Chapter 2

Secrets 2

Previously… “Todd, just tell me what happened that night, just tell me.” Sam honestly thought that getting Todd to remember and talk about the night he discovered Todd trying to kill his father would  help him heal.”

*****

Sam could see Todd’s body stiffen at the mention of that night. Even though more than fourteen years had passed since then, he knew the memories of what happened were just as painful to Todd as they had been back then, maybe more so. Sam had gotten Todd to admit that on that night his father had come  home unexpectedly early and had found a school friend of Todd’s at the house.

Michelle Baker and her family had moved to Chicago that past July, this had been her first year at Kennedy Junior High School. She, like Todd, was a ninth grader and they shared many classes together, including homeroom. Michelle liked Todd from the first day she saw him, sitting in the back of the  classroom, crouched down in his chair, as if he wished he weren’t there. She thought he was the cutest boy in the school and would try to steal sideways glances at him whenever she could. She would take in his thick, silky, light brown hair and thought his eyes, with their long lashes, were the most beautiful she had ever seen. Like herself, Todd was shy. Michelle knew she would have to be the one to start a conversation with him if she was ever going to get to know him.

Todd had noticed Michelle the first day and thought she was the prettiest girl he had ever seen. He wanted to talk to her but could not work up the nerve. Todd had never felt comfortable around the other kids, especially the girls. He was always afraid if someone got to know him they would find out he was stupid and a loser.

One day, on a class trip to a museum, Michelle noticed Todd sitting alone on the school bus and asked if the seat next to him was taken. When Todd shook his head, Michelle sat down. At first Todd felt uncomfortable being that close to a girl, but after a while he started to relax. “I really like getting a day out  of the classroom,” Michelle said, breaking the ice. “Yeah, me too,” Todd said. Slowly the conversation  went from school to California, where Michelle had moved from. It then went to music and to favorite  television shows, and before he knew it Todd found himself feeling freer around a girl than he had ever  felt before. Michelle found Todd to be just the way she had imagined, smart and funny and even more handsome up close than from afar. For his part, Todd had identical feelings for Michelle. He loved hearing about her family. He thought it seemed like the ones you see on television. He could not imagine a family  being like that in real life. The one thing that made Todd uncomfortable was that at any minute Michelle  might ask him about his family.

Instinctively, Michelle sensed that she shouldn’t ask Todd too much about his life and kept the conversation light. For his part, Todd realized that and was grateful. Slowly, a friendship started between the two and they spent much of their free time at school together. Before school broke for the Christmas holiday Todd had mentioned that he was going to turn fourteen on January 2nd. Michelle asked him if he   was going to have a party and Todd shook his head no, he said that his father did not like him to have friends over. Michelle felt compassion in her heart for Todd. He always seemed so sad, yet he had such a  great sense of humor, he was like a puzzle to her.

The more Michelle thought about Todd being all alone on his birthday the more she felt the need to somehow mark the occasion. The pretty, young girl decided to take the chance and bake a cake for Todd.  She thought to herself, “I won’t make a big deal of it, I’ll just drop it by and leave”.

She knew Todd liked chocolate cake with vanilla icing, as she had seen him order it many times in the school cafeteria. She spent the better part of the afternoon of January 2nd baking the cake and getting the decorations just right. She then placed fourteen blue birthday candles all around the cake and the fifteenth in the center, one to grow on, she thought and placed it in the cake carrier. Michelle then walked the half  mile that separated her house from Todd’s. She felt the cold wind sting her face and realized she should have waited for her parents to come home and drive her, but she had been eager to get to Todd’s. Suddenly, Michelle remembered she had forgotten to leave a note, telling her parents where she had gone.  Her family did not know about Todd specifically, not wanting to be teased by her brothers and because Todd wasn’t “officially” a boyfriend, she had only mentioned in passing that she was friends with a boy at  school. She always left a note and knew if they got home before she did they would worry. She figured  she would call them from Todd’s house. As Michelle approached Todd’s front door a sudden shiver ran  down her spine. It reminded her of an expression her grandmother used, “It’s as if someone just walked  across my grave.” Balancing the cake plate in one hand, Michelle reached up and rang Todd’s doorbell with the other.

Inside the house Todd was sitting on the floor watching television. He looked at the clock and saw that it  was nearly five in the evening. He got that sinking feeling in his stomach that he always got when it was  time for Peter to come home. Then he brightened up when he remembered Peter said he would be late.  Todd was startled at the sound of his doorbell. It was not a sound he heard often. He went to the door and asked who it was. When he heard the familiar voice behind the door say it was Michelle, Todd felt a  feeling of panic rush over him and his heart started pounding so hard he thought Michelle would hear it through the closed door. Slowly, Todd opened the door. “Surprise!” Michelle said with a big smile on her face. Todd had been looking at her so intently that he hadn’t noticed the cake she was carrying. Michelle said, “Happy birthday, can I come in for a minute?” Todd hesitated for a moment, then, remembering that Peter would not be home for a while he said “Okay.”  Michelle stepped into the front hall and put the cake down on a table. After an awkward silence she said, “I hope you like chocolate.” She said it more to make conversation than for an answer. After getting over   his initial shock Todd realized that Michelle had brought him a cake. “Yeah, I love chocolate, it’s my favorite,” Todd answered. Michelle took the top off the cake carrier and Todd stared at it. The cake was   beautiful, but it was the candles that got his attention. He remembered how his mother would always  make him a birthday cake with candles arranged the same way Michelle had arranged these. Of course, the last time there had only been nine candles on the cake and a tenth to grow on. The sight of this  brought tears to Todd’s eyes and he quickly turned away, so Michelle wouldn’t see. “Don’t you like the  cake?” Michelle inquired. “Yeah, sure I do, I’m just gonna get some plates and a knife and some forks,” Todd called out, on his way to the kitchen. “Oh, and bring some matches,” Michelle called out to him.

Todd gathered the plates and utensils, but, after searching all the draws, could not find any matches. He  came back into the living room where Michelle had brought the cake and told her he could not find any matches, but that it didn’t matter, the unlit candles were enough. He could see Michelle was disappointed. He knew of one way to light the candles, his father’s lighter, however he also knew how much trouble he would be in if Peter ever found out he had touched it.

He thought for a minute and looked at the clock, 5:15, Peter would not be home for several hours. He could use the lighter for the candles. He and Michelle could each have some cake and maybe listen to some music or something. That would give him plenty of time to clean up and get the gold lighter back in the drawer. What Todd didn’t know was that the woman Peter was supposed to be meeting for dinner that  night had stood him up and after spending the past hour drinking, he was now on his way home and his mood was even fouler than usual.

Michelle asked Todd to dim the lights as she lit the birthday candles with the lighter. She had just lit the fifteenth candle and started singing “Happy Birthday to Todd”. They did not hear the key turn the lock or the front door open.

Sam had always known something horrible had happened to Todd that night, what he didn’t know was that Todd had little memory of the night of his fourteenth birthday, and when he kept repeating to Sam that “nothing happened,” he was telling the truth, as far as he knew it. What Todd did remember was that Michelle had shown up with the cake and candles. He knew that at some point, before she had a chance to leave, Peter came home, and started screaming at him and Michelle, calling her all kinds of vile names and told her what a loser Todd was and how stupid he was. Everything after that was one of those “blank spots,” as Todd had thought of them.

This was something that happened to Todd for as long as he could remember. He would have these gaps in his memory. He would sometimes find himself in places he didn’t remember going or be with people  he didn’t know. He would sometimes be wearing clothes that were unfamiliar to him. Sometimes people would tell him he did or said things he didn’t remember doing. School was difficult for Todd. Sometimes things were taught during one of the times Todd “went away,” as he also thought of it. Twice, Todd had  lost months at a time. Once in the fourth grade and again in the ninth grade. That second time Todd had lost most of the school year, from January till the end of the semester. By the time he “came back” it was summer vacation and Todd had no memory of most of that school year.

As a young child he thought these things happened to everyone, that is was normal. As he got older and realized that it was not normal he was terrified to tell anyone, not even Sam. He was afraid everyone would think he was crazy and he would be locked away.

Sam loved Todd as if he were his own son. He wanted nothing more than to help him, to save him. He  knew Todd was in what was probably the worst trouble of his life. “Kidnapping, terrorism, my God!”  Sam thought, “How will I ever get him out of this? He could be facing spending the rest of his life in prison.” He wanted to do what was best for Todd and he thought pushing him to remember that night was best, so he kept hammering at him. Todd paced the room like a caged animal and kept shouting, “Shut up Sam, leave me alone! Leave me alone!” Sam realized he should not be the one trying to force Todd to talk about these things, Todd need professional help, but he also knew Todd would never go to see a therapist voluntarily. “Come on pal, you’re so close just tell me what happened? What happened that night after Peter came home? What made you want to kill him?”

Todd had not thought about that night since the day after it happened, the day Sam had promised him he would never bring it up again. Now as Sam had him cornered in the cabana he felt as if he was drowning under the weight of the pressure Sam was putting on him. Todd felt as if he couldn’t breathe. Much the same  way he felt when he would wake up from one of the frequent nightmares he always had, on the rare  occasions when he would fall asleep. Todd knew he had to get out of there. He was so tired, he just couldn’t fight anymore. He wanted it to be over, to be done with.

Before Sam could stop him, Todd ran to the cabana’s door and threw it open and ran outside. “Shoot me, please! Somebody, just shoot me.”

End of Chapter 2

 

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Chapter 1

Secrets

By Rosie

 ***Author’s Note: I would like to thank the Timberlawn Mental Health System in Dallas, Texas, and the Center of Post Traumatic Disorders Program at The Psychiatric Institute of Washington, D.C., and Dr. Colin A. Ross, M.D. of the Ross Institute for Psychological Trauma, for their help in the research of this series.***

*****

Chapter 1

Tea Delgado stood outside the cabana, despite the warm June night she could not stop shivering. No more than a few minutes ago she had wanted nothing more than to get out of the cabana and away from Todd, now she wanted nothing more than to get back in, to hold her husband in her arms, and get him away, away to safety, to protect him from those who want to hurt him. Unfortunately, Tea knew she could not protect Todd from the very thing he was most in danger from, his past.

Tea had come to know Todd in the past year. She had always known her husband had “problems,” but it was only in the last couple of days that she realized how much trouble Todd was really in, that he was ill, and desperately needed help.

Tea loved to look into Todd’s beautiful hazel eyes. She thought she had seen it all in those eyes, love, rage, tenderness, humor, even fear and panic. Tonight, Tea had seen something in those eyes she had not seen before. Sheer and total terror. Thinking about it caused Tea to start shivering even more. At first Tea was glad to see Sam Rappaport enter the cabana. She thought perhaps he could reason with Todd, but instead Sam had started to talk about a night that happened long ago, the night of Todd’s fourteenth birthday. That was when those eyes changed, at the very mention of that night Todd had become extremely agitated and Tea could see the terror wash over him. He had seemed like a wounded and cornered animal. She had warned Sam that “maybe he shouldn’t,” but Sam persisted, and Todd had thrown Tea out of the cabana, and now she stood outside wondering what was happening to her husband.

For the past few days Todd Manning had been on a downward spiral, both physically and mentally, he had not slept, or eaten, except for a few strawberries, he had also lost a lot of blood from a knife wound to his arm. He had been running on pure adrenaline and that was running out. At first, he was glad to see Sam. Although he would never say it out loud, he loved Sam, and occasionally dared to think that Sam loved him. He had always wished Sam was his father. As a boy he would fantasize that Sam would ask him to come live with him, and he could leave his father’s house forever. Unfortunately for Todd, that never happened. Now he wished Sam would leave the cabana or that he could, because Sam had brought up a night that he had promised Todd he would never speak of again and Todd felt as if his world was about to explode forever.

“Todd, just tell me what happened that night, just tell me,” Sam pleaded, he honestly thought that getting Todd to remember and talk about the night he discovered Todd trying to kill his father would help him to heal.

Sam Rappaport first met Todd Manning when Todd was 11 years old. Sam had just started a new job as a football coach at a community center in Chicago. He had always loved working with children and had been doing it in various ways for many years. His first day on the new job he had noticed the little boys all waiting to be part of the football team. He noticed one small boy off to the side, not hanging out with the other children. From day one, something about this child had gotten to Sam, something that made him want to reach out to him and protect him. Sam approached the child and asked, “do you want to be on the football team?” “Yes, Sir,” the polite little boy answered. There was something off-putting about the child’s reply, a certain formality that children of that day didn’t usually have. Sam noticed the young boy  had the saddest eyes he had ever seen in a child. He also noticed several large bruises on the boy’s thin arms and a fading bruise under his right eye. Sam wanted to ask the child about these but held back, as he knew he was a total stranger to him.

Sam had not had much hope that Todd would become a good player as the child was smaller and thinner than the other children and he was also, usually, very mild mannered, although Sam had been surprised at  some very uncharacteristic outbursts Todd displayed at times. Usually the child was very quiet and well behaved, too quiet in Sam’s opinion, almost as if the boy was afraid to make a sound, afraid that anyone would realize he existed. Yet, at other times he would “act out” and create problems with his teammates.

At times, Todd seemed mature way beyond his years. Sam had once seen him comfort a younger, smaller child who had gotten hurt, in an almost “grandmotherly” fashion. Sometimes Todd seemed younger than his years, silly and almost babyish. However, Boomer, as he had taken to calling Todd, was on his way to becoming one of the best players Sam had ever seen. Sam would marvel at the way the boy played with a  wild abandonment and no regard to his own safety, as if the child could not feel pain when he got hurt; and got hurt he did.

Sam had never seen a child so covered with bruises. The first time Sam had seen Todd in the locker room  he was shocked. Todd’s body was covered with bruises and healed scars. Sam asked the him about this and the child replied that he was just clumsy and fell down a lot and that many of the bruises came from  playing football. Sam noticed what appeared to be burns on the boy’s hands and asked him about them,

but Todd had an answer for those too. He told Sam that he was always forgetting to use gloves when he  reached for things in the oven or on the stove. Sam noticed that these answers came very quickly to Todd, almost as if he had been asked these questions before, and the answers had been well practiced and  repeated many times over. To his dying day Sam would blame himself for not realizing what was really   happening to Todd, but he just didn’t. Although he had his suspicions he took the child at his word.

Over the years the boy grew and became the best player Sam had. He was the star of the team, year after year. Sam came to realize that Todd’s home life was not a happy one. Todd was never very forthcoming about his life at home but every once in a while, he would open up. Sam knew that Todd’s mother had left when Todd was only nine years old and that his father, Peter, was a cold and distant man. Sam met Peter on several occasions and couldn’t help but notice how uncomfortable Todd was in his presence. Sam had even thought to himself how he hated sending Todd home to “that cold SOB.” Sam had grown to love the boy by this time. He loved his humor, his brilliance, even though Todd was just a little better than average student, Sam could tell that the child had an intelligence way above average. He loved Todd’s  determination and sensed a strength in the child. He loved the fact that Todd always acted protective of the younger and weaker children at the center and yet showed no fear of the bullies in the group. He tried  to spend as much time as he could with Todd and knew that Todd was happy to spend time with him.   One of Sam’s greatest rewards was to see Todd smile. A smile from Todd was a rare thing. Sam had never known a child who smiled less than Todd, and when he got a smile out of him it was like a little prize that Todd had given to him.

It was bitter cold that January night, even by Chicago standards. Although Sam knew Todd’s father did not like him to have visitors he wanted to give the boy the present he had gotten Todd for his fourteenth  birthday, besides, earlier in the day Todd had mentioned that his father would be out late that night. He  had asked the child years ago what he had gotten for his birthday and Todd said “nothing.” He told Sam  that his father said his being born was nothing to celebrate and that he hadn’t even had a birthday cake  since his mom left. Sam had gotten Todd a whole new football uniform and a brand-new football to go with it. He was looking forward to seeing the child’s eyes when he opened it up.

As Sam approached the front door he noticed it was slightly ajar and he heard shouting from inside. It was Todd’s voice, but it somehow had an unfamiliar ring to it. “How could you do that? You bastard. How  could you do that? I hate you, I want you dead. I want you dead.” Sam was shocked, not only by what Todd was saying but by the tone of his voice, it was one Sam never heard Todd use before.

Sam rushed in through the open door and saw Peter pushed up against the wall, his face pale, almost grayish. Todd, his face red and contorted with rage, had his hands around Peter’s throat and was squeezing as hard as he could. Sam immediately tried to pull Todd off of Peter, but Todd seemed to have  much more strength in his arms than Sam had ever known him to have. Finally, using all of his strength, Sam managed to pull Todd away from Peter. “What the hell is going on here?” Sam asked, the still struggling child. Todd didn’t answer. As Sam pulled Todd face to face with him he saw something that

made his blood run cold. Although the face and body were Todd’s, the child inside was a stranger. The boy looked at Sam as if he didn’t know him. Sam looked into the Todd’s eyes and didn’t recognize them. It was as if the child he had known had disappeared.

End of Chapter 1