Deanna: A Story of Love and Change
© 1997, 2017, All Rights Reserved
By Ken K. Gourdin
January 16-January 30
Not long after that, Mike approached me and dropped another bombshell as I was going to work. Actually, I’d had so many surprises in my relationship with Deanna that very few things would have surprised me at that point.
“Deanna’s going home,” Mike said. “She’s packing right now. Her dad is here to pick her up, and she’ll leave later today.”
I was working as a writer for the University’s Public Communications Office. Unfortunately, I had a major interview to do right then, so there would be no time for long and sad goodbyes. I went to the office on the third floor of the Administration Building to pick up a tape recorder, and I was on my way out the door when I saw her.
“I’m leaving,” she said.
“Mike told me.”
She came toward me and we hugged. A friend who passed us made a joke about public displays of affection. But I didn’t care; I ignored it. The hug was all we could do. We didn’t say anything. There wasn’t anything left to be said. Or maybe we just didn’t know how to say it.
I honestly wasn’t disappointed when I found out she was leaving—just relieved. It wasn’t that I wouldn’t miss her. I would. But I had always said I wanted what was best for her, and I knew she couldn’t stay here anymore. She wasn’t strong enough. She’d proven that more than once.
* * *
I was surprised to see her at dinner later, working in the cafeteria. I wondered if her dad had changed his mind. I knew some sort of major bargain must have been struck if this meant she was staying, and I was right.
While she was getting to leave, she had gone to the bookstore to get refunds on her books. While there, she saw a friend, Julie, and poured her heart out about what she had been doing and what her dad had decided to do about it.
The bargain was struck between Julie, Deanna, and Deanna’s dad that Deanna would be allowed to stay with Julie, who lived off campus. That way, Deanna could put some distance between herself and Scott, she wouldn’t be part of the campus night life, and she would be able to stay in school.
I was unsure about it. In a way I was happy she was staying, but I knew that unless Deanna herself wanted to change her life, to stay away from Scott, and to avoid the campus night life, there was nothing her dad, or Julie, or I could do.
At the same time, though, I knew Julie well enough to know there was absolutely no way she would let Deanna have any contact with Scott or his friends. She would rather shoot them than see them within 300 yards of her house. The only contact Deanna would have with Scott or any of his friends was at school and while she was working, if she could just be strong enough to resist his advances during those times, maybe this would work.
* * *
Deanna knew that my parents were coming to the University on January 16 so that my dad, who is a police officer, could attend a three-day officer survival seminar there. She had been excited about meeting them when I told her about it during our visit with her family. Now, she couldn’t believe I even brought it up.
“You still want me to meet them, even after all that’s happened?”
“On which Deanna Lopez they’re going to meet. I’d prefer that they meet the real one and not her Evil Twin Sister.”
* * *
The night they came, Mom, Dad, and I all went out to dinner. I explained to them what had happened since my visit with Deanna’s family
“This leaves me with a problem,” I said. “I don’t want Deanna to get the idea that she can do what she wants with anyone else and I’ll just put up with it simply to have her friendship.”
“On the other hand,” I continued, “she needs me. I don’t want to go to Pref with her if that gives her the idea that she can have her cake and eat it, too. But if I tell her I don’t want to go to Pref with her, she’ll go right back to Scott, and I don’t want that to happen, either.”
Mom agreed. “I don’t think you should give Deanna the idea that you approve of what she’s doing.”
Dad said, “Well, Eric, maybe she needs to go to Pref. Maybe she needs to know that there are good guys out there who want her to have good experiences, and who won’t try to take advantage of her.”
Both of them, as usual, were right.
* * *
Mom, Dad, Deanna and I all went out to dinner a few nights later. My parents always rise to the occasion whenever there’s anyone to be entertained, especially my dad. And my mom did a good job of keeping the conversation going with questions without letting her curiosity run wild. We had such a nice time that we decided to do it again for breakfast the morning Mom and Dad left. We enjoyed it then, too.
* * *
Of all of the people who were concerned about Deanna, there’s at least one I haven’t mentioned yet. Deanna has a foster brother named Neil who is from Kenya and was also going to the University at the time. I’d seen Neil in a few of my business classes, but didn’t make the connection until Deanna told me.
Neil came over really upset one night a couple of weeks after my parents’ visit. No one can communicate very well when he’s upset, and this is especially true of Neil because of his accent.
“I saw Deanna with Scott again today,” he said. Why wasn’t I surprised? “She saw him at the food court in the Union while we were talking. She left me without saying a word, went over, and let him hug her. She shouldn’t do that, and she knows it. She knows he’s—How do you say it?—bad news. But she won’t stay away from him.”
If anyone could sympathize with Neil, I could. “I know you’re upset,” I said. I’m upset, and I’ll bet Deanna is, too. Like you said, she knows she should stay away from him, and I think she probably feels bad she hasn’t. She doesn’t need us making her feel any worse, so I think the best thing you can do is just leave her alone.”
“I’m older than she is,” he said in his heavily-accented English. “I know what’s good for her, if she doesn’t want to do what’s good for herself, we have to force her. You know I’m right, don’t you?”
“No, I don’t think so,” I said. Then I repeated the one lesson my relationship with Deanna had taught her over and over again: “You can’t make her do something she doesn’t want to do.”
Then he asked the question I didn’t know how to answer anymore: “Well, what would you do?”
“I don’t know, Neil. I just don’t think that’s the right thing to do.”
Well, why not, I asked myself. You’ve tried everything else and it hasn’t worked. Maybe Neil is right. Then a scripture from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Doctrine and Covenants Section 121 came to mind: No power or influence can or ought to be maintained . . . except by gentleness, by meekness, and by love unfeigned. You believe that. You try to live it. Neil doesn’t know anything about it. He’s speaking from a totally different perspective. You know that force is part of the Devil’s plan, not God’s, and it’s wrong even when it is used to try to make someone do what’s right.
I thanked Neil for his concern and suggested he ought to call Deanna, then told him I had a lot of studying to do. After he left, I sat at my desk and thought. Even though I’d talked of breaking my date with Deanna because I didn’t want to give her the idea that she could simply do what she wanted and that I would simply put up with it, I had never seriously considered it—until now. But If I didn’t take her to Pref she would feel even worse, and that was the last thing she needed right then.
I glanced at the clock. By this time, it was almost midnight January 29, and January 30th was the night of the dance. My mind wandered back. A month ago, I had been on a flight to Vegas thinking that all of this was finally behind me. The past month seemed like a lifetime.
I needed reassurance. I hit my knees. If Heavenly Father had ever given anybody “Eleventh Hour” advice, I needed some now. Please help me to help Deanna, I prayed. Then the whisper-like impression came. You help her. She needs you now more than ever. Go to the dance with her. Then something my dad had said in our dinner conversation two weeks before came back to me: She needs to know there’s another way to live her life—that she can have fun without doing the wrong things with the wrong people. Show her.
And I knew that I had my answer.
* * *
The night we’d been waiting for had finally come. I arrived at Julie’s house to pick Deanna up. I came to the door just as she was saying her goodbyes and trying unsuccessfully to disentangle herself from Julie’s three young children. They each had a hold of an arm or leg, and wouldn’t let her go for anything. In the short time Deanna had lived with Julie’s family, the kids had gotten quite attached to her—no pun intended.
“If the kids have their way, you’ll never leave,” I teased.
“I know,” she agreed, laughing. Finally breaking free, she took hold of my arm.
“I have to say thanks to your landlady before we leave,” I said to Deanna. Turning to Julie, I said, “Thanks.”
“To me?” she asked. “For what?”
“Rescuing Deanna,” I said. “I can’t tell you how much that means to me.”
“You’re welcome,” she replied. “I’m glad I could help.”
“Believe me, I am too,” I assured her.
As I ushered Deanna out the door, she raised her eyebrows when she saw the black Lincoln Continental. I walked her to the car where a friend of mine was waiting to let her in.
“My name’s Gary, and I’ll be your chauffeur tonight,” he said.
She laughed. Turning to me, she asked skeptically, “It’s a rental, isn’t it?”
“Actually, I inherited some money from a distant deceased relative, may he rest in peace,” I said.
“Seriously, though,” I confessed, “I have a friend who works for a rental agency, and he owed me a favor. It’s nice to have friends in the right places.”
It is nice to have friends—like you,” she agreed, squeezing my arm and leaning her head on my shoulder.
Gary looked back at me and winked.
* * *
Mitch, another friend of mine, had agreed to let us use his apartment and to be our waiter for the evening, and he greeted us as we came to the door.
“Welcome to Chateau Eric,” he said with a flourish as he let us in.
He introduced himself, “My name is Mitchell, and I’ll be your waiter this evening.”
I noticed with satisfaction that everything had been set up according to my instructions. I had borrowed two settings of my parents’ china and silver. There was a tablecloth, cloth napkins, and two candles provided the only light in the room. It was perfect. I was responsible for the cooking though, and I hoped that would turn out as well as everything else had.
Mitch ushered us to the table and put on the CD of “dinner music” that I had picked out. Then he told Deanna what was on the menu. After he had served us our salads and main course, he excused himself so that we could be alone.
“I’ll be back with your dessert when you’re ready,” he said.
“Wow, you really pulled out all the stops on this one,” Deanna said as he left, raising her eyebrows.
“Only the best,” I agreed. “A night like this doesn’t come along very often.”
Finally, I thought. Here we are. On the one hand, it had taken us only four months to get here. On the other hand, it seemed like we had both lived a lifetime since September. Even though Deanna still had a long way to go, I knew she had grown and learned a lot. I was proud of the part I had played in that process, and I knew it was important for us to enjoy this time we had won together.
Mitch brought us our dessert when I called him. After we finished, he reappeared and said, “And how will you be paying for this tonight, Sir?”
“Very funny,” I answered as he and Deanna laughed.
“Shall I tell Gary to bring the car around?” he asked.
After I helped Deanna up from her chair and on with her coat, we headed for the dance.
* * *
We danced to nearly every slow song, and most of the songs were slow. When we weren’t dancing—which was rarely the case—we shared a chair. I held her close and we talked. It felt good to know that there was one other person who wanted to be as close to me as I wanted to be to her. It didn’t matter if we danced together, talked together, or just sat together. What mattered most was just that we were together.
After the dance, we took advantage of our chauffeur and limousine to drive us around the city. We made a point of stopping at the Temple. The brilliantly-lit Temple provided a beautiful contrast to the backdrop of the dark night.
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
“If you think it’s beautiful on the outside, wait ’til you see the inside,” I said. I tried to avoid preaching sermons to Deanna, but I also knew that this was a teaching moment, so I continued, “Dee, if you had only the slightest idea what your Heavenly Father has in store for you . . .” I trailed off and left the thought unfinished. I had made my point.
“I know,” she replied.
No you don’t, I thought. Not yet. But, someday you will.
* * *
We pulled up in front of Julie’s house, and Gary let us out.
“I might be a minute,” I said.
“Take your time,” he said with a wink. I leaned over and slugged him on the arm.
Deanna and I made our way, arm in arm, up the walk, and we hugged on the porch. “Thank you,” she whispered into my ear. “I’m not sure I deserved all of this.”
“Dee,” I said, “that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all of this time. You deserve all of this and more—and you deserve the kind of man who wants to give it to you.”