Beginnings, Family Heritage Volume 1 – Free Chapter 1

Here is Chapter 1 of my book. If you like it you can pick it up on Kindle or paperback.

Amazon Link http://goo.gl/0X5kYc

Chapter 1

James Michael Keller, are you still in bed?” Sally called as she started up the stairs with a basket of towels for the bathroom her two children shared. A few strands of her auburn hair had come loose from her very utilitarian ponytail and she brushed them back with a hand as thin as the rest of her. It must be where her kids get their lean frames from, as their father had been a broad shouldered man. Connie, her daughter, was up and off already to meet a group of girls for cheerleader practice. Her son however, hadn’t stirred since turning in early the night before. She had been growing increasingly concerned over the past two weeks as Mike seemed to withdraw even more while he fought off periodic but severe headaches. They had started mild in the beginning; popping an aspirin would take care of it with no problems. After two weeks though, the headaches were getting worse.

She turned the corner into his room and found him buried under his blankets with the pillow over his head. He had described one of them as the slightest sound being like standing next to a concert speaker and dim light like staring into the sun. Concern etched her face and clouded her brown eyes to see him like this. She drew his light blue curtains tight, the rush of air causing her auburn hair to flutter, but it barely helped shade his room. The rest of his room showed signs of clutter, odd for her oldest, with piles of clothes and books scattered all over the room. To a mother’s trained eyes, it was a clear sign. To this particular mother, it sent her mind to darker thoughts she had hoped she would never have to contemplate.

Why so loud?” she heard her eldest child mutter as he emerged from beneath the blankets. Through squinted eyes he took a couple sips from a glass of water she had left on the little wooden end table when she had brought him a dose of aspirin last night. Each excursion from under the pillow to retrieve the glass felt to Mike like mentally preparing himself to enter a firing range. ‘Not that Mike is overly tanned, but he is looking paler than usual this morning,’ Sally thought to herself. What she had been able to catch of his expression was haggard, pain marring his features. That too made her think back to her childhood and what she had witnessed.

Shaking off her dark thoughts, she stepped over closer to her son. “Put some clothes on, we are going to the clinic downtown to see if they can figure out what is going on,” she whispered, patting what would have been his shoulder as he retreated back into the darkness under his heavy comforter with a sigh. She then left him to get ready while she put the towels away. By the time she was halfway done she could hear him stumbling around. ‘Good,’ she thought, ‘maybe it isn’t what my brother fears it is after all. My poor baby.’

The first challenge for Mike was actually getting dressed with his eyes pressed shut, moving about like a blind man. Knowing he had left a t shirt and a pair of blue jeans on the chair next to his desk, Mike groped his way in that direction. His hands connected with the fabric and he pulled the familiar items over his body. Retrieving his glasses from the nightstand proved only slightly more difficult. As he opened his dark brown eyes slightly, he flinched and closed them before taking a deep breath. Luckily he had slept in his socks and just had to slip on his tennis shoes before he could declare himself ready to face the outside world. He ran his fingers through his stringy dark brown hair and sighed again. He glanced at the mess in his room and knew he needed to straighten up. Clutter always bothered Mike, and his room was starting to look decidedly like his little sister’s.

Concentrating on feeling his way down the hall toward the stairs with his hands and feet, Mike found that the headache subsided slightly the more he focused on his other senses. By the time he reached the end of the hall he was able to crack his eyes open to momentarily navigate the stairs. Upon reaching the bottom of the staircase he almost felt normal and gave a small cheer before the headache slammed back into place just as hard as before. The sudden reappearance of the pain nearly sent him to his knees, but he clutched the banister for all he was worth, while he got his breathing under control. The only witness to his brief respite and near fall was the multitude of family pictures that lined the hallway and staircase. Mike found himself staring at a picture of his grandfather with his mother and uncle. It seemed like his grandfather was staring encouragement at him from the dark frame.

Mike stumbled towards the garage where his mother was already cranking up the car. The whole drive in was an experience in torture for Mike as he kept his eyes pressed firmly shut behind his thick glasses; shielding his eyes with hands to prevent even the little bit of light that shined on the back of his eyelids. Squinting his eyes open barely enough to walk without tripping over his feet; Mike cautiously made it into the office. For once when his mother hovered close by, keeping a hand on his arm, he didn’t feel embarrassed and was grateful for her assistance. He was also grateful she didn’t say anything till they were inside and then only whispered their names to the nurse, asking quietly if she thought they could be seen right away.

The sterile off-white walls of the clinic, with its harsh fluorescent lighting, were no better than the outside world or his room. The nurse on duty took one look at the pair of them and ushered Mike and his mother into a smaller room while she went to track down the doctor, dimming the lights on her way out. She could tell by the concern etched on Sally’s face that this was a mother who was greatly worried. Mothers like that can be known to overreact sometimes when their children were in pain. The nurse knew that ‘mother bear instinct’ well herself. She whispered that it would just be a moment for the doctor to finish up another patient.

Soon enough a balding, older man came into the room, and having been warned of the condition of the patient, whispered quietly that his name was Dr. Miller. Dr. Miller wasted no time getting to the bottom of the situation as he saw it. The nurse had said that the way Mike was holding his head it looked very much like the migraines she herself experienced from time to time.

So, let’s take a look and see what we can see, shall we?” whispers Dr. Miller, retrieving a small pen flashlight and motioning for Mike to move his hands from his face. After checking for pupil dilation Dr. Miller quickly scribbled some notes on Mike’s chart. He then pressed his fingers around Mike’s temples and forehead, checking for any swelling or a fever. “OK, so, what would you rate your pain as and where does it seem to be located specifically?”

I would say it is at least an eight doctor,” Mike whispered in response, thinking over the second part of the Doctor’s question. “It seems like it is right behind my eyes and lower forehead. Like a jackhammer is going off, but it’s just the pressure, no sound.”

Nodding, Dr. Miller made a few more notes on his chart. “Is there any family history of hypertension, sinus infections, or migraines? I know my nurse said you looked how she feels when she gets hers, but I have to rule out all other options as well.”

My brother got them for a while when he was in his teens,” Sally spoke up quietly, the worry in her voice touching her brown eyes. “I think it might be a pattern in my side of the family, but my husband never mentioned suffering from anything of the sort before he passed away some years ago.”

My condolences Mrs. Keller,” Dr. Miller said softly before turning back to his notes. “I think we will try a more targeted type of pain medication designed for migraines. If this works, we will leave it alone but if it doesn’t help, we will test for everything else. Will be just a moment while I write up a prescription and get you a sample from the pharmacy here in the building.” He patted Mike on the shoulder softly and then went to the pharmacy the clinic had and retrieved a small white pill and a glass of water for his patient. He encouraged Mike to finish the whole glass of water to ward off any dehydration, while he wrote the full prescription. Lastly, Dr. Miller left the two Keller’s alone while he went to get the paperwork filed and move on to his next patient.

Sally turned to her son, concern marring her face and causing her forehead to wrinkle. “At least it sounds like we have something to help,” she whispered, wrapping an arm around her son’s shoulders. She kissed the stringy brown hair on the top of his head like she used to do when he was a kid. Normally Mike would pull away when she did this, but for once it felt good to be comforted by his mother. The headaches had felt like his head was going to split in two from the pain. Mike took strength from his mother’s comforting, as he knew he was going to have to face the sun outside for them to get to the corner drugstore for the rest of his prescription. He had only taken the pill a few minutes ago, but it already seemed to be better. Perhaps it was knowing that someone was doing something to really help him that was making him feel like the headache was already subsiding. Bracing himself, Mike stood and walked back out to the car with his mother.

Not quite two hours after leaving home, they were standing in the pharmacy down the block with a prescription for migraines. The pill Mike had taken at the clinic had really started to work while the pharmacist was making up the bottle to take home, giving Mike a much needed sense of relief. He was finally able to open his eyes without pain for only the second time all day. With a warning not to take them any more often than was prescribed, the man handed the little paper bag over to Mike’s mother. Able to function more or less normally by the time they got home, Mike grew excited about the prospects of a Saturday night not spent locked away in the dark.

With his mother’s blessing he grabbed his cell from his room and made a quick call to his best friend Darrell, who revealed that everyone was gathering at Tony’s, as was the usual. Darrell said that he would pick Mike up around six. Unbeknownst to Mike, his typical night out would become very far from typical. Mike spent the rest of the afternoon reading for his English Literature class and then about five started getting ready for Darrell to arrive at six.

What’s up man?” Mike asked, sliding into the shotgun seat at five after when his friend Darrell pulled into the drive. In the pocket of his blue jeans was a small plastic bag with a pill in it in case the headache started to come back. Thankfully things were still blessedly peaceful with the wrecking crew that had been working in his head earlier. Mike pulled his seat belt around and buckled in before turning to look at his friend.

Same old shit just a different day,” his pale friend laughed, throwing the car in reverse and backing out of the driveway. Darrell barely glanced over his shoulders to make sure no one was coming from either direction, his shaggy black hair swinging back and forth with the motion. “I thought you were down for the count, though. What changed?” Darrell was giving Mike a sidelong glance filled with concern. Darrell had seen firsthand the pain that his friend had been experiencing but was very glad to see a measure of improvement from the day before at school.

Mom dragged me to that walk-in clinic downtown,” Mike replied patting the pocket of his faded blue jeans. “I got a prescription for something to combat the migraines. At least, that is what they think they are. All I know is that I don’t want to give myself a frontal lobotomy with a power drill from the pain anymore.” Mike’s hand rested on his pocket where the pill was contained, almost as if the near contact could make the pain stay away.

Fun fun,” Darrell said casually as he steered towards Main Street. Tony’s was a combination restaurant and pool hall that catered to the young and old alike. Mostly serving burgers and fries along with soda or beer by the pitcher; it was just about the only decent place to hang out in the city for teenagers. A typical Friday or Saturday night was filled with greasy food and a few friendly games of pool while the jukebox cranked out the current Top 40 hits.

The two friends got about halfway across town when a sudden spike of pain shot through Mike’s temples, causing him to close his eyes reflexively. His flinch caused Darrell to take his eyes off the road to glance concernedly in his friend’s direction. With his eyes closed, Mike saw them entering the intersection just as two cars came barreling through on the cross street; drag racing from the looks of it. The first belonged to the school’s star quarterback, Kevin Robinson. From the bird’s eye perspective he had, Mike saw the car, a custom Mustang you couldn’t mistake, plow into the passenger side door of Darrell’s beat-up white Cutlass. It was so surreal that Mike only vaguely noticed he could see clearly their high school logo on the ball cap Kevin had covering his short cropped dark blonde hair. A mild panic attack set in as he thought it had already happened and this was some sort of ‘out of body experience’. Fearing that he was dead or dying, Mike could barely breathe.

Stop the car, NOW!” yelled Mike as his eyes snapped open and he saw the intersection rapidly approaching. Without thinking he slammed his foot down as if he was hitting a brake pedal of his own and the car started to lurch as it fought to slow down. Mike pushed both hands against the dash to stop from falling forward, the seat belt starting to tighten. He felt a tingling sensation in his foot, but he was too panicked to focus on that at the moment as he watched his friend react to his warning.

Instinctively Darrell slammed on the brakes and the car skidded to a stop just before passing into the green light intersection. To the blaring of a horn behind them from someone who almost hit them in the rear end, Darrell followed where Mike was looking ahead. The horn blower stopped as they saw what the two friends did, which was two cars rip through from the cross street regardless of their light being red. Kevin’s black Mustang must have been a mere two or three feet from the front of Darrell’s car as he went by doing some obscene speed. A shiny two door red sports car neither of them recognized was in the farther lane and right on Kevin’s right rear quarter-panel; trying to gain ground. The cross street, while it came into the middle of town, originated in the outskirts of the county, an area known for its late night parties and drag racing. Normally they don’t come all the way into town, but Kevin and his opponent must have not been paying attention.

Son of a bitch. That was close,” Darrell muttered, clearly shaken. He ran the fingers of one hand through his not quite shoulder length hair while the other was white knuckled to the steering wheel. He cautiously eased forward into the intersection and they continued on their way. Mike had ridden passenger with Darrell driving ever since his friend had gotten his license last year, and never had Darrell been the poster child for safe driving. He was always forgetting to use his signal, or pushing five or ten miles over the speed limit even on city streets. The rest of the drive across town however, he kept it under the speed limit and never failed to alert others of his intention to change lanes farther in advance than was recommended. It was as if he was shooting a safety video for the Department of Motor Vehicles.

______________________________________________

Sally dialed her brother’s cell phone as soon as the dial tone clicked through. She was watching from the window as her only son left with his friend Darrell for a night at the local hangout. While glad that he was going out, she really wished Darrell would be more careful when he drove. She watched as her son’s friend barely paused before backing into the street. He never really pays as much attention as he should, she thinks, lost in thought a moment, before realizing that her brother has picked up.

Sally, is that you?” James was asking for the third or fourth time. He hardly spoke to his niece and nephew except around their birthdays or holidays, so he assumed it was his sister calling him. No one seemed to be on the line however. “Mike, Connie? Did one of you call me by mistake?” For a moment concern gripped him and he squinted his eyes, wishing he could ‘see’ who was there like his father had described from time to time being able to do.

James,” Sally said, realizing he had picked up. “I just wanted to tell you that I took Mike to the doctor this morning. They gave him a prescription for something to combat his migraines. I know you think it is this whole family legacy thing, but the doctor seemed sure it was migraines.”

Sally,” James said, only a little exasperation slipping into his voice. He had told his sister some of the information he had received in the form of a letter he found from their father, but not all of it. The main point was that the family tradition would continue with her son, Michael. “You know what our father wrote. That Mike was going to continue our tradition because I cannot have children of my own. I know you don’t want him to be a part of this world, but I do not think there is any choice in it for any of us.” He brushed his free hand through his close cropped dark hair.

I still hope the both of you are wrong,” Sally spat back, before recovering her composure. “I know it isn’t your fault James. I know you are just trying to be supportive. But this thing in our family has already taken our father and my husband. It drove mom to senility well before her time because she learned too much. Why does this have to happen to my baby?”

I wish I could take it away from him Sis, I really do,” James spoke calmly. His family’s special gifts had been costly this last generation. “We just have to trust that dad knew what he was doing when he said I would have to be ready to guide Michael when he was ready. I have made all the preparations I can on this end. Another week or two and everything will fall into place and I will call him up and ask him to come spend the summer with me. After that, he has his own decisions to make.”

I know,” Sally nearly whispered. “Thanks James, for taking care of him. Give Jenny my love OK? I gotta go get started on something for Connie and I to eat for dinner. She should be home shortly from her day with the girls on the team.”

Take it easy Sally,” James said as he hung up the phone, looking across the room at his wife. “Sally sends her love. She is worried about Mike.”

I know hun,” Jenny says to her husband as she finishes cutting up some fresh fruit they picked up that afternoon. “I know she is worried, but we will take good care of our nephew. I am so excited to have him come to visit.” Her green eyes shined with excitement.

I know,” James replied, smiling at his wife’s enthusiasm. He walked up behind her and, after pushing her long brunette locks out of the way, planted a kiss on her neck. “I am going to take a walk. I’ll be back in time for dinner”

Their lack of children had been a heavy burden initially, but through her volunteer work with the local youth, she had a lot of nieces and nephews to call her Aunt Jenny. Their nephew coming to visit would be the closest thing to having a child in the house they have ever had though. Timing it so that his office assistant would be taking maternity leave during the summer Michael turned eighteen had been difficult to say the least. At least that family would have children of their own, a dream he will never get to experience. He hugged his wife briefly before heading out the back door to take a walk through the woods around their property.

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