#52weeks52stories “Left Behind – Conclusion”

left behind photo

#52weeks52stories: Week 24

Word prompt: anchor

Word count  – 4629;  Reading Time  – 5 mins

Part 1

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New tears threatened to spill from Teddy’s eyes and Barry chose his next words with care.

“You know that’s not possible, right? Your mom isn’t gone because of a wish.”

Teddy dragged his arm across his face wiping away the unshed tears.

“Some of the guys from the basketball team came by my house after practice the day before my mom… the day we argued.

They had all ignored me since I’d quit the team without telling them why. Couldn’t very well tell them I had to babysit my schizophrenic mother, could I? Coach got wind of them giving me the silent treatment and told them I was needed at home and that was all they needed to know. I was shocked to open my door and find them there with pizzas and sodas. We fell back into our old rhythm and it felt good to hang out with the guys again.

Then the singing started.

Mom only did that when she missed taking her meds. I rushed to her bedroom and she wasn’t there. I was on my way to check the other bedrooms when I saw the side door to the sun-porch was open. I bolted out the door and there she was… dancing around like she was at a party…naked.”

The past hit Barry like a punch in the gut. Teresa Cook had never shed her clothes—because she’d been banished to her bedroom before she could—but there had been more hysterical drunken episodes and bouts of hyper-mania than he cared to remember. He’d had Grams and Aunt Gwen to handle things. Teddy had been alone that day.

“I ripped off my shirt and raced toward her.” He flung an arm out to the side. “She thought we were playing some stupid game and ran. When I chased her down, she fought me and said I was ruining the party and I was too young to be so boring.  We fought until I got the t-shirt on her. She started to run again, but we were startled by Chris. He’d grabbed a throw from the sofa and bought it outside. He never looked at mom, just held out the throw to me, and said he and the guys were taking off and would check on me later.”

“I’d never been more grateful and embarrassed in my life. I couldn’t speak… I just nodded at him like an idiot.”

The history teacher watched his student short pace around the desks, words tumbling from him faster and faster.

“I turned to grab mom’s hand and get her inside and she smacked it away. That’s when we argued.”

Teddy stopped his pacing and leaned against the window ledge.

“She tore into me about how rude Chris was for not introducing himself and staying for the party… and I just lost it. I screamed there was no party and Chris was trying to help without causing anyone any more embarrassment.”

He chuckled, and Barry didn’t miss the fact it contained no joy.

“Mom told me I was being dramatic and there was no reason for me to be embarrassed. I reminded her of the time she ran into traffic and tried to drag some guy from his car claiming he’d stolen her father’s car… and my grandfather died before I was born. And there was the time she ran into the Toeller Building downtown, took the elevator up to the eleventh floor and turned it off. When maintenance finally got her out, she was hysterical and said the mean girls were after her for dating the captain of the football team.”

Teddy Carver slid down the wall to the floor just as new tears rolled down his cheeks.

“But I wasn’t done… nope. I reminded her how she was banned from all the adult day care programs for always running away, and how none of the home nursing agencies would even take our calls anymore.”

He buried his face in his hands, his body wracked with sobs.

Barry knew the boy’s pain and had worn the same guilt. He needed to get the teen out of the building and find his father.

“Teddy, nothing you’ve said or done is new or wrong. You’re human, and you’re a kid with adult responsibilities.”

Not hearing his teacher, Teddy continued, his voice now flat and void of emotion.

“Mom brushed past me, said she was going inside to speak to my dad about my attitude. She didn’t believe me when I told her he was at work. We’ve had that talk before. She knows he hates working nights, but a night-time shift manager makes almost twice as much as a day-time foreman. The company’s insurance sucks and deductibles for mom’s doctors and medicine are huge. He didn’t have a choice.”

“Sounds like the argument between you and your mom was calming down though.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought too. But when I took her hand to lead her inside she pulled back again and said she wanted Mrs. Butler to take care of her not me.”

“Mrs. Butler?”

“She lives one street over from us. A retired nurse from one of the adult day care programs mom was in. She took care of mom during the day for months… almost a year. But our luck was balanced on a house of cards. Mom was banned from care programs, dad got a position at night, and Mrs. Butler’s husband was diagnosed with colon cancer… so I had to quit basketball to be with my mom.”

Barry sat on the floor next to his student. “Then what happened?”

“She started singing again… and dancing. She said I was trying to trick her like Mrs. Butler did when she’d hide pills in the pretty pink punch.”

Barry Cook appeared calm, but his mind was reeling at what all this seventeen-year-old kid went through.

“Mom claimed I was trying to make her feel bad because I was jealous of her life. I told her I couldn’t be jealous of her life because it was the only life I had.”

“What did she say to that?”

He leaned his head back against the wall. “She called me Theodore the bore.”

“Teddy, I cannot be -”

“I snapped. I grabbed her arm and dragged her inside all the way to her room. I made her take her pills, put her in bed and told her not to call my name or get up before dad got home. She got really snarky… said maybe she’d go to sleep and just not wake up. That would solve everyone’s problems if she wasn’t there to be such a burden. I turned to leave the room and she screamed, “Say it, Theodore, say it! You wish I was dead, don’t you?”

I didn’t answer. I had to get out of that room and away from her.” He shook his head. “But she wouldn’t let it go. She jumped out of bed and ran into the hall behind me, pushing me, punching me in the back and arms.” He mimicked his late mother’s voice, “C’mon, Theodore. Say it. This is your day of truth to share your feelings so, say it.”

“Had your mom ever acted that way before? Lost control? Hit you?”

Teddy pulled his long legs toward his chest, resting his arms on his knees. “She experienced mania but I can’t remember her ever being so angry and confrontational before.” He stared at his hands but continued, his words weighted with regret. “But I was different too.”

 

Deanna Carver jumped in front of her son, blocking his path. He was half a foot taller than his mother, but at five-feet-eleven, Deanna could be an imposing figure.

“Stop walking away, Theodore, I want an answer.”

His bottom lip trembled as he searched her face for the mother from his childhood. The woman who took him on field trips after school and made him eat green vegetables. Before everything changed.

“No, momma. I don’t wish you were anywhere but here with dad and me.”

His words didn’t ease the hardness in her face and the anger and defiance in her eyes confused him.

“But things would be better for you… and us if you’d just take your pills when you’re supposed to. We could all -”

She cut him off.

“Take my pills? You want me to take the pills? Fine.”

Deanna whirled around, storming back into her bedroom, with her son on her heels.

“Theodore wants me to take the pills so he can have a happy life.” She grabbed the bottle of Thioridazine from the nightstand.

“Momma, what are you doing? You just took your meds not ten minutes ago.” He reached for the bottle and she swatted his hand away.

“I may be a crazy mother, but not so crazy I don’t want my child to be happy.” Deanna bested the child-proof cap and emptied the bottle into her palm.

“Mom!”

He grabbed his mother’s wrist.

Pills fell to the floor, but Deanna clenched the majority in her fist. “This is what you wanted, Theodore.”

Teddy worked to pry her fist open. “Mom stop this or I’m calling dad and your doctor.”

“Go right ahead! Call them both. They want me to take the pills too.”

Teddy cried out in pain and yanked his hand back to see the reddened area where his mother pinched him. Turning his attention back to her, Teddy saw his mother raising the handful of pills to her mouth. He drew back and punched her hand while pushing her onto the bed with his other hand. Teddy fell to his knees. Biting his bottom lip to hold back the sobs, he crawled around the floor scooping up pills and returning them to the bottle.

Deanna sat up on the edge of her bed clutching her right hand to her chest. “You hit me.”

Refusing to look at her, Teddy continued to scramble around the floor in search of loose pills, his resolve weakening. “I did not hit you, Mom. I knocked your hand away to keep you from doing something craz – “He caught himself.

“Crazy? Go ahead and say it, Theodore. We’re being honest, remember?”

“Mom, just lie down, please? We both need to step back and calm down. Dad’s halfway through his shift and if you rest a while and sleep, when you wake up he’ll be home. Okay?”

“And then what? More pills? More goodnight, Deanna? He’ll give me that puppy dog look of his and try to feed me and talk to me… beg me to share my feelings. He’ll kiss my forehead and hug me tight, telling me everything will be okay.”

Teddy’s anger flared. He rose to his knees and pointed an accusing finger. “Stop it, momma! Be mad at me, yell at me, fight me, but do not mock dad!”

“Don’t mock your dad?” She laughed, her tone high-pitched and lyrical as the hysteria returned. “Big Brandon Carver won the girl and made her his wife, but all he got was a dud for life.” Her laughter went even higher, reaching keening levels.

Teddy jumped to his feet, rage causing him to sway. “How can you make fun of him like that? He loves you, momma. You’re everything to him.”

Her laughter stopped. She widened her eyes while tilting her head to the side. “Guess it sucks to be him.” Amused by her own remark, Deanna fell back onto the bed laughing like a school girl.

Standing to his full height, Teddy’s supply of resolve was gone… and so was his mother. He no longer cared about the psychotic woman on the bed who mocked his father and had to get away from her now. Clenching the bottle of recovered pills in a tight fist, Teddy backed toward the door. Her shrill laughter continued, assaulted him with each breath, dulling his reason until all he wanted was to make her hurt and defend his father.

Pausing his steps, Teddy addressed his mother, his deep voice filling the room to get her attention.

“When I said I didn’t want you anywhere but here with dad and me? That was a lie, mom. Every time you had one of your episodes and ran off, dad was frantic, desperate to find you and bring you home… to keep you safe. People would look at him, their eyes filled with pity, but he didn’t care, he just wanted his wife home with him. I did too when I was younger. But after you ran out into traffic and assaulted that poor man, I was done.”

Deanna sat up again on the edge of the bed, no longer laughing.

“I know you’re sick, momma… I get it. But after that day every time you had an episode, I wondered how you lived through it. Why you were still alive.” He backed up two more steps toward the door. “So, yeah, ma’. Sometimes… sometimes I do feel life would be easier if you weren’t here.”

After delivering his cruel words, Teddy turned to leave the room.

“Theodore?”

He froze in place but didn’t turn around.

“I’m sorry.”

“You always are, mom.”

 

He’d leaned his head back against the wall again. His eyes were closed, but tears streamed down Teddy Carver’s face.

Barry Cook remained silent, knowing the boy had to tell his story.

“I lost track of time… just sat in the family room crying. And they were selfish tears. They weren’t for mom or even dad, they were for me and why I couldn’t have a normal mom and a normal life. I thought about how I would tell dad about what happened when he got home, and then it was his voice, loud and clear in my head.

“If you think we’re tired and frustrated, son, just think about how much worse it is for your mother. She doesn’t want to be this way, but she can never escape it. There is no cure for a damaged mind. Those pills make her appear in control but what they actually do is make her manageable. Inside, the voices and hysteria… her pain and anguish are all still there. They never leave her.”

“I knew that. I knew all of that. But I let my anger and pride get the better of me. I was so ashamed and knew I had to apologize to my mom. I ran to her room, but she was asleep. I was going to sit next to the bed until she woke up when I heard the front door. My dad was home, and now I had to face him.

One look at his son’s face and Brandon Carver knew… Deanna had another episode.

“What happened?”

“She didn’t take her meds. I found her in the backyard… naked.” He rushed toward his father. “I’m sorry, dad. I should have watched her closer, made sure she took her medicine. But… some of the guys from the team were here and I was distracted. I’m so sorry.”

Brandon fell into his recliner, raking his hands over his close-cropped, dark curls.

“This isn’t your fault, Teddy. None of it is. I’ve put too much responsibility on you, but I didn’t know what else to do.”

“She’s my mom. Of course, I’m supposed to help with her.”

“Help, yes. Fix her a meal. Watch a movie with her, not stand guard to keep her from running away or hurting herself. Not devote all your non-school time to her because she’s banned from everywhere because of her behavior.”

His exhale was loud and harsh as he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “We talked about this, Teddy. It’s time.”

“Dad, no -”

“We agreed, Teddy. One more bad episode and we’d find residential care for your mom.”

“We can’t lock her away, dad, we can’t.”

“If we don’t, son, the day’s going to come when the state will.”

“But – “

“I have to work an early shift tomorrow. Mrs. Butler will take care of your mom. I’ll arrange for a few days off and next week we’ll find a place… a nice place close-by where we can visit whenever we want.”

“Dad – “

“Go to bed, son, you have school tomorrow.”

 

“It was the longest walk of my life. I started down the hallway but turned to try and change his mind one more time. He’d picked up their wedding photo from the end-table and was just staring at it… his face covered in tears.”

Barry reached over, squeezing Teddy’s shoulder. “I can’t imagine what it took… or felt like for your father to make that decision.”

“I didn’t think about that at the time. I was back in good old self-pity land. I tossed and turned the rest of the night, then jumped up and left for school an hour later, not having the guts to face either of my parents.” He turned his head and Barry was gutted by the self-hate he saw in his student’s eyes. His memories of his own self-hate exacerbated the pain.

“By second period, I knew I was the worst son on the planet and couldn’t wait for the day to end. I had to get home to my family… while we were still a family.” Sobs choked his next words. “But I was too late.”

Barry schooled his features to mask his own emotions but nodded once for Teddy to continue.

“Mrs. Butler’s van wasn’t in our driveway when I got home, but I didn’t think anything of it. Sometimes she took mom to the market. I found out later her husband had to be hospitalized and Mrs. Butler never got to our house.”

“I went inside and found all the drapes still closed. The omelet dad made for mom every morning was still on the warmer. I knew something was wrong.”

“The family room was empty, and mom’s bed was unmade. She never left her bed unmade. I was going to call Mrs. Butler but decided going over to her house was better. I headed to my room to leave my backpack and change… and saw the door to the sun porch was open.” He shook his head. “I didn’t believe mom would leave the house open and unsecured, but I knew Mrs. Butler wouldn’t. I ran out the door praying I didn’t find my mom dancing around naked again. Our yard was empty. Mom was nowhere in sight.

I heard this… this creaking sound behind me. I turned toward the sound and there was my mother… hanging from a rope thrown over a beam. I screamed and ran to her, trying to hold her up… to get her down, but I couldn’t do both. I couldn’t do anything… so I let go. Her body sagged against the rope and I fell down in horror… as though I was killing her myself. I stared up at her. Her beautiful face… all bloated and purple. Her eyes. Her eyes were open. Seeing nothing but yet staring at me…”

Teddy Carver slumped over, his body heavy with guilt and wracked with sobs.

Barry grabbed the boy and held on, not knowing where Teddy’s tears ended and his began.

The teen pulled away, clutching at his chest. “She’s dead because of me. Because of what I said.”

“Teddy, stop it and listen to me. I’m not a doctor but I know a bit about suicide and not just because my mom killed herself.”

The youth wiped his nose on his sleeve and tried to focus on his teacher.

“Everybody has a theory about suicide. It’s selfish, it’s revenge, it’s a coward’s way out. Suicide may be all of those things or none of them. Even the experts can’t agree on them. But what I can tell you is most people who commit suicide thought about it before and more than once. And, most people have a plan and those plans do not center around anyone but themselves.” He leaned closer to Teddy, hoping he was hearing his words… and praying they were true. “You argued with your mom and said things you regret. But, Teddy, your mother did not kill herself to make you happy or solve your dad’s problems. No matter what either of you said or did, her pain… her torment was inside her and she brought an end to it the only way she could.”

Looking more like a seven-year-old than a young man about to turn eighteen, Teddy rested his head on Barry’s shoulder. “I want her back. I want my mom.”

“I know you do, son. I know you do.”

He stood and pulled Teddy up from the floor. “Where’s your dad?”

“Home. He hasn’t been able to go back to work since… the funeral. He’s shut down. He won’t talk to me… or listen.”

Barry took his student’s arm leading him to the door. “I’m taking you home. He’s going to listen today, but even if he won’t, it doesn’t mean we can’t find you some help. You cannot ruin your life over misplaced guilt. It can’t happen. I won’t allow it.”

Teddy’s brow knitted in confusion as Barry looked out into the hallway.

“Just a few stragglers left. Go across the hall to the men’s room and wash up. I’ll let my wife know I’m going to be late.”

Still confused, Teddy did as he was told, holding on to the hope his dad would, at last, listen to him today.

Barry Cook closed the classroom door and pulled out his cell phone as he walked to his desk. He typed out the short text to his wife, letting her know he talked to the student he’d told her about and would explain it all later.

After pressing Send, his cell dropped to his desk, followed by a stream of tears.

Barry knew Teddy Carver’s pain… all of it.

He didn’t know Teresa Cook or Deanna Carver’s pain. No one ever would.

But Barry Cook had a better understanding of suicide than most people. He didn’t approve of it. He hated it. But, he understood.

He knew firsthand the feelings of endless despair. Of being afraid you’ll never be happy again. He knew of the malicious voices inside teasing and taunting.

Barry was the boy no one wanted. Not worthy enough for his father to stay, not worthy enough for his mother to live.

Grams died right before Barry’s fourteenth birthday and he never felt more alone. Aunt Gwen and Uncle Dean took him in and even wanted to adopt him. But to Barry, it was out of obligation not love. Who could love him? Why would they want to? His own parents didn’t even stick around.

The next year saw Barry isolating himself, slipping farther into the darkness. He saw his uncle cleaning his gun one day and tried to seem uninterested while watching his every move. When Dean returned the gun to the case and left the room with it, Barry wanted to run after him to find out where he kept it. But he stayed in front of the television, pretending to watch… while coming up with a plan.

Months passed, and life grew worse for Barry. Gwen and Dean found counseling for him, but the therapist seemed more concerned with how often Barry masturbated and he grew annoyed with her and begged to stop seeing her.

Waking up each day became more unbearable and nothing his family tried helped. He just wanted them to stop trying to help. He wasn’t worth the effort.

The holidays were approaching, and Aunt Gwen rushed into the house one day with bags of wrapped gifts. She took out one large box wrapped in blue foil paper for his uncle and asked him to hide it in the hall closet next to the attic door. Barry obeyed, entering the closet, pushing hung garments aside to get to the farthest corner.

And he saw the gun case.

A calm washed over Barry as he stroked his hand over the polished walnut case.

Everything was going to be okay.

Two days later when his family, excited about caroling with their neighbors, dressed for the cold snowy evening, Barry begged off saying his throat was sore and he thought he was coming down with something. Promising not to be gone long, they left the fifteen-year-old with a mug of hot soup. He ran to the window and watched them enter their neighbor’s home across the street, then Barry headed for the closet. He grabbed the case and scooted up the attic stairs, grateful the end was within his reach.

Barry sat down in a corner and opened the case. The Browning called to him. Barry wasn’t afraid or anxious. He was relieved. His useless existence was over. No one had to pity the boy unworthy of love ever again.

He took a deep breath and raised the gun to his mouth. Closing his eyes, Barry squeezed the trigger.

And nothing happened.

He squeezed the trigger again only to get another empty click. His mania rose. He checked the chamber and magazine, not understanding why the gun didn’t fire. A shadow fell across him and he looked up to see Dean standing at the top of the stairs.

“I’d hope I was wrong, but I wasn’t taking any chances.”

His uncle held out his hand and Barry saw the Browning’s firing pin.

Defeated, Barry dropped the gun. His mournful wails filled the attic.

Dean grabbed the boy and held him tight, rocking, much the way Barry had held Teddy.

His uncle made promises to Barry that day that he kept. Promises Barry would be forever grateful for.

It didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t easy, but Barry did get the help he needed. By the time he walked across the stage to receive his high school diploma, the young man was more in control of his emotions and didn’t believe in his own worthlessness.

At his college graduation, Barry Cook was a vibrant young man proud of his accomplishments and grateful for life. He was also grateful for the graying gentleman standing next to his aunt with tears in his eyes.

Dean took the journey to wellness with Barry, never leaving his side. Barry considered Dean more watchdog than parent until the day Gordon Cook showed up looking for a way to capitalize on Barry’s academic success.

“Your parental rights died with Teresa, not that you were ever any kind of father. Barry is my son and a terrific young man with a great future. He went through some bad times because of you and I will take you to hell myself before I allow you to hurt him again.”

Gordon Cook didn’t need to be told twice and disappeared. However, his absence didn’t affect Barry this time. Dean had been the anchor that kept him from drowning in darkness.

Barry stood, wiping his face. He grabbed his cell and laptop case and left his classroom in search of Teddy.

The kid had a father, a good man dealing with his own grief. But Barry knew he couldn’t give up. He’d find help for both of them. He didn’t want Teddy to ever sink to the depths he’d known, and unchecked, Barry knew that’s where he was headed.

There was still too much stigma attached to mental illness, but much ground had been gained and new therapies discovered in the thirty years since Barry first sought counseling. He’d work with Teddy and his dad until they found one that fit. Teddy deserved that much. He was on the cusp of adulthood and should embrace life fully, not waste away in the shadows, devoured by the guilt and regret of those left behind.

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

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#52weeks52stories “Left Behind”

left behind photo

#52weeks52stories: Week 23

Word prompt: suicide

Word count: 1496, Reading Time  – 2 mins, 19 secs

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The watched hands of a clock are not supposed to move.

But Teddy Carver had seen the hands move for every one of the last twenty-four minutes.

Five minutes remained before the three o’clock bell rang signaling the end of history class and the end of the school day.

Time to go home.

Nervous jitters caused his knee to bounce while his fist tightened around the pencil he was holding. It snapped, breaking into pieces Teddy laid on the desk without taking his gaze from the clock.

He knew his classmates were staring at him. Some, out of curiosity but most were because they pitied their young friend. Teddy appreciated their kindness and concern. The school sent a beautiful wreath to his mom’s service and the GoFundme donations helped to pay for the service and more… since there’s no payout for suicides.

But he could live without the pity.

The bell sounded and any thoughts of Teddy Carver and his troubles faded into the chaos of the mass exodus from the classroom.

When the last student was out the door, Teddy eased his six and a half foot frame from the cramped desk.

Slipping his textbook under his arm, Teddy approached the door with slow steps, in no hurry to ride the wave of students crowding the hallways.

Two steps away from his goal, Teddy’s path was blocked by Barry Cook, his history teacher.

“Teddy? A minute, please?”

The teen towered over his teacher but his slumped shoulders decreased his stature.

“Yes, sir?”

The older man slipped his hands into his front pockets, trying to hide his discomfort with what he was about to say.

“I was so sorry to hear about your mom. My wife’s been ill, and I didn’t find out until I returned to work yesterday.”

Teddy shuffled his feet in place, eyes downcast. “Thank you, Mr. Cook. And I hope your wife’s better.”

Barry Cook reached behind him and pulled the classroom door closed. He sat on the desk nearest to him and motioned for Teddy to do the same.

“You know, this school is one big rumor mill and teachers hear things—who’s dating, who’s pregnant, whose parents have split—and we have to decide what to ignore and what to act on.”

He stumbled, trying to find the right words.

“I know you had some… tough times before your mom died. But I also knew you were on the basketball team and had a good relationship with Coach Ramos. I know he takes an interest in his team and talks about more than just sports.”

Barry Cook appeared exasperated… and frustrated.

“But I didn’t see you in the third home game and Coach told me you had to quit to help out at home. I should have reached out to you then, Teddy. I should have been there for you.”

The boy’s brows knitted in confusion.

Barry scrubbed his hand over his jaw.

“I lost my mom when I was nine.”

Teddy stiffened, but remained silent.

“My dad walked out on us when I was five. I was too young to understand it all or how my life was going to change.

We had to move a short time later. We left our big yellow house and moved in with Grams. I cried for a week because we couldn’t take my swing-set. Grams didn’t have a backyard. But it wouldn’t be long before other things would shade my world.”

Teddy was mesmerized hearing his teacher’s story.

“One day, mom stopped going to work. She stopped coming by my school at lunchtime or to evening events… she stopped doing everything.

Grams took care of me. Mom’s sister, Gwen, moved back to town with her family. She had a son and daughter close to my age and they would pick me up for long weekends of family barbecues, trips to amusement parks and museums… all the fun stuff I couldn’t do with my mom.

Aunt Gwen took me home one Sunday and as soon as we got inside, she rushed me off to put my things away. She’d never done that before and I knew something was wrong. I left the room but stood in the hallway to listen to her and Grams.”

“Is she sleeping… or drunk?”

“No, this time’s she high.”

“Mom, what the -”

“Calm down, it’s legal. Something new her doctor says will help with the depression.”

“Pills? But with her drinking -”

“There isn’t a drop of anything in this house. I even got rid of the mouthwash, and I warned that friends of hers, Patty, to not sneak anything else in here or she’d no longer be welcomed or allowed in.”

“What’s going to happen with her, mom? Barry needs his mother.”

“I know, dear, and I agree with you. But depression isn’t something that can be cured with a quick fix. I’m just trying to be there for her… and keep her away from alcohol. And you’ll never know how much I appreciate you and Dean moving back to help with Barry. I could never give him what he needs and be there for his mom.”

“That’s what families do, momma. Speaking of which, has the scum-sucking dog been around?”

“Gwen! What if Barry heard you? You shouldn’t call his father names.”

“Well, has he?”

“Gordon moved out of state right after the divorce papers were signed. Teresa cried for days.”

“I hate him so much.”

“Just when she was getting back to her old self, we saw Kim, Gordon’s cousin at the cleaners. She told us his “new wife” was expecting. Your sister changed that day and hasn’t been the same since.”

“That piece of crap snaps up a new wife and starts a new family without a thought to the beautiful son he already has? Barry deserves better.”

Barry Cook closed his eyes as though he could still see his aunt and grandmother.

“That was eleven days after my eighth birthday and the first time I learned of my mom’s depression and drinking problem.” He shrugged. “I had no clue what depression was just that it kept my mom in bed. I got a crash course sooner than I wanted.”

“That was also the first time I knew my dad was never coming back.”

The pain Teddy Carver saw in his teacher’s eyes caused his chest to tighten even more.

“The pills worked for a while. There were days when mom was like her old self, laughing and telling bad jokes. But there were still bad days. She would sit in one spot and cry without making a sound… just big, fat tears streaming down her face and soaking her clothes. She’d cry so long she would fall asleep from exhaustion and wake up and start all over again. To this day, I still don’t understand the depth of mom’s pain, but it had a strong hold on her and never let go. Four days before my tenth birthday, my mother died of an overdose of pills and alcohol.”

Barry Cook fixed his gaze on Teddy. “And it wasn’t an accident. Mom had just picked up a refill of her pills earlier that day and told Grams she was going to rest a while. Grams found her unconscious right before I got home from school. She called 911… but there was nothing they could do. We found out later she’d taken the entire bottle of pills with a glass of whiskey.”

Teddy winced. Mr. Cook’s mom had wanted to die… just like his mom. He saw a shadow of something pass over his teacher’s face. More pain? Regret? Grief?

The teacher schooled his features, walked over to Teddy and reached up, squeezing his shoulder.

“Son, I won’t insult you by telling you I know how you feel or I’ve been in your shoes. I’m not going to say remember the good times or the pain will get easier…because none of it is true. But what I can tell you is those left behind often are consumed with guilt on top of their grief. Did they miss something? Did they do too much? Too little? But there was nothing you could have done to change this outside of never leaving your mother’s side. And even then, she still could have found a way. So don’t take on the guilt. None of this is your fault.”

Teddy opened his mouth to respond, but choked sobs escaped instead.

“Teddy? It’s gonna be okay, kid… I swear.”

The teen leaned over with his hands on his knees, gulping for air. After a harsh exhale, he raised his head to his teacher.

“You don’t understand. My mom’s gone and it’s my fault.”

Barry froze. His racing pulse made him light-headed and he leaned on the desk as he tried to understand what his student was confessing to.

“My mom is dead because of me.” He gulped for more air. “We argued and I told her I wished she was dead and now she is.”

~~~~~

The conclusion to Left Behind will be posted next week. Thanks for stopping by.

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Inside “In The Best Interest of the Child”

In The Best Interest of the Child spans nearly thirty years in the life of Olivia ‘Livvie’ Chandler.

As a ten-year-old, Olivia has the perfect little girl’s life: a school she loves, good friends, a nice home, a talented mom, and a successful father she adores. Tragedy rips all of this away from her, and plunges Olivia into the foster care system, where for eight years she is neglected, humiliated, abused, and nearly raped.

Little Livvie_blog

Fate smiles on Olivia shortly before she ages out of the system, allowing her the means to attend college and law school. Determined to put her past behind her, Olivia Chandler forges ahead, burying her trauma in the deep recesses of her mind.

It will not stay there.

Years later, Olivia is a successful child advocate attorney, giving a voice to children who are so easily ignored by those claiming to act in their best interest. She has little time for personal relationships, and her lifelong fear of abandonment reminds her never to get too close to anyone.

The successful attorney stumbles though, when she’s assigned a case by the court that too closely mirrors her own haunted childhood. Olivia never gives her minor clients less than her all, and the only way she can help her eleven-year-old client is to face down and acknowledge her demons. This same case also brings a man into her life who sees her for who she truly is, and will not allow Olivia to push him away.


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Rena Averest – In The Best Interest of the Child – Character Profile


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Olivia Chandler’s latest client is eleven-year-old Rena Averest.

Rena and her parents were involved in a weather-related, multi-car accident. Her mother was killed and her father was severely injured and comatose for several weeks and remains hospitalized indefinitely.

Rena suffered extensive injuries and was also hospitalized for several weeks. When she was well enough to be discharged, the hospital ran into major obstacles. Her mother’s only living relative was an older brother who lived two thousand miles away. Suffering from chronic cystic fibrosis, he was unable to care for Rena and had in fact, even missed his sister’s funeral. Rena has grandparents, and two aunts on her father’s side of the family…and they want absolutely nothing to do with her.

A benevolent judge, taking into account all that Rena is currently dealing with, allows her to be placed temporarily with Courtney and Marissa Bellamy, friends of her parents since college, and Rena’s godparents. Not knowing how her father’s medical situation will resolve itself, the judge feels Rena needs the stability and familiarity of the Bellamy home. The Department of Children’s Services disagrees and take legal action to remove Rena from the Bellamy home and place her in foster care. The presiding judge spurred on by the irony of DCS wanting to remove Rena Averest from a non-relative home only to place her in a non-relative home, stays the case and appoints a child advocate attorney to research the case and protect Rena’s interest.

And that’s exactly what Olivia intends to do.

Rena Irene Averest

Age: 11

DOB: May 6, 2003

Parents: Duncan and Irene (Deceased) Averest

Siblings: None

Favorite color: Yellow

Favorite music: Todrick Hall and all songs Disney-related

Favorite Book: The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Pets: A turtle named Brutus

BFF: Margie Macy

Wants to be a surgical nurse when she grows up


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“In the Best Interest of the Child”

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Margot Schultz – In The Best Interest of the Child – Character Profile

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Dynamic and vivacious Margot Schultz never met an obstacle she couldn’t overcome… or knock down. Executive assistant/office manager to Olivia Chandler, Margot always seems to know the right amount of charm, wit, and panache to use when dealing with anyone from grumpy judges to cagey Department of Children’s Service employees to Olivia’s peers – some of whom are less-than-ethical.

Early in her career, Margot worked for some of the less than-ethical-crowd. While they could be gods and magicians in the courtroom, pulling out wins from seemingly unwinnable cases, outside the courtroom was another matter. Margot could remember each and every personal errand she’d had to do, each gift she’d had to buy for multiple girlfriends and mistresses, and every lie she’d told to one of her bosses’ wives.

When Margot heard through the courthouse grapevine that the executive secretary of a successful young, female child advocate attorney was retiring for health reasons and had no replacement, she grabbed her resume, took an extended lunch and went in search of Olivia Chandler. Despite her unusual approach, Margot and Olivia clicked immediately.

The two women have worked side by side for ten years. Olivia admired Margot’s work ethic. She encouraged Margot to continue her education when time allowed, and even paid for it, calling it a ‘sound investment.’ Margot would eventually advance from executive legal secretary to executive assistant and office manager.

Margot knows Olivia has no family and was a foster care kid. She doesn’t know the intimate details, but she does know Olivia’s adolescence was bad enough for Olivia to keep herself closed off to most people. Her boss seems to ‘live’ when focused and working on a case for their minor clients. The rest of the time, Olivia just seems to exist.

The divorced office manager is not one of those people who believe a woman needs a man in her life to be complete, but Bruce Bellamy has suddenly appeared in Olivia’s life, and Margot will do her part to keep him there.

Things are going to get interesting.

 

Margot Rose (Parker) Schultz

Age: She’s not telling – but probably mid to late 40s

Born: New York, New York

Marital Status: Divorced – has adult twin sons who are both Marines

Is two classes away from a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management

Loves to dance and can be found on a dance floor most Saturday nights

Collects souvenirs from the Roaring 20s – always says she would have made a great Flapper

Plays acoustic guitar, but rarely does as it reminds her of her musician ex-husband

Is somewhat estranged from her parents and siblings since she dropped out of college nearly 30 years ago to elope with her now ex-husband


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“In the Best Interest of the Child”

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Martin ‘Marty’ Knight – In The Best Interest of the Child – Character Profile

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After their initial visit to the hospital where Rena has daily physical therapy, she and Olivia meet hospital volunteer, Martin ‘Marty’ Knight as they leave. Marty is concerned about the sadness in Rena’s eyes and tries to cheer her up as he helps her into the car. He is shocked to find out that Rena’s injuries and the death of her mother were caused by the same weather-related, multi-vehicle accident that claimed the life of his best friend, Victor Roddy.

During Marty and Rena’s conversation, Olivia finds herself staring at the man, convinced they have met before. She just cannot remember where. Marty also cast several glances in Olivia’s direction trying to figure out why she looks so familiar. His memory fails him.

As the story unfolds, Marty Knight will not only become a good friend and ‘grandfather’ to Rena, he will play a pivotal role in Olivia Chandler sorting out her past…and navigating her future.

  • Martin Eugene Knight
  • Age: 71
  • Retiree, Veteran, and Hospital Volunteer
  • DOB: October 31, 1943
  • Born in Kenosha, Wisconsin
  • Marital Status: Widower. Wife, Sarah, passed away three years ago after a difficult battle with liver cancer.
  • Sarah died two weeks after their 50th wedding anniversary.
  • Has five children and eleven grandchildren.
  • A veteran of the Vietnam War. Entered the war near its beginning and served four years.
  • Received a Purple Heart and Medal Honor.
  • Enjoys building miniatures, fly fishing, and watching westerns.
  • Carries a keychain with a picture of his wife on one side, and a picture of his dog on the other. His dog passed away two months after his wife, at the age of 16. Sarah named the dog Dwight because she was convinced he looked like Dwight D Eisenhower.

Best Interest multi cover

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Amazon UK http://bit.ly/BestIntUK

Amazon CA http://bit.ly/BestIntCA

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Goodreads  http://bit.ly/BestIntGR

 

©2016 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Courtney and Marissa Bellamy – In The Best Interest of the Child – Character Profile

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As best friends to Duncan Averest and his late wife, Irene, Courtney and Marissa Bellamy knew they would stand by Duncan. Whatever it took to help him through the loss of his wife and the serious injuries sustained by him and daughter, Rena, the Bellamys would do. And, as Rena’s godparents, of course she would live with them until her father was well enough to take care of her. They took their vows as godparents very seriously. But someone is trying to stop them. Someone is trying to keep them away from Duncan and make sure Rena gets sent into the foster care system.

Court-appointed child advocate attorney Olivia Chandler is the answer to their prayers. They’re moved by her genuineness and promise to “do right by Rena.” There is an immediate bond between the attorney and her young client, and Marissa cannot help but wonder if it has more to do with the flashes of sadness she sees in Olivia’s eyes than with simple job commitment.

The instant interest in Olivia by his cousin, Bruce, hasn’t been lost on Courtney. Abandoned by his ex-wife when their children were mere toddlers, Bruce hasn’t shown little more than a passing, casual interest in any woman since. Olivia will be spending quite a bit of time with the Bellamy family in the near future, and Courtney thinks it’s just enough time to do a bit of matchmaking. And, where you find Courtney…you find Marissa.

Let the games begin!

Courtney Ardan and Marissa Anne (Monroe) Bellamy

Met in Botany 101 during their freshman year of college

Married November 30, 1996

Two sons – Bishop, 18 and Brian, 16

Courtney works in IT/Computer Systems for the local school district, Marissa is head of Library Sciences for Hennepin County Public Libraries

Courtney (Caucasian) and Marissa (African-American) are an Interracial couple who haven’t suffered much of the disdain shown to interracial couples by some of society due to their steadfast commitment to each other and the love and total support of their families.

Bruce Bellamy – In The Best Interest of the Child – Character Profile


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A former amateur race car driver, and current owner of a successful chain of auto repair shops, Bruce Bellamy is a cousin to Rena Averest’s current caregivers. He and Olivia meet for the first time when she gives Rena a ride home from physical therapy, and he is there trying to diagnose the problem with his cousin’s car.

Bruce is instantly smitten with the attorney. Her voluptuous body pulls him right in, but it’s the guarded sadness in her eyes that propels him to get to know her. She has a beautiful smile, and he thinks she should use it more often.

The easy going business owner has been alone for nearly two decades, when his ex-wife walked away from him and their four children in search of a more affluent lifestyle. Her callous, mercenary heart caused him to close his off, and he’s not been in a relationship since, nor had any involvement with women worth mentioning, choosing instead to concentrate on raising his children and making his business successful. So when Olivia gets his attention, the entire Bellamy clan takes notice, and proceeds to help him win her over.

Having spent her adult life avoiding romantic entanglements, Olivia knows she’s walking a tight rope by allowing Bruce to get too close. Rena’s case has brought Olivia’s childhood back to the forefront of her mind, making her believe she has nothing to offer Bruce.

He seems to think otherwise.

Bruce Ambrose Bellamy
Age: 42
DOB: June 28, 1972
Place of Birth: Duluth, Minnesota
Divorced
Has four (adult) children
Owns a chain of successful auto repair shops
Loves ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘Married with Children’ reruns
Has a BA and MA in Business earned while attending night, and online classes
Hates golfs and considers it pointless
Loves football and is a diehard Minnesota Vikings Fan


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Admissions #WritingChallenge


Dinner Table

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 41
Another snippet from the dinner scene in Family Matters which will be published one day… in this lifetime. SMH.

“You have two weddings coming up? Wow.”

He gestured holding up a finger. “Yes, but I only have to pay for one of them. Farren, Pat’s fiancé, is the daughter of two attorneys. I’m sure their wedding will be glorious.”

“Two attorneys? What’s Farren’s last name?”

“Foster.”

“Her parents are Collins and Catherine Foster?”

Pat and Bruce both nodded.

Olivia’s eyes widened. “That wedding will be more than glorious. It will make Hollywood A-listers jealous. The Fosters are the go-to investment attorneys in this part of the state. They have a waiting list… and they’re not cheap.”

“You know them, Olivia?” Bruce asked.

“Very well. I was a client a few years back.”

Bruce sat back in his chair, his mouth hanging open. His children all stared at Olivia with surprised expressions too.

“What’s wrong, Bellamy?”

“A successful law practice, that amazing house, and you’re a client of high-powered financial attorneys.” He leaned forward and smirked. “Who are you, Olivia Chandler?”

She grinned. “I’m merely a humble attorney who’s smart about managing her money.”

Bruce cast a doubtful look at her. “So you say.”

Before Bruce Bellamy could continue, Breck spoke up. “What made you decide to become an attorney, Olivia?”

Bruce’s jaw tightened, but Olivia smiled, regarding Breck warmly.

“My father was an attorney. Estate Planning and Management.”

Casey Bellamy frowned. “Really? What made you choose child advocacy instead of following in your dad’s footsteps?”

Bruce started, but Olivia reached out her hand in his direction. “It’s okay.” Clasping her hands together, Olivia regarded each of the young faces.

“When I was ten-years-old, my family was involved a very bad car accident.”

Pat returned to his seat and Shaun made no move to leave.

“M-my father was killed instantly. My mom and I suffered serious injuries. She was in a coma twice. We’d been taken to different hospitals, and I didn’t know how she was…or get to s-see her…”

Bruce had to stop her.

“Sweetness, may-…”

“It’s okay, Bruce. I’m okay.”

Casey looked from Olivia to her father, the term of endearment not lost on her.

Olivia took a deep breath to settle herself before continuing.

“When I was well enough to be discharged, my mother was still in a coma. We had no other family, so I was put into temporary foster care.”

Casey’s gasp was the only sound in the room. Pat glanced at his father, while Shaun slid down in his seat and Breck stared down at the table surface, his features marred by anguish.

“I can tell by your reactions, you know a little something about foster care. It’s not a death sentence, but it’s no walk in the park either. But I did get to go home a few months later. My mom was weak but her physical injuries were healing.” Olivia stared at her clasped hands. “Her mind was another story.”

“What happened, Olivia?” Casey question was soft and whisper-like.

“I didn’t understand it at the time, but my mother was losing touch with reality… a day at a time. Not to mention, her mental issues were hindering her full recovery from the injuries she suffered. Her doctors decided she needed care she couldn’t get at home and admitted her to a private mental facility.”

“And you went back to foster care.” It was a statement, not a question uttered by the youngest Bellamy.

Olivia nodded.

“But you went to college… and law school. You’re successful, right? Your mom got well and came back, right?”

Olivia Chandler’s jaws tightened for a fraction of a second before she raised her head and answered Casey.

“No. My mother is still in that facility.”

 

©Felicia Denise 2017

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Time for Dessert #WritingChallenge


Dinner Table

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 40
Another snippet from the upcoming Family Matters. Olivia Chandler and Casey Bellamy have a quiet moment together while preparing dessert. REALLY trying to finish this WIP!

“I can’t tell you how surprised I am at Breck. We don’t get to see him so animated often.”

Casey passed a dessert dish to Olivia as they prepared plates in the kitchen.

“I don’t understand, Casey. What do you mean?”

“Well, you’ve seen how no one in this family has trouble speaking up. Except for my baby brother. He’s the shy one. The Introvert.”

Olivia smiled. “But he doesn’t miss much, does he?”

“Not a thing. Shaun thinks when Breck is quiet he’s writing screenplays in his head… about us.”

“Uh, oh.”

“I know, right? My family on the big screen? It would be slapstick for sure.”

Shaking her head and laughing, Olivia grabbed the serving tray and stacked three plates on it. When she turned for more, Casey wasn’t dishing up more plates. She was staring at Olivia.

“Is something wrong, Casey?”

“It’s because of you. You know that, right? Breck being comfortable enough with you to open up?”

“Oh, honey. I’m flattered, but I’ve only been here for an afternoon. Maybe Breck is just happy to have his family together.”

“I don’t think so, Olivia. We’re a busy lot, but we’re together at some point at least once a week. Breck is always quiet. It’s you.”

Olivia opened her mouth to respond, but Casey continued.

“You work with children, right? You’re a child-advocate attorney?”

“Yes, but-…”

“And the children you work with… they never have difficulty talking to you… opening up to you, do they?”

“Well, no, but-…”

“I didn’t think so. I’m sure you’ve had your share of worst-case scenarios, but for the most part, children can sense you’re genuine. Not trying to scam or trick them. I believe Breck senses that too.”

Children deserve to hear the truth, no matter how painful. Lies only build mistrust or worse… cause children to blame themselves.” Olivia turned away and squeezed her eyes shut, blocking out a memory.

Casey reached out, touching Olivia’s arm.

“Where did you go, Olivia? You okay?”

Returning her gaze to Casey, Olivia smiled. “I am. Thank you for-”

Olivia’s words faded as both women looked towards the kitchen door.

“Des-sert! Des-sert! Des-sert!”

Casey Bellamy giggled at Olivia’s wide-eyed expression then quickly filled the remaining plates.

“Seriously, Casey? Chanting? Are they in the dining room or cell-block D?”

Chuckling, Casey loaded the plates onto the tray and backed toward the door. Olivia lifted the tray and followed her.

“You should be honored, Olivia. They’re on their best behavior.” She pushed the door open for Olivia and stood to the side. “At least there hasn’t been a food fight.”

Olivia froze mid-step, a horrified look on her face.

Casey laughed harder.

©Felicia Denise 2017