Note: This forward is preliminary and may be changed or re-positioned as the book nears completion. The following material is copyright 2018 Laura Susan Johnson/Kimberly Renee Ohanesian and PeachHam-Beach Publishing.
Fort Bragg, California
Just because Tammy and I are happy doesn’t mean I’m finished talking. I’ll never be finished. I could go on for all eternity. You’re about to hear about things that happened long before I was a sperm and an egg, long before I was the twinkle in my adoptive Dad’s eye. Before I met Lloyd, the cop who took me in, nobody ever cared about me, or so I thought. There had been someone who had been in the company of the people I was enslaved by. I never met this person…until years later. He’d gone through the hell I would eventually go through, and someone had saved him and removed him from their clutches. He somehow knew I existed even though he’d never seen me. He didn’t specifically know that a James Michael Pearce was locked in a room in a house in Sommerville, California, being starved and raped. But he knew that the rapists wouldn’t stop preying on children just because he had been rescued and they had gotten a slap on the wrist. He knew that the system is broken, and he could not rest until the people who had hurt him were captured and put in prison. He insisted that they would repeat their repugnant crimes. He had become something of an unseen big brother, a guardian angel, long before I met my second and third angels, Lloyd and Derek, and my fourth, Tammy Mattheis, the man I would marry.
His name is Joey Rollins. I’ve never spoken of him, nor his older brother Derek, until now. It’s always been difficult for me to talk about them.
You see, when I first told my story, about how I was rescued from a filthy deathbed in a house stinking of two rotting corpses, I left out a lot. I lied by omission, I suppose. I said that Lloyd never married, but he did have a t’hy’la (They loved Star Trek. They devoured everything Star Trek. They were sitting on the floor in front of Lloyd’s Grandma’s big television for the very first Saturday night episode on NBC in 1966. And when Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out in 1979, they saw the movie and read the novel by Gene Roddenberry, and that’s where they first noticed the Vulcan word, t’hy’la, which means friend, brother and/or lover.). A best friend, a brother, a soul mate, in Derek. I could go as far as to call them lovers, only…they never had sex. They kissed each other maybe five to ten times in the decades they knew each other, and they did have a mock wedding in 2009 where they put black rings on each other’s right middle fingers. It was lovely, but was it a wedding?
When I find myself on that path of thinking, I stop, and ponder my thoughtlessness. I realise I’m being as big an asshole as Dan Savage, who loves to practice erasure of bisexuality, among other things.
Of course, it was a wedding. Lloyd and Derek had been best mates since they were kids. They’d been there for each other during sickness, health, happiness, anguish.
I made so little about how difficult it was for my new family to help me in my healing process. I never talked about the nights when I woke up screaming from nightmares. I never talked about eating so much food from the refrigerator that Lloyd and Derek had to go out and restock on numerous occasions. Sometimes, for my own safety and health, they would have to padlock the refrigerator, so that I wouldn’t overeat until I exploded. Sometimes things got ugly. There were never fights or arguments. There was only me, a terrified young teenager who had never seen the outside world in seven years, who had never interacted with any person except for two demonic pornographers. I never knew when Lloyd and Derek and even Joey would turn on me and become my enemies. I would run away, hide, curl up under a neighbour’s shrubs a few houses down, whimpering, pleading for the voices of my parents to leave me be. I had my own bottles of nail polish that I whiffed until I passed out. I wanted to die, and, yet I did not.
It took so long. Slowly, I went from a terrified feral cat to a socialized, comfortable human being. I loved Lloyd’s deep voice and his drawling Arkansas accent. I loved Derek’s much higher pitched Irish brogue. Joey had lost his accent after being separated from his brother years earlier. These three provided such warmth. They were always ready to talk to me, let me have a hug, cook for me. They would do anything for me. The house that Lloyd bought in Sommerville was a cure for depression, the living room filled with comfortable chairs and warm blankets, the kitchen glowing with lemon-yellow sunshine.
In my story that I told about me and my husband Tammy, all I talked about was how in love with Tammy I was. But I was young, you see. Even then, I was very young. It’s some years later now, and I have so much more to say.
Lloyd and Derek called me an ongoing miracle. I didn’t have a violent bone in my body. I had a temper, yes, but nothing beyond reason. I was angry, and frustrated, and grief stricken that my parents were so evil, and that I was not the only child they had victimised. I wanted to know why my parents were evil, but nobody could tell me why.
My anger was completely justified.
But I had no desire to take it out on society.
The only thing about me that was stunted was my physical growth. I never grew past five feet five or so, and I’m very slightly built. After my rescue, Joey, Lloyd, and Derek spent years helping me to socialise, with the help of several councilors and specialists. As a teenager, I went to school for the first time since I was five or six.
So why didn’t I ever mention these two men? Derek, a man who I regard as an uncle, a much older brother, or better yet, a second father? Joey, the closest thing I’ll ever have to a sibling?
Simply put, I don’t enjoy talking about them. Not because I hate either one of them mind you. I love them. I will always love them. To the moon and beyond. I just know that Derek and Lloyd are in heaven together now. Lloyd wasn’t the loner I made him out to be when I talked about him before. Hell, I barely talked about Lloyd at all, I was so self-obsessed.
To talk about the Rollins brothers, of Derek especially, is to open my lips and immediately begin to sob. It’s that painful. Joey doesn’t like to talk about what happened to him. He’d rather face forward. Joey Rollins is a radiant beam of sunshine, always laughing, always joking…as long as the conversation stays away from what happened to him after he was taken from the family he belonged to in Galveston, Texas in 1968.
Still, I marvel at his fortitude. When he was found twelve years after he was stolen, Joey says he often found himself comforting his two big brothers. There were details that were so hard for Lloyd and Derek to hear about that they would just break down.
Joseph Rollins looks ahead, never backward. He grieves his injustices and losses, then he moves on.
Derek? Derek reminds me so much of myself. Even now, my eyes well up. He was a tiny child, brutally abused. His dad did a few physical things that the doctors talked to us about, but Derek was also sexually abused in a way that makes even my flesh crawl, and yet this kind of abuse, and its repercussions are rarely taken seriously by government programs charged to look after children. I still ask myself how my own parents could hate me to the degree that they did. Derek’s mother wasn’t an evil bitch. She was just a sad, useless lump. But his father? Fucking cruel. Even worse, Derek reminds me of Tammy as well, in the fact that they are both empaths. They feel everyone’s pain. If a person has evil intentions, they sense it. They know when people are suffering. They absorb the pain around them. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s bad for one’s health. Derek’s dad inflicted so much pain and misery, and it took its toll. I was there…and it was only two years later when Lloyd faded away too. Lloyd didn’t just have a heart attack. He died of a broken heart.
To speak sparingly of Lloyd has been agony enough. To speak of Derek is to rip my entrails out slowly. He was there with Lloyd when I was found in the house with two rotten corpses that used to be my parents. His brother Joey told his brother and Lloyd about me.
He knew I existed, somehow.
It took a long time for Derek and Lloyd to find Joey.
It took another several years for Derek, Lloyd and Joey to find me.
How I miss them. I thought that with each passing year, it would become easier, but it does not.
Lloyd was so broken by the sight of me in that rotting bed that he had to be sedated and hospitalised himself.
At last, Lloyd and Derek had found two missing boys and removed them from danger. At last, they could rest.
And we were a family. The four of us. We had many happy years.
These days, Joey is taking care of his foster mother, Trudy, who has not been well, and lives a few hours east of us, in Yuba City. We don’t let our busy lives pull us out of touch.
Falling in love gave me something both fun and heartbreaking to look forward to. Seeing Tammy at school. Believing he didn’t know I was alive. Wondering if my eyes were tricking me when I saw a hint of sweetness in his eyes before he quickly broke contact. Seeing him with that hag Yvette. I had fallen in love as a teenager, had lost him, and had found him again years later. I was over the moon. My teenage years lasted from thirteen to thirty-one. Like a baby, my universe was very small, all about me, and as I grew, I made mistakes, blamed myself for my unhappiness, punished myself because the perpetrators of my misery were long dead. During my extended teenaged period, my universe was still very small, and when I fell in love with Tammy Mattheis, it was all consuming, even after he broke my heart and left me. He would always be the love of my life. I willed him to return, and he did.
As Lloyd was in law enforcement until he was forced to retire due to illness. Derek had some money left to him by his grandparents on his mother’s side, and was given access to it when he turned twenty-one, four years after Joey was kidnapped. He had once had so many interests. After a long phobia of the ocean, he’d overcome that and had flirted with the idea of applying to A&M to study marine biology. Lloyd’s cousin Astrid had sparked in Derek an interest in Japanese culture and linguistics, and Derek had even tried to attend a class.
But after Joey’s abduction, Derek could not pretend to go on living, so his life was dedicated to finding Joey and helping missing kids, both before and after Joey’s return.
Derek also passed those agonising years writing poems. When I went to him one night, crying about how mean or thoughtless Tammy had been in school, Derek showed me a poem he had written to Lloyd years ago. Before he let me read it, he said, “I think that lad loves yeh. He’s just afraid. This piece of paper made me a leper with the kids at my school, but I didn’t care about that so much. When it got me into deep shit with me da, with Lloyd’s da, I had no idea how mean the world is. That boy loves yeh, Jamie. He does. But this world hates people who are truly happy.”
When you came to be my friend
It was more than I could wish for
It was like winning a million dollars
A chest of gold
You are my prize, a treasure without measure
No value can be placed upon your soul
Derek Rollins, 1964
The poem was so simple, but so beautiful. It was saying that even if someone you loved only wanted to be your friend, that should be something to appreciate. Deep down, I knew Tammy loved me. He had done too many things, little things, for me to believe otherwise. Derek was right. This hateful world stifles and restricts love between men.
Many times through those years, I made believe Tammy was there through all the happiness and sadness I shared with Lloyd, Derek and Joey. I pictured his face, every beautiful feature, as we laughed and cried. Tammy still laments that he missed so much when he ran from me. He says that he was very impressed by Lloyd, Derek and Joey, that he felt a kinship with them when he met them, and he knew I’d be safe with them.
After I suffered another ordeal, the second worst after my parents killing themselves and leaving me to die, I didn’t have Lloyd, Derek and Joey around, but I did have Tammy, and after I recovered, we married in 2012. I met more people like me, like Tammy. I met Walter and Monty. I met Kendall and Gina. I met Lloyd’s cousin Astrid, finally.
My universe expanded.
There was one detail about my being found in that stinking coffin of a house that Derek revealed to me just a few weeks before he passed away.
It still blows my mind.
Of all people.
God loves me so much.
He sends me people to let me know that I am worth something.
And so, no matter how painful it is for me, I must tell the story of Lloyd and Derek and Joey, as best I can, as they related it to me years ago. I owe them.
It is a love story.
I will be sharing more chapters of Armour in the coming weeks as I endevour to finish it and ready it for publishing. 🙂