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Authors: Lorhainne Eckhart

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BOOK: The Forgotten Child
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Tears burned the back of her eyes. She blinked hard, refusing to allow one tear to fall. She wanted to kick herself for this weepy reaction. She wasn’t one of those women who cried at a drop of a hat. She was stronger than that.

His face softened as she sat. She couldn’t look at him. Her hands trembled, so she placed them in her lap.


What’s going on?” There was kindness in his voice.


I’m so sorry.” She whispered looking into the eyes of a man filled with so much power and passion, it poured from his eyes. He gave her all his attention. “Why are you sorry, did you do something wrong?”

Emily blinked. “Actually, no I didn’t. That was my soon to be ex-mother-in-law on the phone.”


You don’t have a good relationship with her?”


No. She pretty much blames me for ending my marriage to Bob.”


Your ex, he knows you’re here?”


Yeah, he knows. Listen Brad, we never talked about my personal life, but I can assure you it won’t affect us here. I’m pretty sure she won’t call back again.”


Emily, she hassled you here, in my home. And that’s my business. If she calls again and gives you a hard time, I’ll handle it.” He reached out and touched her hand, a touch that was so tender and full of support, Emily would swear her heart skipped a beat.


I’ll be filing for divorce soon. He doesn’t have the backbone to cause trouble. It’s easier for him to let me handle everything. He’s a mama’s boy; forgot to cut the apron strings, as you can tell by the phone call.” She tried to make light of her pain, but closed her eyes when he winced at her humiliation.


I’m sorry Em, if you ever need help with him, let me know. I have to get back to work.”

She nodded, fearing her voice would crack if she answered. She stood up when he did and reached for his cup to clear the table. But he stopped her with a soft touch to her arm. And that’s all it took for the tears to fall, so much for holding it together. Brad did the unexpected; he ran his hand over her shoulder and pulled her into his strong arms. Arms she was sure could cushion and protect her from every harsh bite reality dished out. An unsettling feeling considering she worked for him. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to fall apart.”

He must have sensed her embarrassment as he allowed his arms to drop. He stepped back and shoved his chair in with his boot. “That’s a lot of hurt you’re hanging onto. Suppose you start at the beginning and fill me in.”

He slid out her chair. “Sit down.” He pulled his chair out, so he faced her when he sat.


Look, he’s just a jerk. He’s self-absorbed and thinks of no one but himself. I’m just angry because I didn’t see it. He went to work, brought in a paycheck. I was to look after everything else, pay the bills and care for Katy and the house. If something needed fixed, I did it. He refused to give me a break; even slipping out to the store to buy groceries when he was home became a fight if I wouldn’t take Katy with me. There was no relationship between me and Bob. I mean he worked in Olympia and commuted; the first thing he did when he walked in, most nights, is call his mother. It bothered me but, as the distance grew between us, I started seeing him as he really was, a stranger who I no longer loved. I felt resentment and tension rose between us to the point where we no longer sat in a room together. There was no peace, no communication and his mother became the third person in our marriage. He shared everything going on his life with her through his nightly phone calls. That’s how I found out what was going on with him, by overhearing him on the phone.

Brad leaned forward resting his hand on the table beside Emily. “You listen to me; no real man would put that entire load on a woman’s shoulders. That’s bullshit, Em. He sounds like nothing but a little boy, not a man.


Is he supporting your Katy, sending you money?”

Her face heated “Yes, some.”


There are minimum guidelines for child support, is he meeting them?”

She couldn’t look him in the eye. She’d asked for very little. “No.”


No? Do you not have a lawyer?”


I have a lawyer, who’s already lectured me, on how I let him off the hook. But I want this over, the easiest way possible. I may be a fool for that. And he can’t afford much.” What she didn’t say was he’d probably bought himself a new car or a new entertainment system. He was worse with money than her.

His brows furrowed. He leaned closer. “He’s an asshole, that’s what he is.”


Brad, that’s not all. I’ve been reading some research online lately about some unusual symptoms in children. I read about a mother whose child would scream and shout and flail his arms during a Christmas lineup. And all she could do was carry the young child out. He wouldn’t play with other children. Noises and scents would set the child off in uncontrollable fits. The behavior was odd and the child wouldn’t talk to other people.”


You do a great job, Em. If you need any help or have any problems with your ex, or his mother, you come to me, you hear me? I know his kind, and I know how to deal with him.” He tapped the table with his fingers.

Did he hear anything she said? Maybe she was too vague. But then he reached out and slid his fingers down her cheek, then pulled back as if caught doing something he shouldn’t. Brad jumped out of his chair so fast Emily wondered if his chair would tip. But he gave it a shove, balling his hands into a fist. Then he grabbed his coat off the chair and faced her. “I meant what I said, Em. I’m a man of my word.”

A difficult man walked out the door. One who was hiding his feelings, his thoughts. A man she’d need to be careful with. Keep both eyes open; this man had the ability to cloud her good judgment. Except a thought surfaced in that moment as she listened to the gravel crunch beneath his feet; what it would feel like to be loved and protected by a man like Brad?

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twelve

 

Emily was positive Brad had convinced himself nothing was wrong with Trevor. After the glimpse she’d given Brad into some of the research she’d done, research similar to Trevor’s symptoms, Brad should have clued in. How much clearer did she need to be when it was obvious there was something wrong with the child? He should recognize the similarities, shouldn’t he?

From what she read of Trevor’s symptoms, routine was essential. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Trevor’s day needed to be structured. He ignored Katy, not deliberately; he’d slip away into his own world to do the oddest things. Restack utensils, boxes and cans in the cupboard over and over. He’d play with the DVD player, shoving a movie in and out over and over. She knew Brad saw that much. She’d seen the odd look come over him when he thought she wasn’t watching.

Emily began to notice patterns. One full-blown meltdown came about after he’d consumed a big bowl of ice cream; on the floor, kicking, screaming and flailing his arms all because he couldn’t wear his blue pants because they were in the dirty clothes. She researched diet and read the suggestions. Many suggested they can’t digest gluten and dairy and both have a big impact on behaviors.

It was time to talk to Brad. She hadn’t pushed. But how do you tell a parent, who doesn’t see it? He’d be angry, but it would be worse if she said nothing.

Emily waited until she’d bathed and put the kids to bed. She breathed deep as her chest suddenly felt as if a hundred-pound weight pressed against it. She paused in the shadows and listened. The soft glow from Trevor’s nightlight shone on the wall at the top of the stairs. Emily could see Brad on the front porch, leaning against the solid white post. He was always outside. From the little she knew of him he wasn’t happy unless he was outside. Now as the sun dipped low in the sky, the bright orange and pink glow was the perfect vision before bed. The door squeaked when she pushed it open. Emily pulled the brown sweater she grabbed from the hook around her shoulders. It was cool this time of night.


Do you have time to talk to me?”

He smiled warmly. “I always have time for you Emily.”


Can we sit down?” She fisted her hands in her sweater, how could she be sweating, it wasn’t warm enough.


Sure.”

Emily chose the second rattan chair with the bright blue flowers. She didn’t need to look up to know when he sat next to her in the matching chair or that she had his full attention.


You’re not okay. Something happened?”

Truth or dare.
Stop stalling.


I don’t know how to say this, so I’m just going to say it.”

The man could change in an instant. All the warmth and support fled, replaced with something dark and ready to snap. The momentary change made her afraid.


So you’ve decided to leave. I should have known better. Why?”

Her mouth gaped. The man jumped to conclusions faster than changing the station on TV. “I’m not leaving, where would you get that idea?”

He threw his hands up, squinting. “Then what is it? Your ex again?”


No, it’s nothing like that. Brad, you know how much time I’ve been spending with Trevor?”

He relaxed a bit and leaned back in his chair, but she could still feel him wound up tighter than a steel coil. “Hmm, mmm.”


Okay I just need to say this. You know how you keep getting after Trevor when he does something like dump over a plant and play in the dirt, or the way he latched onto that lady like a human leech?”

He brushed his hand in the air to dismiss her words. “Come on, Emily, he’s just a boy, doing little boy things. Don’t worry about it. Girls are different, they’re easier, just ask my mother.”

He truly didn’t see anything was wrong. “Trevor doesn’t talk, he avoids eye contact, sits lost in his own world and uses a one word vocabulary of maybe fifty words. He has full-blown tantrums on the floor, pounding and screaming. And I don’t know what’s going to set him off. Could be the wrong food, something was moved or a stranger comes visit. Trips to stores are a nightmare and my anxiety level goes through the roof because I’m anticipating what he’s going to do. He’s urinated on the floor in the middle of the grocery store; he had a meltdown in the check out lane and runs his fingers over the conveyor belt where you put your food during checkout. Storekeepers get mad. If I grab his hand to get him to stop, he might scream. Depends on the day, what he’s eaten and what’s happened before we get to the store. I never know what will set him off.” Brad tilted his head, tapped his forefinger against his lips. “You can’t reason with him. And the way he stares, he doesn’t appear to understand. He plays alone and will not play with Katy no matter how much we try; he moves away if she invades his space. I turn the television on; he loves it. It’s like he’s consumed by it and even then, he can’t sit still. He’ll stand in front it jumping, laughing and giggling, engrossed in the rainbow of colors flashing over the screen. I’m betting if you took Trevor to a family gathering or big social event, it’d most likely be a nightmare. His behavior’s odd. People get weirded out because they don’t know what to do. And I’m pretty sure he picks up on everyone’s anxiety. There are safety issues with Trevor beyond the scope of a typical three year old. I always worry while in town if Trevor will dart out into the street. He doesn’t recognize cars, traffic or even people around him. He touched the hot stove last week and burned his finger. He never cried; no reaction. Brad, I started researching his symptoms. The internet is full of information and what I discovered were symptoms of autism.

Brad rose and paced, running his fingers through his hair.


Autistic children are not all the same, they have different symptoms. I’ve read about therapy for autistic children—therapy tailored for each individual child.”

Even in this dim light, Emily glimpsed the color rising in his cheeks. Brad wasn’t just pacing and she could feel the adrenaline cut through the space between them. “I need some air.”


Brad, wait!”


No Em, back off.” He kept going, down the stairs toward the barn, as she could almost feel the rage burning through him.

He knew. She’d gotten through. Now the real work begins.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

Bright red numbers flashed 4:39 a.m. on the bedside clock. The rooster crowed. She heard a rustling coming from downstairs. Emily slipped out of bed, pulled on her brown housecoat, the one she kept draped at the foot of her bed. Guided by the hall nightlight, Emily tiptoed to the stairs.

A silhouette of light trickled from the kitchen.

Emily held the cedar handrail as she crept barefoot down the stairs. Brad held the glass carafe from the coffee maker as he fumbled for the coffee in the cupboard. He reeked of booze and wore the same brown plaid shirt from yesterday. Dark stubble covered his cheeks, his chin. His short hair stuck up clumps and tufts. She touched his hand and gently took the carafe. He stared straight ahead, and then turned like a man defeated and walked like the living dead to the table and sat in his chair. He stuck out his heavy work boots, coated with mud. Emily spied the trail he’d tracked from the back door through the kitchen.

Emily scooped coffee into the basket, poured water in the coffee maker and turned it on. What could she say to ease his turmoil? When enough coffee filled the pot, Emily poured out two cups, adding milk and sugar to his. He never looked up when she placed his mug in front of him. Emily pulled out a chair beside him. She sat and scooted closer to the table. She gazed into her coffee, searching for some miracle answer but one wouldn’t appear.

BOOK: The Forgotten Child
9.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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