|We had such fun at my first book signing and meeting all of the people. This was taken right after.|
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Sometimes it is hard to keep going. Albert is all I have had on my mind. When he was so concerned about the progress with the new novel today I realized it really is a we thing we are doing in life. These books are my dreams coming true I can hold in my hands but he can hold them in his too and know we are making them real.
I could write this as two blogs but I think it will be one long one. I want to share the first part of the new novel that I am determined to have released soon. I also want to share the story of our lives as I work to make this story real in a book we can hold in our hands. You notice I say we. I do hope each and everyone of you get a chance to read the book and would love to hear your thoughts. I believe it is a story you will never forget but more than that. I hope I have been able to write it in a way that reaches out allowing you to know the boy, feel and see with him and experience the questions, fears, and emotions of is life. When I said we, I first thought of one day seeing Albert holding my book proudly in his hands. He has believed in me. He has supported me and he is with me in this novel as well as all of the others in his heart. He has been anxiously waiting to see it real.
I was working to thank all of those who have helped in so many ways. There are times that have been difficult and I have been having some health issues that are challenging. I have tried to do as much as I can but there are times that I get slower than slow.
The phone rang and I heard that my husband Albert, fell from a roof at work. It is difficult to find words to tell how I felt. A numbness and terrible fear filled me. How bad is he hurt? How far did he fall? Where is he?
I remember hearing the words but they took my breath away. He fell from the roof onto concrete. The home owner found him unconscious and called 911. The ambulance took him to the hospital but it looks bad. The words concrete echoed in my mind. I was here alone and had no way to the hospital. At that moment I could not speak, breath or move. When I did breath the breathes came in gasping sobs and I felt as if a part of my heart had been torn from my chest. A moment later I felt as it it was being crushed and the pain shot through. I keep nitro near but it took more than one round to get the pain to ease. I had to get to the hospital but the did not need two patients.
The CT scans showed a skull fracture with bleeding into the brain. They did not know how much it would bleed and if it would increase of decrease. He was throwing up blood. I asked if there was a rupture or tear..... He had hit so hard it was internal bruising causing the blood. We did not know if he would live.
Concrete....he fell onto concrete from up on a roof. He was lucky to be alive.
As the hours passed we all felt in shock waiting minute by minute for news and fearing the news at the same time. When we could visit for moments he was conscious and knew who we were but in a few seconds his eyes closed and he was gone again. When the eyes would open again it was as if he was surprised and seeing us for the first time.
They hoped the bleed would lessen and stop on its own but it was bleeding in 3 spots. If it did not they had already called in a neurosurgeon. The next morning the CT showed the bleeding had increased. I would like to tell you how I felt and what it was like but there really are no words to describe it.
People poured in to visit and pay their respects. Each and everyone was so special that visited, called, wrote, posted, and prayed. I believe in prayer. So many here online offering such kindness, support, encouragement and prayers will never know how much it means. So many praying and the next CT showed the bleeding stopped.
We are home now. He is in a lot of pain, dizzy and has no appetite, but he can keep soft food down and liquids and we are looking toward getting better and not what it could have been. We know there are not guarantees this early in the recovery but we can do it.
A little while ago he frowned and looked concerned. His question took me by surprise. You might think he wondered if I would get him some water or something else but he wanted to know if I had posted the blog sharing the new novel Danny.
I could hardly believe that would even cross his mind with the raging head ache he has. I think every part of him hurts and he wanted to know if I had it done.
I had to admit it did not even cross my mind. All I have been able to think about is him. I told him we might have to post pone it again and publish it later. Right now he was my priority. He looked so upset. "How can you do that? You are almost there." He went on to tell me how important it is to him. Next month is Child Abuse Awareness month and in this story the little boy is not only abused but neglected feeling alone in life.
I told him I would not have time to prepare to properly launch, share, promote or just tell others about it. I am not really sure how to do all of that anyway but with all we have going on here just making sure he is alright, drinking, eating and healing.....
He looked broken hearted and told me he really wished that I could get Danny out. He hoped I had posted this I write here. Hearing his enthusiasm for it as he continued to share that he felt it was a book that could make a difference and be so special and different as it makes it real even though it is fiction made me determined. I will find a way to do the final edits and choose one of the covers I have come up with for the book. I want to share them here too. If there is one that seems just right I hope you let me know. I like them all and it is hard for me to decide. Reading part of the story might help so you have a feel of the mood in the book.
What one do you like best? First line, second line or third line? Color?
A young child trapped in a nightmare life, had a special friend. His friend told him, that he could call him Danny.
Was Danny a friendly ghost there protecting, or was there more to this entity than anyone might suspect? Steven began to think Danny might be a Guardian Angel but angel or evil…only time would tell….. because Steven would tell no one and betray his friend …. and that friend was there to stay.
Tragedy and chaos, murder and an end to life as Steven had known, erupted in his broken household in the dark of night.
Three young boys fled and it was a night that would change their lives forever. If it was a new beginning or a new nightmare of a different kind, only time would tell….and we can not forget Danny. He would not want to be left behind. “You can call me Danny.”
THE FIRST PART OF A STORY YOU WILL NOT SOON FORGET
Five-year-old Stevie Johnson pushed the toy truck back and forth and back and forth along the floor of his room until tiring at last, he stopped and pulled the toy man from it. He gazed at the little plastic man reflectively. It had dark hair just like his father. As he contemplated the toy, he thought about the time his father had lifted him by the neck and thrown him against the bedroom wall. Leaving Stevie in a crumpled heap on the floor, Michael Johnson had stormed out of the room cursing.
Still thinking about that time, Stevie placed the toy man on the floor. He began running the truck over it, first slowly and then faster and faster, his anger towards his father growing with each swift movement of his hand. All of a sudden he picked up the truck and slammed it down on the little man, crushing the toy beyond repair. He smiled with satisfaction at the mutilated object of his revenge.
“What the hell, do you think you’re doing?” a voice in the doorway asked.
Stevie looked up into the furious face of his mother.
“What’s wrong with you?” she shouted. “There is something wrong with you. Why do you act like you do?” She stepped quickly into the room and grabbed Stevie by his upper arms, her fingers digging painfully into his young flesh. He cowered as she continued her tirade, lifting him off the floor in her rage. “I’m sorry for the day I gave birth to you. All you ever do is cause trouble. You learn to play and play right! Your Dad and I pay good money for all your toys and you never take care of them. You had better take care of them or I will throw all of them away and you can just sit in here by yourself forever. Do you hear me?”
“You can throw them away if you want. I don’t care. I don’t care what you do.”
The sound of the slap across his face resounded throughout the small room. Stevie fell on his side and curled into a small ball, fighting the tears he did not want her to see. “I don’t care, I don’t care what you do.”
The door slammed and the tears finally came as sobs racked the small body lying on the floor.
“It’s going to be all right. I think you are a good boy. The only thing wrong with you is that they are too stupid to see how special you really are. They don’t deserve a boy as special as you.”
Startled by the sound of the strange voice, Stevie looked up through his tears. He thought he was alone in the room. Peeking through his hands he looked out and there was no one there. Cautiously, he sat up and looked behind him. There was a man sitting on the edge of his bed. The man smiled in a warm and friendly way.
“Who’re you?” Stevie asked in astonishment.
“My name is Daniel Montgomery Manderville, but you can call me Danny. What should I call you?”
Stevie paused for a moment. He was uncertain if he should be talking to this strange man. Deciding it was safe, he said, “My name is Steven Michael Johnson, but everybody calls me Stevie. Where did you come from? I didn’t hear you come in.” His cheeks were wet where the tears had run down his little face.
“I’m here, and around, all the time,” Danny explained. “I’ve just never had the chance to meet you before.”
“Your clothes look kind of funny,” Stevie observed with curiosity. “How come you don’t wear blue jeans like everybody else?”
“I wear these, because they suit me. I’ve had them a very long time. Don’t you like the way I dress?”
Stevie smiled at the stranger hesitantly. “Sure Danny, I like them just fine. Do you want to see my new fire truck?” Without waiting for an answer, he went to get the toy. By the time he turned around again, Danny was gone. Puzzled, Stevie went over to the bed. Crouching on his hands and knees, he peered under the bed to see if his new friend was hiding there. Not seeing him, he left his room and went in search of him, wondering why he had not heard a sound when Danny left. Determined to find him, he went to his parents’ room and again, on hands and knees, peered under the bed. He started as he heard his mother’s voice.
“What in the world are you doing, Stevie? I saw you walking all around taking your little sneaky steps, and now you’re looking under my bed? If you’re trying to sneak up on Scruffy, I’ve told you before not to scare the cat anymore. It’s not a game.”
“I’m not looking for Scruffy.”
“Then what are you looking for, or what kind of new game is this you’re playing?”
“It’s not a game. I’m looking for my new friend, Danny. He’s got to be here somewhere.”
“Well, you and your pretend friend need to get ready for lunch. After we eat, you can help me with the laundry downstairs.”
“I don’t like it downstairs. It feels like people are watching me.”
Marsha glanced impatiently at him, though there were times, she had to admit, she too had felt a presence in the basement. But that was not something a child needed to know.
“You have such an imagination,” she tried to reassure him. “The basement is just kind of dark, and that makes it seem spooky. There’s no one there. No one can come in or out of our apartment without the buzzer sounding. Don’t you remember when Daddy put that in? Anyway, you know I can’t leave you here all by yourself. Who knows what you might get into?”
“I wouldn’t be by myself. Danny is here someplace. He’ll keep me company.”
“Stevie, there’s no way anyone could come in without us knowing.” To prove her point, she went to the door and opened it. “See? Nobody can get in here without the buzzer going off.”
Stevie was thoughtful during lunch. He was wondering why the buzzer hadn’t gone off when Danny had come to visit him. “If Danny couldn’t open the door without the buzzer going off, then how did he come in?” he asked.
“Danny is just a pretend friend like your stuffed bear,” Marsha said distractedly. “It’s okay to have a pretend friend, but we need to know the difference between pretend and real.”
Stevie put down his half eaten French fry in frustration. “I told you Danny is not pretend, Mom. He’s real. I saw him.” Stevie then went into detail about what Danny looked like and the clothes he wore.
Marsha had heard enough. “Did you see what people wore a long time ago on TV?” she asked impatiently.
Stevie let out an exasperated sigh. “Mom, I told you Danny was sitting there on the bed. He told me his name and when I asked about his clothes, he said he’d had them for a long time. I even asked how he got in here and he told me he was here…and around…all the time. That’s why I’ve been looking for him, to see where he is.”
Marsha felt a cold chill. There were many times she had felt there was someone in the apartment. She had wanted to tell her husband, but found no way of doing so without sounding ridiculous. She was sure that even if she did tell him about the eerie feeling she had from time to time, he would start an argument and put it all down to her drinking. She saw nothing wrong with a person drinking and if she had the occasional beer for breakfast, so what? Who was he to pass judgment? There was many a time he came home from work and drank until he fell asleep. There were also times he has his loud friends who liked to come over to their apartment and party all night long until the morning hours.
They were always quarreling, she and Michael. He made fun of everything that was important to her. She believed in witchcraft and spells and that kind of thing. She’d read a lot of books on the subject. She was not alone in her beliefs. She believed she was superior to others with special powers. She was often busy with her daydreams of importance and reading to learn more about the power she believed she would have and abilities to control others. Steven played alone in his room. His mother often heard his little voice speaking to his special friend that so often kept him company. She had begun to accept Steven’s relationship with Danny especially if it kept him from bothering her as she did what was important to her.
Michael often made fun of her. She shrugged. The fact was that she did not care what he thought as long as he provided for her and Stevie, though they needed a better place to live. The neighborhood had become dangerous.
The area of the city where they lived had at one time been an enclave of the rich and powerful with large stately homes. Over the years, it had gone downhill considerably. The once stately homes had been sold, resold, and most of them remodeled into apartment buildings with two or three apartments in each. Marsha and Michael’s third floor apartment was part of one of those large and once elegant homes built in the eighteen hundreds. The rest of the building was now empty, the tenants on the other floors having trashed the apartments and the landlord never having bothered to repair them. The landlord was not good at doing anything in a timely manner except collecting the rent.
Many families suffered assaults as well as robberies when their homes had been broken into. The possibility of intruders was a constant concern to everyone. It was not safe to sit on the front porch or play in the yard. There were drive by shootings, muggings, vehicle and homes broken into and even abductions. Stevie never went outside, except on the rare occasion with his father. Even then, it was not safe. Michael was concerned for his son’s safety, but rarely had time or made time to do things with him. He worked long hours and spent his days off drinking and partying with his friends. On the weekends, visitors came and went and there was always loud music, alcohol and drugs of different kinds.
Stevie dreaded those parties. At those times, his mother, fond of her beer and wine, seemed to forget she had a son. Friends and part would always come first and be what was important. It wasn’t long before Stevie concluded parties were bad, because the longer the party, the meaner the grownups became. He was forced to stay in his room and not bother them. If he didn’t stay in his room, his parents locked him in, leaving him alone. If he didn’t stay quiet, they would turn off the lights. Then they would turn the music up so loud no one could hear his screams or cries. Sometimes he thought he hated them all. He was sure there were times that they hated him. He reasoned that no one would treat their child as he was treated unless they hate that child and he was bad. He was alone in the dark.
What Stevie dreaded even more than being locked up in a dark room alone were the times when his aunt babysat him. His stomach twisted into a sickened knot as he thought about the things she made him do and the things she would do to him as she smirked, “Now it’s time for you to be a little man. Be a man. I’m going to make you a man. This is between you and me.” He closed his eyes and many things came to mind. He visualized an alligator lunging out of the water to snap and consume its prey. He smelled the suffocating sweet scent of her perfume. The smell of it filled him and he could not breath, thinking of it. He could see her smile. Her eyes glinted with a predatory nature that could consume him and reminded him of a big cat about to pounce. He did not want to be what she pounced on. He did not want to be consumed and be no more. Maybe he did not want to ever be a man.
The haunting vision of her lingered in his mind as her words echoes in memory. “No one wants to hear anything you say. You’re just a kid, but someday you’ll be a man.” Those were the words he dreaded. Be a man.
He had tried to tell his parents how sick she made him feel. They screamed at him and called him a liar. He was left locked in his darkened room as they turned the music up so loud no one could hear his anguished screams or cries. He was alone in the dark. He was punished and never spoke of it to them again. His aunt seemed pleased as she reminded him she had told him not to tell.
Stevie gazed into the distance thinking his own thoughts. His little shoulder sagged as a wistful expression filled his eyes. Maybe his parents did love him in their own way. Many thoughts and memories flooded his little mind. There were times his father smiled and appeared to be proud of Stevie. His mother would buy him some special toy and tell him it was because they loved him. They must love him because he had a lot of toys. It wasn’t often, but there were other times when he thought they loved him, like when they went camping together on the piece of land his father had bought in the Missouri Ozarks. It was a beautiful wooded area with lakes and trails. The only time Stevie ever felt free was when they were camping. His parent still got drunk, but they were nicer to him and there were no bedrooms to lock him in. If friends came along, as they did from time to time, he just stayed out of their way. His aunt never went camping.
From as early as Stevie could think, he had realized the only time anybody noticed he existed, was if he did or said things that made them angry. But he didn’t care if they yelled at him and called him names. He didn’t care if they got mad, because he felt angry all the time. He was sure they never thought or cared if he was angry.
Many conflicting and disturbing thought flew through his mind remembering so many things. He remembered more than the things his aunt had done. He remembered when his father had been angry because he had argued with him. Before Stevie could catch his breath his father has picked him up by the neck and held him against the wall. His father was a big man. His hands had begun to tremble as his anger abated and he simply released Stevie to fall back on the floor and left the room. He clenched his jaws together in determination whispering, “One day I will be all grown up and be so big that people can never hurt me again”
It seemed the only person who liked him and cared about his thoughts and feelings was Danny, but his mother didn’t like him having Danny as a friend. Besides, she thought Danny was a pretend friend. But he wasn’t. He was real. He was very real. He didn’t understand how Danny appeared and disappeared like he did. He shared as much with Danny one day when he came to visit. “Where did you come from?” he asked. “I didn’t hear you come in. Did Mom see you? She’ll be mad. She says you’re just pretend.”
Danny smiled. “Your Mom can’t see me unless I want her to see me. I’m your special friend. They are too stupid to see how special you really are and too stupid to have me as a friend. They don’t deserve a boy as fine as you.”
Stevie hesitated. “I wish you would want mom to see you so she would quit telling me that you are just make believe. If she could see you, then she wouldn’t get mad at me when I talk about you.”
Danny smiled that patient smile of his again. “It would make no difference if she could see me. She seems to find things to get mad about and takes it out on you. She is really mad at herself. Since I am your special friend, then only you can see me. Do you understand?”
Stevie thought about it. “I don’t really understand,” he confessed. “But I’m glad you’re my friend.” He paused thoughtfully before confiding, “I don’t like it when my Mom’s mean to me. You’re lucky because you’re big. She can’t just pick you up or throw you around if she gets mad at you for being my friend. I bet she’d be afraid to hit you. I’ll be glad when I get big so people can’t do things to me and hurt me.”
“You’ll be big soon enough,” Danny told him. He squatted and looked Stevie in the eye. “I would never hurt you, Stevie.”
Stevie looked at him uncertainly.
“You can trust me,” Danny assured him. “I am your special friend and will be forever. Do you believe me? Do you trust me?”
Stevie nodded. “I know you’d never hurt me, Danny. You’re too nice to be mean, like other grownups.”
Again, he wondered how Danny had got in without the alarm going off. “How did you get in here without my Dad’s alarm going off?” he asked.
“I told you before, I’m always around.” Danny stood back up and sat on the bed. Stevie climbed up beside him. “I looked everywhere and you weren’t here. I looked everywhere except the basement. I don’t understand,” he confided, still unable to stifle his curiosity.
“I guess you didn’t look everywhere then, did you?” Danny smiled. “Don’t worry about trying to understand. Do you trust me?”
Stevie frowned in thought for a moment. “Sure I trust you,” he said hesitantly. A smile suddenly lit his face. “You’re my best friend, Danny. You’re my only friend. If it’s a secret, you can tell me.”
“People can only find and see me when I want them to,” Danny explained patiently. “That may be hard for you to understand, but if you really trust me, then you can believe what I tell you and not worry about it. You’re my friend too. I’ll visit you at times and keep you company. My visiting is not a secret, but we don’t need to tell others because they won’t understand. They never listen or care anyway, so why should we tell them?”
Stevie looked confused. “It’s just that I don’t understand why Mom can’t see you. She thinks I’m lying about you and you’re only in my imagination.”
“Do I look and sound like your imagination?”
“You look just like anyone else. I don’t know what you would look like if you were only in my imagination like Mom says. I think you’re right that they don’t listen or care anyway.” He moved closer to Danny with a conspiring smile. “Maybe it could be our secret for just you and me.” He leaned closer to his new friend as he spoke.
“Why, I think that is a capital idea,” Danny smiled back. “You are very smart. If it is a secret that I am here, then we don’t have to worry what others might think or what to tell them or not tell them. If we do not tell them anything, there will be nothing for them to question or get mad about. Would you promise me that you will tell no one I am here or about anything that we talk about? That would make me feel better.” Danny lowered his voice as if he did not want anyone to overhear their secret conversation. “I’ll make you a promise too.”
Stevie’s heart raced with excitement as he rose up on one knee reaching out and touching the arm of Danny sitting beside him. “What?” Stevie asked excitedly.
“I promise to look out for you. I promise to be your friend and care about you and love you. I’ll teach you things and share secrets with you. I will take care of you and never leave you. Even if you do not see me, I will be with you always and be a part of you. You will never have to feel alone. But you must trust me and only me. Do we have a deal?” He held out his hand to seal their secret pact.
A cold draft filled the room as they shook hands. Danny smiled again as he slid his arm around the boy’s tiny shoulders. “I’ll always be your friend, Stevie. You never have to feel alone again or think that no one will listen to you. I’ll always listen to you and care about you.” Stevie smiled as a slight shiver passed through him thinking he would never be alone again.
There was a noise outside the door and Stevie tensed. He quickly slid from the bed and peeked out the door, worried his mother might have overhead him speaking to Danny. She was loading a large laundry basket to carry down the steep, narrow, curving stairs to the laundry area in the basement and had obviously heard nothing. Silently, Stevie eased the door shut and listened to her footsteps disappearing towards the stairs. He breathed a sigh of relief. She had forgotten him. She usually never left him alone in the apartment but maybe she was so angry with him that she did not care what he did or what might happen to him.
He turned to share the good news with Danny. There was no one there. Startled, his eyes flitted around the room. He ran over to the bed and looked underneath it. He checked the closet, but there was not a trace of Danny. Danny had told him that he was special. He hoped one day he might be special enough he could do magic like Danny, to come and go and others not see him.
He heard a loud crashing and bumping sound followed by a shrill scream. Alarmed, Stevie ran to the door and opened it to see what was happening. He did not see his mother anywhere and ran to the open doorway leading down to the basement. The set of stairs turned several times winding down to the basement from the third floor where they lived. Stevie began to tremble with building fear not knowing what to do. He was afraid to go downstairs by himself but also afraid something had happened to his mother. He called out to her listening intently to the echoing silence.
“Mom?” he called. There was no response. He started at the sound of the front door opening then relaxed a bit as the alarm was silenced. His father was home.
Michael called out to his wife as he came into the apartment, but again there was no response. Seeing Stevie standing by the open door to the basement, he frowned. “Where is your mother?” he asked gruffly.
“I don’t know,” Stevie answered fearfully. “I was playing in my room and heard some weird noises. I think she went to do the laundry. I heard a scream.”
“Get out of the way,” Michael barked and stomped down the stairs.
Stevie immediately realized something was wrong as he watched his parents making their way slowly up the narrow stairs. His father was almost carrying his mother who could hardly walk. Stevie moved out of their way quickly as his father took her to the living room and helped her to the couch. Worriedly, he watched as his father checked his mother’s head, arms and the back of her legs. There were bruises everywhere. Michael went and got her a glass of water. “What the hell happened?” he asked as he handed it to her.
“Michael, you have no idea what I go through.” She winces in pain as she continues. She puts a hand to her head. “I am lucky I lived through this. It could have killed me, and for what? I went downstairs to do the laundry,” Marsha explained between sobs and tears. “I felt someone push me from behind and the next thing I knew I was falling down the stairs. I hit my head where the stairs turn sharply. Someone pushed me, I tell you. I was carrying the laundy basket and someone… I felt hands on my back…. Pushed me down the stairs. This is serious and you act like you don’t even care.”
“You left Stevie alone upstairs?”
“I was so upset by the way he was behaving, I decided to let him stay in his room and play while I put the laundry in to wash. It would only take me a moment.” Marsha covered her face with her hands making her speech muffled. “Maybe you just don’t care? I could have died and it was no accident.” She raised her head and shot Stevie an accusing look as she wiped the tears with the back of her hand, “He was the only other person in the apartment. Do you hear what I am saying?”
Michael glanced at Stevie. He had been at the top of the stairs looking down when he came home. But he was too small to be able to push an adult down the stairs. On the other hand, it might have been possible to knock Marsha off balance if she had both hands full with that big laundry basket. He hated to think his son would do such a thing, but, as Marsha had said, there was no one else in the apartment.
“Are you sure you were pushed?” he asked Marsha. “Maybe you lost your balance trying to carry that big basket.”
Marsha rubbed her head where a dark bruise was forming. “I’m sure. I know when I’ve been pushed. I could feel hands on my back and then down I went. That little son of a bitch was getting back at me because he got in trouble earlier.” She started sobbing again. “You don’t know what it’s like to have to deal with him day in day out. You have no idea how hard it is for me. He still talks about his stupid imaginary friend all the time like he is real. Maybe he is the one that pushed me. You need to do something about him, Michael. I can’t deal with him anymore. I could have died.”
Stevie froze in fear as he looked from his mother to his father who had now turned to face him. “Well, you heard what she said. What have you got to say for yourself? Did you push your own mother down the stairs?’ His voice was harsh with barely contained anger as he continued, “Why do you act up all of the time and cause all these problems? Why?”
Stevie’s voice quivered as he tried to explain. “I’d never hurt Momma. I love my Momma. I was playing in my bedroom. I don’t know what happened to her. I heard weird noises and a scream. I went to look for her, but I couldn’t find her, and then you got home and…I love Momma.”
“When I came in, you were standing at the top of stairs. If you didn’t push her then tell me who did? Don’t try to blame it on your invisible friend either.” Michael’s voice rose as his anger increased.
Stevie fought the tears that were threatening to come. Why were they blaming him? How could they believe he would do such a thing? “I was looking down the stairs trying to find out where Momma was. I was afraid to go down to the basement by myself and I could not find her. I called to her but she never answered.” Steven was honestly perplexed as his mother had blamed him for many things and was often angry with him but she seemed to actually believe he had tried to harm her. He knew that the only other person in the apartment was Danny as the alarms had never sounded. He felt sure Danny would never harm anyone. He was filled with goodness and helped people. He had promised to keep his secret and said not a word about Danny to his parents. The night became one more memory of fear, pain and misery.
Days later, the bruises all over his small body had become dark purple, black and yellow. The dark bruises around his neck where his father had dug into his throat resembled the purple petals of a flower. His body ached all over, but the pain and emptiness he felt inside hurt much worse than his battered and beaten little body. He spent most of the time in his bedroom. Feeling no desire to play with his toys, he sat in the corner of the room watching tiny particles of dust swirl in the swath of a sunbeam that had made its way through the window. He slowly rose to sit in the little chair by the window and gazed at the people coming and going on the street below. Seeing the cars passing by, he wished he had someplace to go where he would be safe and happy.
“I’ve missed you, my little friend,” the familiar voice behind him said. Stevie turned to see Danny standing at the bedroom door.
“I should have come to see you sooner, but sometimes time gets away from me. One day is like all days. How have you been?”
As usual, Stevie had not heard the door open. He heard no alarm sound on the outside doors. He would never understand how Danny came and went as he did, but he was relieved to see him. Even then, he could not shake the depression and feeling of misery he had felt since his mother fell and he had been blamed. He was sure neither of his parents loved him and he didn’t know what to do to earn their love. No matter how hard he tried, he was always in the wrong. Feeling so lonely he was sure that Danny was his only friend but also the only person who liked him at all. He felt more than lonely. He felt alone and isolated. He felt empty.
“If you don’t feel like talking, I can always come back another time,” Danny said gently.
Stevie rose from his chair. “Oh, no, I’m glad to see you. It’s just that...well,...I’m glad to see you.” He had been unable to rouse from the depression and feeling of misery he had felt since his mother fell and he had been blamed.
“You don’t look too happy. Is it anything you want to talk about or that I might be able to help with?” Danny walked over to the window where Stevie had been sitting and sat down cross-legged on the floor.
Stevie looked at Danny somberly. “My mom and dad both hate me. Everything is always my fault even if I don’t know how things happened or what happened, it’s still my fault.”
“What are they blaming you for this time?” Danny asked in the soothing voice that always had a calming effect on Stevie.
“Something bad happened,” Stevie said with a defeated sigh.
“Have there been bad things happening? Seeing Stevie hesitate, he added, “You can tell me anything.”
He observed Stevie as he patiently waited for the child to answer.
“Everything here is bad. Momma fell down the basement stairs and told my dad that I pushed her. I would never push my momma down the stairs or try to hurt her. I don’t know why she would tell him that. I told him the truth and he still got mad and beat me.” Overcome by emotion, he stopped speaking. He sat with his head hung down and tears glistening in his eyes.
Danny frowned as he looked at Stevie’s neck. “Your dad is the one that put those marks on you, isn’t he?”
At first, Stevie didn’t answer. When he did, his voice was little more than a whisper. “I know he didn’t mean to hurt me like he did. He was just mad because of the lie mom told him. I try not to make them mad at me, but no matter what, I’m always bad. I really don’t know why my Momma would lie and say I tried to hurt her. Why would she say something like that?”
“Well, how is your mom doing now? Danny patiently waited as Stevie wiped his hand across drying his eyes.
“She’s the same as always. She just likes to sit around and suck her beer and blame me for anything that is bad that happens so Dad gets mad at me and not her.” Stevie’s voice rose slightly with the anger he felt. “She says I am always so bad nobody would ever want me.”
“You are not bad at all. You are one of the best little boys I have ever known. Your dad should learn to listen to you more and your mom should drink less beer and pay more attention. Maybe if she drank less, she would not fall down stairs. None of that is your fault. You need to know that and believe me.” For the first time since Stevie had known him, there was anger in Danny’s voice. Danny’s face seemed rigid with a frown creasing his forehead. Stevie looked at him nervously, but quickly realized Danny was not angry with him, but on his account. He felt relief that there was someone who believed in him and didn’t blame him for things he had not done.
Stevie visited with Danny for some time and found it a relief to be able to talk about the things on his mind and in his life. He did not confide in other people after he had tried to tell his parents about the things his aunt did and said when she stayed with him and they were alone. He had told the truth and been punished and called a liar.
After a while, Danny said, “What about your aunt? I’ve seen her here a few times.”
Stevie sat silently thinking. He did not like to think about what his aunt did to him or how he felt, but Danny was his real friend and the only one he could talk to about his problems.
“I don’t like my auntie Lee. She does things and then lies about it. She gets me in trouble and I don’t like her. I can’t say anything about her though or everyone says I’m a liar and then I get into real bad trouble. I wish she would never come back.” He hung his head again. “I don’t want to talk about her anymore. It makes me feel bad to even think about her.”
“You don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to talk about. I just want you to know you are not alone anymore. You have a friend. You have me. I will always listen to you and believe you. I care about you and would always try to help you. I will take care of you.”
“Want to draw pictures with me?” Stevie asked hopefully. Without waiting for an answer, he went to his closet to find his coloring book and crayons. As he rummaged through the closet, he heard Danny say, “I can’t stay long right now, but maybe you could make me some pictures for the next time I visit.”
Stevie stuck his head out of the closet to answer. “I’ll make you a bunch of pictures, but can’t you stay and color with me for just a little while? Danny?” Stevie stood with his coloring book in hand gazing about the empty room. He had not heard the door open or a single footstep but Danny was nowhere to be seen, Once again, Danny had vanished. Danny’s mysterious appearances and disappearances bothered Stevie as he was unable to understand how he accomplished it but it did not make him afraid. This time, Stevie was determined to find out how he disappeared like magic. Remembering a movie with secret places behind the walls he had once seen, he began tapping on the walls to find a hidden entrance to the room. It was the only explanation. As he reached the center of the wall, his bedroom door opened. His mother stood in the doorway staring at him. There was beer on her breath but she did not seem angry.
“What are you doing?” Marsha asked. “I heard you tapping on the walls.”
Stevie thought quickly. He paused for only a moment before he spoke. He knew whatever he told her, it couldn’t be the truth. His parents had warned him not to keep insisting that Danny was real and Danny had asked him to keep it a secret between only them. “I saw a TV show about old houses. Some of them had secret passages and places to hide in the walls. Maybe since this is an old house there’s some treasure or something hidden in the walls. This house is really old, isn’t it?”
Marsha laughed and Stevie thought he saw a glimmer of love in her eyes. The sound of his mother’s laughter made him happy, even if she was laughing at him.
“This house is plenty old,” Marsha smiled. “But I don’t think you’ll find any treasure. But knock on the walls all you want. Just don’t knock any holes in them we’ll have to fix. I wouldn’t knock too loud though or you might wake up a ghost or two.”
“What do you mean?” Stevie asked curiously.
Marsha smiled wisely. “As old as this house is, there was probably more than one person who died here. I’ve read a lot about things like that in my books. I’m actually kind of an expert on spirits and special things like that.”
Stevie stared at her in wonder. He had never seen her seem so interested in talking to him. But he loved the feeling she wanted to be with him and he wanted her good mood to last. He tried to think of something to say that would prolong it. Cautiously, he cleared his throat. “That’s really neat,” he said, hoping that was the right thing to say. Seeing it seemed to be, he went on to ask, “Do you really think there might be ghosts in our house? What does a ghost look like?”
Marsha gave him an amused look. She pulled her shoulders back, seeming to stretch even taller than usual as she stood in the doorway. “I’m afraid you’re way too young to understand such things. Maybe when you get older we can talk about the supernatural.”
He had never seen her seem so interested in talking to him. He loved the feeling that she wanted to be with him and wanted to prolong her good mood. He cleared his throat before speaking. “Could you tell me and teach me things? I could try and understand,” Stevie pleaded. “What is supernatural? If you tell me things then I could learn.” He was desperate for more of this attention she was giving him and it was obvious that talking about these things put her in a good mood. “Do you really think there might be ghosts in our house? What would a ghost look like? How would you know if it was a real ghost? Where do ghosts come from?
“Maybe, some other time I can teach you some things. I have a lot of books about things like that. I’m sure if there was a ghost in our house I would be the first to know about it and be able to contact it.” To his disappointment, she changed the subject. “There are hot dogs, chips and cookies for lunch. You can eat in the kitchen or bring it in here if you want.” She opened the door a little farther to let him out.
“I want to eat with you. It would be fun.” He smiled up at her hopefully, hungry for more attention.
Marsha hesitated. She turned toward the kitchen with Stevie following closely behind. “You go ahead and eat. I’m not hungry yet,” she said, opening the refrigerator and taking a cold hot dog from the top shelf. She placed it on a paper plate on the table where she had already laid out a bag of chips and another of cookies for him. He sat, still hoping she would keep him company even though she wasn’t hungry. She went back to the refrigerator and returned with a can of soda for him and a can of beer for herself. She hadn’t been sitting for a minute before the telephone rang.
Stevie listened to her talking on the phone while he ate. He soon realized she was talking to a woman named Janet Mason who was married to his father’s best friend. The Masons were one of the couples that often came on the weekends to party, drink and get high with his parents. Like his parents, they didn’t think of themselves as drug users because they smoked marijuana and popped a few pills. They were just partying and having fun like everybody else. Stevie didn’t mind Janet and Mark Mason. They didn’t get mean with him or make his mom and dad get mad at him because of things they said about him. Sometimes, they even visited him in his room as he was not allowed out of his room when guests were there. Sometimes, if they were the first to arrive, he got to leave his room and talk with them for a while.
Stevie hated when their son Greg came with them to visit. He was older than Stevie and as mean as a boy could be. He loved to break Stevie’s toys and then tell them that Stevie did it himself. Stevie not only lost his toys that were broken but was also in trouble for the damages and destruction. It seemed like everywhere he turned there was someone who told lies and blamed him for things he had not done.
He continued to eat his lunch, vaguely listening to his mother’s end of the conversation at the same time. “Michael mentioned you were coming over later and we could cook something on the grill.” Stevie cringed as he heard her say, “We never mind having Greg...I know how hard it can be to find a sitter. My sister sits for us, but it’s always a hassle. Stevie gets his little attitude going then starts telling some of his stories and some days I just don’t know what to do with him. I know what you mean. He makes up some of the weirdest stories. His newest thing is his little imaginary friend. He swears up and down that he’s real. He even goes all over looking for him…Really?...Greg had one too? So you think it’s normal?...I never thought of it that way....Well, I guess we just won’t worry about it anymore then. I didn’t realize so many kids had imaginary friends and that they even did specials on TV about it.”
They continued to talk, but Stevie had ceased to listen. He knew his mother would be busy for some time with her phone call and any chance for them spending time together was lost. At least she had been nice to him. He finished his hotdog, had a few bites of chips, took two cookies out of the bag and left the kitchen.
On the way back to his bedroom, he suddenly remembered his mother falling on the basement stairs. He had become curious about the basement after that. He had never really explored it because of the strange feelings he had when he was down there. And there were bad memories of one area where his aunt took him to help him become a man and teach him not to be afraid. When he had told her he was afraid of being in the basement, she had become obsessed with making him go down there, going as far as to turn the lights out and leave him there to find his own way out. He shuddered, remembering the terror he had felt when he was alone in the dark and the sickness and shame he had felt because of the things she had done to him there. He had given up any idea of trying to tell his parents after all the trouble it had been for him before. None ever listened or believed him before but Danny listened. Danny believed him.
He paused at the door to the stairway leading to the basement, visualizing the large, dark room. It was divided into different rooms. The room near the stairs on the right was the laundry room. Across from it was a small room that looked like a living room with old, large, overstuffed furniture. He shuddered. This was where his aunt would take him to teach him how to become a man. He was not sure what else there was in the basement, because he had always been afraid to go and explore at the times he accompanied his mother to do the laundry. Stevie stood there for a while, curious about what he would find, but not curious enough to go down by himself.
He turned on his heels, deciding he would go and color the pictures he wanted to make for the next time Danny came to visit. He never knew how or when Danny would show up. He worked for hours and tried to do his best. He spent the rest of the afternoon painstakingly coloring the pictures for Danny, trying his best to stay within the lines. By the time he finished, he had a stack. He surveyed his handiwork proudly. He could hardly wait to give them to Danny. He wished he knew how to call him or find him, but he knew he would just have to wait for him to appear as he chose.
As he put his artwork carefully away, he heard the sound of the alarm. His father was home from work. Stevie eased his bedroom door open to listen before he went out to greet his father. He had learned the hard way it was always best to see what kind of a mood Michael was in before he showed his face. And he knew it was wise to let his mother have time to talk to him first. If he interrupted their conversation, they would be mad at him for the whole night.
He heard them laughing as they talked and decided he was safe. As he timidly slipped into the kitchen, Michael spotted him and smiled. “Hey, champ. How’s it been going? What have you been doing today?”
Stevie beamed. “It’s been going great, Dad. I worked hard and colored some really good pictures. Want to see them? I’ll go get them.” Before his father had a chance to answer, he took off to go get the pictures.
Stevie returned with his masterpieces. He found his parents talking about the evening to come. His face fell when he heard Greg Mason would be coming with his parents. Stevie didn’t like Greg Mason and hated when he came to visit. He actually detested the boy. The smile faded from Stevie’s face as he heard his father say how great ti would be. He wanted to show off his new stereo system. He mentioned that Stevie could keep Greg busy playing and they could both have a good time. Stevie thought that Greg would be busy tormenting him. It would be a long and unpleasant evening. Feeling deflated and dreading the evening to come, he slunk off to his room without showing his father his pictures.
If he tried to tell what Greg did then Janet would throw a fit defending her son as if he were a saint. Her son never did anything wrong. Stevie would then be accused of telling lies and being the one to break the toys and causing any other problems Greg decided to do for entertainment like when he colored on the walls. Stevie wish that his mother would stand up for him and to Janet just once but she always backed down from the loud intense way that Janet argued her son’s innocence. Sadly Stevie thought there would never come a time anyone would want to stand up for him, believe him or defend him.
Stevie did not have long to think about what the evening would hold before the door to his room opened. Janet and his mother were there with Greg standing there smiling and a glint in his eyes.
“You boys play nice now. We don’t want any problems like before. Greg has missed getting to come here and see you, Stevie. Maybe you will be nice and share with him.” Janet thought her son could do no wrong and apparently Marsha would always agree with her friend and side against Stevie rather than stand up to her in any confrontation or argument. All Janet had to do was get the angry attitude and loud to be able to make Marsha agree with her. In many ways her son was a lot like she was. They could be loud and mean when they wanted to, until others just agreed with them or gave in and let them have their way.
As soon as the door closed Stevie tried to gather his drawings to find a safe place for them. Greg lunged into him knocking him half off his feet causing him to drop the stack of pictures he has worked so hard on scattering on the floor. Greg began stepping all over the pictures with his feet laughing and asking, “What ugly crap is this? I bet it is something you did. It looks dumb and ugly enough to be yours.”
Stevie did not bother to answer Greg. He knew from experience that it only offered him more opportunity to taunt, tease and abuse him. Stevie quietly and quickly tried to gather what he could of his drawings. Without warning Greg stopped stepping on the pictures and stomped his fingers and hands. In a swift kick he caught Stevie so hard it knocked him breathless on his side. The moment allowed time to rip the pictures into little pieces. That was the beginning of a long night ahead.
Stevie knew he could not defend against the older boy. He knew if he tried to tell or confide it would end with him in trouble and he would be accused of telling lies. All he had left he could do was survive the night and hope the day would be better.
Stevie woke the next morning curled up on the floor in a corner of his room. Pieces of the pictures he had spent the entire afternoon before coloring were scattered all over the carpet. Greg had torn them to bits and, in addition, broken the new truck Stevie had enjoyed playing with. When he had tired of the destruction, he had taken Stevie’s bed and left Stevie to lie on the floor.
Stevie looked around him in frustration. He picked up the broken truck and began to beat it on the floor, tears of rage and hurt running silently down his face. The door to his bedroom flew open and he looked up blinking away the tears. His mother and father stood in the doorway glaring at him.
Michael was the first to speak, but it was Marsha who got the brunt of his anger this time. “You bitch about Janet saying Greg wasn’t the one that broke all the toys. You can look right here for yourself and see the truth. I guess you and Stevie will blame Greg. I blame you. If you’d ever get off your lazy ass and teach our son how to behave, we wouldn’t have these problems. You don’t clean house or cook meals or do anything but drink you beer and read you goofy books. Why don’t you cast one of your witch’s spells and turn Stevie into a normal kid instead of the little puke he really is? You are both worthless. You don’t appreciate anything that I work my ass off to buy you. I’m going out.”
“I don’t have to listen to your shit,” Marsha shrieked. “You don’t have any idea what I have to put up with all day. Where the hell are you going and when will you be back?”
“I’m going out and I won’t be back until I’m good and ready. When I do get back, I want to see this place cleaned up.” With that, he turned abruptly and left.
It seemed like a long time that Marsha remained in the doorway of Stevie’s room staring at him. When she finally spoke, it was through clenched teeth. “Why? Why do you always screw things up? I can’t believe I actually took up for you and told them that Greg was no angel and he was the one who broke your toys. I told them you didn’t do it and here you are breaking the shit out of your favorite truck. Say something you retarded little turd.” She kicked a small truck lying on the floor so hard it flew across the room striking Stevie on the shoulder. He cried out in pain.
“If you think that hurt, you haven’t seen anything yet,” Marsha snarled. “I won’t put up with your dad getting pissed at me for the crap you do. I’m giving you ten minutes to clean up this room. He wants me to teach you how behave? I’ll teach you a lesson you won’t ever forget. Any toys you haven’t put away will be thrown out and you’ll get a swat for every little piece of anything I see on this floor. When you get done, you can clean the rest of the house to make up for causing me so many problems.” She then left the room, slamming the door behind her.
It was a miserable day for Stevie. The day was a long day, as many days were for him and a misery that Stevie would try to block from his mind and memory. He tried to think of happy times to cheer himself up, but there were very few of those. It seemed the only time he felt happy was when his friend, Danny, came to visit. Tears filled his young eyes as he surveyed the pieces of the pictures he had made for Danny. He had taken his time coloring them and done his best. He had been so proud of them and imagined Danny smiling and thanking him and saying how beautiful they were. Danny was his only friend. He could tell Danny about all of the occurrences, hardships, heartaches and troubles of his little life.
No one could ever know he talked to Danny about these things. His parents had both told him never to confide in anyone other than them about anything that happened in the family. Recently, they had been harping at him that he would start school soon and needed to listen to them and do as they said. They insisted that nothing that went on in their home or with them was to be talked about with anyone at school, no matter how nice that person might be. He was to trust no one.
To make sure he took them seriously, they told him a story about a little boy that complained about his parents. They told him when a boy gets into trouble it proves he’s a bad boy. “They take bad boys and put them either in a prison for children, or foster homes where they are punished all of the time and have to eat nothing but scraps,” his father had warned ominously. “If they still tell stories about people being mean to them, they are put in a worse foster home and are beaten all of the time. Foster homes are for punishing bad children.” They often repeated stories of terrible things that happened when a child told things about their homes and families. Each story they thought up was worse than the one before.
Stories such as these, designed to frighten Stevie, were repeated often to discourage him from talking about their parties with excessive drinking, marijuana smoking and drug use. What Stevie didn’t know was his father made quite a bit of money during these parties selling different kinds of drugs for a tidy profit. Michael and Marsha were aware there were anti-drug programs in the schools. Often children talked about what went on at home and parents ended up getting arrested. Whatever it took, they had to make sure Stevie kept his mouth shut.
Starting school was both a new adventure and intimidating for Stevie. He had never been around many children, so he did not know what to expect. He had thought about many things but one he felt he needed to consider was using the name Steve or Steven instead of Stevie. He thought the other children might think Stevie sounded like a baby name. He just hoped not all children were like Greg. The experience he had had with Greg was not something he looked forward to dealing with every day. In the beginning, he was afraid of the teachers and principle. His parents had been very thorough in teaching him to never trust and never tell anything. They had described how people might act as if they cared or were his friend so they could get him to tell them things that would get him and his whole family in trouble. But Stevie was sure he would not get suckered in. He wanted to find a way to do well in school and make his parents proud of him. He dreamed of seeing his father smile and tell him that he did good.
Danny had come to visit shortly before his first day at school. Danny had reassured him that school might be very nice and he might have a good time and learn many new things. Danny had said most children were not like Greg. There would always be a bully to deal with, but most children were just children. He might even make a few friends.
Steven was very bright and advanced in the learning they required of children entering school. He not only had many learning toys but often had Danny teaching him things he would need to know and wanted to learn.
When the big day finally arrived, Michael was running late. Michael reached into the cabinet beside the refrigerator in the kitchen retrieving a package of toaster pastries. Sunshine filled the kitchen with cheerful rays that often were unnoticed by those who lived in the place. They had never gathered there for a family meal or time to share and be with one another. I stored food and kept the beer cold. Michael had a new set of tools in a black caring case he retrieved from beside the kitchen table in a hurry to be on his way. Despite the fact that it was he who was not on time, he was short tempered with Stevie, demanding he hurry, but Stevie was too excited to notice. He was already ready with his backpack over his shoulder. Michael handed Stevie one of the breakfast pastry packages without taking time to explain or ask if he wanted one. Proudly, he followed his father to the truck wearing his new backpack with his breakfast in a shiny silver package in his hand.
When they finally arrived at school, Michael reached over and opened the door of the truck for Stevie.
Stevie looked at Michael nervously as he got out of the truck. “You’re not coming with me, Dad?”
“No, I’m running late,” Michael grunted impatiently, pointing to a woman by the door of the school. “That’s probably a teacher right there. You go tell her you need help to find your class and they’ll make sure that you find the right room. Make sure you remember what we told you about trusting and talking to people here. I am counting on you son.” Steven had no idea how much money his father made with his parties and friends that came and went buying drugs from him. Michael had big ambitions to make even more in the near future. Michael could not afford to have Steven telling any stories about them or ones like what he had said about his aunt. The plan they had was for him to drop Steven off at the school in the morning and his mother to meet him at the bus stop when he came home from school.
Steven hoped his mother really would meet him and walk with him from the corner at the end of the block where the bus would let him out on the way home. He was afraid to walk alone to his house but could not believe she would stay sober enough to remember and meet him. She was usually asleep at that time. There was no time left to fear. His big moment had arrived.
Reluctantly, Stevie did as he was told. He was more frightened than he had ever been. Tears came to his eyes as he walked over to the woman and looked up at her wordlessly. She spotted the lost look of the beautiful little boy as he approached and stood before her.
“Is this your first day at school?” she smiled down at him, seeing the fear in his eyes and understanding all too well.
Stevie nodded mutely as he handed her the piece of paper with his class information. She quickly saw his teacher would be Mrs. Thomas. Before she could explain about his class or teacher, an older student stopped to say hello. The woman greeted the young woman and asked if she would mind walking Stevie to his class. The girl cheerfully agreed and they headed down the hall to his class to begin his first day of school.
Marsha was relieved to have Stevie out of her hair and grabbed a beer as soon as he’d left for school that first day. She read a bit and then played around on her computer, glad to be free to do as she pleased. She glanced up from the computer and surveyed the dolls displayed on the shelf against the wall. The collection had grown considerably. Marsha had developed quite an interest in buying things online. Whenever Michael complained, her response was always that her dolls were an investment that would only grow in value. She smiled as her eyes fell on a doll she had not been able to resist buying. She had not dared tell Michael she’d bought it. There were numerous other things she had collected since their marriage and each time she claimed it was an investment. When she tired of her collection or attention diverted to something new, the expensive collectables often ended up sold for pennies at the local flea market or swap meet. Marsha never considered how much something cost when she ordered any and everything she wanted. Michael almost became violent when he found out what she had really paid for her 'collectables' and was even more intense when he realized she sold them a few months later. His anger did not curb her buying but inspired her to better hide her purchases. Complain about her spending as Michael did, Marsha was not one to worry about money. That was a husband’s responsibility, in her opinion. He could curse and tell her how stupid she was as much as he liked, but he would never know how much she actually spent unless he saw a purchase being delivered or checked the charge card statement. She knew he probably never would. He didn’t pay attention to that kind of thing.
Worriedly, she wondered how Stevie was doing in school on his first day. She let out a long sigh thinking of her little son. She gazed into the distance as she wound a long strand of her dark hair round and round her finger. Chewing on her lower lip as she frowned in concentration, she tried to visualize him at school. Would he remember not to talk about what went on at home? The last thing they needed was to have outsiders getting into their personal life. She and Michael were both nervous Stevie might make a slip that would cause problems. They didn’t think selling a little marijuana or a few pills was a crime. People could get drugs anywhere if that was what they wanted, so why not get them from Michael so he could make a little on the side? It wasn’t as though he forced anyone to buy or use anything they didn’t want. All Michael did was make it easy for a few friends to get what they wanted. Fortunately for him, the circle of friends was growing. Michael even felt some pride that he had made contacts and would be the one to make the profits. He talked with Marsha about it and laughed. “It’s not like we are drug dealers or something. All we do is make it easier and help a few of our friends to get good deals and make life a little easier at the same time. It is amazing though, how many friends a man can have when he has some really good weed.”
Marsha smiled thinking of the money they made but became anxious thinking of Steven at school all day with all the strangers and other children. When Marsha was worried, or afraid, or happy, or sad, or nervous or almost any other emotion or excuse she had a customary response. She would try to relax and drink a beer. She would just drink one and then one more and it was always just the one, one more. She did not notice the bright sunshine in the kitchen as she headed directly to the refrigerator on her quest. She retrieved a beer and did not even wait to close the door to the refrigerator before smiling as she heard the familiar hiss when she opened the can.
After a while, she went to take her customary afternoon nap. The curtains close in the living room muted the light as she lay back on the sofa to get comfortable. She had finished many beers and felt the need for sleep. She did not notice the cold draft that flowed through the room. She did not notice the shadows darken. Hours had flown by when she woke with a start. What time was it? Panicking, she scrambled out of bed and quickly brushed her hair. The school bus would be arriving any minute. She knew Stevie would be able to find his way home, but Michael would be livid if he found out she had not met him when he got off the bus.
She rushed down the stairs and out the door, locking it behind her. The school bus would be there any minute now. Marsha hurried along the sidewalk leading to the corner where the bus was about to arrive. Uneasily, she glanced at the loiterers lurking on the street, in cars and on the front steps of the houses. Thinking how unsafe she felt without Michael, she hurried her pace and arrived at the corner just as the large yellow bus pulled to a stop. She had worried about her own safety but thought only of how Michael would be angry with her if she did not be there for their son. She never considered his feelings or safety.
The shrill voices of children spilled out of the bus as Marsha watched her son coming down the steps. He looked so tiny compared to the older children. He little legs were stretched out as he hopped from step to step. At home, he seemed almost grown up. He was so bright. She thought of all the times she and Michael had said things like, “As big as you are....and...You are old enough to know better.” Now, he looked like a baby as he came up to her smiling.
Smiling back at him, she reached for his backpack. “How was your first day of school?”
He was so excited to see his mother interested in him, he could hardly contain himself. She had actually asked him about his day. He skipped beside her as he chattered away. “It was great. It was really great, but I was scared at first. I didn’t know where to go or what would happen to me. There was this lady by the door and she was real nice. She made one of the older girls help me. She’s in the fourth grade. She knows all about the school, classes and everything. She asked why we didn’t come to the pre-school welcome day they had before school for all of the new kids and their parents to find out about where everything is and where their classes are and what we will be doing. I told her we didn’t know anything about it.” He spoke so rapidly he could hardly catch his breath.
Marsha remembered getting the notice about the pre-school welcome day in the mail. Before that, the counselor for the grade school had told her about it when she registered Stevie for school. Marsha hadn’t given it another thought. She looked down at Stevie, “No, we didn’t know anything about it. But I’m glad everything worked out fine today.”
Stevie looked somber for a moment. “I was so scared I could hardly talk at all,” he confided. Then his enthusiasm returned. “Shelly is the girl that showed me around. She’s nice. She makes me laugh. She showed me where the cafeteria is, but we ran out of time and had to go to our classes. My class is in a different place from her class, but she walked me all the way to mine. My teacher is really nice. She’s pretty too and we did a lot of things. They even have a hamster in a cage in the class. He’s our class pet. I told them that we have a pet at home too. I told them about Scruffy.” He looked up at Marsha worriedly. “Was that all right? I know I’m not supposed to talk about things at home, but all the other kids were talking about their pets. Is it okay to talk about Scruffy?”
Marsha smiled down at him. They would have to work with him more for him to understand what they wanted. The last thing they needed was for him never to talk and or him tell them he was not allowed to talk about his life at home. She would talk to Michael. He was better at explaining things to Stevie. She didn’t have the patience. “I think it’s great to tell them about Scruffy,” she said before explaining, “It’s not that we can’t talk about anything about our lives; it’s just that we need to talk about the happy things so other people don’t misunderstand. We can talk about things like when your dad takes you outside and plays with you or when we go camping at the lake. We just don’t tell people things that are none of their business such as our friends or the parties. Do you understand?”
“I think so,” Stevie answered uncertainly. He frowned, but the frown quickly disappeared. He started skipping again, telling Marsha about his teacher, the other students, lunch, getting to play in the gym, and the things he had done during the day. Marsha continued listening, but her smile had become fixed. She had lost interest. All she could think about was a nice, cold beer.
When they were safely inside the apartment, Marsha made sure the door was locked, turned on the alarm, and got her beer. She gave Stevie a bag of chocolate candy for a snack and he went to his room to hang a picture he had colored in class. He had just finished taping it to the wall when he felt a chill in the air.
“That is a beautiful picture you have there. Did you do it?” the familiar voice asked.
“I sure did and I did lots of other cool stuff,” Stevie beamed with pride. “I started school today.”
“I know. I’ve missed you,” Danny smiled. “I’m glad you enjoyed school, but I knew you would, because you are so smart.” He studied Stevie’s picture. “You are good enough at art to become an artist someday.”
“You really think so?”
“You can be anything you want. You just have to make up your mind to work hard at it.” Danny sat on the edge of the bed as he continued, “As smart as you are, you could do anything, Stevie.”
“Thanks, Danny.” Stevie murmured. He hesitated. “There’s one thing though that bothers me a little.”
“What is that?”
“I think Stevie is kind of a baby name. Now I’m going to school, I think I’d like Steven better. They all call me Steven at school and it kind of makes me feel grown up. Would you call me Steven?”
Danny laughed. “Of course I’ll call you Steven. I think Steven is more appropriate anyway. You are more grown up than your years already.”
Just then, Marsha walked past the door to Stevie’s room. She paused for a moment. There he was, talking to that imaginary friend of his again. Perhaps if she spent more time with him, he might not need imaginary friends to talk to. It was only a moment before she changed her mind. Listening to his childish talk either irritated or bored her.
Michael was late getting home. He had put in a long day and was just about to make himself a whiskey and Coke when Stevie ran into the living room to tell him about his day at school. Tired as Michael was, he couldn’t resist the smile that radiated from the face of his small son. He reached down and picked him up and placed him on his lap. He listened attentively as Steven told him about everything that happened from the time he arrived at school to when he and Marsha had walked all the way back to the apartment from the bus.
“Will Momma come and get me from the bus every day?” Stevie asked.
“Yes, she will,” Michael assured him, giving Marsha a warning glance over Stevie’s head.
Suddenly, Stevie became very serious. “What’s the matter?” Michael asked.
“Dad, there is a problem that I want to talk to you about.”
Michael felt a knot tighten in his stomach as thoughts flashed through his mind of all the things the problem might be. He tried to relax. He didn’t want Stevie to know he was worried. He needed to hear what the child had to say. He believed it was better to be forewarned if there was trouble on the horizon. “Stevie, you can always tell me anything. If you ever have a problem, I want to try to help you. I can never help you if I don’t know what the problem is. You can tell me anything.”
Steven deliberated for a minute. He remembered what had happened when he had tried to tell his father about the things his aunt did to him. He had been punished for lying. He quickly banished the thought and returned to his problem. “I don’t want you to call me Stevie anymore,” he said gravely. “It sounds like a baby name. They call me Steven at school. I like Steven a lot better. Do you think you and mom could call me Steven too, even at home? It sounds more grown up. I’m in school now. I’m not a baby.”
Michael laughed, half with relief and half with amusement. “I think that’s a great idea, son,” he agreed, tousling Steven’s hair. “You’re right. I just never thought about it before. Stevie does sound more like a baby name and you haven’t been a baby for a long time. If you want to be called Steven, then Steven it will be. See how easy that was? If you ever have any more problems, you just come and talk to me. I want to know all about how things go for you at school.”
The week passed pleasantly after that. Marsha was on time to meet the bus most of the time. On the days she was late, she met Steven halfway, but at least he saw that she was there and did not have to worry about making his way home alone. But the pleasant interlude didn’t last long. On Friday, as he and Marsha walked in the door, she rushed off to get dressed. To Steven’s surprise, his father was home from work early. As he opened his mouth to speak, Michael snapped, “Put your things away and stay out the way. We’re late.”
“Where are you going?” Steven asked nervously.
“We’re going to a concert. Your aunt Lee is going to stay with you. I don’t want you giving her any trouble and I don’t want to hear any of your wild stories either.”
Michael stood before him and looked him sternly in the eye. “I’m telling you right now. You do what she says and don’t give her any back talk or problems or you’ll wish you had never been born. I’ll make you sorry you were ever born if I hear any more of that crazy shit you said before. Do I make myself clear?”
Steven cowered under Michael’s glare. Terrified his father might become violent and hurt him, he quickly complied. “Yes, Sir.” Remembering how swiftly his father could become violently angry and not even remember it the next day, or just say it was his own fault for being such an awful child renewed a deep fear.
You do what I say and don’t give her any back talk or problems or you will wish you had never been born. I’m telling you right now. I don’t want to hear a word like that crazy talk you told before. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, sir but I don’t see why I need a babysitter. I am going to school now and not a baby anymore. I won’t cause any problems but would be fine here by myself.” Just then, the doorbell rang. Michael went to get the door.
He smiled and thanked Lee for coming to stay with Steven. "I've had a talk with Stevie. I don't think there will be any more problems or misunderstandings with him. He knows better than tell anymore of his lies or stories. In fact I told him he had to do whatever you told him to do no matter what and we did not want to hear one word out of him. You shouldn't have any more problems."
She smiled a long slow smile as she stood thinking of the night ahead. "I think we may just come to a whole new understand between him and me. He has a lot to learn but I am just the one to teach him."
Michael was thinking of his plans for the evening as he responded. "Whatever makes you happy… We appreciate you staying here with him and to make it easier for everyone you might just plan to spend the night. If it gets late we will stay with friends instead of trying to come in that late and come home in the morning." She smiled a sly smile and gazed over toward Steven.
Steven looked down at the floor helplessly feeling his stomach tighten and churn. Not wanting to see his aunt until he had to, he quietly made his way to his bedroom and closed the door. Silent tears streamed down his face as he went and huddled in a corner of his room. He buried his face against his knees and wrapping his arms tightly around his legs, he cried.
His head jerked up at the sound of a soft voice near him. “What’s the matter, my little friend? Whatever it is we can find a way for me to work it out and help you. There is no problem that we cannot solve together.”’ I told you I would always help. I told you I would never leave you.” Steven looked up into Danny’s peaceful face. Danny was what he needed, not his father and mother who always betrayed him. He wanted a grownup that would listen to him and care about him. His parents were always too busy to pay him any mind. He desperately needed a friend, one who would never hurt him. He began crying again.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Danny asked gently.
Steven shook his head, unable to stop the tears. “Nobody can help me. My aunt is a bad person and I don’t like what she does. I don’t like her.” He began to sob. “I wish I could die. I wish I could die, so she couldn’t hurt me ever again.”
“No Steven, never say you wish you could die or that you want to die. To die is forever. I believe you and you do not even have to find the words to tell me. I know all about her and what she does to you. I know she is bad and that no one believed you when you told the truth about her. I will help you. There are times no one can see or hear me, but I am always here. And I promise, she will stop hurting you. Good people should have good things happen to them, and you are a good boy. Bad people should be very careful because bad things can happen to them. She should be afraid. She should be very afraid. They can have accidents.” He paused and looked at Steven intently. “All you have to do is trust me. I will tell you what you need to know and everything will work out for you. I want you to remember your promise to tell no one about me. Is it a deal?”
Even with the words of reassurance, Steven could not stop the tears from coursing down his face. His small body wracked with the silent sobs. Remembering the words of his father he felt hopeless and filled with dread and despair.
“I care about you Steven,” Danny said soothingly. “You don’t have to cry anymore. All you have to do is trust me and do what I say and everything will be just fine.”
“I don’t see how anyone could help me,” Steven argued, but there was hope in his forming in his heart despite the tears that continued to flow. “She does whatever she wants and gets away with it by telling her lies and then I get in trouble.” His little voice broke. “She’s bad. She’s so bad and nobody will believe me.” Steven was glad that he was not alone. He felt some comfort that at least one person knew the truth and did believe him even if that person was someone no one else could see.
Danny gazed at him for a moment. “Steven, I have an idea that might help. If your aunt decides she wants you to go to the basement with her, you have to do exactly as I tell you. Do not argue with her. If she says you have to go downstairs, obey her. If she says it is time for you to be a man, tell her you want to be a man. That way she won’t get mean and hit you for arguing with her. You have to believe that things will work out and she will never hurt you again after tonight. But you will have to do exactly as I say if you want that to happen. Can you do it?”
Steven wanted to believe his friend, but he couldn’t see how Danny could help him. He shook his head doubtfully. Danny smiled and patted him reassuringly on the back. “It may be hard for you to do what I will tell you to do, but it will be best for everyone in the end. It will even be best for your aunt. She will never have to be mean or hurt people again. Do you believe that?”
“I don’t understand, but I trust you, Danny. I’ll do whatever you say. I don’t see how you can save me. I don’t understand how things could work out for me, like you say. Are you sure that is what you want me to do? ” He feared his aunt and knew what she was but he also feared the unknown area down below.
“We are almost out of time,” Danny interrupted. “Listen carefully. If she tries to get you to go down to the basement with her, do not be afraid. Do not argue with her. If you can, walk in front of her and run down the stairs as quickly as you can and hide. Run to the far end of the basement and hide.” Danny sounded urgent as he spoke so softly that Steven could barely hear him.
Steven’s eyes rounded. “I’ve never been back there,” he balked, torn between his fear of his aunt and his terror of the basement. “I’m afraid of that part of the basement. Mom says it’s haunted by an evil spirit. She says it’s a very evil and dangerous spirit. She says she can feel its presence, whatever that means. Are you sure you want me to go there?”
Danny patted his shoulder reassuringly. “I am positive. There is no evil spirit in the back of the basement. There is only me. I am what is in the dark depths of the basement and everywhere else in the house. Now, remember to do exactly as I’ve told you. Run and hide. I will be with you all night even if you cannot see me. You have to believe me. You have to trust me.”
At that moment, the bedroom door flew open and Lee stood in the doorway. Steven’s heart pounded. Desperately, he glanced around the room to see if Danny was gone. He glanced back at his aunt. She was smiling the smile he dreaded so much.
“We can just have sandwiches and chips for supper to make it quick and easy. I have some very special plans for you. You may not understand now, but you will eventually and you will learn how to really enjoy. I can hardly wait for us to get started." As she turned toward the kitchen, he heard her say, “You may start out this evening as a boy but I guarantee before the sun comes up you will be a real man. It's just you and me tonight boy, and there is no one going to interrupt our little fun time. I am just the woman to make you a real man." Steven felt sick and the tears burned in his eyes hearing her words and knowing what she planned to do to him.
Steven tried to blink away the tears that were threatening to come again. He knew he had to be brave and do what Danny had told him, but he was a little boy, not a man. He did not want her to do the nasty things she did to him. He wiped his eyes and started to walk toward the kitchen where she waited for him. His stomach tied in a knot and each breath seemed harder than the last. “I’m right here and you are not alone,” he heard Danny say. “Do not worry, my little friend. Before the sun rises, all of these problems will be gone. Be brave and do as I tell you, and everything will work out just fine.”
Steven spun around, but the room was empty. He felt as if a tight band still constricted his breathing and his stomach hurt through to his backbone but he clung to the thought he would not be alone. He had little hope for a rescue from a friend that no one could see but him, but at least there was one who knew the truth and would not leave him.
In the kitchen, Steven managed to force down his sandwich and a few chips, praying the whole time his aunt would not want to go to the basement. The only way he could stand to eat, was knowing the longer he took eating his sandwich was the longer he could delay whatever plans his aunt had. His hopes were in vain. It wasn’t long before she smiled, saying it was time. His stomach retched as his he was unable to breathe in the fumes of her sickening perfume and she grabbed him by the arm leading him toward the basement stairs. The stench of her smell and sound of her voice etched in his memory. He closed his eyes and forced himself not to resist as he heard her say, “I’m just the woman to make you a man.” Remembering Danny’s words, he opened his eyes and looked up at her. He did not hear the words out loud but felt the right words come to him. “I want to be a man. Let’s go and you can show me all the things I need to know.” He repeated the words aloud.
Lee’s mouth fell open in surprise. The look of surprise was immediately replaced by one of anticipation. “Come on then, let’s get to it. I’ll show you a whole new world.” She led him by the arm to the top of the stairs. Steven eased himself in front of her and looked down. He took a deep breath. Suddenly, he bounded down the stairs, never slacking speed until he hit the bottom. As if running for his life, he raced toward the far recesses of darkness in the basement. He looked around him, panting from excursion and fear. It was so dark, he could hardly see anything.
As his eyes became adjusted to the dark, he began taking small cautious steps toward the back. He stopped as he remembered what his mother had said about an evil spirit. What if it were true? But Danny had said there was no evil spirit, only him. Hesitantly, Steven continued to the room at the very back, stopping every now and then to listen for sounds. All he could hear was his own breathing.
At last, he got to the room. He stood perfectly still listening. He listened not only to hear if his aunt was close behind but also for any threats that might lurk in the darkness that surrounded him. He peered into the darkness unable to see bust using his hands to feel his way. He noticed the space was furnished. He felt around with his hands. There was an upholstered chair of some kind. He crouched against it waiting. What if she found him and became so angry she did worse things to him than before? Time seemed to stretch into eternity as he waited and listened, hoping Danny would come and tell him what to do next. He had never been so afraid.
Out of nowhere, there was a terrible scream followed by thumping sounds and a loud thud. A wave of cold seemed to flow through the basement. Steven trembled violently but never noticed if he was cold or not. The sound of the scream echoed in his mind and repeated in memory even in the silence that followed. He could not gasp. He could not breathe as he waited, listening for any sound to alert him to what was going on or had happened. The moment he heard the scream he did not realize he had slid down beside the big overstuffed chair he had crouched in. He ducked his head close against the side of the old chair smelling the damp moldy scent of the cloth and he waited. He waited longer hoping that Danny would come to where he was and tell him what to do. He wanted Danny to tell him what was happening. Every moment was torment as he waited; not knowing what would happen to him. He did not know what had happened to make the sounds he had heard. The darkness seemed to press in and the cold became severe.
Although it felt like an eternity to Steven, it was only moments before a dim light blinked on over his head. Fearfully, he looked around the room. He could now see it was furnished with old furniture. Finally, he heard the voice that would protect him. He could not see him, but he knew it was Danny who was saying, “Steven, it is all right now. Everything is fine. No one will ever hurt you again, and if they do, it will not be for long. Your aunt had bad things planned for you, but she will never be bad again. You are safe now.”
Steven’s breath was still coming out in short gasps and he was trembling as he asked, “Am I really safe? Where’s Aunt Lee? How do you know she will never be bad again?”
“Because I promised, Steven. I always keep my promises.”
“What were those weird noises I heard?” Steven asked fearfully.
“It was your aunt falling down the stairs. She was in such a hurry to get to you; she must have not watched her step. I’m afraid she will never get up again. An unfortunate accident, but she is to blame.”
Steven wasn’t sure he understood why Lee would not be able to get up again, but he was sure Danny must know what he was talking about. He looked around the room curiously. “Where did that light come from? I never saw a light on down here before.”
“The light has always been here if you know where the switch is to turn it on. Now you can see there is nothing to fear. This was a special room I liked to come and read in peace and quiet. It had a big, thick door that I could lock so no one could bother me. But we can talk about that another time. What we need to talk about now is what you will tell your parents when they come home. You must tell them you were in bed asleep and didn’t know what happened. Under no circumstances must you tell that you were down here at all. If you told the whole truth they would never believe you and never understand that this is her fault and not yours. That is what you tell anyone who asks. You were asleep. You do not know.”
“You’re right,” Steven nodded tearfully. “Even if I tell the truth, they never do believe me. When my mom fell, they said I pushed her. They blame me for everything.”
“It’s all right. Don’t you worry. You are not really telling lies. You are just telling the truth so they will understand and know what is right for them to know. I have a plan. Just go upstairs and get some dirty clothes and put them in the laundry basket. Bring the basket down the stairs to where they curve and drop it. When you’ve done that, go to bed. I will stay with you until you fall asleep and maybe tell you stories about what it was like in this house long ago. No one will be able to accuse you of telling lies if you have nothing to tell.”
The voice of Danny became even softer as he whispered in an easy comforting way. Steven felt some of the tension ease and his tremors ceased. He began to feel almost sleepy as he listened.
“Everything is working out fine now. Relax and listen. Listen only to me. Relax. You have no more worries. You are not alone as I am with you and will always be with you. You will do as I say and know that you are safe. If others question you with doubt the truth is that the stairs are dangerous. Even your own mother fell down them. It was an accident. They cannot say you are telling lies when you have nothing to tell. You were asleep. You are not involved at all and soon you will be asleep. You will sleep soundly and wake feeling safe and peaceful. All you have to do what I tell you to do.”
For a moment the words and way Danny spoke seemed to lull him to a warm and comfortable place, feeling the need to sleep almost overwhelming before his thoughts stirred him back to the present. “My mom claims that someone pushed her and she said it was me. She blames me. She swears someone pushed her. I think she even believes it herself. They will blame me for this too. They will say that I am the only one here, so it must be me. I cannot tell them about you because I promised and no one would believe me.” Steven was becoming more agitated as he spoke and began to cry.
Danny smiled in a friendly way as he watched the boy closely. “Close your eyes and listen only to me. You can relax now. You have no more worries and no more fear. I am here with you and will never leave you. No one will blame you because you were asleep. You were sound asleep. You heard nothing and know nothing. You will now go and go quickly to do the things I have told you to do.”
Steven left to follow Danny’s instructions. Still not confident his aunt was unable to harm him, he walked apprehensively toward the stairs. He still had a strange almost sleepy feeling. As he turned the corner into the laundry area, he saw her. She was lying at the bottom of the stairs, one of her feet twisted at an awkward angle. Her eyes were wide open staring into nothing. The sleepy feeling was gone and he felt a burst of energy bordering on panic. Bracing himself, Steven moved past her quickly, afraid she might wake suddenly. Hardly able to control his limbs, he continued up the stairs, grabbed some dirty clothes from his room, threw them in the laundry basket and went back to the stairs. With wobbling knees, he climbed down to where the stairs curved. He watched as the laundry basked tumbled down and down, landing with a thump at the bottom of the stairs where his aunt lay.
Steven broke into tears as he ran to his bedroom. Even though he had done what Danny had told him, he was still frightened. He jumped into bed and pulled the covers over his head, seeking the protection of the comforter. Hearing his muffled sobs, Danny said, “Why do you cry, my little friend? Bad things and bad accidents can happen to bad people. It had nothing to do with you.”
“But nothing. Your aunt did as she pleased and what happened was all her fault. Just remember to tell anyone who asks that you were asleep. If you were asleep, it would be impossible for you to know anything.”
Steven cautiously peeked from under his covers. The sobs began to slowly subside as he saw his friend sitting beside him on the bed. Danny’s face was lit by the light from the nightlight on the nightstand and had a strange peace about it.
“What if she wakes up and comes after me?” Steven asked, still not understanding the body at the bottom of the stairs was lifeless.
Danny didn’t answer for a minute. He stared at Stevie pensively before finally saying, “She will never come after you again. Remember I said before the sun rises everything will be fine? Your aunt had a bad accident, so she will never get up again. But this is not your fault. Those stairs are dangerous. There have been others who have fallen down those stairs. Your mother and aunt were not the first.”
Steven frowned in thought. “How did you know she would fall tonight? Why did you tell me to run to that place in the back of the basement? I still don’t understand any of this. Who else besides Aunt Lee and Mom fell down the stairs?”
“You are full of questions, my little friend, but we have all the time in the world to talk. Before I explain, I want you to stretch out there on your bed and relax. You are a ball of nerves. Remember you don’t have to be afraid anymore.”
Steven slowly uncurled himself under his covers. He tried his best to relax, but he could not get the sight of his aunt’s eyes out of his mind. Even as he lay in bed talking with Danny, he could see her staring at him as he scooted by her in fear.
“Do you think Aunt Lee blames me for what happened?” he asked.
“Why would you think such a thing?”
“She looked like she was looking straight at me and her eyes looked funny.”
“Her eyes were open, but she sees nothing is this world. She is in another place now. She cannot blame you when you were not there. You had nothing to do with what happened to her. No one can blame you for anything.”
“You mean she’s dead?”
Danny nodded. “Yes, Steven, she is dead.”
Steven could not speak as he thought about what he had heard. He could hear a rushing sound in his ears with each beat of his heart. Clutching the corner of his cover in his hand he pulled it even closer as if to shield himself for life. The silence in the room made the moments stretch to infinity of grasping to understand and survive the moment. His breath came in short gasps as he fought the tears that threatened to come.
Something more seemed to be troubling Steven. His bottom lip quivered and the tears began to fall down his little face. “What is the matter?” Danny asked.
“What if she comes back as a ghost and haunts me?”
“She can never bother you again. Trust me. I know all about these things and you have nothing more to fear. I will take care of you.”
“You said you used to live here. Does that mean that you died too, or just that you moved away and came back?
Danny's expression became stern as he rose from beside Steven. He turned his back as he paced a step or two across the room before facing the boy to answer. “You have asked many questions. I will try to answer them all in a way that you can understand. Let me see…You asked how I knew in advance that your aunt would fall tonight. I often know things before they happen. And you wanted to know why I told you to go to the room in the back of the basement. That was because you needed to away from the stairs so she would not land on you if she fell. Besides, you needed to be in a place where she would not go and get you, a safe place.” Danny smiled at the worried, tear-streaked face of the child who hung on to his every word. “But most of all, I chose that place because it is my special place and you are special to me. It used to be my place but now we can think of it as our place.”
Steven thought for a moment. “Why is Mom afraid of the basement if it’s only you down there? Could there be a mean ghost hiding there that you don’t know about?”
“If there was anyone else there, dead or alive, I would know about it. Your mother is simply afraid of what she does not fully understand. She does not believe in me, so she thinks what she does not understand is evil. I promise you that I am the only one down there.” Danny smiled as he continued patiently, “You asked who else fell down the stairs. That is not a happy subject, so we will speak of it another time. Just be careful and take your time when you go down them. I wouldn’t want you to fall.” Steven felt chilled even under the blanket he clutched to him.
“I don’t think I’ll ever go down them again,” Steven shuddered as he pictured his aunt. “Where did Aunt Lee go when she died?” he asked in a low voice.
Danny scooted up the bed and placed a pillow behind his head to make himself more comfortable. He seemed to be thinking deeply as he gazed into space. “That is a very difficult question,” he finally said. “When you die, you are not really gone, Steven. You have just moved on from this life to another life. It’s like when you are traveling and you come to a cross roads. You can go right, or left, or straight ahead, but you cannot go back the same way you came. So you see, when you die, you cannot go back to being alive.”
“Are you dead?” Steven asked bluntly.
Danny laughed and patted him on the head. “I died many years ago. I guess if you need to find a way to describe me, most people might call me a ghost, or a spirit. That is how I am able to come and go so easily without people hearing me or seeing me unless I want them to.”
“But you seem like you’re alive,” Steven observed. “I can see and hear you.”
“I’m just here in a different way, but never underestimate that I am real. I am here as much as you are.” Danny smiled.
There was a flicker of fear in Steven’s eyes. “Does this mean Aunt Lee is still here too?” he asked alarmed at the thought.
“No, she’s not here,” Danny consoled him. “Let me explain. Some people, like your aunt, are so bad they cannot go where there are good people and cause more trouble, so they have to go to another place. There may be many places bad people go, but only they know about them. I have not gone to any, so I cannot tell you about them.”
Steven’s eyes widened with interest as Danny went on to say, “People who have been good are at peace and happy. They go to what you think of as Heaven. Does that explain everything?”
Steven nodded, absorbing everything Danny had said. “Then why are you here and not in Heaven?” he suddenly asked.
Danny laughed again. “I have to stay here and take care of you.” Seeing Steven had taken him quite seriously, he explained, “There are some people who feel they did not get a chance to finish things while they were alive. They do not want to go anywhere. Some want to stay and help others. There are many reasons why those who die do not want go on to their next life. There are many more worlds, or planes, than people can see, Steven, but you are too young to understand these things. When you are older, I will tell you more, but until then, I am here and I will do what is best for you. All you have to do is trust me. If you trust me and believe in me, I will never leave you. I will be with you always.”
“I do trust you,” Steven exclaimed. “You are my best friend and you’ll always be. I don’t know what would happen to me if you weren’t my friend.”
Danny smiled, but said nothing.
Steven’s brow became furrowed in thought. “You’re so good to me. I don’t know why Mom is scared of the basement. That’s silly since it’s only you there.”
Danny no longer smiled as he gazed at Steven. “There are many things about your mother that are silly. It is silly that she has such a wonderful son, yet spends more time drinking or reading her silly books. There is more in the world than her books can teach her, or she ever dreamed of. She reads a lot about dreams. She should understand not all dreams are good dreams. She needs to be very careful of things she does not fully understand. She thinks she is in control with the things she learns in her books. She should have respect. She should beware.”
Concern bordering on fear showed in Steven’s eyes. “You know things that will happen that have not happened yet. Is something bad going to happen to my Mom?”
Danny chose his words carefully. “Your mother chooses her own path as everyone must do. Life is filled with danger. But there is nothing new that I know about your mother. I believe she does love you.”
The answer served to calm Steven, though his question remained unanswered. “She should spend more time with you and forget her silly books. Messing with things you do not understand can be dangerous. There is more to this world than she ever dreamed of and not all dreams are good dreams. Some dreams are really night mares.” His lack of years and his complete trust in Danny made him oblivious to the fact that Danny had never answered his question. In his child’s mind, if Danny could see nothing new in his mother’s life, it meant she was not in any danger. He exhaled a heavy sigh of relief. He began to feel sleepy, but his curiosity was wide awake. He now wanted to know all about Danny. He sat up straight. “Tell me about when you were alive,” he asked. “Tell me about when you died and how you died.”
“I will tell you many things, but what I want is for you to lie back down and close your eyes and try to go to sleep. I want you to have only sweet dreams tonight. Everything will work out now and every day will get better. Go to sleep and do not worry anymore.”
Steven slid down under his covers and closed his eyes. Danny began talking in a soft, soothing voice. “I was born and grew up in this house. Years ago back then, this was not a bad neighborhood. On the contrary to being a bad neighborhood, this was one of the finest. All of these apartment houses were individual homes with families living in them. The houses were not this close to each other. We had nice big yards, but they built more houses side by side until there are no big yards left.”
Steven’s eyes shot open. “Do you mean when you lived here you had the whole house to live in?”
Danny spoke in a soft and melodic voice. “Yes, all of this was one big house instead of three apartments. The rooms were big and it was beautiful. The servants lived up here on the top floor. My rooms were on the second floor as were my parents’ rooms. I remember the grand parties they had here and all of the people that came. The parties then were filled with laughter, dancing and music played by musician. The people dressed in their finest cloths and we had meals fit for a king. Things were much different then. I grew up here. The yard was filled with flowers and we had an orchard where you could go and pick all of the ripe apples you wanted, right off the tree. In the spring time the trees were filled with flowers and smelled so sweet.” Danny smiled. Steven was fast asleep. That was good. He needed his rest. Tomorrow would be filled with confusion.
UPDATE...... Danny is here now and available in many places as well as Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Danny-ebook/dp/B00C4K3EFW/ref=la_B004PVDVR4_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1368821484&sr=1-7
or my Author page listing all of the books http://www.amazon.com/Linda-Nance/e/B004PVDVR4/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
or my Author page listing all of the books http://www.amazon.com/Linda-Nance/e/B004PVDVR4/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
If you would like to know more of my own story and Albert's one of my books is nonfiction and part of the story telling as I work to make dreams come true with the books, art, words and idea to never give up. The cover is one of my own paintings done especially for this boook
|I WILL NOT GIVE UP....NOT TODAY....LIFE IS A JOURNEY|