By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Theresa was beginning to wonder what she'd missed by having children so young. Especially when Big Dan, as he was called after their son was born, began spending less and less time at home.
"A lot of guys his age were single, and he wanted to be free like them," she says. "He'd disappear for days and forget that he had a wife and kids. He made good money working for his dad, but he quit and started getting involved with drugs and people I didn't want to be around."
Theresa herself was no angel. She and her girlfriends were still on the wild side, only now they took turns watching each other's kids so they could go out and party.
Although Theresa and Dan Sr. had only fought twice--physically, that is, and she was nearly his size and just as tough--they argued all the time. Theresa began to dream of seeing something more of the world. Raquel was four, Danny three and Antonio one when the opportunity presented itself.
She was twenty and working as a bartender at Lowry Air Force Base when she caught the eye of Sergeant Bill Rollins, a black airman. Off duty, he wore nice suits and alligator shoes and drove a nice white Monte Carlo. He was just plain jazzy.
What's more, he loved her kids and he loved her. When he was reassigned to an air base in California, he asked Theresa to pack up the children and go with him. She agreed and, as soon as her divorce from Big Dan was finalized, they married. On the base, Theresa and the kids settled into a solid, middle-class existence. She got a job cleaning houses and thought that at last she'd lost that wild streak.
Bill was a good role model for the boys--honest, hardworking, well-read. And he loved having sons, taking them fishing and camping, coaching their basketball and baseball teams. He was patient, especially with Danny, who could have frustrated Job the way he was forever taking things apart. Instead of getting mad, Bill would buy Danny toys that came unassembled and let him play with all the parts to his heart's content. Then he'd warn the boy, "Once we put it together, you'd better not take it apart."
The children blossomed. Raquel was everything Theresa thought a good daughter should be. And she looked after her two baby brothers like a mother duck--until they grew old enough to start looking after her.
The boys' personalities were as different as the sun and moon. Danny was always up at first light, dressed and out of the house before the rest of his family stirred. He hated being indoors, cooped up. It made him nervous--he'd bite his nails and couldn't sit still.
Danny was the athlete, always playing ball or some other game. He was a natural leader, the one picked to be the captain of his baseball and basketball teams. He needed to be around people. And other kids seemed content to follow his example: The boys wanted to be like him, and the little girls wanted to be near him. He was generous to a fault. If another child wanted a toy he was playing with, he would gladly hand it over.
Antonio, on the other hand, was what his mother called "stingy." He hated sharing his toys and found little girls "bothersome." If he couldn't be with his big brother, he preferred to stay in his room with a pen and paper. Left alone, he would draw for hours.
The kids were close. Danny was very protective of Raquel, even though she was older. No one was going to hurt his sister and get away with it. And they were loyal.
There was no better illustration of that than the Christmas Theresa took the kids to Coos Bay, Oregon, to visit her sister-in-law, Norma. Her brother was away, working on a crab boat, so it was just the women and their children.
With Christmas approaching, Theresa took pains to hide the kids' presents in the garage. But she came home one day and discovered that someone had been into them.
She called the boys in and demanded to know which one was the culprit. Neither would admit to it or point a finger at the other. She took a belt to both of them, but they still wouldn't talk.
"Then go to your room and stay there until whoever did it admits it," she yelled.
An hour later, Antonio came out. "If we tell you, will you let us both come out to watch TV?"
Theresa agreed to the terms. A few moments later, Danny emerged and admitted he was the one.
She looked at Antonio. "You let me whup you for something you didn't do?" she asked, shaking her head. He shrugged, and she realized that the thought of telling on his brother had never occurred to him. He wouldn't even let Danny confess until he'd secured a plea bargain for television rights for them both.
Danny later told her that he'd suggested they tell her the truth at the beginning, so that Antonio wouldn't be punished. But Antonio wouldn't go for it. They were brothers: Whatever needed to be faced, they would face together.