man had not been David. The other part of her brain was telling her it had to be David. All of her brain was telling her to hide. When there was no movement in the hallway for what seemed like hours, which was really only minutes. Beth gathered the courage to move. She needed to be in a space that she could control. She needed to be where she could see everything.

Quietly and slowly Beth made her way out into the hall. Getting through the shadowy place. Getting past the bathroom door was an extreme act of courage. He had been in there with her. Then she stepped into the illumination of the faint hallway light. Her brain screaming hide, hide, hide. Her thoughts drifted back to the street light, and how she wished she had been out there. Strange how she felt safer outside than in her own house. Part of her brain kept telling her “It had to have been David, it had to have been David, it had to have been David.” Just underneath that thought, “It wasn’t David.”

Beth made her way down the old staircase. Moving slow so her presence would not be given away by any groan or creek. The bottom of the stairs found her standing in the dinning room. Just past the dining room was the entryway. Beth could see the screen door. Why was the door open? Her mother never left the door open. Who forgot to lock the door?

She had to get to a safe place. She moved through the dining room, trying to make herself invisible and small. She had to get through the entryway to get outside. The entryway was dark, it had shadows, places for people to hide, but she had to get outside.

Three large steps got her through the entryway, and her fingers touched the metal push handle of the screen door. She stepped out into the night. The night air was not as hot and heavy now. An eerie silence washed over her. It was strange how being outside made her feel safer than in her own house. She had to hide. She made her way up the walk toward her mothers’ car. Prying the car was unlocked. It was small in there. She could see everything. She could lock all the doors.

The car was unlocked. Quietly crawling into the back seat and locking all the doors. Making herself as small as she could in the backseat looking at the stars out the back window. Watching shadows dance across the things she could see. Her muscles started to relax. Her breathing was on its way back to normal, mentally attempting to dissect what had really happened.

Somehow a restless sleep found her. It was not until she heard her mothers voice, desperately calling out her name, did she wake. At first, she couldn’t figure out where she was. Then the night came flooding back. Her mother’s voice desperately calling her name again. Sitting up in the car, she unlocked the door and crawled from the car. She watched her mother’s face go through a series of emotions, which finally settled on relief.

Beth started up the sidewalk toward her mother. “Oh my god!” A little bit of confusion mingled in with her relief. “Beth, David told me what happened yesterday.” Beth was sure David had not told her everything.” She was sure he had not told her how much he enjoyed handing out the punishment. “I thought you had run away from home!” Her mother had known something was wrong when she got home yesterday. Beth’s wish to be able to silently communicate had come true. Inside Beth laughed a little. The son of a bitch had to tell on himself. “Why were you in the car?” Beth began to tell her mother about the night. She watched some horror, and a little disbelief, and a lot of anger on her mother’s face. “Beth, David got up and went golfing at five this morning.” Relaying the story had caused Beth to start shaking ever so slightly. Her mother’s statement caused her heart to pound a little harder. “I don’t think it was David.” Beth also saw something else on her mother’s face. Suspicion, not of her, but of David. Finally.

Why didn’t you wake us up?” It was a very logical question. But the night had not been logical. “I was afraid of getting in trouble.” There were about eight other reasons that she couldn’t find the words to verbalize fast enough to explain to her mother. Her statement caused her mothers brow to scrunch up. “I’m calling the police.” Beth followed her mother to the phone. The place where all this began.

The police came. It was determined that the man had made his way onto the second story roof. It was not hard to do. Beth and Eric had done it before, by navigating the series of different height roof slopes. Once there, the man had cut the screen off the bathroom window, and then left through the side entryway door. The man was never found.

Three weeks later, the sting of that night had begun to fade. Beth was finally able to fall asleep again, and stay asleep. They were getting ready to go on a long weekend camping trip. Beth found the distraction helped even more. Bags occupied corners and hallways. The dinning room was strewn with camping gear and coolers.

Beth woke to her mother’s frantic voice wafting up the stairs from the dining room. “David where is my purse, my purse if gone!” She heard David say something. The tone of her mother’s voice was eerily familiar. Beth heard her mother begin to list other things that were missing. David said something again. He must have been in the front of the house. She couldn’t make out his words. An uneasiness crawled into Beth’s stomach. She scrambled from her bed. She had to use the bathroom.

In the bathroom she checked the window. It was not left wide open anymore. Yes, the screen was there. Slowly she peered around the corner of the shower, it was empty. She used the bathroom. Her mother’s voice was becoming more frantic. “All of out money was in there!” Then her mother said “David the entryway door is sitting wide open!” Beth began to shake. “David, I thought you locked it.” David was now in the dinning room with her mother. She could hear his voice more clearly. David replied “I thought you locked it.” Now her mother’s voice carried with it an angry undertone “David, I asked you if you locked it, and you said yes!”

Her mothers voice took a very strange turn, “Eric, Beth!” Beth was scrambling to find pants. “Eric, Beth!” Beth yelled down the stairs, “What mom?” Beth already knew what, but had to send some kind of response. “You and Eric come down here.” Eric was just making his way out of bed. He was digging through a dresser drawer. Eric called from his room. “Yes mom.”

Eric and Beth made their way down the stairs. They were standing side by side, in the dining room, facing their mother. The side screen door was her mother’s backdrop. She looked stressed. “Beth, did you go outside last night?” The question brought back memories of the very hot night. “No.” Her mother looking at them like a seasoned investigator on a quest for answers “My purse is gone.” The shaking had started in Beth when she was making her way down the stairs, and had been increasing. Beth looked past her mother at the side door. It was sitting wide open. Her mother now asked “Did you see or hear anything last night?” Eric’s small voice piped up. “I seen a man upstairs, but I was kinda asleep, I thought it was David.” Beth’s heart began to pound in her chest. Her mothers jaw dropped open and then she made an unsuccessful attempt at calm. “What did he look like?” Eric responded with “I don’t know mom. I didn’t really see his face.” Eric was still groggy, hair sticking up all over. Her mother was getting frustrated trying to pull answers from him. Beth’s heart was now about to pound out of her chest. Her mother tried again for answers. Eric said “He was tall and he had a beard, I don’t know mom, I was asleep.”

Beth noticed that David had mysteriously disappeared from the dining room. Why would he leave during the middle of what appeared to be an extremely important conversation? Beth knew the man had not been David, but she was also sure that David knew who the man was. She could tell by her mother’s face, that her mother was working toward that conclusion too. Beth wondered how long it would take for her mother to actually get there. The police were called again. Beth found it strange that they went camping anyway. 

With the hot summer coming to an end, a divorce was impending. The cooler autumn air and a changing of the leaves brought Beth and Eric relief. With David gone things slowly returned to something resembling normal. The new normal now carried with it the shadows of a long hot summer, the loss of something innocent. That hot summer, the summer of David, had left long lasting bruises on everyone.

Now, laying in bed, sleep was not coming. “I can’t believe you said that too me!” He shuffled around in the bed. Flipped the sheets around and rolled toward her. His sheet flip only increased her irritation with him. “Your letting all the warm air out!” He wrapped his arms around her. “I’ll warm you up.” A heavy sigh escaped her. He squeezed her tight and whispered in her ear “Beth go to sleep. The doors are locked.”

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