CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Dylan held the only woman he had ever loved and breathed her into himself.

For so many years, he’d tried to stay away from Lizzy.  He wanted to protect her from who he was, the things he’d done, and everything about him that was twisted and broken.

The first time Dylan saw Elizabeth Clayton, something shifted deep in his heart.  Lizzy was ten years old and had the prettiest smile he’d seen on anyone in his whole life.

You could see her soul in her smile. 

When he looked at her, the chaos in his mind seemed to calm.  He knew where she lived.  Sometimes he would walk by just to catch a glimpse of her and her grandmother through the windows.  They were almost always laughing.

Donna’s rage the day she learned that his father named his children as his only beneficiaries was the first time she struck Dylan.  It was three days after they buried his dad.

He didn’t know what anyone was talking about and he didn’t care.  Carol was only five and she cried all the time.  They’d loved their father and he was the only thing that had controlled the insanity of his second wife.  The woman he married three years after Dylan’s mother died.

As long as he and Carol lived in Donna’s house, she would receive an allowance from the estate but Peter Lange had calculated carefully.  It would never be enough for her to waste.

The sexual abuse started when Dylan was eleven.  His stepmother told him he was “in heat” and she couldn’t sleep at night.

She screamed at him, “How dare you make me do this?  You filthy animal!”

For years, she said that because he got hard when she touched him, he welcomed what she did.  She would laugh when he ejaculated.

“That means you like it, Dylan.  You love it.”

He didn’t want her anywhere near him but he was unable to control his body and that made him ashamed.  He felt dirty, wrong in every way.

When he was in tenth grade, they had to do a project about local news.  In the newspaper, he saw a story about Lizzy and her grandmother.  He clipped it out and saved it.  He wrote “Lizzy” under her picture and used a tiny heart to dot the “i” in her name.

Donna found it and laughed.  “No girl is ever going to want you, Dylan.  Not after all the nasty things you’ve done.”

On the day he turned eighteen, he talked to his father’s lawyer.  He made sure that if anything happened to him, his stepmother wouldn’t inherit one cent.

Without ever speaking one word to Elizabeth Clayton, he legally named her as his beneficiary if he died.  He didn’t think he’d live very long and he imagined all the good things she would do to help people with that money.

Two days later, Donna learned what he’d done.

She shackled him in the basement and beat him for hours.  One of her bobby pins fell on the floor and he used it to pick the lock and stumble from the house.

That was the day Lizzy found him in the park.

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Elizabeth’s mind drifted as her blood drained from her body.  Part of her recognized sounds but the only faces she could see were those of a man and two boys with copper penny eyes.

She was tired.  Her loneliness and pain went to the bone and there was nothing that would ever make it better now.

Losing her baby, her beautiful RJ, had taken the last of her strength.  She was done being strong, done fighting for happiness, finished pretending she was happy when her reasons had all faded to nothing.  There was no one to love, to take the love she wanted to give so badly.

Her friends would heal after a while.  They had each other and they were the stronger together.  She wasn’t going to let them rescue her anymore.  Lift her up.  Carry her weight.

They deserved better. 

As if she’d wished him into existence, Riley’s face appeared above her.  He was screaming and tears poured down his face.

Elizabeth wanted to tell him it didn’t hurt, that it would be okay, that she loved him.  She couldn’t speak and couldn’t hear him.

Donovan was there, too.  They were holding her arms but she had no feeling in them, had no idea what they were doing.  Then the bigger man shoved Riley out of the way and lifted her from the tub.

She passed out and drifted back to consciousness in the Cadillac before passing out again.  Faded in to bright white, men and women above her, still unable to hear, unable to speak, wishing they would let her go peacefully.

When she slipped into deep darkness, Elizabeth hoped she wouldn’t wake back up.

 

It was morning when her eyes fluttered open.  She was on her side.

They stopped her from dying. 

Her heart broke all over again.  Her heavily bandaged wrists were cuffed to the bed railing and she gripped it tightly.  Tears fell like a river to the pillow under her head, the drops so large that they sounded like small explosions as they struck the linen.

Riley was just beyond the edge of the bed.  The sun shone behind his head.  “It’s just until we can get you steady, Elizabeth.  That’s all.”

“Let me go…please, Riley.”

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Four years later…

Elizabeth loved her son, loved her friends, and loved her job.  Every year, she grew into the woman she was meant to be and the pain of her losses faded more and more.

Just as Nana had done with her, she took RJ with her when she visited homebound friends, volunteered at the soup kitchen, and introduced him to most of the churches and charities in their little area of the world.

Riley and Donovan doted on their godson and usually talked Elizabeth into monthly trips to the city to tour museums, walk children’s fairs, or take in a Broadway musical that was G-rated.

Sometimes, she wondered about Dylan.  She would send Hollow an email and he would assure her that all was well.  Shortly after they left New York, Davis’s last name was legally changed to Lange and the courts severed all parental rights of his biological mother who was sentenced to ten years in prison for her crimes.

As she closed up her classroom for another summer break, her favorite couple in the world poked their head around the door.  Riley wiggled his eyebrows.

“Are you ready for a weekend of fun and fabulous?”

“Terrified,” she shot back with a wink.

“We’re buying RJ a new suit.”

Elizabeth laughed.  “Whatever for?  You just bought him one last month!”

“For our wedding, love.”

Her eyes went wide and she rushed across the room to hug them tightly.  “Congratulations!  I wondered when you’d get around to this…it’s been almost a decade.  I’m so happy!”

Donovan tweaked her chin.  “We’re getting married on our tenth anniversary, darling.  With so many marriages failing – and with far more stress and pressure as a gay couple – we agreed that if we made it through ten years, we’d make it through anything.”

“Excellent plan and I love it.  Let’s go pick RJ up from the park.  Dani and Olive took him there to play since we finally had a break in the rain.”

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CHAPTER TWELVE

Elizabeth spent the weekend in her bed.  She was exhausted and uninterested in dealing with the outside world.

Sunday night, Riley and Donovan arrived to snap her the fuck out of it.

“This is the deal: he’s gone.  You told him not to come back.  Know that you need that, that you want that, because it is time to live your life, Elizabeth.”  Riley was stretched out beside her on her bed and Donovan sat on the other side with his feet on the floor.

The first thing they’d done was turn on too many lights.

The second was tickle her until she almost pee’d herself.

They forcefully pulled her out of bed and smacked her butt harder and harder until she went to shower.  Then they waited for her to dress…in her room…because they didn’t trust her.

An hour later, they were ensconced in their favorite booth at a local restaurant consuming ridiculous quantities of pizza, salad, and garlic knots.  Taking a deep breath, she told them about her time with Dylan and the couple shared a look.

Donovan sat forward.  “Elizabeth, you could be pregnant?”

“I hope so,” she confessed quietly.

Riley started to speak but she grabbed his hand.  “I’m alone.  Do you understand?  Not alone in a room, alone for a little while, or between relationships.  I am alone, Riley.  The chances I’ll ever…have anyone are so slim as to be ridiculous.”

“Elizabeth…”

“No.  I’m a grown woman.  I have the means and skills to have and care for a child on my own.”  She looked between them and the tears she’d thought were done trailed down her cheeks.  “Someone for me to love.”  In a whisper, she added, “I need someone to love, don’t you see?”

Their expressions were devastated.

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CHAPTER ELEVEN

The voice that came from the door of Elizabeth’s classroom froze her ability to move or think.  Only one person in the entire world called her Lizzy.

Dylan Lange.  Davis James’s biological father.  The man she hadn’t seen in almost six years…who had told Elizabeth he loved her and walked away.

Blinking hard, she straightened and took a deep breath.

Mentally, she said a prayer – but not to God.  “Nana, I need you so bad.  Please help me be strong.

Turning, she took in the sight of the only man she’d ever loved and the changes in him astounded her.  He was taller, broader now.  Regular meals, sunlight, and exercise had given him the build he’d always been meant to have.  Incredible posture made him look even taller.

His hair was sun-bleached, his skin tanned in a way she’d never seen on him.  It made his eyes stand out beautifully from his face.

They stared at one another in silence for almost a minute.

“Hello, Dylan.”

He walked further into the room and she watched him move.  Stopping on the other side of her desk, she felt her heart pound painfully in her chest.

“You know why I’m here.”

“Yes.”

Her confirmation was met with the closing of his eyes.  “How did you find out?”  The words were barely audible but she heard them anyway.

“He’s a student in my class.”  Copper penny eyes opened and focused on her face.  She gave him a sad smile.  “I recognized his eyes, his hair, the way he moved.”

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Wrecked by Shayne McClendon – Chapter Ten

April 13, 2014 Micro Stories
MS Graphic - Wrecked 10

CHAPTER TEN Elizabeth’s initial instinct was to go over and snatch that child from the abusive home she was certain he was living in. Her fear was all-encompassing, strangling her ability to think rationally. By the time she made it home, she was a hysterical mess.  Barely functioning as she screamed for Riley and Donovan.  [...]

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Wrecked by Shayne McClendon – Chapter Nine

April 10, 2014 Micro Stories
MS Graphic - Wrecked 9

CHAPTER NINE Six years later… Teaching was everything Elizabeth had ever dreamed it would be and more.  Children responded to her in ways adults never had: openly and happily. Her daily life consisted of her morning run, drinking a healthy protein shake, preparing a large travel mug of coffee, and walking a mile to her [...]

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Wrecked by Shayne McClendon – Chapter Eight

April 10, 2014 Micro Stories
MS Graphic - Wrecked 8

CHAPTER EIGHT Dylan’s gratitude for the locket was…effusive.  He didn’t glance at anything else in the bag once she placed the inexpensive silver necklace in his hand. “I don’t know how you did it, Lizzy but you’re an angel.”  His smile was brilliant and she returned it a moment before he took her in his [...]

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Wrecked by Shayne McClendon – Chapter Seven

April 9, 2014 Micro Stories
MS Graphic - Wrecked 7

CHAPTER SEVEN Elizabeth was returning from a run in the fall when the sight of Dylan Lange crumpled on her porch brought her to a sudden, shocked halt. He could barely lift his head but when he did, she covered her mouth in agony.  Beaten and gaunt, the expression of intense sorrow, tears streaming down [...]

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Wrecked by Shayne McClendon – Chapter Six

April 8, 2014 Micro Stories
MS Graphic - Wrecked 6

CHAPTER SIX Three weeks after Elizabeth’s makeover, she was settling in to her new look.  Enjoying the clothes that fit her lean body properly and the haircut that softened her angular face.  Donovan and Riley dragged her out again two weeks later for a few running outfits that didn’t sag on her. She started smiling [...]

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