Skeeter finished putting ointment on his son’s wounds. He didn’t know if the cream would do any good against the strap marks but felt that something needed to be done. Skeeter dressed the boy in the baggiest cotton sweatpants that he could find and a loose fitting shirt. Skeeter had no words to explain the actions of his wife or the reasons behind them.
“All I wanted to do was be friends,” Shawn said as his father tied his sneakers.
“You did the right thing. You should be peoples’ friends,” Skeeter consoled.
Shawn looked at his father, confused by the two different messages he was getting from the two people he believed knew everything. “Dad, what’s a fagot?”
“A log you put in the fireplace,” Skeeter answered trying to hide his annoyance, he knew that was not the context the boy probably heard that word. “How about we go to McDonald’s for dinner,” Skeeter offered and steered the conversation away from things he didn’t want to explain.
“Okay,” Shawn said solemnly, void of all enthusiasm such an offer normally garnered. “Can I get chicken noogies?” he finally said with a small smile.
Skeeter smiled back and took his on to the restaurant. Shawn had to eat while standing up because his backside hurt too much for the hard chairs. The same went for many of the apparatuses they had in the play area, but Shawn was able to rock himself in a small cage as his dad shook it from the outside to the laughing delight of his son.
Shawn was allowed to play for a full hour before he was taken back home. His farther figured that the boy deserved a little extra enjoyment considering the things he’d gone through recently.
It wasn’t long until the two were back in the apartment. Shawn always found riding around in the police car a special treat and, even though it was bending the rules slightly, Skeeter turned on the lights and sirens to his son’s sheer pleasure. Shawn clapped in delight after his did instructed him which button to push to turn them off.
As soon as they got into the apartment, Skeeter readied his son for bed by putting him in red footed pajamas. Before tucking his son in bed, Skeeter gave Shawn the gift he purchased earlier. They spent a full half hour playing with the plastic bat and ball in Shawn’s room. As oft is the case with fathers, Skeeter thought his son was a born natural at the sport and could picture the lad one day in Yankee pinstripes.
At seven o’clock, which was the child’s bedtime, Shawn was tucked in even though he raised a minor protest that his mom wasn’t home and he should be allowed to wait up for her, to insure her safe return.
Skeeter told him that he would do the waiting for both of them and then read Saduck’s Where the Wild Things Are. By the time Skeeter said ‘the end.’ Shawn was out like a light.
An hour and a half later, Diane came home and immediately went into the kitchen without saying a word.
Skeeter followed right behind her so they could continue their earlier conversation calmly.
Diane was rummaging through the cabinets, throwing away anything that had sugar or was high in fat into a large garbage bag.
“We need to talk,” Skeeter said as he watched his wife move in a flurry of activity.
“So go ahead and talk,” Dine huffed as she cleared out the refrigerator.
“I think we got a major problem with what’s going on with Shawn.”
“I know.” Diane pulled out a head of lettuce and a cucumber from the crisper. “But after today, I doubt he’ll play with the freak again.”
“That’s not what I mean.” Skeeter blew out a breath. “I want him playing with other children his age and if that includes Jenny Milan then so be it. What I don’t want is for him to be physically abused and I think you need to go in for counseling.”
“What I need is to go on a decent diet and a husband who pays some attention to me.” Diane peeled the cucumbers with a chef’s knife and acted annoyed at her husbands persistence.
“I do pay attention to you and I even bought you flowers. If you hadn’t noticed the ones in the vase on the table before, that’s because they’re new.”
Diane looked over at the flower arrangement and sighed. “What did you spend on those sorry little things, $7.95?”
Skeeter hated the fact that his wife was correct. “Hey, it’s the thought that counts,” he said and then realized that his wife changed the subject on him. “That’s not the point, anyway. Your drinking and your violence is getting way out of hand.”
“Your problem is you don’t know how to show me a good time,” Diane said as she pointed the chef’s knife at him. “I need to live, I need a little fun, I need to get out of this trap you designed for me.”
“Don’t go waving knives at people, not with your temper,” Skeeter said sharply. “We don’t do anything because you never want to. ‘Diane, let’s go dancing.’ ‘My feet hurt.’ Diane let’s go to the movies.’ ‘The seats are too small.’ Diane let’s go by our friends’ house.’ ‘I don’t know if I’ll like the other people who show up.’ So don’t blame me.”
Diane pointed with the knife again. “You don’t tell me what to do in my own home and don’t tell me how to raise my son either. You’re spending too much time with that Melissa and you’re starting to get uppity,” Diane yelled. “May be if I hadn’t slaved all day taking care of you and Little Meat I would be willing to go somewhere. But no, you had to make me pregnant and ruin our lives.”
“Let me get this straight. You quit taking your birth control pills, without telling me mind you, get pregnant and now it’s my fault. I hate to tell you this, but I’m glad we had Shawn,” he shouted. “At least I have someone to have a mature conversation with.”
Shawn, hearing his parents’ voices, but not realizing they were having an argument, walked into the kitchen to greet his mother and to ask for help going to the bathroom. “Hi Mommy,” he said as he stood in front of the door frame.
“Oh shut up and die would you?” Diane shouted furiously as she quickly turned toward the small boy. The knife flew out of her hand as she gestured towards him. The blade stuck in the wooden frame a foot above the child who stood like a statue.
No longer did Shawn need to be aided in the bathroom, the warm, smelly liquid soaked the bottom half of his pajamas, yet he didn’t complain nor cry,. He simply stared at his mother with accusing eyes while he was in shock.
“What are you thinking?” Skeeter shouted. “Are you nuts?”
“Unfortunately I missed,” Diane said, not realizing her Freudian slip until it was too late. “I mean it was an accident, thank God I missed.”
Skeeter, for the first time, realized all that his wife was capable of and wasn’t willing to put his son in further danger. “Let’s go Shawn,” he said as he took his son by the hand.
“Just where do you think you’re going,” Diane demanded as she blocked the front door.
“We’re going someplace safe, where you can’t hurt him,” Skeeter said sternly.
“You’re not taking my son from me,” Diane shouted as she braced against the door.
Skeeter glared at her. “So help me, I’ll go right through you if you don’t move. We’re leaving, whether you get injured in the process or not is entirely up to you.” He never threatened his wife with physical violence before and wished the need never had to arrive.
Diane reluctantly moved out of the way. Shawn walked past her, bewildered as he was led b his father’s hand. As the door closed his mother gave him a dirty sneer that made his heart sink even further.
Skeeter drove around aimlessly for a few minutes but found himself in front of the Milan’s house as if that was where he intended to go all along. “Come on, Shawn, let’s go.” He led the boy up the short stone walk and rang the bell.
“Skeeter?” Melissa looked at the tense man holding his child’s hand. She noticed the look of terror in Shawn’s eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“Diane, she’s completely gone too far. I came home and found out she took a strap to Shawn and just a few minutes ago she threw a knife at him.”
Melissa shook her head in disbelief and sympathy. “Come on it, I can’t leave you two sitting on the porch the way you are.”
“Thank you,” Skeeter said as he walked in the house. “I don’t know ho I got here, but I was really at a loss for what to do.”
“Mommy?” Jenny came bounding down the stairs, a towel shabbily hung around her waist, barely covering what she intended it to. “Who is it? What’s going on?”
“Shawn and his dad came for a visit,” Melissa answered as her daughter stood slightly hidden behind her. “We were just getting ready for a bath,” she addressed Skeeter. “By the looks of things, Shawn could use one too. He may as wee join in with Jenny.”
“Are you sure that’s such a good idea?” Skeeter said. “You know, after all, Shawn is a boy and Jenny is a girl.”
Melissa chuckled slightly. “I noticed that. I also notice that they’re only four and it’s not as big of a deal as if they were fourteen. They got to learn the difference between the genders sooner of later; from all the books I’ve read on child raising, now is the safest age to do that.”
“I’m too tired to argue with that. Would you mind taking care of him in the tub while I settle down?”
Melissa smiled faintly. “What do you say Shawn, want to get out of those wet clothes and have a nice warm bath with Jenny?”
“Okay,” Shawn whispered as he grabbed Melissa’s hand.
“How about you Jenny?” Melissa asked her daughter, “Do you mind if Shawn joins your bath?”
“It’s okay, Shawn’s my friend now,” Jenny answered, smiled and took Shawn’s other hand. Her free hand held onto the towel around her waist and she led the boy to the bathroom.
Skeeter sat down on the couch and tried to think things through. The situation deteriorated farther than he had anticipated. He placed his hand on his forehead, closed his eyes and ran numerous scenarios in his mind.
Upstairs, in the bathroom, Melissa was taking the soiled clothing off of the still frightened boy. She didn’t like touching the cold wet pajamas, but couldn’t fault Shawn for the accident. It only took a moment before the boy was fully disrobed and his clothing placed in a plastic laundry basket, designated for immediate washing. Shawn blushed at being in the buff, but didn’t realize with his mind being distracted on his current state of undress that it calmed him down from the other events going on in his life.
Jenny looked at the pudgy boy as she handed the small towel to her mother. She smiled at seeing Shawn blush but didn’t give much consideration to his anatomy. The child already knew the difference between boys and girls and, at her age, proof of gender fell under the category of trivial knowledge. Jenny stepped into the shallow water. “See Shawn, it’s nice and warm, come in,” she pleaded.
Until then, Shawn didn’t know the true difference between boys and girls and noticed that in the area of his body where he had something extra, Jenny was mysteriously lacking. As he stepped into the tub, he continually looked upon that area. “What happened to her wee-wee?” he asked, not really understanding about his friend’s surgery or the utterly convincing job the doctor achieved.
“Girls don’t have wee-wees Shawn,” Jenny said as if the knowledge of gender was inherent at birth. “Only boys do.” She sat down in the water.
The explanation, along with the visual proof, was enough for Shawn. No longer would he equate girls only with doll playing, dress wearing, and long hair. He now knew there was a physical difference as well and then the novelty of the knowledge wore off. As Melissa carefully washed him, he talked to Jenny about other things and the fact that they were naked didn’t seem to matter at all. When Melissa was finished cleaning him he went to sit down, only to whimper in pain, forgetting his previous injury. He scooted his legs and sat on his hips.
As Jenny stood up to be clean she looked at Shawn and noticed the marks on his backside. She knew all too well what those marks meant and what caused them. She was so lost in thought that she wasn’t even aware when her mother was done washing her.
“You can sit down now, Jenny,” Melissa repeated as she saw the distant look in her daughter’s eyes. It was the look she got every time she thought back on a past that was joyless and full of pain. Jenny did sit down and smiled, the twinkle in her eyes returned and Melissa knew the relived memory was a short one and for that she was glad. “You children play nice in the tub and I’ll be back before you get too wrinkly, okay?”
“Okay, Mommy,” Jenny said and then pulled a wind up toy fish from a basket.
Melissa, satisfied the kids would be safe, returned downstairs to have a little talk with her other guest.
“How’s Shawn doing?” Skeeter immediately asked. “Did he settle down?”
“He’s okay for now, but,” Melissa trailed off. “He’s in the tub with Jenny and he found it educational I suppose. He’s a cute little guy when he lets people get the chance to see it.” Melissa wiped an imaginary smudge off a table and collected herself. “You got to do something.”
“I know. I think it’s about time I did what was best for him. Would you mind if I used your phone and answering machine?” Skeeter walked to the table where the devices laid.
“Sure,” Melissa replied, but was confused about the answering machine part.
Skeeter put on the speaker phone and dialed his house. As soon as it rang, he hit record button on the answering machine and waited for the other end to pick up.”
“What are you calling my house for,” Diane said roughly as she answered the phone, seeing the Milan’s number on the caller ID.
“Diane it’s me,” Skeeter said quickly before his wife could hang up.
“Oh, I see you’re at that hussy’s house,” Diane said as she was unaware others could hear every word that she said. “Good thing for caller ID.”
“What does it matter where I’m calling from,” Skeeter said in frustration. “I know what you’re doing and we’re not changing the subject.”
“Oh, and what subject is that?” Diane said snidely. “You bolting out of here because you’re not man enough to deal with your wife?” Diane chuckled in delight at herself. “You’re pathetic.”
“I hate to do this,” Skeeter said sternly, “but if you don’t go in for counseling I’m afraid I’m going to seek a divorce,” Skeeter was firm and said the words with conviction.
“Oh that’s rich, real rich. Go ahead,” Diane said sarcastically, “seek a divorce, have a grand old’ time with it. I hope you enjoy alimony and child support.”
“I think you’re missing the big picture here, I’ll be taking Shawn with me.”
“How in hell do you think you’ll be getting Shawn,” Diane said casually. “I mean once the judge finds out that you beat him and sexually abuse him.”
Skeeter was flabbergasted. “What in the world are you talking about? I’ve never done either of those things and you know it”
“Of course I know it,” Diane said jovially.” But a judge wouldn’t. ‘Oh, your honor, it’s terrible how he hits and fondles my baby and when I told him to stop he sought a divorce. Just face it, you can’t win.”
“You’re a real piece of work. I’m glad I see the real you,” Skeeter said in disgust.
“And you better be home by tomorrow or I’ll bring the story to the newspaper first and then to your boss.” She hung up harshly.
Skeeter looked at Melissa hopelessly.
“At least you got it on tape. I doubt people would believe her in the fist place,” Melissa tried to console. “You can spend the night here if need be.”
“I better see Shawn,” Skeeter said. You may want to finish up with you daughter first, she may be uncomfortable with me there.”
Melissa took his advice and returned to the bathroom. She dried both children while they stepped out of the tub. When asked to leave the bathroom, Jenny insisted that it was okay and that Shawn needed her. Melissa didn’t see the harm and called Skeeter up. If it were something truly personal, Melissa was sure the other adult would ask her daughter to leave.
Skeeter arrived and knelt on the floor. “Shawn, come here,” he said softly.
Jenny walked in front of the boy. “Don’t hit or hurt him anymore,” she said bravely as her small pink body shielded Shawn from his father.
“My dad don’t hit me, Jenny, ” Shawn explained, “only my mom,”
Jenny was surprised because she thought only men were violent enough to use belts.
Skeeter chuckled at Jenny, but was touched by the gesture. Shawn walked to his dad and received a hug. Son, you know I love you,” Skeeter started and then went on to explain how life might change in the near future. It was a brief conversation and he soon found himself tucking both children into Jenny’s bed.
“Jenny,” Shawn whispered while they were under the sheet and alone in the room. “I think my mom hates me.” The boy started to cry.
The blonde haired girl wrapped her arms around her friend and drew him near. She knew exactly how he felt and that no words could mend the pain. All she could do was hold him and be his friend.
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