***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.***
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