Emily was positive that Brad had convinced himself nothing was wrong with Trevor. After the glimpse she’d given Brad into some of the research she’d done, research similar to Trevor’s symptoms, he should have been clued in. How much clearer did she need to be, when it was obvious there was something wrong with his child? He should recognize the similarities; shouldn’t he?
From what she read of Trevor’s symptoms, keeping a routine was essential. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Trevor’s day needed to be structured. He ignored Katy; though not deliberately. He’d slip away into his own world to do the oddest things. Restack utensils, boxes and cans, in the cupboard, over and over. He’d play with the DVD player, shoving a movie in and out over and over. She knew Brad saw that much. She’d seen an odd look come over his face when he thought she wasn’t watching.
Emily began to notice patterns. One full-blown meltdown came about after he’d consumed a big bowl of ice cream; another, on the floor, kicking, screaming and flailing his arms all because he couldn’t wear his blue pants since they were in the dirty clothes. She researched diet and read the suggestions. Many suggested they couldn’t digest gluten and dairy, and both have a big impact on behaviors.
It was time to talk to Brad. She hadn’t pushed. But how do you tell a parent, who doesn’t see it? He’d be angry, but it would surely be worse if she said nothing.
Emily waited until she’d bathed and put the kids to bed. She took a deep breath; her chest suddenly feeling as if a hundred-pound weight pressed against it. She paused in the shadows and listened. The soft glow from Trevor’s nightlight shone on the wall at the top of the stairs. Emily could see Brad on the front porch, leaning against the solid white post. He was always outside. From the little she knew of him he wasn’t happy unless he was outside. Now as the sun dipped low in the sky, the bright orange and pink glow was the perfect vision before bed. The door squeaked when she pushed it open. Emily pulled the brown sweater, she’d grabbed from the hook, around her shoulders. It was cool this time of night.
“Do you have time to talk to me?”
He smiled warmly. “I always have time for you, Emily.”
“Can we sit down?” She fisted her hands in her sweater; how could she be sweating—it wasn’t warm enough.
Emily chose the second rattan chair with the bright blue flowers. She didn’t need to look up to know that he sat next to her, in the matching chair, or that she had his full attention.
“You’re not okay. Something happened?”
Truth or dare. Stop stalling.
“I don’t know how to say this, so I’m just going to say it.”
The man could change in an instant. All the warmth and support fled, replaced with something dark and ready to snap. The momentary change made her afraid.
“So you’ve decided to leave,” he said. “I should have known better. Why?”
Her mouth gaped. The man jumped to conclusions faster than changing the station on TV. “I’m not leaving, where would you get that idea?”
He threw his hands up, squinting. “Then what is it? Your ex again?”
“No, it’s nothing like that. Brad, you know how much time I’ve been spending with Trevor?”
He relaxed a bit and leaned back in his chair, but she could still feel that he was wound up tighter than a steel coil. “Hmm, mmm.”
“Okay, I just need to say this. You know how you keep getting after Trevor when he does something, like dump over a plant and play in the dirt, or the way he latched onto that lady like a human leech?”
He brushed his hand in the air to dismiss her words. “Come on, Emily, he’s just a boy, doing little boy things. Don’t worry about it. Girls are different, they’re easier; just ask my mother.”
He truly didn’t see anything was wrong. “Trevor doesn’t talk, he avoids eye contact, sits lost in his own world, and uses a one-word vocabulary, of maybe fifty words total. He has full-blown tantrums on the floor, pounding and screaming. And I don’t know what’s going to set him off. Could be the wrong food, something was moved, or a stranger comes to visit. Trips to stores are a nightmare, and my anxiety level goes through the roof because I’m anticipating what he’s going to do. He’s urinated on the floor in the middle of the grocery store; he had a meltdown in the checkout lane, and runs his fingers over the conveyor belt where you put your food during checkout. Storekeepers get mad. If I grab his hand to get him to stop, he might scream. Depends on the day, what he’s eaten and what’s happened before we get to the store. I never know what will set him off.” Brad tilted his head, tapped his forefinger against his lips. Emily continued. “You can’t reason with him. And the way he stares; he doesn’t appear to understand. He plays alone and will not play with Katy, no matter how hard we try. He moves away if she invades his space. I turn the television on; he loves it. It’s like he’s consumed by it, and even then, he can’t sit still. He’ll stand in front it jumping, laughing and giggling; engrossed in the rainbow of colors flashing over the screen. I’m betting that if you took Trevor to a family gathering, or big social event, it’d most likely be a nightmare. His behavior’s odd. People get weirded out because they don’t know what to do. And I’m pretty sure he picks up on everyone’s anxiety. There are safety issues with Trevor, beyond the scope of a typical three-year-old. I always worry while in town if Trevor will dart out into the street. He doesn’t recognize cars, traffic or even people around him. He touched the hot stove last week and burned his finger. He never cried; no reaction. Brad, I started researching his symptoms. The internet is full of information and what I discovered were symptoms of autism.
Brad rose and paced, running his fingers through his hair.
Emily forged on. “Autistic children are not all the same, they have different symptoms. I’ve read about therapy for autistic children—therapy tailored for each individual child.”
Even in this dim light, Emily glimpsed the color rising in his cheeks. Brad wasn’t just pacing; she could feel the adrenaline cut through the space between them. “I need some air.”
“No, Em, back off.” He kept going, down the stairs toward the barn. She could almost feel the rage burning through him.
He knew. She’d gotten through. Now the real work begins.
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