"I-I'm so sorry, David. I promise nothing like this will happen again. I was just so frustrated with other things."
I'd heard that from my father many times before he finally left us for good. I'd heard it from my mother when one of her new "relationships" didn't work out. I would have heard it from Mark, but he never pretended to give a damn about me. I thought I had found someone I wouldn't have to hear it from in you. But I stayed. Why? Because I'm a moron. I was dumb enough to fall in love with you and would do anything if it meant us staying together. That included putting up with your insults, your slaps, your abuse. I would never retaliate. If there was anything I learned from the experience with my family, it's that fighting back, or trying to at least, only makes the beatings that much worse. So I became a doormat. Not just to you but to everyone. Never speaking my own mind, because what I thought was probably stupid anyway. Never raising a fist to anyone, because I probably deserved whatever I was getting. I loved you, Darlene Conner. If I'm completely honest with myself I still do. Even after...that night...
Catching their breaths from their latest 'bedroom activities', Darlene and David were lying on the bed in the Conner basement. So much had happened in their lives together. Darlene's plan for them to live together in her dorm in Chicago, had backfired and the Conner family found out. Dan was furious and beat David then kicked him out of the house, believing the plan to be his. After being set straight by his wife, Roseanne, David was allowed to rejoin the clan, but things were never the same. David couldn't be alone with Mr. Conner out of fear and would go out of his way to avoid him. But, if living in fear was what he had to put up with to have a roof over his head and still get to see his girlfriend every once in a while, he'd do it. David mused while still in afterglow over all those times and how he'd put up with it all again to be with Darlene. How was he to know this would be the night that would devastate him, and destroy more than anything else in his life.
"David, we need to talk."
"Yeah? What's up"
"There's no easy way to say this but...I'm breaking up with you"
"W-what? Why? Was it something I did, I'm sorry, I'm so sorr-"
"Ugh, that's it right there. You're such a wimp. I met this guy on campus and we've been hooking up for the last few weeks. It felt nice to have a man who I didn't have to take care of 24/7."
"Wait a minute...last few WEEKS? What about us? We JUST finished making love. I-I-I..."
"Think of it as a going away present."
A silence filled the room.
"Did you ever love me?"
"What kind of question is that?"
"A legitimate one...One I need to know the answer to. Did you ever love me?"
"At first I thought you were cool, a tortured soul or whatever, but love...no, can't say I did."
"So, let me get this straight, I've stayed with you even though you've beaten and belittled me almost the whole time we've been dating and you didn't even..." I stopped trying to calmly gather my thoughts. "I'm willing to over look this, this whole thing. I can be better, I'll be what you want, please..."
"Don't do that, It's over David."
Tears silently rolled down my face, but I refused to make a sound. I just gathered my clothes, put them on and went upstairs. I had no idea what had just happened. Why does this keep happening to me. I couldn't take anymore of this. So I got a piece of paper and a pen and sat at the kitchen table, and began to write:
To Mr. and Mrs. Conner, thank you for taking pity on me and bringing me into your home. I'm sorry I was such a burden.
To Becky, you're a smart young woman with a lot left to accomplish in your life. Don't waste your potential on my brother. Apparently, that's something us Healys do, we bring down the people we care about.
To D.J., Even though you didn't like me very much...or at all. I still thought you were a cool guy. You probably saw me as an intruder trying to worm my way into your family, but you should know it was made very clear that I have no real place here.
Good-bye from the unnecessary baggage.
I folded my letter and walked over to the silverware drawer pulling out the biggest knife I saw.
'Everyone...EVERYONE who was supposed to care about me, love me, despised me.' he thought. 'Time to do the one useful thing I'll ever do and fix the mistake my parents made.' I was hysterical and wanted nothing more than to just do this. So I took the knife and slashed. That was the exact second Dan Conner walked into the kitchen. He almost walked by without noticing me, as most people tended to do, as I wish he had done.
Dan Connor walked into the kitchen and caught sight of a tremendous amount of blood and David slouched in the corner by the oven, barely conscious. He darted over to David and screamed for someone anyone to come call an ambulance. His wife heard his panicked shouts and rushed into the kitchen. The scene shocked her to say the least.
"DAN! What the hell happened?"
"Rosey, there's no time call 911, QUICK!
That was all David heard until he was pulled into the darkness he seeked...
Floating in never ending darkness, no sounds, no warmth, just him and nothing. He was finally done, done with it all, done with the world. At least, that's what he thought. Suddenly, a consistent beeping could be heard followed by a white light. He was being pulled from the death he sought, once again it seemed he had failed. As he breached further into consciousness, more sounds could be heard. The murmurs of people, shuffling of their feet on the floor and...crying?
Finally fully awake, David took in his surroundings. A hospital room, no surprise there. He scanned the room slowly and saw in the corner Mrs. Conner huddled into Mr. Conner sobbing harder than he'd ever seen her. Come to think of it, he'd never seen her cry before. She'd always seemed a paragon of strength and somehow above that.
The first to notice David's awakening was Mr. Conner, who barely made eye contact before getting his grieving wife's attention. She looked up and sprinted to the bedside. Eyes so full of so many emotions: relief, fury, sadness, pity. Emotions David never thought would be directed at him. He began to speak when she interjected...
"Oh David...Just what in the HELL do you think you were doing? The swift ease in tone from caring to rage told David, that wasn't originally what she meant to say. Unfortunately, he couldn't give an answer. What was he meant to say? Sorry? He wasn't. He honestly thought he was doing them and everyone else a favor.
Dan took over to try to be the voice of reason. When he started to speak, he noticed David flinch slightly at the sound of his voice. He'd never really noticed before, had he always done that?
"David, what's going on? Why would you feel...feel you had to do this?"
Tears began to form in David's eyes. Unable to make eye contact with either Conner, he began to explain.
"Everyone...everyone in my life who was supposed to love me or at least give a damn about me doesn't. My father used to beat me for not being like Mark, my mother beat me because I reminded her of my father, Mark beat me for the hell of it." He paused, unsure if he'd be able to continue. "On top of the physical abuse from my 'family'," he spat, "I get verbally and physically abused by my first and only girlfriend, who then cheats on me because apparently I wasn't what she wanted. So I made a decision. Apparently I'm not wanted or needed, and I'm tired of being a burden and a punching bag to everyone around me." Tears were freely flowing down his face now. Then all of a sudden, he felt arms wrap around him.
"Now you listen to me, David. You are a kind, talented, caring human being. Your family, my daughter, and anyone else are fools for treating you as anything else. Do you know why we took you in?
"Because you pitied me."
"Because I saw how you were living. We're not that different, David. I saw a bit of my past in your present and I wanted to get you out of there, because you have so much to offer. You've allowed too many people put you down for too long. You know, I was talking to a friend I hadn't seen in a while and she asked me how many children I had, and out of sheer instinct I said 'four'.
David's eyes widened in shock. "Y-you think of me like I'm your son?"
"You make it hard not to. We've told you this before, You're a Conner now, abandon all hope," she said and ruffled his hair playfully.
"It can't be that easy though."
"Why can't it?" Dan interjected, "We love you, David. I realize you may not have heard that much in your life, but it's true. We don't have much, but we want to give you the experience of a loving family, because you've given us a gift already."
"The gift of...just being you. I'm not a sentimental man, David. But when I saw you on the kitchen flor with all of that blood, I almost broke down. I just..." he paused, trying to keep his voice from cracking.
"What we're trying to say is that you have parents who love you now, all you have to do is want them."
David didn't know what to say. No one had ever cared like this...no one. How was he meant to react? He did the only thing he knew to do. He leaned into Mrs. Conner's embrace and sobbed.
After sobbing for a good 20 minutes and promising at least a hundred times to "never do anything so stupid" The Conners left for the night and left David alone with his thoughts in his room. He had to spend 3 days there, so he had plenty of time to think. What about? How his life has progressed so far, and where it's going. Given his life so far, he hadn't really expected to live long. The past 19 years have been the stuff of terrible after-school specials. The only lesson learned: Trust NO ONE. But then he met Darlene, and then the Conner family, and for a while he'd thought he'd found what happiness and family was. Sure they bickered and fought a lot, and he never fully expected to be accepted, but he relished the bond they seemed to have. Then things got more and more complicated. Once again, he was living in fear and feeling isolated. Was that all he was destined for? Was this to be his life? If today had been any indication, perhaps not...perhaps not.
Coming back to the Conner household from the hospital was strange. The first off thing was D.J. greeting him like a person.
"'Sup, David?" was all the teen said but to David, it spoke in volumes.
"Not much Deej, not much"
D.J. turned to leave but just before he made it out of the room he turned and said, "Good to have you back...bro."
Staring at the stairs after the young man, David was stunned, but he chalked it up to his parents telling him everything and him being nice because they told him to. He made his way through the kitchen to the basement, when he was stopped by the family's patriarch.
"Hoooold on there, pardner," Dan said in his goofiest cowboy voice, "Whar do ya think yur a-goin'?
"To the basement to set my stuff down, if that's alright...Sheriff" David said hesitantly, unsure if he should play along or not.
"Well why are you heading that way? Why not go to your room?"
David stopped to make sure he'd heard him right.
Dan gave a goofy grin and simply said, "right this way, sir".
They made their way up the stairs and stopped at the room that was Darlene's and Becky's.
"Your room, sir" and with that he opened the door, and gently pushed a rather stunned David inside. What he saw almost overwhelmed him.
The room was completely different than how he remembered. The two beds were pushed together against the back wall with navy blue sheets. The posters that were on the wall were gone and the walls were a pale blue. On the walls were several of David's drawings that he'd been proud enough to show everyone, except they were framed. In the closet, were all of his clothes and some he didn't recognize. The last thing he noticed was the rug on the floor that bore the name 'David'.
"This is...I can't...Are you," David stammered. He couldn't believe all of this was for him.
"We figured since you're family, you need your own space."
"I think it'd be a lot easier to just call me Dan."
"O-okay. Thanks, Mr...I mean thanks, Dan."
"No problem, son"