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A.J. Barretts


A.J. Barretts

Copyright 2018 A.J. Barretts

Smashwords edition

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Table of Contents

Learning to Live


Softly Falling Rain

Last Call

Thank you to everyone who has given me encouragement to write. To all of my family and friends who are like family to me:

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Learning to Live

Dedicated to the one who didn’t realize how special he truly was. Rest in peace, Angel of Mine.

Becca smiled at her brother because she felt she had to. They were sitting across from each other at his favorite mom and pop diner.

“So, you’ll be eighteen in five months and then you graduate high school. Any big plans for yourself?”

“Don’t worry James, I’ll be moving out as soon as I can.” She dunked a French fry in ranch dressing and popped it into her mouth.

“Don’t be that way. I’m not kicking you out so give yourself a chance to get your future secured before going out on your own.”

“I understand where you are coming from.” Becca said slowly while searching her plate for a perfect fry. “But you have to understand what I feel. Ever since mom and dad died I feel like a burden that stops you from moving on with your life.”

“You are my life, Becca. What kind of big brother would I be if I didn’t take care of you?” He reached over and took a fry. “I worry about you. You are a pretty girl and there are some twisted guys out there that would love to cause you harm. Before they died, mom and dad made me promise to keep you safe.”

“And you have, but I’m officially going to be an adult so I’m going to have to start taking care of myself.”

“Becca, we are not going to have this discussion again.”

James launched into the lecture she’d head over and over for the last five years. Becca pretended to pay attention while she really watched the other customers and nibbled her fries. A mother was fussing with her baby, an old man and woman sat together in a corner and there was a young man sitting with his back to her. Becca felt goose bumps raise on her arms as she got the strong sense she knew him. As if he knew she was looking at him, the young man turned and faced her. Becca froze with a fry half way to her mouth.

“Becca are you listening? Damn it!” James slammed his fist on the table top. “Becca? Becca! Someone call an ambulance!”


Becca sat on the couch staring at a blank white wall, her lips parted and drool making a shimmery line at the corner of her mouth. The doctor observing her through the window wondered how much she understood. No one had been able to break through her walls to find out what was going on in her head.

“Doctor, here is the chart you requested on Becca Chambers.” He waved distractedly at his assistant who set the chart down on the table in the observation room before backing out. Later he would apologize for being rude but at the moment he was too lost in thought to think of manners. Pulling the chart across the table, he sat where he could still observe Becca.

“Becca Chambers, female, white, seventeen years old, admitted to our facility three days ago.” He read the facts off the cover of the chart into his voice recorder. His assistant would type up this dictation later to add to the chart.

“She has no response to verbal commands, moves only when guided by a nurse. Staff regularly toilets patient to avoid incontinence. Patient has no known allergies and no recent trauma to explain her condition. Patient’s legal guardian, her brother, states Becca had an outburst in a restaurant resulting in her currant state.” He read, summing up the emergency departments admission notes. He turned off the recorder as he opened her chart to the in depth background information.


Becca knew something was wrong, but when Tanner looked up at her with those emerald green eyes she ceased caring. All she could see was him. His too large nose that ended at his full lips, the way his hair fell over his eyes for a brief moment before he gave a shake of his head to move it. Her heart began to pound and she wasn’t sure she could make herself breathe. Then he smiled at her, his whole face transformed with happiness. He motioned for her to sit next to him on the park bench. She wanted nothing more then to throw herself into his arms, kiss every inch of his face and neck while telling him how much she loved him. Her legs would not move.

Her heart was thudding painfully, her lungs burned from lack of oxygen and still she could not make herself breathe. She was terrified he would vanish if she blinked. Tears streamed down her cheeks as his smile slowly disappeared and his eyes changed from sparkling to tear filled. She took a shuddering breath.

“No!” She whispered. “Don’t leave me again. I love you.” Tanner held out his arms to her with a sad smile. This time she hurled herself into his open arms.

Tanner held Becca without saying a word; he stroked her hair as she sobbed into his chest. Was she awake or dreaming? Becca pushed the uncomfortable thoughts away and clung to Tanner desperately.

“Baby.” The sound of his voice startled her. It was so beautiful and yet she had forgotten the sound of it until this moment. “Please look at me Becca.”

“Don’t make me let you go, I can’t stand to go through it all again.” She was startled by the way his body jerked at her words. She raised her head so she could peer into his eyes and the hurt she found there sent a sharp stab of guilt through her. She tightened her grip on his shoulders.

“Don’t be sad, I can’t stand to see you in pain.” Her heart hadn’t stopped pounding since she had first laid eyes on Tanner, but now it sped up even more.

“I’m not sad for me; it’s you I feel bad for. I was selfish and cruel when I did what I did but I have been most generously forgiven. But you- you suffer so much because of me. I really want you to be happy, yet you won’t let go of the past and move on with your life.”

Her heart gave one last painful lurch before settling into a more normal rhythm. “You’re not staying are you?”

“We were never meant to be together, I just ended our relationship earlier than was planned. So no, I’m not able to stay but I do want to help you like you helped me.”

“But I didn’t.” Becca wailed. “Because of my cold-heartedness you killed yourself. I drove you to death!”

Tanner sat quietly, waiting while she pulled her thoughts together. He continued to stroke her hair gently while wild thoughts raced through her mind.

“Did you come to help me die?”

His hand froze and Becca peered at his face again which was contorted in horror. She didn’t know how to tell him she would follow him to her death if they could be together.

“I want you to live, Becca. I don’t just mean breathing and functioning, I want you to be able to experience life to its fullest like you used to. I want you to be happy, be angry, to love. I want you to be open to discovering yourself, who you truly are.”


The nurse was leading Becca back to her room, where she would help her into her night clothes, when Doctor Meyers stopped them.

“Julie, I heard Becca began talking today.” He assessed the blank look in Becca’s eyes before frowning.

“Well.” The nurse drew the word out. “She whispered, ‘I drove you to death’.”

“Any indication it’s connected to a traumatic experience?”

“Her brother is waiting in your office to talk to you. He says he might have some information that will help.” He raised an eyebrow in silent question. “I just sent him there. He heard Becca say ‘tanner’ and he turned white. I thought he was going to faint.”

With a quick word of thanks, Doctor Meyers hurried to his office. He was intrigued by Becca’s case and he hoped her brother could clear up some of the mysteries surrounding her.

“Doctor Meyers.” Becca’s brother’s tone was impatient.

“Nice to meet you.” He held out his hand which Becca’s brother ignored. Doctor Meyer let his hand fall back to his side after an uncomfortable moment. “I’m afraid I will not be able to discuss much of your sister’s condition with you.”

“And I am afraid you are mistaken. I am Becca’s legal guardian so I have every right to know every detail of her care.”

Doctor Meyers smiled and moved behind his desk. “Please, have a seat.”

“I’m not here to get chummy with you. I’m here to take my sister home.”

“ I have to advise against that.” Doctor Meyers sat down. “Your sister’s condition is quite unusual. I’m sorry but I will need to see some form of photo identification before I can discuss things any further. HIPPA laws demand it to insure patient privacy.”

He watched as Becca’s brother paled and then turned red as he dug a hand into his pocket. He threw his ID at Doctor Meyers and crossed his arms.

“Happy now?” He growled.

Doctor Meyers calmly looked at the ID and held it out. Becca’s brother radiated rage and he wasn’t about to let it show how much it rattled him.

“Thank you, Mr. Chambers. Now my nurse led me to believe you had some information that might help with your sister’s treatment.”

“Yeah.” He snatched back his ID and flopped into the chair. When he leaned forward Doctor Meyers had to force himself not to move away. “You have to understand that my sister and me have been through a lot over the last five years. Our parents died and I had to fight to get custody of my sister. What she said today bothers me.”

“What did she say?”


“I see. Julie, the nurse, mention Becca said the word tanner.”

“The name Tanner.” He spat. “He was a boy she dated about a year ago. I told her he was a loser and no good for her and you see where she is now! The bastard called Becca and shot himself while she was on the phone because she told him it was over. I thought she had come to terms with his suicide. Seems I was wrong, huh?”

“Why didn’t you give us this information when we admitted her? Suicide is a very traumatic event that can cause a lot of different problems, including severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Now adding all of that to dealing with your parents tragic death is a lot for any person to take much less a teenager.” The two men watched each other warily for close to a minute before Becca’s brother finally answered.

“Look, Doc. I wasn’t sure this was about Tanner. You said it yourself, she’s a teenager and she has huge changes ahead of her. Becca has enough on her plate without reminding her of that boy. She likes her privacy so don’t push this subject with her.”

“Well, I appreciate you telling me this information now and we will do our best to treat Becca.” Doctor Meyer frowned as he watched Becca’s brother leave without even a goodbye.

There is something strange about that man.


Becca blinked. Although Tanner was still with her, their surroundings had been radically altered. Instead of the sunny park with comfortable benches, Becca found herself trying to squint through an inky blackness that surrounded them. Tanner squeezed her hand gently.

“I will help you see what is beyond the darkness but it will be difficult for you to face.”

“And if I don’t face it?” Becca trembled at the thought of dispelling the blackness.

“You will be trapped here forever.”

“Not so bad to be here when you’re here too, Angel of Mine.” She couldn’t see it but she felt Tanner smile at the old nickname.

“I can’t stay here. I can help you remove the darkness or leave you trapped alone in it.” He spoke softly, serious once more.

It seemed like an eternity before Becca could finally get the words out, but if vanquishing the darkness kept Tanner with her for a while longer how could she refuse? She stood, trembling with fear of what might be discovered. Tanner leaned down and kissed her. Sweet memories flooded through her as he deepened the kiss. It was as if she was reliving every happy memory they had ever shared. When the last memory had been recalled, Tanner ended the kiss.

“I had forgotten so much.” She whispered, a feeling of blissful contentment filled her.

“You will not forget them again if you truly want to remember. Now, you must remember less pleasant times.”

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