Archive | March 2014

Bad Fall – Part 50

Bad Fall

Heat Warning – Steamy. Scene may not be appropriate for readers under 17.

Marka decides to take Frank home. She senses he’s increasingly uncomfortable around his parents. They will push for answers where she won’t. Once they get back to Sheltering Oaks, he opens up a little more. They try to make sense of the incidents – especially the break-in at his house. That was the main thing concerning Colonel Shay.

“What are they after?”

“I really can’t discuss this. If Shay wants you to know, he’ll tell you.”

“You know what I think?”

“That I’m dead sexy?” His eyes softened, the worry lines disappearing.

She smacked him playfully. “Besides that. I don’t think that the car and the office thing are related. I mean, you’ve tossed some guy’s office, why trash his car? Isn’t it more important to go search his home? And they didn’t come up to your room.”

“Maybe they didn’t know I was there.”

“If someone is well enough connected to gain access here after hours, how would they not be able to find that out? I think Ralph did your car.”

“He was in the hospital.”

“He could have done it the night before. We didn’t leave again after dinner. We were inside the whole time. He could have snuck out, done that and gone back in.”

“We still don’t know who he met or why.” Frank frowned, pinching his lower lip with his index finger and thumb.

“Maybe he encountered someone snooping around. That stairway leads to his room, but yours isn’t far away. Someone not fully familiar with the layout could mix up his hallway for yours,” Marka speculated.

“So, you don’t think Ralph was after Mabel’s ring?”

“No, I fully believe the fat bastard wanted her ring. I did a quick search earlier today. A ring like that, new, from Tiffany’s, is $710,000! Can you imagine how much more that’s worth now that it’s over seventy years old and one of its kind? A substantial fortune.”

“How could you fence a stone like that?”

“You take it to a very good gem cutter and have it cut into smaller stones. I bet if we checked with Jerry’s father, he could tell us more.”

“Could be right. Wow, some uncle, huh?” Frank sighed.

“He’s no kin to you. He’s your great-grandmother’s stepson. There’s no tie unless you want it.” Her tone was nearly as sharp as his mother’s.

“Good point.”

“Do you think that the dead man trashed your office and searched your house? Or do you think the office was Ralph?”

He brushed her hair from her face with the tips of his fingers. Leaning forward, he kissed her.

“I guess it doesn’t matter,” she mumbled against his lips. “It doesn’t have to be related. . . .”

“Marka,” he whispered. “Shh. . . .”

“We need to figure. . . .”

“It’ll keep,” he whispered huskily.

“But. . . .”



“Shut up and kiss me.”

Kissing Frank was the easiest thing she’d ever done. His mouth covered hers, his lips warm and soft. His cologne blended with cigarette smoke, beer and desire, making her dizzy. Strong arms held her close as he made love to her with his mouth. Weak, trembling, Marka sighed as his hands removed her jacket and slid under the edge of her blouse.

Frank inhaled slowly, savoring her scent as his hands moved to her breast. Encased in satin and lace, the nipple stood out, waiting for him. His thumb brushed it gently. It firmed under his touch. He unbuttoned her blouse slowly, fumbling slightly with the small, slick buttons.

Marka swatted his clumsy hand aside, laughing as she took over. “It isn’t that hard,” she mumbled against his lips.

“Yes it is. See?” He took her hand, massaging his groin.

Not only was it hard, Marka discovered, it pulsed under her fingers, inviting her to partake of all he had to offer. She gasped with delight. Frank chuckled, redoubling his efforts to get her blouse off.

Marka undid the last button and placed his fingers on her left breast. Moaning in chorus, they moved closer, kissing passionately.

“Is this really gonna happen?” Frank asked, his voice a low growl.

“It better,” Marka countered. “Oh, God!”

His hot lips moved to her throat, nipping and kissing. His tongue joined the fun, licking the indentation beneath her ear as his fingers fumbled against the bra catch.

“Do I have to do everything for you?” She giggled, undoing the hook for him.

“Cut me some slack, it’s been awhile. And women’s clothing has always been confusing.”

“Please tell me you don’t have that much trouble with everything, or I’m gonna regret this.”

“I promise, I’ve got the moves where it counts.”

Frank slipped off the bra, following the downward movement with his lips.

“Remember those multiple orgasms you promised?”

“Mm hmm. . . . Unlimited supply. All you have to do is ask.”

 “I’m asking,” she whispered.

“Cool. . . .”

© Dellani Oakes

Bad Fall – Part 49

Bad FallAfter talking to Colonel Shay, Frank tells Marka and his parents that his former commander was trying to reach him, but won’t give them details. His mother presses for details and he gives the standard, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill her.” He’s not laughing afterward.

Paula tried to laugh that off, but the glitter in his dark eyes showed them he wasn’t being flippant.

“In a nutshell, I’m going to have out of town visitors. My house is a crime scene. . . .” He signed, sinking slowly to his chair. “This is unbelievable. Completely unprecedented.”

“They can stay here,” his mother offered. “We have lots of room.”

Frank chuckled. “No, Mom. This isn’t a slumber party. Let’s eat, shall we? I’m starving. The burgers smell fantastic.”

He tried to act bright and chipper, but it wasn’t easy to pull off. They all knew he was hiding something big, but he wouldn’t tell. He couldn’t.

Frank made every effort to act normally during the meal. He forced himself to smile, laugh and interact with Marka and his parents. Dark images played at the back of his mind, haunting him. Maybe it was the alcohol, or the fact he’d smoked more in the last thirty minutes than he had in three months. Perhaps, combined with stress and fatigue, his mind really was playing tricks on him.

Marka cut the evening short, sensing that Frank needed to get away. She claimed she had to get up for an early meeting and had him out the door before 10:00. Frank was subdued on the drive home. He gave her directions absently, nearly missing a couple of turns. Fortunately, she recognized the neighborhood and turned in the front gates, parking in her designated spot.

Turning off the car, she faced him. Before she could say a word, his hands were on her face, pulling her to him. He devoured her mouth, his hands searching her body with an urgency she’d never seen in him before. He stopped just as suddenly, clasping the back of her neck, his forehead pressed against hers. He tried to speak, but he couldn’t. His breath came in sharp gasps as he fought the panic rising in him.

“Let’s get you to your room,” she said softly.

Frank nodded weakly. Marka opened his door and he practically fell out of the car into her arms. He got his feet under him and walked to the front door under his own power. When they got in the elevator, he leaned against the wall with one arm, head lowered. The door closed and he kissed her again. The burning ache was back. His loins hurt from wanting her. He thought he’d explode if he couldn’t have her—all of her—immediately.

Afraid he’d hurt her, he backed off, easing his grip on her. He continued to kiss her, but toned down his actions so he wasn’t mauling her like an animal. The doors opened on their floor. Luckily, no one was there. They walked to his room, not seeing another soul, and he let them in. Shoving the door shut, he took her face in his hands again, kissing her with passion greater than any he’d ever felt.

“I need you, Marka. I have—I want. . . . Please!” His voice broke, his tone pleading.

He was disgusted with himself. He’d never begged a woman for sex, even when he was at hormonal teenager.

“Before we explore that territory, you’re going to tell me what the hell is going on. I’m in this too. You might not be willing to tell your parents, but you’ll tell me. And don’t give me any shit about having to shoot me.”

Groaning, he rubbed his face with his hands. “I need coffee.”

She set up the pot while he leaned against the wall. Hands folded as if in prayer, he leaned on his joined fists, one foot forward, supporting himself.

“I did a lot of bad things on the job,” he said, sounding as if he were talking to himself. “The more I try to forget, the more it comes back to haunt me.”

Marka said nothing. She finished setting up the coffee and led him to the living room. They sat on the loveseat together. He put his arms around her, holding her close.

“You can tell me. I won’t judge.”

“I can’t. I want to. . . .”

“Did you kill people?”

“It was a war, baby. Of course I did.”

“I meant. Without provocation.”

“If you want to know if I assassinated someone, I can’t answer that directly.”

“That’s a yes. More than one?”

He shifted uncomfortably. “A soldier follows orders. He worries about the morality of it later.”

“Does this have anything to do with what’s happening here? Did it get Ralph hurt?”

“It hasn’t anything to do with Ralph. That’s a separate incident. It has to do with the break-ins.”

“Your car?”

“Figuring that’s peevishness because it wasn’t in my office.”

“Professional soldiers get peevish?” She found that hard to believe.

He chuckled, shaking his head. “Roll with me here, babe. I’m feeling this out as I go.”

“Meaning you aren’t sure it’s a professional.”

“Let’s get that coffee.”

They served themselves and sat down on the loveseat once more.

“Shay wasn’t specific. It was an unsecured line on a cellphone. Easy as fuck to tap into. He did say that the body that was found wasn’t one of ours—his. He’s looking into it. Those red flags went up on his end too. That’s why he’s been trying to reach me. He was worried when he couldn’t find me at home.”

© Dellani Oakes

Bad Fall – Part 48

Bad FallWhile at Frank’s parents’ house, Marka gets a call from her mother. She doesn’t think it’s all that strange until her mother says she’s had one of her accurate, and sometimes frightening, premonitions.

“Something’s wrong though, I can hear it in your voice. Don’t be evasive, Marka.”

Marka walked into the living room. Quietly and quickly, she told her mother what had happened over the last few days.

“Keep an eye on your man,” her mother cautioned.
“Something’s going on that’s more than either of you realizes. I don’t know how I know things, Marka.”

“But you’re hardly wrong, Mom. That scares me. I can’t tell you how much. Something is wrong. And it’s all to do with Ralph.”

“Not entirely. Tell Frank to call. . . .” She paused, like she was listening. “It’s a name. Jay or Ray? No. Shay. Tell him to call Shay immediately.”

“What? Now? Mom, he’s been drinking. . . .”

“It really can’t wait. Shay. Tell him that. He’ll know.”

“I will, Mom. After dinner. . . .”

“Now.” She hung up.

It wasn’t the weirdest conversation she’d ever had with her mother, but it was among the top five. She walked to the back porch where Frank was smoking a cigarette with his father and drinking another beer. They were laughing loudly, probably something sexual, because they stopped abruptly when she came out.

“Frank, this is going to sound really weird. So listen and don’t say anything.”

“Okay.” He half rose from his chair.

“Do you know someone named Shay?”
Fully erect, he rolled his shoulders uncomfortably. His mouth firmed, his jaw working fast and furious.

“How do you know that name?” His voice and stance grew menacing.

Tom advanced, tongs in hand, standing between his son and Marka. Although they were the same height and build, he seemed dwarfed by his son. Negative emotions radiated from Frank. His eyes burned with dark fire.

“Marka?” His tone was cold, penetrating. He wanted an answer.

Paula, seeing something amiss, came onto the porch. She stood by protectively, waiting.

“This is going to sound crazy. My mother senses things. She knew before I even told her, that something bad was going on. While we were talking, she told me to tell you to call Shay. Immediately. She said you’d know. She told me it was very important to call right away.”

Frank sucked in his cheeks, eyes narrowing. Nostrils flaring, he whipped out his phone. Turning away from them, he punched in a number and waited. They heard him talking in low, clipped tones.

Purposely ignoring him, they talked quietly together. Marka explained what her mother had said.

“Normally, that sort of thing wouldn’t make much of an impression,” she concluded. “But Mom’s never been wrong. Her impressions are always on target. She’s so accurate, it’s spooky.”

“To know a name like that,” Paula said. “Shay isn’t a common name.”

“It sure got a rise out of Frank. He knew exactly who you
meant,” Tom said.

“I know.” Marka shuddered. The expression in Frank’s eyes terrified her. It was like gazing into the pits of doom.
Tom put his arm around her. “He’s got a lot of secrets, Marka. He can’t help that, considering what he did in the Army. Give him time.”

She nodded, hugging herself. Paula led her back into the house and gave her a hot cup of tea. Frank was on the phone quite a while, talking in rapid, hushed tones. He looked and sounded angry. No, not angry, Marka deduced. Terrified.

He slid the phone back in his pocket. Snatching up his beer, he gulped it down and lit another cigarette. His father handed him a beer. He took it with a nod. Leaning against the railing, he downed it, puffing agitatedly on the cigarette. Another beer appeared in his hand and he finished it too before turning around.

Paula led Marka outside, keeping in front of the younger woman. She kept her distance from her son. His father was the only one who stood close to him.

“Colonel Arnold Shay was my commander in Iraq,” Frank began without preamble. “He’s now at the Pentagon and a very hard man to get ahold of.”

He didn’t explain how he’d managed to get through without too much difficulty. No one said a word, waiting for him to continue.

“For you to pull that name out of thin air was—disturbing. I haven’t even thought of him since we buried Clay.”
His hands shook as he tried to light another cigarette. His father lit it for him. He barely acknowledged it.
“As a matter of fact, he’s been trying to reach me at home.”

“Why didn’t he call your cell?” Paula asked.

“He had his reasons.”

He wouldn’t give anymore than that, even if they begged him. Paula didn’t press.

“Why did he want to talk to you?” Marka asked, sensing that he wouldn’t answer her.

“If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

© Dellani Oakes

Bad Fall – Part 47

Chatting and laughing, she led Marka to her room and found her some jeans and a shirt to change into. The shirt was an old one of Frank’s. It was big, but comfortable. Paula rolled up the sleeves. Before going out to join the men, she stopped Marka with a hand on her arm.

“Did Frank tell you about Clay’s death?”

“Yes. He said it was a convoy gone horribly wrong.”

“Did he tell you he was hurt too?”

“When he went in to rescue them?”

Paula sighed, taking Marka’s hands in hers. She gazed deeply into the younger woman’s eyes. “Frank doesn’t remember it exactly right. We got the full story from the camp commander. Frank was in a helicopter flying air support for the convoy. A road, that had been checked and rechecked for mines, exploded. They were surrounded by the enemy. They cut down anything that moved. A rocket took out the chopper and it crashed. Frank was wounded. He found Clay, but he was beyond help. Frank took Clay’s weapon and his own, and single handed, he killed or captured the men who attacked the convoy. He was destroyed by grief over that incident. It was his plan and it all went to hell.”

“Did they ever figure out how the road was mined?”

Paula shook her head. “If they did, they didn’t tell us. Frank remembers the day all sideways. He remembers what he wants to, not how it was. It helps him cope. Because of Clay’s death, he quit the Army. He was ready to make it his life, just like his grandfather, but it wasn’t meant to be. What he doesn’t know is that Frank Penwarren died under very similar circumstances. Only the man who lived with the guilt was Richard Atherton, Tom’s adoptive father.”

“Oh, dear God!”

“I know it’s crazy, but Mabel always said she thought our Frank was his grandfather reincarnated. I never believed any of that until Clay’s death.”

“Thank you for telling me this, Paula.”

“I see my son spending his life with you, Marka. He’s already half in love with you. The men in our family are decisive. They know what they want and go after it with every ounce of energy they possess. Tom was the same way when he met me. I was dating someone else, but the relationship wasn’t a good one. I met Tom, he swept me off my feet and we were married three months later. I was
already six weeks pregnant with Frank.”

Marka giggled, nodding. “I can certainly understand that. I’ve only known him four days. . . .”

“But you could bed him in a heartbeat.”

Marka was somewhat shocked by the brutally honest way Paula spoke about her son’s sex life.

“Yeah, as a matter of fact. . . .”

“You already came close.” Paula nodded. “I held Tom off less than a week. I know the effect of those big brown eyes and that milk chocolate voice. It still works on me.”

“I’m going to love being part of this family,” Marka said, hugging Paula impulsively.

They went to the kitchen and started making side dishes for the meal. Tom came back in once to get beer for himself and Frank. He offered one to Marka.

“Not a beer drinker, but thanks.”

“Wine? Whiskey?” He offered playfully.

“No. I think one of us needs to be able to drive home.”

“Good point. Well, Frank’s about half lit, so that better be you. Hey, baby?” He said to Paula. “Should we call Jen and the boys?”

Paula shook her head. “No, this is Frank’s time.”

“No problem,” he said cheerfully.

He gave her a big kiss on the cheek, nipped a piece of celery out of the potato salad and went outside.

“I hope when I’m your age, my husband still treats me like I’m the center of his universe,” Marka said.

“Frank will treat you like a queen as long as he lives,” Paula replied.

Marka found that the liked the fact that Frank’s mother had them paired up and married forever. She’d never been part of a family like his. They were warm, welcoming, honest and loving. Her family wasn’t like that. They weren’t sneaky or deceptive, but they kept their secrets.

As if someone had read her mind, her cellphone rang. It was her step-mother’s special ring. She’d assigned it to herself a couple years ago and Marka had never bothered to change it. It was Mama Said by Metallica.

“Do you need to answer that, dear?”

“That’s my mother. I should. I called Sunday to tell her I’d gotten here, but haven’t called since.”

She wiped her hands on her apron and grabbed her phone. It had stopped ringing, but she called back. Her mother picked up immediately, sounding worried.

“Are you okay?”

“Mom, I’m fine. Why?”

“I had this awful premonition. It was like someone walked over my grave.”

“Mother, don’t be so dramatic. I’m fine.” She shivered. Her mother’s premonitions were more often then not, spot on.

© Dellani Oakes

Bad Fall – Part 46

Bad FallWhile visiting his parents, Frank finds that his father is well aware of the relationship with Mabel.

“She’s family,” Tom replied. “She’s always taken an interest in you. She would have helped with college, but you wanted to do ROTC. She never interfered. But you getting the job you’ve got, that was Mabel’s doing. She sits on the board.”

Frank laughed harshly, blinking back tears of frustration. “So, I didn’t get that job on my own merits? Great!”

“You’re more than qualified for that job,” his father snapped. “Mabel doesn’t believe in giving more than a man is capable of handling. If you notice, Ralph’s not got the job.”

“His people skills need polishing,” Frank countered.

“They need to be replaced,” his mother said, color rising in her cheeks. “You wouldn’t believe the things he’s said to us over the years. He’s a nasty, mean spirited. . . .”

“Polly, shh. We all know what he’s like.”

“Do we have any idea what he might have been up to?” Paula asked suddenly. “Ralph’s a snake. He’s one of the stupidest men I ever met. Always sneaking around doing something underhanded. Cheap, tightfisted, no-count. . . ..”

“Polly. . . .”

“Well, he is, Tom! Frank knows. He’s got no illusions about it.”

“Uncle Ralphie’s a character for sure,” Frank said.

“Don’t ever call him that. He’s no blood kin to you!” Paula’s voice rose in pitch. “He’s the Devil’s Own!”

“Ralph’s been horrid over the years. He was always threatening to reveal our secret. He even tried blackmail at one time—like we cared. We planned to tell you about all this and it didn’t matter that my mother was really Evelyn’s sister.”

“What?” Frank gasped.

“Mabel didn’t tell you that?” His father was stunned.

“No. She never told me her name. Aunt Marilyn is your real mother?”

“That explains a lot, doesn’t it?” Paula replied. “Marilyn is Tom and Richard’s godmother. She’s always been a major part of our lives. She eventually married, but she never stopped loving Frankie.”

“I always wondered why she looked at me that way. . . .” Frank murmured. “Such pain in her eyes. Do I really look that much like him?”

Paula went to a nearby shelf, pulling down a photo album. She carried it over to Frank. Sitting beside him on the sofa, she opened the book and flipped through a few pages. Laying it on his knees, she pointed to a photograph of a handsome young man in an Army uniform. His build and bearing were exactly like Frank’s. The smile, dimples, hair and dark eyes bespoke of their relationship. He was smiling at the camera, his arms around twin boys. A beautiful blonde, whom Frank recognized as his Great-Aunt Marilyn, stood next to them, her arm around the nearest twin.

Frank felt like the wind was knocked out of him. “Oh, my God!” It was like looking in a mirror.

“You never put together that he was your dad?” Marka asked Tom.

Tom shrugged, shaking his head. “He was Aunt Marilyn’s beau and Dad’s best friend. He was as much a part of our lives as anyone else. Every time he had leave, he was here. He taught us to throw a football, gave us our first riding lesson on Mabel’s horses. He lavished us with gifts and made a huge fuss over us whenever he could. Uncle Frank was a fixture. It was to honor his memory that we named you after him. It was Dad’s idea.”

“Was it a terrible shock finding out he was your dad?” Marka asked.

“Not so much. By then, we’d both been married a couple years, had a kid or two of our own. It was right after Jen’s first birthday that they told us.”

“Why don’t I remember Tom Cortland?” Frank asked.

“You should. He was at all the family functions until his death. I think you were fifteen,” his mother replied.

Frank shook his head. “I don’t remember a thing. Some of my memories are hazy. Like I know Mabel was around too, but she’s in this foggy bubble. . . .” He rubbed his nose, shaking his head. “It’s crazy. Why would it be like that?”

“You called him Uncle Tommy,” his mother prompted. “You loved him so much. . . ..”

Tom Atherton took the photo album from his wife as she dabbed at her eyes. “I think this is enough for now, don’t you? How about dinner? I bet you’re starving. If I know my son, he missed lunch and scarfed a burger in the car.”

Marka burst out laughing. “That’s exactly what he did!”

“Let’s see if we can improve on that meal. I was going to grill this weekend, but I’ve got all the fixings already. Blue cheese burgers?” He suggested, standing.

“Oh, Dad, does that sound good!”

“Hope you don’t mind turkey,” Tom said to Marka. “Some of us have iron trouble.”

“Frank told me.”

“Would you like to change, Frank? You can’t help Daddy in that suit. You’ll get it filthy.”

“Sure! The great thing about having parents who keep everything. . . . Is they keep everything,” he told Marka. “I could supply the Salvation Army with the stuff in my room.”

“I have something that would fit you,” Paula told Marka. “Let’s find you something to change into. You can’t relax in that. The suit is lovely, by the way.”

© Dellani Oakes

Bad Fall – Part 45

Bad FallAfter a visit with Ralph Penwarren, Frank decides to take Marka to meet his parents. He wants to talk to his father about Mabel.

“Well, honey, time to meet my parents. I was gonna wait until Saturday, but circumstances what they are, I think we need to move on this.”

“I think you’re right.”

They pulled up in his parents’ driveway. Frank turned off the car and opened Marka’s door.

“I have no idea what I’m going to say to him.”

“Tell him you talked to Mabel. Tell him you know the truth.”

Frank tapped on the door, calling out as he opened it. His mother answered from the kitchen.

“Be right there!”

A tall, athletically built woman came out of the kitchen, removing her apron. Marka recognized her from the photo in Frank’s office.

“Hi, darling! Is this the colleague you mentioned?” She came forward, hand extended, a smile on her lips.

“Mom, this is Dr. Marka Ventimiglia. Marka, my mother, Paula Atherton.”

“Delighted to finally meet you.”

“Come sit down. Dad’s around here somewhere,” his mother said. “He just got in.” She went to the stairway, calling up. “Tom, Frank’s here! He’s got someone with him.”

“Oh, really? I hope it’s not his lame ass boss again. . . .”

“It’s a girl. . . .”

“Be right down!”

Tom Atherton was an older version of Frank. His brown hair was shot with gray and he wore glasses. His complexion was nearly as youthful, his dark eyes sparkled like jasper, surrounded by lashes as black and lush as Frank’s.

“I thought you were coming this weekend,” his mother said as she served tea.

“We were going to, but circumstances what they are, I re-evaluated the time frame.”

“You whip out that military speak when it’s serious,” Tom said, frowning.

“She’s not pregnant, is she?” Paula asked a little more excitedly than Frank appreciated.

“No! Mom, where did you even get that? For your edification, we haven’t had sex yet. Are we clear on that point now?”

Marka blushed, dropping her eyes. Frank took her hand, bringing it to his lips.

“Sorry, babe. Should have warned you that my folks and I are pretty blunt with one another. I’ve never lied to them.”

“Nor has he always told all the truth,” his father interjected. “He learned judicious editing at the teat.”

Tom sipped his tea. His wife punched him, slopping tea on his hands. He laughed as he wiped it up, followed by a kiss.

“That’s kind of what I wanted to talk about,” Frank said quietly.

He hadn’t touched his tea. Folding his hands, he leaned on his knees. Marka’s hand on his adjusted his posture to less aggressive. He relaxed as she twined her fingers with his. His parents watched the small gesture of familiarity, pleased.

“I’m lost,” Tom said. “Truth?”

Frank filled them in on the events of the last few days, judiciously editing the passage where he and Marka were on the floor of his room. He finished with the discovery of the fabulous ring.

His parents listed attentively. Tom’s head dropped slightly when Frank finished. Biting his lip, he adopted the same posture as his son, hands folded, elbows on his knees.

“So, did you talk to Mabel?”

“Yes. It was edifying.”

“So, you know the truth now.”

“Yes. Why didn’t you tell me?” He was angry, hurt. It upset him that his parents would hide something this important from him.

Marka’s fingers tightened on his. He almost flung her hand away. Instead, he kissed the back of it tenderly. The anger and hurt dissipated.

“We had decided to tell you on your next birthday. We wanted to tell you and Jen at the same time,” his father replied.

“We thought about it four years ago. But then Clay. . . .”
Frank gulped, nodding. Clay had died the day before Frank’s birthday.

“And you were in that awful place,” his mother continued. “We couldn’t add to your burden.”

“Mom, it wouldn’t have been a burden!”

Marka tugged on his hand, commanding him to look at her before he exploded. “Your mother’s right. It would have been too much. You’ve confused enough over it now. Imagine in that setting, told from thousands of miles away, right after a trauma. No. They did right.”

“When you came home to bury Clay, we couldn’t tell you then either. But Cortland money paid for the funeral and headstone so Clay could be remembered in a fitting manner,” Paula said. “Do you remember Mabel being there?”

“Not really. I had no idea.”

© Dellani Oakes

Bad Fall – Part 44

“You’ll make yourself sick like that,” Marka chided.

“I’ve eaten under worse conditions. Don’t worry about my digestion.” He pounded his chest a moment, burping loudly. “Sorry.”

“You shouldn’t eat that fast.”

“I know. Don’t usually.” He turned into the hospital parking lot, slurping down the last of his drink. He popped a piece of gum into his mouth and parked.

The ICU was a new addition since the last time Frank had been to the hospital. He asked for directions at the front desk and an volunteer showed them the right route on a map. Frank nodded his thanks, leaving the map.

“Don’t you need it?”

“Got it,” he replied, tapping his temple. “Perfect visual memory and I’m very good with maps.” He led Marka with unerring accuracy through the rabbit warren of the hospital. They arrived at the ICU, by a back way, in record time.

“I can’t allow Dr. Ventimiglia back there,” the nurse said. “Family only. I really shouldn’t let you.”

“I’m medical designee, but I’m also his great-nephew. You can call and confirm with his mother. She’s in the nursing home at Sheltering Oaks.”

“I’m going to trust you, Mr. Atherton,” she cautioned. “You have five minutes.”

“Thanks.” He squeezed Marka’s hand and went down the hall to Ralph’s room.

Ralph Penwarren looked like the Goodyear Blimp with a slow leak. His pudgy body seemed flat and deflated. In braces, pins and casts, he was hardly recognizable as a human being.

Frank approached the bed quietly, hands in pockets. “Ralph? You awake?”

“Frankie?” Penwarren’s voice was harsh and raspy. “Water,” he begged.

The obligatory pitcher of ice water sat next to the bed. Frank poured him a glassful and held the straw to dry lips. Ralph drank gratefully, thanking him with his eyes.

“It’s really you, Frankie?”

“Yeah. What happened, Ralph?”

“I don’t know why I’m here, Frank. Where am I?”

“You’re in the hospital, Ralph. You had a bad fall.”

“You were there. . . .”

“I found you and called the ambulance.”

“You stayed with me. . . .”

“That’s what family does, Ralph.”

“Why does Dad love you more? You’re not even really his. . . . Why does he love you more?”

“Ralphie, tell me what happened that night. The night you fell.”

“Don’t know. . . .” He sighed heavily. “Got past that stupid guard. Had to meet him. . . . But he was mad. And I fell.”

“Who? Who was mad? How did you fall? Did he push you?”

“Mabel hates me,” Ralph said. “She loves you too cause of her precious Tommy. Not even Dad’s son and he loves you more. . . .”

The nurse came in a minute later. “Mr. Atherton, it’s time to go.”

“Yeah, okay. If he needs anything, call me, please?” He made sure she had his numbers.


“Yes, Ralph?”

“Tell Mabel I’m sorry. . . .”

“What for, Ralph?”

“Mr. Atherton. . . .”

Ralph’s even breathing told Frank he’d gone back to sleep. The conversation was incoherent in places, but Ralph had let something important slip. He was there at the top of that stairway to meet someone. All Frank knew was that he was meeting a man. It wasn’t much, but it was something. He joined Marka and they went back to her car.

“Did he tell you anything?”

“Not much. He was there to meet someone, that’s all I got out of it. He thought I was Frankie.”

“Not surprising. If you look as much like him as Mabel says, it would be terribly confusing. Especially with the same name. I’m a little confused myself.”

Before opening her door, he pulled her to him, pressing his hips against hers.

“Well, let me remind you of something. There’s only one guy here who’s crazy for you and that’s me. So let there be no confusion on that point.” He rubbed against her so she could feel his desire.

“No confusion on that point, Frank,” she said breathlessly.

“Good. I want it clear in your mind who’s in bed with you, giving you multiple orgasms on demand.”


“Try and stop me.” He kissed her almost fiercely.

“I wouldn’t dare,” she replied quite a long time later.

© Dellani Oakes