Sunday Snippet | “Family Matters”

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Near the end of In the Best Interest of the Child, heroine Olivia Chandler admitted she needed help to overcome her emotional demons and made the giant step forward to enter counseling. But the savvy child advocate attorney is too smart for her own good sometimes and nothing is ever easy with her.

This small snippet is from one of Olivia’s counseling sessions. Psychologist Diane Payton is as tough as her client and doesn’t give Olivia any slack.


Without a word, Diane went to her desk and retrieved the lone file from her In basket and returned to her seat.

“You have the right to review your file at anytime, Olivia, so just pretend you made a request and read the highlighted section for me please.” She passed a document to Olivia. “Aloud, please.”

Confused, Olivia found the section and began to read.

“Client is agitated and fidgets. Doesn’t maintain eye contact. Hands/palms appear to be sweaty. Voice tone is raised and speech is rapid. Almost childlike. Client is reliving the experience.”

Olivia read the passage again in silence. She frowned and looked to Diane for explanation.

“That was you as spoke of some of your former foster homes, the physical abuse you suffered, and life without your parents.”

Olivia Chandler couldn’t help but think of how horrible a childhood she had.

“Now read this one.”

Taking the document from her therapist, Olivia did as she was told.

“Client is the most relaxed I’ve seen her to date. Sitting in upright chair, legs crossed, hands clasped around knee. Her speech is animated and eyes are bright. Client appears content. (Happy?)”

“Diane, when was-”

“When you talked about Bruce.”

Olivia shook her head.

“This doesn’t prove anything.”

Her therapist smirked.

“You’re right, it doesn’t.” She leaned toward Olivia. “Or… it does.”

“She scoffed. “Now, you’re being facetious.”

“And you’re in denial.”


After winning her young client’s custody battle, Olivia Chandler knows she can no longer hide from her own childhood trauma. With support from Bruce Bellamy and his family, she enters counseling. Her therapy will not be easy, and may not be successful unless Olivia can forgive her mother for the years Olivia spent in foster care. But is Sarina Chandler the only one in need of forgiveness?

Bruce introduces Olivia to his adult children. But her continued refusal to visit her mother pulls at the seams of Olivia’s new-found love with Bruce. The unexpected death of her mentor blind-sides Olivia causing her to withdraw back into the darkness of her mind. She pushes everyone away… including Bruce Bellamy.

Defeated, Olivia Chandler believes it her fate to concede to the same trauma-born mental illness that took her mother. But two voices, one from the present and one from the past, will challenge her to fight for the future her father intended for her to have… or succumb to madness.

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Song Lyric Sunday | “Caravan of Love” – Isley Jasper Isley

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Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

The theme for Song Lyric Sunday this week is “brother/sister”. 


It was bound to happen – my first song repeat! 😀

It fits this week’s theme, and it’s just one of those songs you can’t hear enough in light of today’s societal issues, AND it’s a great song for Earth Day!

This feel-good song from 1985 went straight to number one on the R & B singles chart and fifty-one on the pop charts.  (British indie band The Housemartins also found success with Caravan of Love in November 1986 with their a capella song version reaching number one in the UK Singles Chart on 16 December 1986.)


See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.

Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

Caravan of Love


Are you ready for the time of your life
It’s time to stand up and fight
(It’s alright) It’s alright (It’s alright, it’s alright)
Hand in hand we’ll take a caravan
To the motherland
One by one we’re gonna stand with the pride
One that can’t be denied
(Stand up, stand up, stand up, stand up)
From the highest mountain and valley low
We’ll join together with hearts of gold
Now the children of the world can see
There’s a better way for us to be
The place where mankind was born
Is so neglected and torn, torn apart
Every woman, every man
Join the caravan of love (Stand up, stand up, stand up)
Everybody take a stand
Join the caravan of love
I’m your brother
I’m your brother, don’t you know
I’m your brother
I’m your brother, don’t you know
We’ll be living in a world of peace
In a day when everyone is free
We’ll bring the young and the old
Won’t you let your love flow from your heart
Every woman, every man
Join the caravan of love (Stand up, stand up, stand up)
Everybody take a stand
Join the caravan of love
I’m your brother
I’m your brother, don’t you know
I’m your brother
I’m your brother, don’t you know
Now the children of the world can see
There’s a better for us to be
The place where mankind was born
Is so neglected and torn, torn apart
Every woman, every man
Join the caravan of love (Stand up, stand up, stand up)
Everybody take a stand
Join the caravan of love
Are you ready for the time of your life
(Are you ready, are you ready)
Are you ready for the time of your life
(Are you ready, are you ready)
Come go with me
(Are you ready, are you ready)
Come go with me
(Are you ready, are you ready)
Every woman, every man
Join the caravan of love (Are you ready, are you ready)
Everybody take a stand
Join the caravan of love (Are you ready, are you ready)
Every woman, every man
Join the caravan of love (Are you ready, are you ready)
Everybody take a stand
Join the caravan of love (Are you ready, are you ready)
Songwriters: Chris Jasper / Ernest Isley / Ernie Isley / Marvin Isley

The Devil You Know, Part VI #52weeks52stories


#52weeks52stories: Week 16

Word prompt: tuna

Word Count: 2167


Part I    |     Part II    |    Part III    |   Part IV   | Part V

(All links open new windows.)

Connie Pierce stormed across the walkway to her apartment.

Walt Stokely could be such a dumbass!

She fumed as she slammed her front door.

It wasn’t a big deal. All she asked him to do was go into Gary’s apartment and retrieve her laptop.

And he refused, spouting privacy concerns and the probability of getting sued.

Walt has also proposed the idea the laptop may not be in the apartment but with Gary, wherever he was. He needed a better reason to invade the man’s privacy.

Connie wanted to smack the man. He wasn’t worried about privacy when she caught him outside her bedroom window.


She paced around her dining area praying Gary would show up any moment.

Privacy was a major concern… and problem for Connie Pierce.

She was okay with falling behind on blogging and missing out on group chats. But when her boss announced a security breach during the staff meeting this morning, Connie had to school her features when she realized she was the breach.

Or rather, her old laptop was.

The laptop she’d loaned to Gary Sievers.

She knew there was no actual threat to client information as Gary would have no interest in the senior care file database stored on the laptop. All he had to do was turn the laptop on and the access point connected with files in the local Medico office.


Harlan Woods had ranted and railed during the staff meeting about the breach. Hackers and the Dark Web were making billions of dollars selling stolen identities. If an employee of Medico Insurance is found to be engaging in such illegal practices, the result would be hard prison time.

Connie shuddered at the thought of going to jail even though she knew she’d done nothing wrong.

Yes, she should have deleted Medico’s access point from the old laptop, but she didn’t see it as a big deal. The old laptop could serve as a backup… just in case.

Not only had just in case arrived, it bought its ugly sister, you’re-screwed.

Connie had to fix this.


Sally Bennett paced around the small seating area in the coroner’s office.

“There has to be some mistake. You’re wrong, Dr. Lacy. The first thing you said was this office made mistakes.”

“Mom, please calm down. We just left the hospital.”

Sally glared at Carolyn but turned her attention back to Pax Lacey. “Tattoos and surgical scars don’t just disappear, doctor. Explain yourself.”

The coroner stood, his head bowed. He tapped the file folder against his thigh, weighing his options. He didn’t know how or why, but the truth of the situation was growing at a rapid pace in his mind. At last, he met Sally’s angry gaze.

“Mrs. Bennett, did your husband ever break any bones? Arms? Legs? Ribs?”

Sally couldn’t have reared back faster if he’d slapped her.

“Never! Up until Frankie’s bypass surgery, he was healthy as a horse. What do broken bones have to do with this?”

“The body you autopsied had multiple past breaks, didn’t it?”

All eyes turned to Darrin.

“How do you know this Darrin?” Sally’s head swiveled back and forth between the coroner and her son. “Someone please tell me what is going on!”

“Your son is correct. The body I examined had suffered multiple breaks in the past. The right arm was broken several times… as many as four. The legs were broken but from the wear and tear, I could tell they weren’t broken at the same time. And the ribs… all the ribs were broken at some point… many times.”

Sally collapsed onto the couch. “You are not listening. My husband… Frankie never broke any bones.”

Darrin approached his mother and knelt at her side. “I think what Dr. Lacey is trying to tell us, mom, is the man he examined… isn’t dad.”


Connie massaged her stomach. The tuna-on-rye sandwich she’d called dinner refused to cooperate, churning and bubbling, preparing for a revolt.

She was making herself sick with worry.

Dusk was approaching and there was still no sign of Gary Sievers.

Connie knew she was out of time and options and needed to do whatever it took to save her job.

She grabbed her cell phone, opened a browser and did a search on breaking and entering. She found the credit card method to be the easiest way to bypass a locked door. Probably too easy. She didn’t have that kind of luck. After reading through a handful of results, Connie created her burglary toolkit: screwdriver, ice pick, a spray can of vegetable oil, a dishcloth, and rubber gloves.

Steeling her nerves, Connie opened her door and peeked out for signs of her neighbors or jackass Walt.

Satisfied the coast was clear, Connie grabbed her toolkit, headed for Gary’s.

Before closing her door, she paused, looking at her own lock and door frame.

No way. It cannot be that simple.

She ran back into her apartment and grabbed her wallet. She removed a credit card… thought better of it and took out a supermarket rewards card instead.

Taking her keys, Connie stepped outside her apartment and locked the door. Holding the doorknob, she slipped the plastic card between the door and frame and swiped down.

The door opened!

Oh my god, I’ve so got to move! Is it this easy to break in? So quick and silent?

Focus, Pierce, focus!

She closed her door and took the few steps to Gary’s apartment.

I cannot believe I’m doing this.

Repeating the steps, she’d taken to open her own door, Connie swiped the card downward… and the door opened.

For a fraction of a second, she hesitated feeling guilty.

Then she entered her neighbor’s apartment.


Sally stared at her clasped hands laying in her lap. She spoke without raising her head.

“I fell to the floor next to Frankie’s body in Graciela Ramirez’s bedroom. I stared into his face. It made me violently ill to find out the man I loved was the man who tried to kill me. Now you’re telling me I don’t even recognize my husband.”

She raised her head, glaring at Pax Lacey.

“I want to see my husband. Now.”


Joanie’s anguished cry filled the office.

Sally was unmoved.

“I want to see my husband.”

The coroner went to his desk and made a call, speaking in low hushed tones. He hung up and walked to his office door.

“Follow me, please.”

Sally was behind him in an instant without a backward glance to her children.

She knew she couldn’t handle the looks on their faces.

She followed the coroner down the same hallway, in the opposite direction. Perspiration trickled down the back of her neck.

A tingling sensation raced up her arms to meet the throbbing sensation in her head. Her legs threatened to give out with each step, but she forced herself to keep up with Dr. Lacey.

They stopped in front of a set of double stainless-steel doors.

Sally knew her children had caught up from the sound of Joanie’s soft sobs.

Pax glanced back at Sally, his eyes apologizing for what he was about to do.

He pushed opened the door and stood aside for the family to enter.

Everything in the room was stainless steel, glass and sterile. But the lingering scent of death Sally remembered from the reception area was strong and pungent here. Several empty gurneys lined one wall and stainless-steel drawers filled the rest.

A gurney sat in the center of the room covered by a white sheet. A young African-American woman stood on the other side of the gurney.

Pax Lacey introduced her.

“Mira, this is the Bennett family.”

A silent, respectful nod was her only response.

Sally approached the body, but Darrin jumped in front of her. She squeezed his arm and smiled. “He can’t hurt me anymore, sweetie,” and she stepped around her son.

She stared down at the covered body, then pushed her shoulders back and returned Mira’s silent nod.

The coroner’s assistant folded back the sheet, revealing only the face.

The Bennett family gasped in unison.

Darrin, Carolyn, and Joanie gathered around their mother to stare down at the man who’d given them life… or so they thought.

Sally’s mind somersaulted.

She wasn’t sure what she expected, but it wasn’t a ghostly yellow version of her husband. She looked around for Dr. Lacey.

He approached from a corner desk, having donned a lab coat and gloves.

“Why is he yellow?”

“This man was severely malnourished and jaundiced. Only recently, had he began received adequate nutrition.”


All fear and doubt left Sally and she grabbed the sheet, uncovering the right arm and shoulder.

There was no tattoo.

Fortis et Certus. Over a pair of rifles. It meant Brave and True. Frankie got the tattoo after his first deployment.”

“Mrs. Bennett, I don’t even know where to begin with this. There have been mix-ups with bodies before, but only because a tech wasn’t paying attention to body tags and identifying features. We still don’t have a fingerprint match. We began this case based solely on your identification from the crime scene.”

She pulled the sheet down farther. There was no bypass scar, only the remains of the internal examination by the coroner.

Sally dropped the sheet and began to step back but froze and stared at Frankie’s face.

The nose was bigger, and the lips were thinner.

Was that because of death?

She reached out a hand to the face, and Darrin grabbed her arm.

She gave him another motherly smile, and continued on, caressing Frankie’s face and running her fingers through his eyebrow. Her heart leaped into her throat.

“Frankie had a sebaceous cyst on his right brow. His doctor said it was non-cancerous and non-life threatening and best left alone. There is no cyst. No tattoo. No surgical scar. This isn’t… my Frankie.”

She broke on the last word, getting caught by Darrin before she could collapse to the floor.

Sally looked into her son’s face, new tears blurring her vision.

“Who is this man? How did he get my Frankie’s face?” Her tone rose as hysteria threatened to overtake her. “Darrin, where is your father?”


Connie flicked on the wall light just inside the door of Gary’s apartment and froze.

The room had been destroyed.

Gary didn’t have much but whatever he did have was broken and overturned.

Someone had a terrible fight in this room.

The apartment was a mirror image of her own, and Connie could see everything but the bedroom.

Watching her step, Connie went to the small bedroom and peered inside.

Her face scrunched up in confusion.

The room was immaculate, the bed unslept in.

She retraced her steps to the front door, wondering what had happened here… and where was Gary Sievers?

The small dining table where Gary used her laptop was upside down near the kitchen counter.

Connie took hesitant steps toward the table, looking over the debris-strewn floor for the laptop.

She reached the table and her heart sunk.

The laptop wasn’t there.

Wherever Gary was, he had the laptop with him.

A wave of clarity hit Connie as she backed toward the door.

She was going to lose her job, and after she reported the state of Gary’s apartment to Walt, she’d be out on the street.

Goodbye, Marbury, Pennsylvania. Hello Cheboygan, Michigan, population, five-thousand. That number included Gladys Pierce, Connie’s overbearing, controlling mother who would be thrilled to see her only child return with her hand out.

Already mentally packing, Connie turned to leave and froze at the sight of a pair of feet sticking out from just beyond the love seat.

Connie panicked.

She wanted to get the hell out of there, but her curiosity won, and she approached the feet. As the body came into view, she could tell it was a man lying face down.

Steeling her nerves, Connie reached down, grabbed the man’s shoulder and rolled him over.

It was Gary.

His face was bruised and swollen from the obvious fight, but it was the large, open gash over his forehead that drew her attention. She knelt next to him.

“Oh, Gary. Who did this to you?”

Her hand rested on his chest as she hung her head, tears flowing for a man she hardly knew.

Connie thought she heard a low moan and raised her head.

She heard the noise again, but this time, Gary’s chest heaved once.

Startled, Connie fell backward.


She scooted back over to him, replacing her hand on his chest and two fingers on the pulse point in his neck.

Gary’s heartbeat and pulse were faint, but he was still alive.

Patting her pockets, Connie realized she left her cell behind in her own apartment.

“Pierce! What the hell? What’s going on in here?”

Connie said a silent prayer, grateful for once to see her grouchy landlord standing in the doorway.

“Shut up, Walt and call 911! Now!”




©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved


Now Available at All Major Online Bookstores!

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Lenore “Lennie” Porter’s life had not gone as she planned.

The marriage she put her heart and soul into failed.

The man she sacrificed so much for abandoned her.

But Lennie refused to be broken. She pushed on, running a successful business and raising her three sons alone.

Through health scares and severe family dysfunction and trauma which forever changed their lives, the Porter family clung to each other to keep from sinking into the darkness.

With her marriage over long ago and her adult sons living their own lives, Lenore Porter decides to sell the cold fortress she worked so hard to make a warm, loving home.

A short, final inspection of her former home turns into a confrontation with ghosts from the past, and decisions and events Lennie felt she’d dealt with and moved on from.

Free, a Novella is a short, clean read recounting one woman’s determination to not be broken by life or lose her identity.



Anyone who knew Burt and Linda Kelimore knew they were devoted to each other.  More than half a century had passed since the day they each ran into a mechanic’s shop in need of quick repairs. Though they were both on their way to meet other people, a thirty-minute conversation changed their plans for the evening and the rest of their lives.

With their time together dwindling away, the couple did what they had always done… shared each other’s company.

Linda set Burt’s plate aside, and Lennie gathered up the dishes and excused herself.

While putting the food away and loading the dishwasher, Lennie was surprised to see her mother enter the kitchen.

“Everything okay, mo-”

“Yes, yes, sweetie. Leave all this. I’ll get to it later. You can head on home now.”

“Mom, no way do I leave a mess for you to clean up.”

Lennie reached for another dish but Linda caught her hand and held on.

“It’s okay, Lenore. You can go now.”


Linda pulled her daughter into a tight embrace, speaking into her ear barely above a whisper.

“I know. His hospice nurse was here earlier and is returning soon. I talked to your sisters before you got here… and they each spoke to your father.” She pulled back, a pleading look in her eyes.

“I’ve never asked you for anything, honey and I know this is no small thing I’m asking of you now. But… I need this time with him alone. Right now, I’m no one’s mother or grandmother. Lennie, right now, I’m just a wife who has to say goodbye to her husband. Please don’t be angry with me or hate me, but I need to do it alone.”

Hugging her mother close, Lenore allowed the weight of her words to sink in. She did not want to leave. Her father was dying, how could she walk away?

Seeing the pain in Linda’s eyes, Lenore knew she would deny her nothing.

With a simple nod, Lennie returned to the den to say goodbye to her father… just as she did every night.

After a quick kiss on the cheek and a squeeze of his hand, Lennie told Burt she’d see him tomorrow, and turned to leave before she broke down. But her father held on to her hand with a strength Lennie didn’t think he still possessed. Lennie looked from their joined hands to her father’s face when he spoke.

“Very proud… of you, Lenore. Always… have… been. You help everyone… always.”

The weakness of his voice and the shortness of his breath caused Lennie to cringe. She wanted her father to stop talking, to save his strength. But, her own voice was lost to her, blocked by a lump in her throat which refused to move.

“I love you… baby girl.” He kissed her hand and slumped back in his chair, his energy depleted.

“I love you too, daddy.”

Lennie squeezed his hand one last time and rested it across his lap. With one simple nod to her mother, Lennie left the room, her calm belying the anguish ripping her apart inside. She wanted to scream, cry… stop the clock… make him stay.

With her bags in hand, Lenore Porter stood at the front door. Dizziness and nausea rejoined the inner turmoil threatening to break her. She had to leave… knowing she would never see her father alive again.

Instead of reaching for the door knob, Lennie took several steps backward until she could see inside the den.

Linda Kelimore had reclined her husband’s chair and climbed in next to him, cuddled into his side with her hand resting on his chest.

This is what her parents wanted… what they had planned. To spend their remaining time together… together as the couple they had been for fifty years.

With more determination than she felt, Lennie left the house, closing the door quietly behind her.



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Song Lyric Sunday | “Let’s Stay Together” – Al Green

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Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

The theme for Song Lyric Sunday this week is “stay.”


Another smooth classic came to mind  based on this week’s theme, Al Green’s 1972 hit, Let’s Stay Together.

The song  spent sixteen weeks on the charts and did reach the top of Billboard’s Hot 100. It  also topped the R&B chart for nine weeks. This timeless classic has been covered by several artists including Tina Turner and Maroon 5. It was ranked the 60th greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Let’s Stay Together was selected by the Library of Congress as a 2010 addition to the National Recording Registry, which selects recordings annually that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. The song went on to claim the number-one position on the Billboard Year-End chart as an R&B song for 1972.

The video is a live performance from Al Green. Sorry about the suit.  😀

See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.

Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

Let’s Stay Together

by Al Green

Written by Al Jackson, Jr., Willie Mitchell, and Al Green

I’m, I’m so in love with you
Whatever you want to do
Is alright with me
Cause you make me feel, so brand new
And I want to spend my life with you

Let me say that since, baby, since we’ve been together
Loving you forever is what I need
Oh let me be the one you come running to
I’ll never be untrue

Oh baby let’s, let’s stay together
Lovin’ you whether

Whether times are good or bad, happy or sad, oh yeah

Whether times are good or bad, happy or sad

Why somebody
Why people break up, turn around and make up
I just can’t see, you’d never do that to me, would you baby?
Just being around you is all I see, it’s what I want to do

Let’s, we ought to stay together
Lovin’ you whether, whether
Times are good or bad, happy or sad

C’mon, let’s, let’s stay together
I’ll keep on lovin’ you whether, whether
Times are, oh times are good or times are bad

Compiled from Genius Lyrics, YouTube, and Google.

The Devil You Know, Part V #52weeks52stories


#52weeks52stories: Week 15

Word prompt: decor

Word Count: 1462


Part I    |     Part II    |    Part III    |   Part IV   |

Sally sat on the edge of the hospital recliner, her back ramrod straight.

The nurse was nearby completing Sally’s discharge orders.

Joanie, Carolyn, and Darrin stood by in silence, each casting worried looks at their mother.

Carolyn knelt at Sally’s side.

“Mom, please reconsider. The doctor said your vitals are stable, but you still need to be careful. He’d signed off on one more night’s stay in the hospital.”

She reached out and caressed her daughter’s cheek.

“And what good would that do, Caro? Laying in that bed for another night would change nothing, including me. The police have questions and so do I.”

The nurse walked over with a clipboard of documents and went over the doctor’s discharge instructions. Sally signed the forms, and the nurse left to retrieve a wheelchair.

“At least let us take you home, ma. There’s no need for you to go to the morgue…” Darrin’s voice was pained and broke on the last word.

“Yes, there is.”

She knew her children were dealing with lesser degrees of shock of their own, but she had to be firm.

“If my losing consciousness from the sight of your father dead on the floor of Graciela Ramirez’ bedroom floor isn’t enough of a positive identification, then I will walk into the morgue and make it official.”

Joanie stood at Sally’s other side.

“Any of us can do that, mommy. It doesn’t have to be you.”

“It does, baby. For this… it does.”

“Your chariot has arrived, Mrs. Bennett.”

Sally smiled at the young aide and moved to the wheelchair. She glanced at her children giving them a smile full of confidence she did not feel.

“Let’s get this over with.”


The entrance and waiting area of the county morgue could have been mistaken for a lounge in an upscale hotel bar.

The modular black and chrome sofas had a European flavor. Sally sat down, surprised by the sofa’s comfort.

Carolyn walked around inspecting the room. “This is nicer than what I have at home and Dave almost keeled over when he saw the cost.” She caught herself at her choice of words, but her mother gave her a knowing smile.

“Definitely expensive,” Joanie added while trying to lift a chrome floor lamp. “This thing must weigh a hundred pounds.”

Sally stroked the arm of the sofa. “I tend to tune out politicians, but the next time Commissioner Yancey is on the evening news whining about the county going broke I’ll believe him… and know why.”

“Nothing but the best when taxpayers are paying for it,” Carolyn quipped.

Sally smiled, taking in the rest of the room.

The area was beautiful. But, despite an attempt to marry trendy and upscale with comfort, the nasal-stinging scent of disinfectant and the sickly sweet smell of death still joined together and broke through the haute decor facade, refusing to be masked.

Darrin returned from the check-in window carrying a clipboard.

“They’re preparing the body for viewing, mom, and you don’t have to go into the actual room. There’s a camera setup and you can view from a monitor across the hall.”

“I’ll go into the room.”

“Mom- ”

She cut him off. “What’s the clipboard for?”

Frustrated, Darrin exhaled roughly.

“They need… d-dad’s information. The only thing they have is his name and your name.”

Sally held out her hand. “I’ll fill the papers out.”

“You don’t have to do- “

“Yes, I do.” Her words came out harsher than she intended.

“Listen. I am thankful to have you all here. My world has been turned upside down and I don’t know why. But my children cannot shield and protect me from this. You can’t babysit and coddle me when you have families who need you.”

Her eyes filled with tears.

“I’m not superwoman or made of steel. This thing has shaken me to my soul, but it’s not going away…ever. I need to deal with it to find some answers… some understanding. Or, maybe one day, some peace.”

Darrin gave his mother the clipboard and planted a kiss on her temple. “You always were the strongest woman I know.”

Sally smirked. “I had to be strong. You were no walk in the park growing up. And military school was a real option during your teen years.”

Carolyn and Joanie covered their mouths to hide grins as Darrin hung his head, embarrassed.

“Go, all of you. Check-in with your families while I handle this.”

Pulling out their phones, the Bennett children separated, each claiming an isolated seat. Within seconds, they were all involved in conversations. Sally was relieved for the normalcy.

She looked over the intake documents. Date of birth. Place of birth. Military service. Surgeries. Injuries. Body marking/tattoos. Daily medications.

Sally entered the information that spanned a lifetime.

Frankie’s lifetime.

A wave of emotion threatened to surface, but Sally took several quick breaths to calm herself and stay in control.

She didn’t know what to believe anymore. What part of her life with Frankie was true? Was any of it?

Sally returned the finished papers to the receptionist. Carolyn and Joanie both had ended their calls when she reached her seat. Darrin rejoined the group sitting on the sofa’s arm next to his mother.

“Merri sends her love and support, mom, and she said just say the word and she’ll pack the kids up and be here in a couple of hours.”

Joanie nodded. “Rick said the same thing.”

“Dave said you could come stay with us for as long as you want… move in even,” Carolyn added.

Sally Bennett closed her eyes, so overcome with emotion. When she opened her eyes, Sally looked at each of her children.

“I am a blessed woman to be surrounded by so much love. I’m not saying I won’t visit with each of your families, just not now, but soon.”

Just as Sally finished speaking a middle-aged man dressed in surgical scrubs exited a door next to the reception booth. He looked over the stacked clipboards, chose one, and walked toward the waiting area.

“Bennett family?”

Sally almost bolted from her seat. “I’m Sally Bennett.”

“I’m Pax Lacey, Mrs. Bennett, the county coroner. I appreciate you being here to do this. I know you’ve not only suffered a loss but the circumstances which led to it.”

Sally couldn’t imagine the number of the times this man had said those same words to another grieving family, but the warmth in his dark brown eyes proved his sincerity.

“This has to be done, Dr. Lacey… by me.”

Her children gathered around her and Sally reached out and squeezed Joanie’s hand.

“But I have the best support on the planet to help me get through this.”

She introduced her children to the coroner, then he led them all through the door and across the hall.

Remembering Darrin’s words about the monitor, Sally turned to the coroner.

“Dr. Lacey, this won’t be necessary. I’ll go into the viewing room.”

He didn’t respond, distracted by what he was reading on the clipboard.

“Dr. Lacey?”

“Hm? Oh, excuse me, I’m sorry, Mrs. Bennett.”

Turning abruptly, he walked down the hall and opened a door several feet away.

“Could I speak with you and your family in here?”

Sally and her children followed, exchanging curious looks.

The decor of the room matched the modular furniture in reception area except for an over-large, walnut desk. Several framed diplomas covering the wall behind the desk announced Paxton William Lacey had met or exceeded school requirements to receive a degree.

Dr. Lacey motioned toward a small sectional couch and two upright Victorian chairs in the corner.

Sally sat in one of the chairs, and Darrin, Carolyn, and Joanie all gathered around her, as though to shield or absorb bad news.

Pax Lacey sat on the edge of the couch, leaning toward Sally. The clipboard lay on a low table in front of him and the coroner held a file folder in one hand.

“Mrs. Bennett, the coroner’s office, like any business entity, is far from perfect and has made its share of mistakes.” He gestured to the clipboard. “But there are serious discrepancies between the information you provided,” he held up the folder, “and the findings of my autopsy examination.”

Sally frowned, holding his gaze. “Serious discrepancies? Like what?”

“I knew our meeting this afternoon would be difficult, but for very different reasons.”

Frustrated, Sally chuffed. Darrin gripped her shoulder firmly and glared at the coroner.

“Dr., is something wrong? Please just say it. My mom can’t take much more.”

Pax picked up the clipboard.

“You’ve listed a tattoo under body markings and a bypass procedure under surgeries.”

He looked at each of the Bennett children then focused on Sally.

“The body I autopsied had neither.”



©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved


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Unedited snippet from Family Matters… coming soon!


“No, don’t do it.”
Olivia smirked as she removed the spiked heel black boots and white shoulder-length wig.
“Aw, you’ve ruined my fantasy.”
“Sorry, not sorry, Bellamy. But if you would like to wear them, feel free.”
Bruce laughed, holding out his hand to Olivia.
She took his hand and curled up next to him on the sofa. He kissed her forehead.
“You win… again. And besides, fantasy doesn’t compare to the reality I have in my arms.”
Olivia buried her head in his chest, embarrassed. Bruce raised her chin until he could see her eyes.
“Still can’t take a compliment, I see.”
“I can… on my work. On the things I do to keep children safe. I’m proud of that. But when the compliments get personal? I don’t know, Bruce. I guess I don’t feel…”
Olivia averted her eyes.
“I get it, sweetness. What’s all the fuss about, right? We’re all little worker-bees doing our part to make the hive better.”
He didn’t continue until she looked at him.
“Only we’re not, Olivia. Some people don’t give a damn about the greater good. As Rena’s case proved, some people are only out for self… at any cost.”
Bruce held her tighter and smiled. “Then, there are the people who give their all. They dive into the problem head first and failure isn’t an option, even if it costs them personally.”
Bruce kissed her hand.
“Rena’s case costs you, sweetness. It brought back pain you believed was hidden and took you to darkness you thought no one else could see. You were never less than professional, but those who cared about you could see the case was emotional and traumatic for you too.
That’s why two groups of people who didn’t know each other came together tonight. To honor the woman who put self aside. You saw a child with the deck stacked against her and you re-dealt the cards to make sure she won.”
Overcome with emotion, tears pooled in Olivia Chandler’s eyes. She longed for the day she could see herself as Bruce did. He was her constant cheerleader.She hadn’t been looking for Bruce but was grateful their paths crossed.
“Rena wasn’t the only winner.” She reached up and caressed his cheek. “I won too.”
Stretching his arms out across the back of the sofa, Bruce Bellamy crossed his legs.
“I am a prize, aren’t I?”
Olivia dissolved into a fit of laughter, falling onto her side. What was she going to do with this man?


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