Everybody’s Daughter
by Michael John Sullivan
 

ISBN: 978-1-936558-44-5 * eISBN: 978-1-936558-45-2 * Paperback $15.95 * E-book $3.99

Publication: May 1, 2012 * Michael John Sullivan’s website

Today, I have left my shame behind – a shame I carried for almost 30 years. It was a shame that saturated and disrupted every part of my life’s journey.


I returned to Forest Park in Queens and stood in the same spot where, on a hot August day in 1982, I was ready to plunge a knife into my heart.


I remember the day so clearly. Two weeks before, I had watched my mother lie in her bed motionless, the ravages and wounds evident from her year-long battle with breast cancer. The dreaded disease had not only paralyzed her, but taken her eyesight as well. I stared and wondered why she had to suffer so much. I reached over to rub her leg, covered with a couple of blankets, and felt just bone. I stood up in horror and felt sick to my stomach.

              

I retreated many times to my attic bedroom that summer, where I would shut the door tightly and listen endlessly to Bruce Springsteen’s song, “Badlands.” On good days, I felt energetic and strong. It was my shield against the anger in our household.

              

My mom passed away the following week at the age of 48. She had been my protector for as long as I could remember, keeping my dad composed more often than not. He yelled mostly while I surrendered in silence. His rage was fierce, especially during this time.

              

Eventually it got to the point where I questioned my value as a human being. Why was I here? Why me and not my mother? In desperation one afternoon, I grabbed a steak knife from a kitchen drawer. I tucked it in the pocket of my sweatpants and walked, crying, a couple of miles to Forest Park. My plan was to kill myself in the bushes and hope no one ever found me. I wanted to die the way that I felt – all alone. I found plenty of brush for cover, away from the many joggers running in the street. I pulled the knife from my pocket and held it a foot away from my chest. I looked up one more time at the blue sky and closed my eyes, anticipating the pain of the knife plunging into my heart.

              

But the words to my favorite song kept playing in my head, especially the last verse. That it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive…I want to spit in the face of these Badlands. 


I dropped the knife.


Well, I looked for that knife today. I walked around for several minutes, hoping I could locate it and bury it deep into the ground. But I couldn’t find it.


I sat on a nearby bench for almost thirty minutes. I looked at the beauty of the park and gorgeous surroundings. I eventually lowered my head and reflected and cried. I cried first in shame and then in remorse that I had ever had contemplated such an act. I also thought about others who have fallen into that same black hole – where nothing in life makes sense, where you feel you have no worth. I thought of those who couldn’t drop their knife and I prayed for their souls.


Most importantly, I forgave myself today. I looked at the pictures of my two daughters on my phone and wept some more, grateful I dropped that knife on that August day, thankful I heard that last verse from the song, “Badlands.”


I wonder why it took me so long to try and find this moment of peace, why so much time has gone by while I allowed it to torture my soul, why I allowed this one incident to overwhelm the many positive parts of my life.


That day in the park is one of a few emotional inflection points I touch upon in Everybody’s Daughter, the sequel to the first story in the series, Necessary Heartbreak.


Everybody’s Daughter is categorized as fiction but in so many ways incorporates my real life experiences as a father, a husband, a friend, and a neighbor, and how these relationships spiritually shape my life.


The main character, Michael Stewart, ponders two very important questions: If you had a chance, what would you say to a loved one after they died? Would you give up your lifetime of happiness so another would have it?


Michael Stewart discovers the real meaning of love as he travels back in time to first-century Jerusalem at the time of Christ, desperately seeking his daughter, Elizabeth.


I tried to place myself in these heart-wrenching situations while exploring how strong my spirituality was. Was it something merely confirmed through the words of a prayer I’ve memorized? Or was it deeper than that?


As I proceeded with the many rewrites of this story, I continued to discover what moved me in a pure way, what motivated me to get out of bed each morning and face this sometimes cruel world, what humbled me and what touched my heart.


Michael Stewart discovers the same feelings and emotions as he realizes the only valuable part of his life is in sharing it with his daughter, whether it’s in a big house on Long Island or in a small cave in first-century Jerusalem.


Here’s an excerpt:


Marcus emerged from the bedroom and lunged at them, swatting Leah with his forearm as Elizabeth tried to block him. “Run home,” Leah yelled. Marcus smashed her in the head and  blocked the opening to the door.


Elizabeth scrambled up the ladder as Marcus halted her ascent, clutching one of her legs. Leah picked up a piece of the shattered bowl and threw it at the soldier, barely scraping the top of his head.


He dragged Elizabeth down two of the rungs.


“Don’t touch me, you filthy, ugly beast,” she screamed as she felt his body pressed against her. She pulled a weaving needle from her pocket and swung it at him, piercing his cheek.


He roared, sounding like a wounded lion and fell back to the floor, wiping the blood from his face with his hand. Enraged, he hurried back up the ladder.


Elizabeth reached the roof and ran to the far side to determine how high up she was.



Is it safe to jump from here? Dad, I sure do need you right now. I hope you’re here soon!


Leah frantically called out. “Leave her alone. Take me. I will stay with you, Marcus. Let me take care of you.”


Elizabeth saw the top of Marcus’ head easing up above the roof. He surveyed the area for a few moments, making sure the neighborhood was vacant. “Come here, woman. You will be mine. You are fortunate to be with a Roman and not a peasant. You will do as I say. Do not move.”

She withdrew to the edge of the roof.


As Marcus finished his climb, Elizabeth sprinted to him and delivered a swift, hard kick to the side of his head.


He let out a small grunt but it didn’t disrupt his pursuit.


Frantic, Elizabeth ran to the other side of the roof.


“I will report you,” Leah yelled as she appeared at the top of the ladder.


Marcus kicked Leah on the face so hard, she fell and tumbled down the stairs. Elizabeth shrieked out after her. “Leah, are you okay?”


She didn’t answer.


Elizabeth looked around, not sure where to go next. Should I jump? I don’t know what’s down there. It’s so dark out.


On his hands and knees, Marcus managed to crawl several feet toward Elizabeth. He sat up, rubbing his head. “Where are you?”


Elizabeth charged again, cracking him in the face with her clenched fist, allowing the point from the pin to scuff his cheek. Blood dripped near his right ear.


“Who do you think you are striking a Roman soldier?” he howled.


“Wonder Woman!” She whacked him on the back of his leg as he tried to stand.


He landed on all fours again, wiping away the blood from his face. The sight of it dripping to the concrete roof incensed him. As he stumbled to get up, Elizabeth kicked him in the back.


He grunted in pain. “I will kill you.”


“Stop hitting Leah or I’ll hurt you more.” She kneed him in the face, knocking him flat on his back. “And leave her family alone too.”


He lifted his head and then lowered it much like a hyena does before a lion. Elizabeth held the long metal pins in both her hands in a threatening position.


Marcus held out his hands in a gesture of defeat. “No more. You have hurt me.” He coughed, spewing some blood. “Look what you have done to me, woman. I cannot move.”


Elizabeth wasn’t convinced, even as he gagged and spit up more blood. “I just want you to leave Leah and her family alone.”


“I will not hurt her. I promise,” the soldier said in a solemn tone. “I will leave as soon as I am better.” He wheezed and coughed again. “Can you get me a cup of water?”


She hesitated. “Leah, are you okay?”


There was no answer.


Marcus wiped more blood away with his arm. “Woman, I am bleeding. It is hard to breathe. If I die, Leah will be hunted down by more Roman soldiers. Do you want that?”


Elizabeth circled him with caution as she approached the ladder. “Don’t.”


Marcus swung his leg, knocking her down.

She winced as her head struck the roof. One of the metal pins bounced out of her hands and spun over the edge.


“How dare you strike me,” he bellowed.


Marcus jumped on top of Elizabeth, raised her arms over her head, and held them together with one hand. “Let it go.” He twisted the last metal pin from her grasp.


Elizabeth moaned.


He leaned over and tossed it a few feet away.


She was still for a moment. Her head pounded and she felt groggy.


Marcus stroked her hair and her cheeks, hissing like a snake ready to devour a mouse. His breath was so foul, she wanted to vomit. She gagged, trying to hold down the day’s meal.


“I never wanted Leah,” he whispered, his voice full of disgusting menace. “I always wanted you.”


Elizabeth trembled. Marcus pressed his body firmly against her.


Her head fuzzy, she mustered up enough strength to jerk Marcus’ legs off her and spotted a pin nearby. I’ve got to try.


“Resist me and I will kill you.”


Elizabeth jostled him with her knees as Leah reached the roof again. “Get off her,” she demanded. Leah swung at him with a plate, cracking it on the back of his neck.


He lost his balance and Elizabeth inched closer to the pin.


Marcus stood and pushed Leah hard to the ground and pressed his boot against her head, stunning her. Leah lay motionless.


He leaned down and swatted Elizabeth in the

right cheek with an open hand. “I said stop moving.”


“You jerk,” she screamed.


Marcus kneeled, clamping his free hand over her mouth. “Quiet, or I will let you watch me kill Leah. Do you want that? Do you?”


She shook her head in fear.


He began to remove his pants as Elizabeth pushed up with her knees again, knocking him over and freeing her hands. With one swift movement she retrieved the pin and stabbed him in the leg. Marcus roared in pain and raged at the blood pouring from his leg. He wiped it away and glared. “I have grown tired of you. You are not worthy to be with a Roman soldier.”


Elizabeth scrambled away as he staggered to his feet. Marcus kicked the pin out of her hand, pulled her up like a rag doll, and dragged her to the edge of the roof.


His laughter was filled with scorn. “Enjoy your trip back home.”


“Stop, stop,” she shouted, clinging to his arm. “I’ll do what you want. Just stop.”

“The last time I remember talking about a book this much was after I read The Help."

Rainy Day Reviews


“One of those not to be missed reads if you enjoy fantasy that takes you back in time.”

Tammy’s Book Parlor


“I could not lay it down. I loved it!”

My Favorite Things


Everybody's Daughter is a unique, captivating and suspenseful story. I could not put this book down nor did I want the story to end. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't recommend this book enough!”

Ordinary Servant


“A beautiful story.”

A Year of Jubilee Reviews


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An Examiner.com Best Book of 2012