Erik was quiet, scratching at the back of his hand at a scab with his long, dirty fingernails. His face was so thin and pallid, it looked like he hadn’t eaten in weeks. I just sat there, looking at him, waiting for him to talk. It was a long, uncomfortable silence.
“I wanted to tell you why I didn’t come back to live with you after Turnabout.” Now he was itching his other hand, nervously. He never looked up. I waited for him to finish.
“It was because of Sandie. Something happened before she sent me away.” I wasn’t sure whether to interrupt, or let him keep on. He was silent.
“What happened?” I asked.
“She called me up to her room when you were gone one day” he said. “She said she found something in my bedroom and wanted to talk to me about it.”
“What did you do?”
“I went up to her room and she told me to close the door. When I turned around she had taken off her robe and was naked.”
“What?” I said. Erik stared at the floor, afraid to go on. I began to feel sick at what I might hear next, but I had to know.
“So what happened?” I said.
“She told me to walk over to the bed, so I did. I was scared. She walked up behind me and undid my pants, and then pulled down my boxers. She started touching me. . .”
“What the hell. . .”
“. . .Dad, she made me do stuff. And then she said that if I ever told anyone, she would kick my brothers and sisters out of her house, and we would live on the street. She said she would take everything away from us.”
I didn’t know what to say. I looked at my son, and remembered the story others had told me about two underage boys Sandie had molested in New York. Now I knew that wasn’t the case. The proof was right in front of me: the pain on my son’s face.
“Erik, I should have known. I am so sorry.” There was nothing I could say.
Erik sat there, empty. I felt like it was my fault, and that I should have known that something was going on. Erik changed in many ways during those years with Sandie, but I never suspected that she had abused him. I always thought he had gotten into drugs because he was a typical teenager and was hanging with the wrong crowd. Now I knew that he had gotten into drugs as an escape.
I had failed him as a father. I should have paid more attention to him and been around more. I had moved my sheep into the den of a wolf, and left them there unprotected.