Short Story Sunday is on vacation today. Today, rather than a new short story, I’m giving you the first few pages of a novel. There are no Vampires, no Ghosts, no Werewolves. Nothing paranormal or Gothic. I think you’ll like it. One more thing, this is a work in progress.
Also by Dr. Gregory Atkinson
Letting Go – A Marriage Guide for Beginners
Love and Loss
Love and Respect
Love and Trust
Excerpt from “To Elizabeth with Love”
By Dr. Gregory Atkinson
This book was written as a love letter to my wife Elizabeth Hobbs Atkinson. She was brutally tortured and killed by a man who had once been my friend. Her body was never found, but her legacy of love will here.
Liz and I met in the summer while working together at the Olive Branch Youth Christian Summer Camp in Pennsylvania. I was the director that summer and Liz was a counselor. We hit it off immediately with our passion for Christ and quick comfortable friendship.
I first noticed Liz’s bright smile and easy laugh. I couldn’t help notice her beautiful figure and grace as she moved with the children. She was sunshine and I was drawn to her warmth.
Within a week we were inseparable. At the end of the summer I asked Liz to marry me. She was 19 and I was 26, both sure in our love for each other and commitment in Christ.
Marriage is an equal partnership in love and friendship, blessed by God as the perfect union between a man and a woman. When I met Liz I finally met a woman who was my best friend and true equal. She was the one I could finally have that perfect union with.
We were married in November. The next 6 years were filled with such joy and passion I could have never imagined. We also had our share of tragedy with 3 late term miscarriages. Then, just as we had hoped that maybe God would grant us the blessed titles of Mommy and Daddy, the unthinkable happened. Liz was brutally murdered, in a cruel twist of fate by a man who called himself the Killer of Virtue.
According to the police report my darling wife lost enough blood to kill her before she was stuffed into the back of a car. The evidence showed the massive loss of blood didn’t kill her, at least not before she’d put up a valiant struggle for her life. Nobody knows if she died in the killer’s car or was dumped unceremoniously in an unknown location. Nobody knows if she too, like the other five innocent victims, was dressed like a whore and posed as if ready for her next customer, waiting for the police or an innocent jogger or hiker to find her. Traces of clothing soaked with her blood, torn pages from her note book and other artifacts were found in the woods, scattered by animals and weather, but her body was hidden much too well to ever be found.
From the day Liz vanished I prayed for her return and for hope. The day she was pronounced legally dead I lost all hope and thought I too would die. Only my faith in God and the love Liz and I shared kept me from going off into a black abyss of hopelessness and grief.
Not a day went by when we didn’t say, “I love you”. Not a day when by when we didn’t hold hands. Not a night went by when we didn’t completely celebrate our physical passions as man and wife.
Liz was sunshine, a joy to all who met her. She was my anchor. She was my best friend. No man had every loved a woman as I had and still love Liz. No woman ever loved a man as Liz had loved me.
To me marriage was never something I had to do. In fact, it wasn’t something I’d seriously thought about until I met Liz.
After Liz was pronounced dead I was bombarded by the attentions of women, each wanting to be the next Mrs. Gregory Atkinson. These women proclaimed they wanted to rescue me from my heartbreak. Most of them wanted to take advantage of my situation and cash in on my grief. Most had the false hope that they could comfort me. Each thought she could be a replacement for my lost wife, like a new puppy or a shiny new car.
These women, who lined up to tempt me with home cooking, sex and sympathy, only coveted what Elizabeth had. My disgust in them grew but I also pitied them in their ignorance of real love and the real meaning of marriage. To them I was a possession to be had, the big catch, a great opportunity. I would be the man who would make their lives complete.
I didn’t need a wife. I needed Liz. I needed her laugh, her understanding, her touch and her love.
The misguided woman who pursued me saw Liz as dead. I would never see her as dead, only in another place until one day I would see her again.
Perhaps one day I will marry again. I know Liz wouldn’t want me to be alone, but another wife could never replace Liz. It will be different next time, God willing, if it is God’s will for me to marry again.
My comfort came from my faith and my knowledge that Liz is in a better place.
“Son of a bitch.” I put down my glass of wine and threw the book across the room.
I’m surprised the bastard hasn’t been struck by lightning. What a crock of crap and lies. Any poetic justice of my situation had gone down the drain at that moment. Greg is walking and talking and writing bestselling books about me and about our marriage…and I’m still dead…saved by a serial killer, no less. God save me and have mercy on my soul and on that abusive lying son of a bitch Gregory Atkinson. May he rot in Hell. But he did get his wish. I am in a better place. A much much better place.
All of us Hobbs kids were exceptional liars, well except my brother Jordan who was a liar by default by his refusal to tell either lies or the truth. There were seven of us. Jordan was the youngest and had no discernable personality or identifying character traits except for his unusual refusal to talk, unless it was to speak about his love of the Lord and his belief that our brother Steve, now diseased, would soon come back as an avenging angel.
The rest of us were quite talkative and also could quote scripture as fluently as we could lie.
Once upon a time, the fashionable and pious Belinda George met the successful, and widowed young father Douglas Hobbs. Like Hitler and Mussolini they created their own empire complete with an army of children to worship the ground they walked on and do their bidding unflinching and loyal. Actually my mother always envisioned herself as Maria Von Trapp and us as the singing wunderkind, but more on that later.
The eldest Hobbs child, David was a serious and brilliant boy. His mother was our father’s first wife Barbara Vanderhook, a quiet mouse like woman who hung herself from the upstairs banister when David was five. She left a note saying that she could never love her strange cold son. Part two of the note stated that she loved her husband (my father) too much even knowing that he saw her as a failure.
We didn’t see much of David growing up as his mother’s will left us enough money to be shipped off to an exclusive prep school 2 hours from our home.
In the meantime mother started to pop out her own large brood of children. First came Mark Douglas Hobbs, the favorite and most aggressive. A year later the twins Bradley George and Katherine Belinda arrived. Bradley was almost as aggressive as Mark but had a soft manipulative side including charm, which he used at every opportunity to his advantage. The sensitive, pretty and evil Kathy spent her childhood trying to be our mother’s favorite. Unfortunately for Kathy, Belinda’s only favorite was Belinda.
Eighteen months after the birth of the twins, one cold January morning Stephen Allen Hobbs came into the world singing out songs of justice until the day he died. Elizabeth Ann Hobbs came along ten months later in October. After my arrival the lines were drawn and it was the real twins vs. the almost twins (or as my politically incorrect mother called us the Irish Twins). Brad and Kathy were classic bullies in every sense of the word, worshiping their leader Mark. Where Steve and I lacked in mean brute force we made up in cunning and deception.
Another two years passed in the Hobbs household when Jordan Emmanuel Hobbs arrived. Unlike the rest of us he was quiet and uncharacteristically passive in nature. In contrast to the physical prowess of his elder siblings Jordan was flabby and sedate. He could sit for hours while the rest of us ran, jumped and tumbled like we were training for the Olympic Ultimate Fighting Club.
Jordan and David were both odd in the opinion of the five middle children. They were quiet and passive; behaviors we couldn’t understand. To his credit David had a mean cynical streak that we greatly admired. As for the middle five children, we were sly and aggressive, qualities needed to survive in our good Christian home.
Mother (as Belinda insisted we call her) was delighted in the status that seven children brought her, but what she gained in status she lacked in maternal instinct. The seven Hobbs children were alternately ignored, neglected and both physically and psychologically tortured by our mother.
Our father demanded perfection; perfect behavior, superior grades, perfect musical pitch and a house that would put any military ideals to shame, and a complete devotion to God and the study of the bible. Of course there were consequences if we did not live up to his standards. Like mother, our father also believed in quick, harsh physical punishment to all infractions of his code of conduct. Luckily for us we rarely saw the workaholic bastard. Our dear father was having a long-term affair with his assistant, a lovely passive/aggressive girl named Pam who would do just about anything to please her boss.
Food was always a big thing in the Hobbs house hold. Not that anyone cooked, because they didn’t. It was the lack of food that kept the growing brood of Hobbs children hungry and always on the prowl. Mother didn’t cook, so while we were young she used her charms to get good spirited women from our church to come help her out with the babies. There were so many of us toddlers, five children under the age of 6 plus a baby, that nobody could resist the lovely young mother in need.
But as we grew older and started school things changed dramatically. We were no longer cute and more of a hassle. Nobody cared if you had a lot of older kids. We ceased to be cute or interesting to Belinda. This was not the way she wanted to spend her time.
Not being one to spend money on anyone other than herself, our mother had a schedule of pot luck dinners at our church she’d take us to at least 4 nights a week. We’d bring a couple of loves of French bread and a grocery bag of empty containers. In turn we’d come home with cakes, cookies, pasta, salads, casseroles, fried chicken and whatever other leftovers from the groaning church tables that would feed us the remaining 3 days. The rest of the time we foraged from our almost bare cabinets and from the homes of friends. Our lunches came from the school cafeteria so we always knew we’d be fed at least once a day during the week. Unlike the other kids, we never complained about the quality of school meals.
By the time Mark was 10 we were also cooking for ourselves. Let me take a step back. My parents never ate with us. Once Mark turned 9 they went out almost every night for dinner or brought dinner for two in and ate it in the formal dining room without the distractions of the children.
The kitchen would be stocked with mac-n-cheese mix, cans of soup, eggs, bacon, frozen pizza and other easy to fix and cheap items. That didn’t last long. One morning after Kathy got mad at me for calling her a “stupid butt picking rat” she threw a skillet containing about a half pound of bacon and several cups of flaming hot grease at me. With that little prank all hot meals ended.
I wound up with a stay in the hospital and a skin graph to my left thigh. Kathy, who neglected to use a hot pad on the cast iron skillet, burned off most of her fingerprints. My dear sister claimed I’d threatened her, causing the accident, and of course no adult believed me. Steve and Jordan stayed quite after threats of death from Mark, Brad and Kathy. After that all cooking, including use of the microwave was banned from our home.
While in the hospital recovering from my burns I was told to pray to God for forgiveness for being such a willful and sinful child. A child psychologist was sent in to talk to me. I lay in my bed quietly not daring to tell anyone about my fear of what God, Belinda or my siblings might do to me. No eight year old had ever given a better performance, spinning lies about a happy home and idyllic childhood. Later the minister from our church asked me if I’d ever been abused or mistreated at home. Of course I lied to him too. I’d always liked Reverend Johnson and didn’t want him to think badly of me.
During the stay in the hospital I lost the ability to cry. I don’t know if it was the ability or just the desire. Why cry at all? It never did me any good. Nobody ever comforted me, except Steve and it only scared Jordan. Or it could have been result of being told that I should be feeling both the fear of the fires of Hell and the love of God for saving my skinny little 8-year-old ass from burning to death from a flaming shower of bacon grease. I could feel pain both emotionally and physically – pain that had me wishing I would die on the spot, but I could no longer cry. I’d already learned to hide pain and emotional distress as a means of survival so it wasn’t that big of a deal, at least to me. Over the years it became creepy and disconcerting to others.
On those few occasions I did feel the need for tears or any other show of emotion or distress it manifested itself into violent stomach cramps and vomiting. I never figured it out and like everything else in my short life; I just accepted things as they were.
More to come…
Let me know what you think.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman