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A Time To Write

I wear dual hats, writer, author, and publisher. It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned and continue to acquire new knowledge in this ever-changing industry of publishing. When I write, I can’t wear my ‘work’ hat, it ruins creativity. And when I work, I can’t write. It’s not unusual for hundreds of manuscripts to end up in my inbox. If I choose to send them out for review, that will be the deciding factor if we take them on. I see a lot of pieces, and we have talented award-winning authors on our label, but I can honestly say few pieces are written as beautifully as 50 HOURS by Loree Lough, and that is the truth.

50 HOURS

FRANCO ALLESSI is a broken, lonely man who wants nothing more than to outrun the ghosts of his past. For years, he tries to numb the pain of his wife’s death with cheap beer and whiskey. When he’s convicted of drunk driving, the judge revokes his license for six months and orders him to serve fifty hours of community service. Franco chooses Savannah Falls Hospice for his community service, for no reason other than it’s walking distance from his dilapidated house trailer.

On his first day on the job, he meets AUBREY BREWER, a woman whose time on earth is quickly ticking to a stop. Their unusual connection teaches powerful, life-changing lessons about friendship, acceptance, and the importance of appreciating that precious treasure called life.

Now, the endorsements (we have too many to list) for this book speak for themselves; I get it, it deserves every one of them. Catherine Lanigan, Author of Romancing the Stone, The Jewel of the Nile, and over forty-five novels and non-fiction, said, “I defy anyone to start the beautifully written 50 Hours and to put it down or to go on with their own lives as they had before reading about the remarkable, emotional and insightful relationship between dying Aubrey and the lost Franco. As a recent widow myself, the strength, humor and respect between the main characters shot close to home, but delivered so much hope and love that even as I march forward to tomorrow, my perspective has altered—all to the positive. In her last days in this life, Aubrey finally lives out the dreams she’s been too browbeaten by her mother and ex-husband to accomplish. She can only do this with help from Franco, who risks imprisonment to see her wish come true. Emerson said, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.” Aubrey and Franco succeeded. Believe me when I say, THIS IS THE KIND OF BOOK THAT WINS PULITZER PRIZES. “

The main character, Aubrey, is ill, that silent killer, cancer. Cancer destroys or touches too many families in the world, let alone our country. My mom died of cancer, too young, but once diagnosed she didn’t last long. When I read the book 50 HOURS it was inevitable, I was reminded of what she went through and what we went through as a family. But I’ve always wondered what she was thinking, secretly, when she wasn’t trying to put our minds at ease.

Aubrey, a character of strength, hope, determination and sharp wit, dares you to take her journey with her and see and feel what she’s feeling through her eyes. But not in an emotional roller-coaster draining sort of way. She is the perfect definition of courage. Fearless at times, vulnerable at others, but always positive and selfless. She helps Franco, the recovering alcoholic serving time in the form of community service, who inadvertently helps her. Together, they’re the perfect team. Knowing what I know, about cancer, having experienced it with my family, it was touching to read it through Aubrey’s point of view. To take her walk with her, the walk. Knowing the diagnosis and how Aubrey really felt at times, was insightful. I think my mom, like many sufferers, think of those around them most. I was able to ‘see and feel’ things through Aubrey’s eyes.

It is undeniable that authors often bond with their characters while creating them; after all, it takes time and energy to develop fictional beings that a mass audience can relate to in the novels. When they tackle subjects that affect millions of people daily, be it illness, death, addiction, poverty, etc., it’s not unusual for authors to conduct extensive research to ensure the accuracy of the details that they write. Back stories, depth, facts, characteristics, and ultimately the feelings that bounce of the paper and touch people, emotions, must be believable. However, it is shocking when life unexpectantly imitates art. I was stunned, but can’t even begin to imagine what Loree must have felt, when I found out that the she, the author, was diagnosed with the illness that her character had while writing the novel.

The research that she was conducting to develop her character, Loree was suddenly applying to herself. Aubrey, the character terminally ill, and now the author, Loree Lough, found themselves in the same position. Healthy when commissioned to write; diagnosed while half-way through the novel. She was living out Aubrey’s nightmare. Surely it was impossible to divide the two emotionally at times. How did that happen and why? I can’t even begin to fathom it.

Multiple Myeloma, incurable bone/marrow cancer. I can barely say the words, and I couldn’t even begin to imagine completing the novel as beautifully as she did, knowing what all she had endured. Talk about a time to write. How did she do it?! A time to write. Writing from within; seamlessly, and beautifully as one with Aubrey at times.

It is no wonder that Aubrey leaps off the pages and into your heart. Loree’s heart and soul can be found in between the lines. This novel will touch people not just because of the terminal illness, but because of the life-lessons that Aubrey teaches Franco and Franco inadvertently teaches Aubrey. Inspiring hope in the midst of despair, reminding us of what is truly important in life. I honestly believe that this novel was meant to be written and meant to be written by Loree and shared. The screenplay had been stashed for years. Pulled out. Re-filed. Why now?

Loree Lough’s 50 HOURS is a poignant story that reminds us how precious life is, especially if our world has been turned upside down by cancer. But don’t be fooled: This novel will leave readers feeling hopeful, no matter how hard the dreaded disease has hit them. ~Jack Watts, award-winning author of 16 books, including “The Moon” series and Creating Trump Nation.

Loree has graciously discussed her treatments, some experimental, some traditional, and is willing to visit openly about her diagnosis, treatment, and the development of Aubrey (character), and this novel. She can be contacted via social media, her website or right here: contact@progressiverisingphoenix.com

A portion of Loree’s royalties from her 100’s of best-selling novels, go toward cancer research and other charitable organizations.

 

Amanda M. Thrasher

50 HOURS 

Loree Lough

 

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Dellani Oakes, Sea of Destiny

Sea of Destiny – Conclusion

sea of destiny cover “In a bold move that shocked high society, billionaire heiress, Emily Geraci married a little known dance instructor, M. Kyle Scott of Orlando. Scott is the son of former dance instructor, Amy (Jerome) Scott of Tampa and the late Michael K. Scott. The wedding was held at the Davenport Dance Studio in Orlando. Among the guests were the dance instructors, Scott’s former co-workers from The Webster Agency, students from the Davenport Studio and members of the crew of Ms. Geraci’s ship, The Serendipity.

The bride was attended by Miss Vera Stapleton of Cocoa Beach. And Ms. Carmelita Porter of Orlando. The groom was attended by his brother, Christopher Scott of Key West, and his son, Randall. The Reverend Daniel Burke officiated.

The reception followed aboard Ms. Geraci’s ship, The Serendipity. The couple will honeymoon in Cancun, Cozumel and Belize. Upon returning to the States, the family will reside in Orlando.”

Kyle read aloud from the Orlando Sentinel. “Look, Emily, we rated page one of the wedding section.” Kyle tossed the paper down on the bed before following it, to lie on his back in front of his wife. “Have I told you this morning how much I love you?”

“Several times just moments ago,” she giggled, popping him with a pillow.

“Oh, hit me again, baby!”

“Did I marry a closet masochist?”

“Yeah, into bondage.” He replied in a gruff, teasing tone. “I’m completely trapped in your eyes and tied up in your love.”

“Shut up and kiss me, bondage boy.”

Her lips were descending on his when the door to their suite flew open and Mindy flung herself on her father’s lap.

“Rosie’s cryin’, Daddy.”

“Where’s Vera?”

“Her’s seepin’.”

“Honey, when Rose cries, Vera will take care of her. That’s her job now, honey.”

“Okay!” She squished her father’s face, puckering his lips. “I wuv you, Daddy!”

Emily got the same treatment. “I wuv you, Emily!”

“I love you too, sweetie. Now go on out so Daddy and I can get a shower.”

“You gonna come play with me?”

“I about an hour, honey,” her father replied.

“Okay. I’ll come get you in an hour.”

“How about two?”

“Daddy!” Mindy looked disgusted, hand on hip. “Who’s gonna play wif me?”

“Wake your brother.”

“Okay!” She bounced out.

Kyle locked the door behind her, barricading it with a heavy table. “We have to be quick, my bondage queen! The pixie princess will be back soon unless her brother can occupy her.”

“Was it a mistake bringing the family with us?”

“Could you be separated from them for a minute?”

She giggled, shaking her head.

“Me either. I love you, Emily Geraci-Scott.”

“Shut up, Kyle, and kiss me.”

THE END

© Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

Dellani Oakes, Sea of Destiny

Sea of Destiny – Part 55

sea of destiny coverKyle quits his advertising job, and works as a dance instructor. One day between classes, Emily arrives. With his baby daughter, Rose.

“Vera didn’t want to keep her. She hasn’t got room for a baby in her life, so I offered to adopt her. Because she’s a part of you, Kyle, I kept her.”

“She’s beautiful, Emily.”

“She’s ours, Kyle.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I figured out what I want out of life, my new life because of your father. I want you, if you’ll have me. I love your kids and I love you and….”

He took her in his arms, kissing her deeply, trying not to squash the baby between them. She cried in protest, wiggling between their chests. Laughing, Kyle pulled back the blanket, gazing into her astonishing blue eyes.

“What’s her middle name?”

“Nadia.” She emphasized the second syllable. “It means hope.”

“Rose Nadia,” he repeated solemnly. “Everyone!” He clapped his hands sharply, getting their attention. “I want you to meet someone. Emily Geraci, I’d like you to meet my salsa students. Emily is a former student. The best I ever taught.” He glanced at her, eyes twinkling.

“And I’d like to introduce you to the newest member of our dance family. My daughter, Rose Nadia.”

It took nearly three minutes for them to stop cheering. Kyle stood with Emily, accepting the congratulations of his students. Attracted by the noise, his co-workers came in to see what was going on. Soon, nearly everyone in the studio knew about Emily and Rose. His daughters were next door in ballet and came over to see their new baby sister.

“But where did she come from?” Mindy asked, squinting at the baby.

“I’ll explain later, honey. Isn’t she pretty?” Kyle said.

“But I’m ‘posed to be the baby, Daddy.”

“Now you’re the big sister. What do you think of that?”

“I dunno. I guess that’s okay.”

“Way to go, Dad.” Cindy teased him. “So this is what you were up to the night you didn’t come back to the ship?”

“Like I’d tell you.”

She nudged him. “Naughty boy!”

“Just don’t you bring one of these home anytime soon.”

“Gawd, Dad! Yuck!” She took Mindy and went back to ballet class.

Kyle carried Rose around the studio showing her to everyone, accepting their compliments and congratulations. Finally, after all he’d been through, everything was coming together. He felt like he was walking on air, floating a mile above the ground.

Emily watched him work the room, her eyes glowing. Cindy came back into the classroom after ballet, carrying her workout bag. She flopped down on a chair next to Emily.

“So, you and Dad getting married?”

“If he wants me.”

If? You even need to dignify that stupid statement with a response?”

“He hasn’t officially asked me yet.” Emily laughed, hugging Cindy. “Would that be alright with you?”

“Yeah! He needs to be happy, Emily. Being with you was the happiest he’s been in ages. Being without you, that’s the most miserable I’ve ever seen him. Even after Mom died.”

“Is he enjoying what he’s doing?”

“He loves it. He goes to work and comes home smiling. He never did that at the office. This is where his heart is.”

She watched Emily watch her father for a moment. Making a sudden decision, she leaned over to the CD player, pushing the play button. A slow love song by Faith Hill started playing. Cindy pirouetted to her father’s side, taking the baby from him. With a gentle shove, she pushed him across the room to Emily. He held out his hand and she took it as the music wrapped around them.

Kyle and Emily danced together as if they had done it all their lives. Gradually, the other instructors and the students joined them, dancing as Faith Hill sang Breathe. The last notes of the song ended. Kyle leaned over, kissing Emily, holding her close.

“Marry me,” he whispered.

“Of course,” she replied.

© Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

Dellani Oakes, Sea of Destiny

Sea of Destiny by Dellani Oakes – Part 54

sea of destiny coverKyle comes home to find out that Carmelita and the children have a surprise party for him. He’d forgotten his birthday entirely. Not only that, his friends and co-workers are there, as well as his brother. Chris makes a rather off-color comment to Carmelita.

“Oh, you think so, huh? You think you’re enough man for Lita?”

“I know I am. I’ve got all you need right here.” He grabbed his pants.

Carmelita eyed him speculatively. “Maybe so, sugar. But do you really think you need to be educating your brother’s children at their tender ages?”

“Um… I’m guessing the right answer is no?”

She leaned over, kissing him on the lips. “That’s correct.”

The party broke up around midnight. Mindy was asleep on the couch, curled up with Slycarp the cat. Kyle carried her up to bed while Chris helped Carmelita clean up.

“This was a good thing you did, Lita. He needed this right now.”

“How did the meeting with your dad go?”

“Not great. I’d say it was epically bad.”

“That’s a shame.”

“Cheese it, Pinky, the cops.” Chris said in a funny gangster voice.

“You’re talking about me. My ears are burning.”

“Course we are. It’s your birthday. You’re the topic of the day.”

“Let’s change the topic. I need a beer.”

“Doesn’t someone have to work tomorrow?”

“No. I talked to Web. I’m extending my leave of absence.”

“You are? Mr. Type A, workaholic is taking personal leave? Why?”

Kyle popped open a beer, handing it to his brother. Opening another for himself, he took a long pull on it before he said anything more than “Drink.”

“What’s wrong, baby? Something’s preying on your mind.”

“I got a call just before coming back here. Mom called from the home.”

“Is she okay?”

She’s fine. Dad’s gone, Chris. He died this morning.”

His brother downed the bottle of beer, asking for another. Together, they got progressively drunk. Lita kept them supplied with bottles and helped them to bed when they got too unsteady to stand.

Kyle was less wasted than his brother, so he helped take Chris to bed, then stumbled to his own. As he walked out the door, he saw Carmelita lean over and kiss his brother on the lips.

“Sleep well, baby. Maybe next time you can rock Carmelita’s world.” She tucked the blankets around him, turning out the light as she left.

* * *

Days passed, flowing calmly into weeks, drifting into months. After his father’s memorial service, Kyle tendered his resignation. He’d been toying with the idea of starting his own dance studio, setting that in motion backed by his former advertising clients. Until that came to fruition, he worked full time at the dance studio where his girls took ballet. He taught jazz, tap, ballroom dancing and salsa. Building up a clientele, he was establishing himself as one of the best adult dance instructors in the Orlando area.

He was between classes, preparing for his Latin dance class when the door opened and a dark haired woman walked in holding something in her arms. Kyle was facing the mirror taking a drink from his water bottle when he caught a glimpse of her. Something about her smile and the way she held herself was familiar.

“Emily?” He spun around, nearly losing his balance. “What are you doing here?”

“I brought someone to see you.”

The bundle in her arms moved, gurgling. He covered the distance faster than he would have thought possible.

“I’ve named her Rose,” she smiled up at him. “Isn’t she beautiful?”

“She’s gorgeous. I don’t understand. What are you doing here? Why did you bring a baby?”

“Can someone else take your class for a few minutes?”

“I don’t know. I guess….” He spoke briefly to his partner who got the class warming up while he took Emily outside.

“Tell me about Rose.”

“She’s your daughter.”

“My—my what?”

“The night you spent with Vera. Yes, I know it was her. It’s okay.” She stopped him before he could apologize. “Grief makes us do stupid things and God knows you’d already had more than your share. Vera found out she was pregnant and came to me wondering what to do. Because you and I were friends….” She faltered, her gaze dropping.

“Emily, I’m so sorry….”

© Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

Dellani Oakes, Sea of Destiny

Sea of Destiny by Dellani Oakes – Part 53

sea of destiny coverAs Kyle gets home, he receives a call from his mother that his father is dead. She insists that he talk to the woman from the nursing home, in order to make a decision for disposition of remains.

“That’s it? You can’t just assign his body to someone?”

“Usually the family likes to decide. When someone passes….”

“He’s dead, Marjorie. It really doesn’t matter. Eenie meenie minie mo.”

She laughed nervously. “I’m sorry?”

“Pick one. Put my mother back on.”

“Yes, of course.” She sounded puzzled and somewhat disgusted.

“Sonny? When are you coming back down?”

“I’m not, Mom. You’re going to have to do this by yourself. I can’t be any part of this.”

“But someone has to decide….”

You decide. I hardly knew the man. The short time I did know him, I didn’t like him much.”

“Michael Kyle, he was your father!”

“Don’t call me Michael. And don’t try to guilt me into this. I’ll come for a memorial service, but I’m not deciding any of this.”

“You’re being harsh, Kyle.”

“No, ma’am. I’m finally being my own man. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend time with my family.” He hung up.

The house was abnormally quiet. Usually by now Mindy had run screaming down the stairs, flinging herself at his legs.

“Carmelita? Kids?” He walked through the entire house, calling and listening.

Puzzled, he thought he saw someone in Carmelita’s apartment that sat perpendicular to the back of the house. Figuring it was the one place he hadn’t looked, he tapped on the door. Trying the knob, it wasn’t locked. Pushing it open, he called Carmelita and the children again. Thinking he heard a noise, he walked further in.

“Surprise!!” They jumped at him from every imaginable hiding place.

Not only were Carmelita and the children there, but all his friends and coworkers. Laughing, he picked up Mindy who was finally attacking his knees.

“Wow, to what do I owe this honor?”

“It’s your birfday, Daddy!”

“Silly Daddy,” Cindy kissed him.

“God, Dad, can’t even remember your own birthday? You are getting old.” Randy punched his father on the arm thirty-four times.

“Did we surprise you, Daddy?”

“You did, munchkin. I thought you’d left me for a better looking dad.”

“You’re the handsomest daddy ever! I’m never leaving you.”

“Thank you, princess.”

She mashed his lips together, giving him a big kiss.

Carmelita had outdone herself with the meal. She’d prepared all his favorites: lasagna, Caesar salad, and homemade garlic bread. The others had brought their specialty dishes just like a potluck dinner. Web presented him with a case of his favorite wine and a new, very fancy pneumatic bottle opener. To properly initiate the opener, they used it on a bottle of his birthday wine.

“You’ll notice, my friends, that every bottle is from 1978, exactly the same age as our esteemed birthday boy.”

“Great year for both wines and boys,” Kyle quipped as he took a sip. “Damn, that’s good! Thank you, Web. Thanks everyone. This is the best birthday ever.”

He couldn’t remember his birthday from last year. It fell in the middle of one of Margo’s chemo sessions and he had forgotten it until he got a notice that his driver’s license had expired.

They were just sitting down to dinner when Chris walked in grinning like crazy.

“You knew too?”

“Sure I knew. Mindy called me, didn’t you, Princess?”

“Uncle Chris!” She launched herself at him, swinging from his forearm. “You came!”

“I told you I would, sweetie. I had to make it look good for Dad. Had to fool him.”

“You’re a sneak, kid.”

“Hell yeah, sneak. Pass me a beer, Bruno.” He said to Randy. “Lita, I’m staying with you tonight. Any woman who cooks like you do needs me in her life.”

“Oh, you think so, huh? You think you’re enough man for Lita?”

“I know I am. I’ve got all you need right here.” He grabbed his pants.

© Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

Dellani Oakes, Sea of Destiny

Sea of Destiny by Dellani Oakes – Part 52

sea of destiny coverChris runs out of the building, followed by Kyle. Chris’ anger brings on an asthma attack and he has no inhaler, but the nursing home gives him a breathing treatment.

“Someone should tell his family,” the nurse said.

“I will,” Kyle said. “I’m in the way.”

He strolled down to his father’s room. He could hear his parents laughing and chatting quietly. Leaning in the doorway, he cleared his throat.

“Chris is having an asthma attack. First he’s had in fifteen years. It’s okay, don’t bother to get up, the doctor and nurse are treating him and he’ll be right as rain in a few minutes. Meanwhile, what can we chat about that makes us feel like a family for a little while before Daddy kicks off?” His voice was calm, his tone cold. The fury building in him dissipated suddenly, leaving him lightheaded.

“I’m sorry you two couldn’t work out your problems. I’m sorry that car hit me. The brakes on my bike didn’t work and I couldn’t stop. I remember that now. It’s too bad you left, Mike. You missed some good years. You missed meeting my wife, who was a truly remarkable woman. You weren’t there when our children were born, you weren’t at her funeral. You left a hole in our lives for a few years, but you’ve got a bigger one in yours. I don’t want the bullshit about how Mom didn’t want you around or you had to learn to control your gifts.

“You couldn’t handle working at some boring, shitty job for the rest of your life. You couldn’t deal with the responsibilities of being a husband and father. Now you’re laying your death at our feet. Poor pitiful you, sacrificed yourself for others. Well, what about my sacrifices? Or Christopher’s? I forgive you, old man, since that’s what you want. I forgive you because it’s pointless to be angry with an emotional cripple.” He headed out the door, then turned to address his mother. “Mom, I love you. Take a cab back to the hotel. I’m taking Chris and we’re leaving.”

“So much for me being strong for you, huh?” Chris laughed weakly as they headed back to their room.

“None of us anticipated how hard that would be,” Kyle said.

“You did. You fucking knew already and you didn’t say.”

“I already went through it once. Look how well I handled it. How do I prepare you for something like that?”

“I dunno.”

“If I’m ever like that with my kids, you have my permission to shoot me.”

“You never would. But can’t I shoot you anyway?”

“Nice, I’m feeling the love.”

“I need a beer.”

“No way. You just had an asthma attack. I’m not letting you drink beer.”

“Spoil sport.”

“Dipshit.”

* * *

Kyle drove home the next day feeling better about his life than he had in a very long time. True, he still wasn’t back with Emily, but he held out hope that they could work it out. He had to hope that Mike was right, they were meant to be together. Despite his short comings, he did have a little bit of an inside track. Kyle was just walking in the door when his phone rang. Digging it out of his pocket, he saw a number he didn’t recognize.

“Hello?”

“Sonny?” It was his mother. She sounded terrible.

“Yeah. What’s wrong, Mom?”

“It’s your father, Sonny. The home called me a little while ago. He died this morning.”

His fingers went numb. Dropping his bag, he had to hang onto the back of the couch, clutching his phone so as not to drop it too.

“They want to know what to do with—with him. I didn’t know. I just can’t decide….”

“Listen, Mom. Someone at the home should have papers.”

“Can you please talk to them? There’s a lady here. I’m at the home right now.”

“Sure, Mom. Put her on.” He sighed resignedly.

“Mr. Scott? This is Marjorie Cunningham at St. Matthew’s.”

“Ms. Cunningham, I just walked in my front door. What do you need from me?”

“Your mother is very distraught, Mr. Scott.”

“I got that. What decisions need to be made? Surely he had some kind of will or a letter of intent?”

“Yes, we have that on file.”

“Then what do you need from me?”

“He wanted to be cremated. We need to know which facility to send him to for preparation.”

© Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

Dellani Oakes, Sea of Destiny

Sea of Destiny – Part 51 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverAs Kyle anticipated, the meeting with their father is emotional for their mom and shocking for Chris.

Kyle moved a chair behind his mother, helping her sit. He and Chris also took chairs near their mother, several feet from their father. Mike held out his hand to his younger son.

“Pleased to meet you, son. You look much like I remember. Only you lost that baby fat.” His blue eyes sparkled with tears, but he blinked them away. “One of the girls will bring tea shortly. I’m not allowed coffee these days.” He coughed. It was a deep, rattling, raspy sound. Grabbing a tissue, he held it over his mouth.

Kyle offered him a sip of water, which he accepted with a nod of thanks.

“You look a lot worse than you did a month ago.”

“Time catching up with me. How is Emily?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her. She and I went our separate ways.”

“That’s a shame. You two belong together.”

“You’re an expert on relationships now?”

“No. And expert on Emily. Once I heal someone—a part of them belongs to me for a time. At least that’s how I explain it. I see into their hearts for awhile. She cares about you.”

“Apparently not as much as we hoped.”

“What happened hurt her.”

“Yeah, well you’d decidedly be an expert on that.”

“Kyle Scott, you apologize to your father!” His mother entered the conversation in a shrill voice. “That wasn’t nice.”

“It’s alright, Amy. Let the boy say what he needs to. I didn’t expect—this to be easy.”

“What did you expect?” Chris asked.

Mike laughed softly, ending in another cough. “I don’t know. Boys, I know what I did was harsh, callous—but I couldn’t put the call off any longer. When I healed Kyle, my gifts burst free like the Fourth of July. There was this incredible fireworks display inside me and I had to learn to control it. I also knew I had to be in a position to share it with as many people as I could. I couldn’t do that selling life insurance.”

“Why didn’t you ever come by? Or call?” Chris asked. “You could have done something.”

“Your mother didn’t want me around. She made that very clear.”

“And you were in the habit of doing whatever she said?” He made a rude noise, rolling his eyes.

“I knew I couldn’t continue to be a husband and father. It was the worst decision I ever had to make.”

“And the most selfish,” Kyle added caustically. “And you accuse our mother of being selfish. I’d say annulling your marriage to become a priest takes the cake on selfish.”

“Kyle always put everyone else first,” Chris said to his parents. “When you left, he took care of us. He was seven—seven! He took better care of me my whole life than either of you. I’m truly sorry you’re dying, Mike. I bet you were a real special guy. But the fact is, the only person I feel sorry for in this room is my brother. So save your apologies and your platitudes, cause it makes no difference now. He’s screwed, you’re dying and Mom’s a basket case.”

“What about you?”

“Me? My problem is I can’t commit to a relationship longer than six months, my track record to date, because I’m afraid I’ll end up like my parents. So you’re selfish, she’s controlling and I’m dysfunctional. It totally sucks that the only reason you’re contacting us now is because you’re about to die. Did it occur to you that maybe we’d have liked to meet you a long time ago? What good are you now? What the hell good are you?” Angry, he left the room, nearly knocking over the woman with the tea.

Kyle followed him, running after his brother. Chris barreled out the front door, stopping several feet from the door. He was crying, his body heaving and convulsing with the violence of his tears. Kyle caught up with him, helping him to a nearby bench. A statue of St. Francis stood silent vigil over the shady retreat.

“Shh, calm down, Chris. You’re gonna hyperventilate. Have you got an inhaler with you?”

“N—no.” He hiccuped, gasping. “Can’t—can’t br….”

The receptionist poked her head out the door. She’d seen them run out and thought she should check on them. Kyle bellowed at her to get help.

“He’s asthmatic.”

Moments later a doctor and a nurse were outside with a wheelchair. They took him inside, giving him a breathing treatment.

© Dellani Oakes

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Cereal Authors, Dellani Oakes, Sea of Destiny

Sea of Destiny – Part 50 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverKyle has a long talk with his brother, who continues to be unmoved by their father’s illness or presence. After lunch, they head upstairs, when Mindy calls. She asks to speak to Chris.

Kyle handed his phone to Chris.

“Hey, princess. How’s my favorite five year old niece?”

“You’re so silly. I’m your only five year old niece. You’re as crazy as Daddy.”

“Not yet. Daddy’s old.”

“He’s not old! Nona’s old.”

Chris sputtered, wiping the phone where he spit on it. “Don’t let her hear you say that. She’ll cut your hair.”

“No, she won’t. Her likes my curls.”

“She does? Maybe she wants to make a wig so she’ll look younger.”

“Stop that!” Kyle snatched the phone, covering it with his fist. “She doesn’t need more nightmare material. Nona won’t really cut your hair off to make a wig,” he assured his daughter. “But Daddy’s going to shave Uncle Chris bald and toss him in the ocean and make a buoy out of him.”

“Why are you gonna make him a boy?”

“Don’t worry about it, baby. What did you have for dinner?”

“Lita fixed Mexican mac and cheese.”

“Mexican mac and cheese? What’s that?”

“I don’t know, but it was yummy. When are you gonna come home?”

“I told you, I’ll be leaving here Sunday.”

“Are you gonna see Miss Emily while you’re gone?”

“I don’t think so, baby.”

“I like Miss Emily.”

“Me too, Mindy. I need to go now, sweetie. Love and kisses to everyone.”

“Even Randy?”

“Even Randy.”

She giggled, making kissing noises in the phone. “Silly Daddy!” She hung up, still laughing.

“That kid is far too precocious for our good, Kyle.”

“No kidding? You’re an expert on my kids now?”

For a reply, Chris punched him in the arm.

The brothers stayed up late talking over old times. It had been years since they’d had a good bitch and bull session, so they used the time to their advantage. They had a lot of things to talk about before they saw their mother. As much as they loved her, they could only tolerate her in very small doses.

“You know she’s gonna fall completely to pieces, right?” Chris said the next morning as they were getting dressed for their visit.

“Yeah. Already anticipated that.” Kyle pulled three clean handkerchiefs from his pocket.

“I’m here for ya, bro.” Chris produced three more with a smirk.

Their mother arrived in a perfumed, fluttering pink cloud. Her dress had more frills and ruffles than either man had ever seen on one garment.

“She looks like a piñata,” Chris whispered.

“I was thinking a peony or crepe myrtle.”

Either way, she was very pink and frilly. Chris drove Amy’s car to the retirement center where their father had come to live his last days. It was beautifully laid out like an old Spanish cloister complete with a chapel and mission bell. Inside, it smelled of antiseptic and incense. A nurse’s aid led them to Michael’s room, tapping on the door before opening it.

“Father Mike, your family is here.”

“Come in,” came the feeble reply.

Kyle was appalled by the sight that met his eyes. Gone was the robust man he’d seen in Mexico. This man looked ready to drop any second. He was seated in a low rocker with a hand carved rosary clutched in one hand. Candles burned on a small alter as well as a stick of fragrant incense. He smiled, holding out his hands to Amy.

“You look beautiful, Amy. Just as lovely as I remembered.”

Amy burst into tears as she walked across to take his hands. Squatting gracefully at his feet, she laid her head on his lap. He patted her blonde curls absently, his lips moving silently as she wept. Kyle followed with a handkerchief, but Chris hung back.

“Father Mike, I want to introduce you to my brother. Chris, this is Father Michael Scott.” He thought meeting him in an impersonal way would make it easier for his brother to handle.

Even though he was prepared for the meeting, Chris was stunned. This was his father. The man who had given him life. A complete stranger. Wrestling with himself, he forced a smile.

“Hi,” he gasped, walking stiffly forward.

© Dellani Oakes

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Sea of Destiny – Part 49 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverKyle and Chris meet up in Miami the day before their mother’s arrival, to talk about their father. Chris says he doesn’t care about the man, but Kyle is still wary of how to break the news that their father is ill.

Chris tossed his duffel bag on one bed, flinging himself after it. “I need a beer and a burger. Can we get lunch while we talk?”

“Sure. Want to get it sent up?”

“Why bother?”

“I thought you might prefer to speak in private.”

“There you go acting all mysterious again. No, I’d like to sit in a proper restaurant, have beer on tap and talk to my favorite brother.”

“Only brother, dipshit.”

“There you go, spoiling my illusions of a large family.”

They went to the dining room and placed their orders before Kyle would tell Chris anything.

“Why all the mystery?”

Kyle signed heavily, wishing someone other than he was the one telling Chris all this. He went into detail. His younger brother’s analytical mind liked details. It was funny what he latched onto.

“Am I supposed to cry and raise a scene? I told you, I don’t remember the man.”

“When we see him tomorrow, could you pretend to care a little?”

“Not really. I’m doing this for you, not for Mom or him. You need me right now. I leaned on you my entire life, you fought my battles, took the blame ninety percent of the times I should have got my ass torn up. You’ve been brother, father and best friend my entire life, Kyle. Since Margo got sick, it’s been my time to let you lean on me. I can’t do shit else, big brother, but I can be here when you fall to pieces.”

“What makes you think I’m going to?”

“Dude, I’ve never seen you look so bad. No offense, but you didn’t even look this bad when Margo died. There’s too much on you right now. You need to get good and drunk and get laid.”

“Done that already, remember? Got me in worse trouble.”

“Well, you already screwed the pooch with that relationship. What does it matter now?”

“I’m trying to put it back together. I’m making progress.”

“How would she know?”

I’d know. Unlike you, baby brother, I have a few moral standards.”

“Yeah, that’s why you knocked up Margo before you were married and cheated on Emily. Right. Morals.”

Kyle was furious. He felt the flush of anger rise from his chest, up his neck, making his ears burn. Chris didn’t miss it, he chose to ignore it. He knew he’d pissed off his brother. Since he was speaking the truth as he saw it, he felt no remorse.

“I married her, didn’t I?”

“When Mom insisted.”

“I’d already decided. Telling Mom was a courtesy.”

“She didn’t see it that way. She saw it as you slapping her in the face because she was pregnant when she and Dad got married.”

“At the time, I didn’t know that.”

“How could you not? I knew that from the time I was tiny.”

“I didn’t remember. After my accident, a lot of pieces didn’t fit anymore.”

“What accident?”

“On my bike. I got hit by a car and almost died.”

“Oh. I’d forgotten that. I was what, two, three?”

“Three, not quite four. It was right before Dad left. It’s the reason he left.”

“Because you got hit by a car? That makes sense.” Chris took a swig of his beer.

“Because Mom wouldn’t let him see me. She wouldn’t let him try to heal me.”

That took some explaining. Somehow, Chris’ brilliant mind had managed to miss the fact that their father was a faith healer. Because he didn’t believe in it, of course it couldn’t exist. It was one of the things Kyle really disliked about his little brother.

Kyle’s phone rang as they got on the elevator. It was Mindy. “Hey, baby.”

“Daddy, when are you gonna be home?”

“Day after tomorrow.”

“Is Uncle Chris with you?”

“Yes, he is. He’s standing next to me in the elevator.”

“He is? For real?”

“Yup. Want to talk to him?”

“Yes, yes!”

© Dellani Oakes

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Dellani Oakes, Sea of Destiny

Sea of Destiny – Part 48

sea of destiny coverOn his way to Miami to see his father, Kyle makes a detour and stops in West Palm Beach to see their old house, now a wreck from hurricane damage.

Standing with his hands in his pockets, he teased a section of the driveway with his toes, clearing the space. Two hand prints marked the driveway. His neat and clear, Chris’ scrunched, almost indiscernible as a hand. Their names and the date had been inscribed beneath, but it wasn’t their mother’s writing. “Christopher and Kyle June 5th, 1983.”

Kyle barely remembered that day. Their dad, so proud of the new house, had driven them over when the concrete was poured. The men let him make the prints and scratch the names in the concrete, laughing as the baby protested.

He snapped a photo of it with his cellphone. “We were happy then, weren’t we? Or did I just think that because I was five?”

He didn’t realize he’d spoken aloud except a elderly lady who was walking her dog, stopped to respond.

“You aren’t Mike and Amy’s boy, are you?”

“Yeah,” he grinned. “I’m Kyle, the older one.”

“I thought you looked familiar. How’s Amy doing?”

“She’s good. Mrs. Chambers, isn’t it?”

“Yes, what a good memory!”

“How could I forget the lady who made the best chocolate chip cookies in town?”

“Oh, you were always such a flatterer! Is Amy thinking of rebuilding?”

“No, Mrs. Chambers. She’s living in Tampa now. The insurance wouldn’t cover rebuilding.”

“The buggers screwed me over too. Luckily, my damage wasn’t as bad as hers. Whatever happened to you and your brother?”

He gave her the five minute rundown on his life and Chris’.

“Oh, I remember your wife. You lived with Amy for awhile.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“She was a pretty thing. Delicate though. How is she?”

“She passed a few months ago.”

“I’m so sorry! So young. Such a tragedy. Well, I’d better let you go. Tell Amy I said hello.”

“I sure will. Do you still make chocolate chip cookies?”

“I buy Famous Amos now. My arthritis is too bad.”

“It’s a pity. They were the best ever.” He hugged her carefully, wary of fragile bones, and got back in his car.

Mrs. Chambers waved to him as he drove away. He knew he should do something about that property. Like everything, his mother left it to others to decide. If nothing else, the debris needed to be cleared. It was completely unsafe the way it was now.

The remainder of his trip to Miami was spent in memories. He couldn’t say they were fond, but they weren’t all bad. Some of them were even pretty good. Once their mother got on her feet and their financial situation improved, life had been better than decent. Prior to seven years old, his memories were pretty shaky. He couldn’t remember much before his accident, just flashes. Most of the major events he remembered were because someone had told him. Yet another reason why he didn’t remember his father. No one, especially not his mother, had reminded him.

He wondered if he had grandparents on that side of the family. His father had never taken the boys to see them and they had never visited. He assumed they were dead, but no one ever said. A little over an hour later, he pulled up at their hotel and checked in. Chris wasn’t there yet, but his cellphone rang five minutes later. Chris let him know that he’d just pulled into the parking lot.

Kyle met his younger brother in the lobby, hugging him tightly. Chris rabbit punched him in the ribs to get him to let go.

“Chill, bro. Everyone’s gonna think we’re fags.”

“Don’t be paranoid. Who cares?”

“If some hot chick is checking me out, I don’t want her getting the wrong idea.”

“Most of the women here are close to a hundred. I don’t think you need to worry. Unless you’re into older women.”

“Older, not ancient.” He checked in and they rode up in the elevator together. “So, what’s the big mystery? Between you and Mom, I’ve gotten exactly no details. I get this command phone call to be here to meet our father, like I even have the leisure to take time off, and no one tells me anything.”

“Come in and get settled and we’ll talk about it.”

© Dellani Oakes

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