More Than A Neighbor Chapter 9


I know there are a number of people who hate seeing multiple blog posts in one day but not only do I have people eagerly waiting the finish of this book I am emotionally spent from the process of writing it. So this and 2 other posts are coming out today so I can be done with it for now.

On the off chance it is supposed to be an actual book I have actually sent proposals to numerous literary agents. Fingers Crossed.

 

Unexpected Visitor

I actually started to relax and for the first time really understood what holding onto everything bad in my life was weighing down on my soul and my entire being. As I would let go of some hatred, negativity, or anger I would just feel so much lighter, at least for a little while and then I’d fall back into a negative frame of mind and have to get reminded to continue working on being better. The reminders would come from obvious places like Kora and my Mom as well as the occasionally emotionally powerful church service but also places that never really affected me before. I found myself watching movies, TV shows, even commercials and starting to cry anytime anyone overcame even the most minor of obstacles. This would then fire me up to be better. Sometimes my next day was great because of it and other times I just sat in depression.

I was praying a lot. Actually I sucked at praying and I was pretty sure most people would tell me I wasn’t doing it right. I guess more often you could say I was just talking to God as I would just start chatting away; in my head anyway. I tried to put all of my worries into His hands the way other people said I should but often enough I would just ask him for a few things I really wanted. A lack of trust in God’s work in my life was obviously magnified greatly in the people I was around. Outside of Vivian, mom, and Kora I pretty much wouldn’t trust anyone.

The one person I was trying to trust more was Nelson who, if nothing else, could always make me smile. After finding out what had really happened in his past I started opening up to him unlike I had anyone else in my life. He knew about my time with Danny from beginning to end, he knew about my distrust in men as if it was a secret to anyone, he knew about the last moments with my father, and he could see me in a short sleeve shirt without me feeling self-conscious. Everyone wanted me to say I was going out with him, including him, but it came up in one of our conversations that I realized I had never really dated anyone seriously except for Danny. I had no real want to be with anyone even though I had a deep seated need to be with someone. Maybe I was just scared, maybe I was just trying to act stronger than I was, or maybe I just hated other people telling me what to do but I resisted the urge to date him or anyone else at every turn.

He was a great friend though and he was always around to help when we needed something. We started trying to eat dinner together a few times a week when he wasn’t at work and he even helped Kora learn piano. Ok, actually he just paid for her lessons and bought her a full sized keyboard to practice on but it was really nice of him since I didn’t have the money. When she was 14 she started playing with the church band more often and eventually became the go to keyboard player. She still wasn’t the best singer but she put her heart into it and there were a few songs she would sing that never failed to put me and most everyone else in tears.

Vivian’s husband helped her buy the salon we had worked at all that time when the owner retired. She actually grew business until we had too many customers and not enough chairs and had to move to a bigger building. She looked for ways to give back to the community and would host charity dinners, auctions, and also give free haircuts one day a month to anyone who might not have enough money to go to a really nice salon or any at all for that matter. She got the idea from a restaurant we once went to that had one day where you just paid what you could for your food and that’s what we did. A few times we actually made more than we normally would because some church would advertise that we gave all the money that day to a local charity and come and ‘tip’ way more than what it would normally cost.

My mother tried to come up once a month to visit and watch Kora play and she would even do something for the community. It started to feel like the only person not going above and beyond was me. Granted the 4 people closest to me always said, ‘just worry about you’ but that felt so selfish. It WAS selfish. No matter how good I would feel about myself for some progress I had made someone was worse off than I had ever been and I’d feel guilty for ever struggling. And if I made a dinner for some old couple who couldn’t really cook someone else would come along and buy groceries for an entire boys and girls club outing. Guilt and envy became a vicious circle and I just had to face it, I was a broken woman.

And then there was the Bible. I tried to read it I really did. First I tried to read it straight through and that didn’t work so then I tried just reading the Old Testament and that didn’t work. Then I tried reading the New Testament and that didn’t work. Then I decided my problem was the version I was reading so I tried ESV and NLT and ESPN and whatever types someone would recommend. And then even if I did make it a few days or even a week reading the Bible straight I’d get to a part that made me mad and I’d stop again. People would tell me the Bible is the word of God from beginning to end so when I’d read a part saying I could never cut my hair short because I was a woman made this woman want to go out and shave my head. Or a part that would say a sin is a sin it doesn’t matter what sin which to me meant stealing a loaf of bread to feed your family was just as bad as murdering a king. Just little things like that would confuse me and put me in a mood that I couldn’t even begin to explain. I wanted more faith and I wanted to believe yet my mind would get in the way. And I thought if I stopped ‘thinking’ about what I was reading wouldn’t I just become a mindless lemming and would that make my faith any more than a cult?

I will say my pastor helped through those questions a lot when I would actually bring them up. First he was very into science which at first had seemed like an oxymoron to me but he told me how he believed that science and religion weren’t as far off as the extremists on either side might have you believe. He told me I should read various sections relating to God’s forgiveness, love, and acceptance before anything else and then if I came across something that seemed out of place to remember that above all, my God was forgiving, loving, and accepting. It sounded cheesy to me but it actually helped a lot.

The easiest way for me to read the Bible at the time was to do devotionals and just read snippets here and there each day or every other day and talk about it with someone.  Normally Kora but Nelson and I went through a few together too.

It was one night when he was coming over for dinner and one of these devotionals that we got a surprise at the door. I heard the knock and was cooking dinner so I yelled at Kora to let Nelson in.

“He’s playing some kind of game on us again,” I yelled as he only knocked when he wanted to pretend to be someone else. If I asked who it was he’d normally have me cracking up with a land shark impression and if Kora asked he would do some cheesy knock knock joke.

“I’ve got him this time, I’m just gonna open the door with this,” she said in a muffled voice through a Halloween mask of bugs bunny. I cracked up and told her to go let him in.

The door opened and I laughed again as I heard her say, “Ehhhh, what’s up doc?” Yeah, my daughter was as big a dork as I was. She quickly recanted and her voice was no longer muffled as she had taken off the mask, “oh sorry, can I help you?”

“Oh don’t be sorry, that was very cute. You’re Kora, right?”

“Ummm, yeah. MOM?”

I was frozen and the food started burning in the skillet. I probably would have burned it anyway but I didn’t expect like this.

“Oh good, your mother is home too. You’ve gotten big since the last time I saw you.”

“Do I know you?”

“Well, sort of. Probably. Maybe not at all, but I’m your father.”

“Oh. MOM!”

Life is a funny thing. There was this point in Kora’s life where she wanted to know her father and talk to him. She wasn’t worried about what he’d done to her or how he’d treated me she thought he deserved another chance and just really wanted to meet him.

At this point, however, Nelson had filled a large hole in her heart that I hadn’t even understood. He and I might not have been dating but he was there for her in a way that, honestly, no man had even had the chance to be. She stopped asking about her Dad and I was happy to stop talking about him and for sure to stop thinking about him.

I did come rushing around the corner though. “Hello Daniel.” No amount of faith or forgiveness would have ever taken the bitterness out of those first two words after all those years made all the more worse as I used his proper name which I used to never dare do for fear of getting hit. A subtle piece of payback in my head that I was sure he wouldn’t even notice. “How did you find me? Did my mother tell you where I live?”

“No, honestly she wouldn’t tell me if I’d paid her. I tracked you down myself.”

“Kora dear go get the table set please. Well tracking me down was nice and creepy so what do you want?”

“I want to talk, and I’d really like to talk to Kora too.”

“I don’t know if that’s the best idea Danny. We’re about to sit down to dinner and I’ve got the next, ohhh, 50 years of my life on the calendar so I just don’t know that there is time.”

“I’m sorry. Your mom did tell me that you’d been going to church and you had forgiven me. I guess that wasn’t true.”

“I thought it was, but I guess I had forgiven the you that wasn’t standing on my front porch.” It was true, I had tried to forgive him and said it out loud and prayed for it to happen but it was the one dream that wouldn’t go away at night. Even before the dreams would come I’d be lying in bed with quiet time to myself, my mind would have time to think and it would inevitably lead to Danny and the bitterness and hatred and anger would just boil to the surface. I started waiting to go to bed until I was too tired to keep my eyes open. That occasionally worked.

“I guess this was a bad idea.”

“That’s the smartest thing you’ve ever said.”

“I can just go. Here’s my number, if you change your mind please call me.” He handed me a business card and I scoffed in my head thinking it was his attempt to impress me.

“Mom?”

“Kora, go set the table.”

“I DID mom, can he stay, please?”

I looked into the eyes of my daughter. While it was true that she was a teenager and attempting to understand anything that went on her head was virtually pointless that look I knew. It was a look I had a lot; the look of confusion, hurt, betrayal, yet strength to get through it and the want to persevere. I let out a breath I may have been holding since I first heard his voice at the door. “Nelson’s coming over tonight.”

“You have a date, I’m so sorry.”

I turned back to him, “It’s not a date. He’s our neighbor,” I hesitated, “He’s our friend.”

He didn’t hesitate, “It’s ok. I understand and I get it,” his hands went up in the air, “Just call me.”

“Mom???”

“Well crap,” I said to no one in particular although I did look towards the sky and ask God quietly, ‘do I get any bonus points for this?’ “Come on in Danny, Kora go set another spot at the table.

“Are you sure? I don’t want to impose.”

“I’m not saying it again.”

“Right,” and with that he was in my house. “What happened to your arm? And your chest, are you ok?”

Double crap I thought to myself realizing what I was wearing. I had worn a sleeveless black silk shirt with a low hung neck line trying to look nicer knowing that we were having dinner with Nelson. Ok, fine, I was trying a LITTLE! “Oh it’s nothing, I’m fine thanks.” Shortly after he was in I grabbed Kora and dragged her to my room as I changed into one of my comfortable sweaters I was used to wearing everywhere no matter the temperature outside.

“Are you sure about this? Are you sure you want to talk to him now?”

“When else would I talk to him mom?”

“Never if I had my way,” our argument was hushed and probably would have looked ridiculous to anyone watching unable to hear as we flung our arms about as if in some silent movie.

“That’s just it you would have it that way. But maybe I want to know something more about my father than the stories of negativity you provide.”

“Well excuse me if they are all negative stories but there really wasn’t anything good to share.”

“Well maybe there is now. It’s been almost 14 years.”

“Well maybe there is but that doesn’t mean he deserves the chance to tell it.”

“Of course it doesn’t but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to give it to him.”

“Well the last chance he had with you you ended up with this.” I ran my hand down the left side of her face.

“WELL that may be but things are different now.”

“How so?”

“Because thanks to you I know that if a man is trying to hurt me I’ll just kick him between the legs.” Our hushed argument turned to not so hushed laughing. I had indeed instilled that plan in her head every chance I got. I had also informed her she wouldn’t be dating until she was old enough to be president.

“And what is Nelson going to say?”

“He’ll probably say…” She was cut off by the door closing and Danny’s voice speaking up.

“You must be Nelson?”

“Yes. I’m sorry but who are you?”

“I’m Kora’s father.”

I started to wonder how many times I was going to have to intervene on him telling that to someone when Kora beat me out the door. She was in there before their awkward handshake broke apart.

“He came by today. He wanted to talk so I thought we could all just have dinner together. Danny this is my Nelson.” My nelson she said to him. I’d like to think that would have stuck with him but he didn’t get past…

“You can call me dad,” Danny replied back to her.

Now I made it in there but unfortunately didn’t have a knife with me to cut through the tension.

“Hi Nelson,” I gave him a hug and he looked at my sweater, rubbed the arm, then looked at me. He knew my defenses were up. “I’m afraid I burned our dinner.”

“Oh, do you need me to go get something?”

“NO!” Kora and I were on either side of him speaking in stereo. She covered for me, “If you don’t like her cooking you can just fill up on MY pasta salad. I added you favorite ingredients.”

“Pasta salad with cheese AND bacon. What did I do to deserve that?”

“Welllll,” and with that she dragged him away. She had avoided Danny’s statement so well I’m not sure he even noticed.

“Are you two….” He leaned into me and his voice held on to the word two in that universal way of finishing the sentence without finishing it.

“No I told you already and it is as far from being your business as anything I can think of.”

“Kora seems to like him a lot.”

“Well he’s been there for her through some big moments.”

“I could have been but I wasn’t really given the chance.”

“Danny, if you want to stay through dinner I suggest avoiding any comments like that.” And this set the tone for the rest of the night. If I could bottle the feeling of awkward and sell it that night would have set me for life.

We walked into the living room where Kora was talking to Nelson about the new song she was trying to learn and how hard it was. She didn’t yet have music for it and was showing him where it was giving her troubles. While Nelson didn’t play any instruments it turned out he could not only sing but had a really good ear for music. He knew the song and they were singing along slowly and he would say things like, ‘no it goes down there,’ or ‘hold that a little longer’ but always end on, ‘it sounds great.’

“Do we want to pray so we can eat?” I gave Kora a look that I hoped she would interpret as ‘you put me in this situation you don’t get to ignore it. We stood in a circle around the table and held out hands. Danny seemed as hesitant to take our hands as I was to give mine. I had never wanted a prayer to end so quickly and I silently apologized to God and then did so again later that night.

“Hi God, it’s us again,” Kora started, “Thank you so much for letting us have this wonderful meal and for Nelson to have another safe day at work. Please be with him for his long shift tomorrow so he doesn’t get hurt and bless the food we are about to eat. You rock God, Amen.”

Nelson chuckled and started passing around some food. “So are you excited for Sunday.”

“YES! And super nervous too because I’m afraid I’ll mess something up.”

“What’s this Sunday?” Danny asked trying to remind everyone he was there.

“It’s just this thing at church.” Kora may not offer much for him having learned her defenses from me but Nelson was very proud of his not-daughter which he would sometimes jokingly say after she called him her Nelson.

“And a big thing it is. At church they do these services where the band will consist of as many children and teens as possible. This Sunday it is all youth.”

“And you’re part of that? That’s very cool. That’s my girl.” Danny was trying too hard and Kora noticeably jerked when he said it.

“Yes well, she’s not just a part of it she is leading the whole thing by herself for the first time. Normally it’s put together and led by the worship leader but this week it was all her. She got the volunteers, picked the songs, figured out the arrangements.”

“Well, Nelson helped with the arrangements.”

“That is very cool, Kor.”

Danny called her Kor when she was a baby but I had hated it. I never told her that he would occasionally say that but she had inherently not liked it anytime anyone said it. Always correcting them politely saying that wasn’t her name. She didn’t correct anything right now but rather just stirred and stared at the food on her plate.

Danny was undaunted though he did turn his attention to Nelson. “So Kora mentioned she wanted God to keep you safe, what do you do?”

“I’m a fireman.”

“Oh, I hear that’s a pretty hot job these days.” Danny laughed an old laugh I had forgotten when he thought he was being funny. Nelson laughed along with him though Nelson was always being nice so I assumed it wasn’t real.

“Yeah, it’s the one job you don’t want to be so good at that they say you’re on fire.”

Danny laughed louder and my skin crawled. He turned back to Kora, “So little one, I was thinking maybe we could catch a movie or go to a park while I’m in town and get caught up. I’d sure like to get to know you.”

Kora looked at me and then Nelson and then back at me but I wasn’t sure what to say. More than that I didn’t know what she would want me to say. If I told him I didn’t like the idea she would just tell me it was her choice and we should give him a chance. If I told him it was a good idea she would just tell me I was nuts for trusting him. Ok I didn’t know what she’d say but then she was a teenager and I never have fully understood them.

She let us all know in her own way though. “I don’t think I can, I’m pretty busy this week and then we have tests at school all next week I need to study for.”

“Oh come on Kora, I get that you like playing music at your church and all but how often do you get to see your father?”

“I get that but this week is really important at church.”

“Oh that’s what they tell you that every week is important but God understands.” Was he joking? Had my mom been joking when she told me I should talk to him? It didn’t seem like anything at all had changed. He obviously wasn’t drunk but his cynicism remained and he was just as pushy as ever. Had he tried to be nice for my mother just to get to see her? This was my problem with giving people second chances as it gives them a second chance to hurt you. The bitterness and anger swelled up inside me again and all the dreams came flooding back. All I had learned and experienced giving myself to God may as well have been a distant memory as far as my emotions were concerned.

“Danny, she said she’s busy. If we get a chance in the near future we can schedule a time for you two to get together.”

“Jillian she is my daughter and I deserve the right to see her. I have a LEGAL right to see her.”

“I’m pretty sure you lose that legal right somewhere in the first 14 years you neglect to visit her.”

“Hey now, I told your mom years ago I wanted to see her yet you denied me. I could have gone to court but I let you two have your space now I want time with my daughter.”

“I don’t know that you’re responsible enough yet Danny. And I am pretty sure she has made it clear that she isn’t going with you at this time.”

“No it’s ok.” A weak voice spoke up that I recognized very deep in my being. It was a voice that I hadn’t heard in many years. It was MY voice when I was married to Danny. It was the defeated, he’s in charge and what he says goes because we don’t want to upset him voice. Only it wasn’t coming from me now it was coming from my daughter.

Somewhere in her mind I knew what was going on. It was the confusion of wanting to know her father but being scared of what could happen and the fear of disappointing him to where he’d never talk to her again when she was ready. She knew that if she upset him too much he’d walk out that door for good and what if she ended up all alone and needed a close family member. He wouldn’t be there anymore all because she had put God above him and he couldn’t handle it.

Had I projected this on her? Had I told her so many stories that despite my view on men this was how she knew to behave? Was it just for Danny or would she end up getting into the same type of relationship I had been in? Ok that was my biggest fear. If she got into an abusive relationship I knew it would have been my fault and I knew I could have stopped it. I had kept her away from Danny all this time BECAUSE of that fear I just hadn’t been able to put it into words. In either case he was being far too much far too fast.

“Kora, you don’t have to go out with him if you don’t want to.” I tried to look her in the eye but she was looking down. The look of a defeated woman was very familiar to me.

“Hey, you can stop now she said she’d go with me so why you gonna try and stop her?”

“She obviously doesn’t want to go and whether you understand it or not this Sunday means the world to her.”

“And I can’t mean the world to her? I’m supposed to get rejected just because of you pushing church on her?”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Oh I don’t? I know you have pushed her into your cult religion just like you tried to get me to. Brainwashing my little girl is all you’re doing.” A familiar object he had believed Christianity to have when we had been together.

“You haven’t a clue what has been going on in our lives, obviously, and you don’t need to know. She said she’s busy and I say she’s not going.”

“Well that’s just bullshit and I say she is. Come on Kora we can go out tonight and then you can spend the weekend with me.” He grabbed her arm and she resisted for a second and then gave in. I can imagine the struggle that went on in her head to come to the conclusion to let him drag her out of that house.

“Yes sir,” and with those words it all flooded back and everything came full circle. Whatever happened he wasn’t doing to her what he’d done to me. I stood up in front of him to stop him.

And then everything happened very fast even though it seemed very slow in my mind. Kora told me, ‘it’s ok mom, I’ll be fine,’ words which I had spoken to my mother many years ago. At the same time I was pushing on him to stop him which wasn’t doing much of any good as I had never gotten very strong. At the same time Nelson, whom I learned later had been doing his best to stay out of it as it really wasn’t his place, had decided it’d gone to far and was instantly up and around the table and in front of Danny.

It was very fast that he moved though it wasn’t fast enough for him to get there before Danny pushed me out of the way and I fell to the edge of the chair, grabbed at the table, and then fell to the floor. But he was fast enough to cut Danny off before he got out of the dining room which would have given him a straight shot at the front door.

“I don’t think you need to be taking Kora anywhere tonight.”

“This doesn’t concern you fire marshal Bill so just get out of my way.”

“You let Kora go and I will get out of your way so you can leave.”

“Look Nelson this doesn’t CONCERN you this is my daughter.”

“That may be but she is my responsibility right now and I can’t let you take her.”

“I knew you two were shackin’ up. She tried to say otherwise but I could tell. Well tapping my ex-wife doesn’t make my daughter yours now get out of the way.”

“And showing up one night out of a thousand doesn’t make her your daughter.”

“I’m more of a father to her than you are, considering you’re NOT her father and I am.” Danny was getting right in Nelson’s face and tears streaming down my face. Kora kept her head down and I was trying to grab at her other arm to keep her from leaving.

“I think you need to reexamine what it means to be a father. Now let Kora go.”

“Or what?”

“Or I’ll make you let her go,” Nelson wasn’t backing down but even though Danny was the shorter of the two I knew how fiercely he could fight.

“Oh really,” Danny did let go of Kora and I pulled her to the floor. Danny swung his fist into Nelson’s chest and to his surprise and frankly mine too, Nelson just kind of smiled. It hadn’t affected him at all and Danny threw a second punch and it still didn’t seem to faze him. Danny started to punch Nelson in the face but this one he blocked and quickly countered back with his own right hook into Danny’s stomach. It DID faze Danny and he slithered to the floor. Nelson told me to take Kora back to my room which I did quickly and he started pushing Danny out of the house.

I remembered one thing and one thing that I wanted more than ever to be rid of. I dug through my dresser, told Kora to wait there, and then ran back to the front door before Danny slithered off like the snake he’d always been. I threw what I’d found at him.

“My dad’s ring? I knew you had it you slut. I’m gonna go call the cops and YOU sir are going to jail.”

“You do that Danny. Let them know you have a complaint that after assaulting a woman in her own home you were promptly put in your place by Nelson Vickers of Firehouse 7. I believe Connie is the dispatcher tonight and Sergeant Miller is on patrol in this area. Give them my regards will you.” With that he slammed the door to more of Danny’s screaming as he walked to his car. No police ever came to the house.

We brought Kora back out and Nelson made some hot chocolate. She was in shock and said she was sorry for making Danny mad. I tried hard to explain that it wasn’t her fault that’s just the way he was and has apparently continued to be.

I also tried very hard to tell her to never let any man talk to her like that again. No man should ever try to take her anywhere she doesn’t want to go. I had been right in thinking she was afraid of never seeing him again. In all honesty she DID want to give her father a chance and if Danny had not been so pushy he probably would have gotten it pretty quickly.

She did call him a few months later and let him know he could call her once in a while if he so wished so they could get to know each other but there were no plans on meeting in person at this time.

But for me it was even more devastating because I let my anger and bitterness push what faith I had grown away again. I kept going to church but I stopped going to small groups and I told Nelson I wasn’t in the mood for a devotional so many nights in a row that he stopped asking.

When I gave my life over to Christ it was one of the most powerful moments in my life. I wanted to believe that life would be easy going from that point on but the reality is life keeps challenging you, sometimes more than ever before because you’re supposed to grow and have more strength and be able to handle even more. That’s what I know now anyway but at that time I was just silently cursing God again and telling Him He better not let anything happen to her like it did me or I’d stop talking to him altogether.

Even in my anger towards God I’m still a huge dork.

This was all a huge setback for me and I often wondered if my backsliding would give way to having more hope again. Yet again I owed Nelson everything for standing up for us and again I was having trouble expressing my thanks. You know how I thanked him? I pushed him away again along with all other guys. I let all of that hatred inside me push away all the good that had come along in my life and I knew he didn’t deserve the crap I gave him.

He took it like a champ of course; he’s too nice to let anything bother him especially from me. And after a month or so I let him back inside my emotional walls and vowed I wouldn’t let it happen again because he had been too good of a friend to me and my daughter.

 

 

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