Thursday, February 14, 2013
Spotlight The Halo Effect by Pamela Crane
New York Regional Hospital
"Are you afraid to die?" Haley's question drifted off into the antiseptic-scented room. Her father turned his head away. Only his beeping heart monitor answered. It was the day before her twelfth birthday and she knew her father wouldn't live to see it. She squeezed his hand before Frank Montgomery's weak grip released his eldest daughter's fingers.
It isn't fair....
It never was.
"Haley, don't ask things like that."
Haley turned toward her mom who spoke from the doorway where she waited for the doctor.
"I wanna know."
"That's not something you should be asking him right now."
Oh, but Haley disagreed. There were lots of questions ... most of which she'd probably never get the chance to ask. But her mom didn't understand all she needed to know. She didn't understand anything Haley felt.
"Just leave me alone, Mom."
That's all she wanted--to be left alone. Forever.
She wanted to hate her dad for getting sick. In the seclusion of her bedroom last night, she had prayed for God to punish him for not trying harder. And for the first time, God answered. But why did He choose that prayer? What about all of the other prayers for healing? Haley hated her father, and she hated God too. The fact that her father was dying was just as much His fault as it was her father's for giving up.
She tugged on his pale blue sleeve until the cotton fabric slipped from her fingers. She returned to the chair she had occupied all day, eyeing the imprint of her behind on the cushion before she plopped down. Propping her hands on her chin, she swiped at a stray tear and stared at the white drywall beside the stiff hospital bed where Dad lay stretched out, covered in white sheets.
Haley jolted at the sound of irritatingly upbeat steps. She turned and saw the doctor gesture for her mother to follow him into the hallway.
Haley sat quietly while Gabrielle stepped outside the room. They didn't close the door behind them.
They spoke in hushed tones, but Haley only listened harder. Wouldn't they figure an inquisitive twelve-year-old would eavesdrop? As Haley sat uncomfortably still, she heard everything.
"The cancer is spreading too fast, Mrs. Montgomery."
Cancer--one of the most dreaded words in the English language. Haley's arms prickled.
Why don't they close the door?
"There's nothing more we can do for him."
Her heart thumped a little harder.
And then the matter-of-fact doctor added, "He's not going to make it through the night."
Haley's heart missed a beat then wrenched with pain. Their conversation repeated like a scratched record in Haley's mind, skipping over and over....
The doctor's footsteps slapped against the tile, the tempo fading into the din of nurse chatter and beds on wheels. Sobs that followed echoed down the empty, sterile hallway. While Gabrielle Montgomery wept outside the door, struggling to muffle her cries, Haley brooded, burying it inside.
This can't be happening. Make it stop.
She dealt with it the only way she knew how--by pretending it away. Haley envied her younger sister, who blissfully sat and dangled chubby legs over the vinyl-covered chair in the corner. The smaller version of Haley fiddled with a blond baby doll in her lap, twisting the doll's curls around her pinkie. It appeared that she had no clue what was going on as she babbled to her toy. Haley wished for the toddler's ignorance to be hers. She didn't want this memory. It wasn't fair.
Death hovered in the room like an ominous cloud, ready to pour its toxic rain at a moment's notice. Haley restlessly awaited its cruel thunder. Though her mother tried to protect her from the truth, Gabrielle could never know how deeply Haley would be affected by these events, and Haley would never tell.
At the sound of heels clicking on ceramic, Haley watched her mother enter the room with puffy eyes and tear-stained cheeks.
She knelt down and firmly grabbed Haley's shoulders. An intensity clouded Gabrielle's bloodshot eyes as she pulled her firstborn to her chest. Haley closed her eyes, retrieving a distant memory of her mother's happy face. When she opened them again, it seemed like her mother had aged ten years over the past couple months. A few new creases that hadn't been there months before now cut around her mother's mouth. A few lines peeked out from the corners of her eyes. Soft fingertips brushed stray hairs away from Haley's brow, and she felt her mom studying her. Haley could smell talcum powder and she tried to pull away.
"You look so much like your daddy.... "Gabrielle reflected, as if deep in thought. "Go say goodnight to him. We have to leave."
"I don't want to. I'm not leaving him."
"C'mon, sweetie. It's time to go. We really don't have time to argue about this."
Somehow Haley knew her mother was dropping them off and would come back alone to watch her husband of fifteen years slip from life. As her mom reached to grab her hand, Haley pulled away.
"Mom, I'm staying here with you. I want to be with Dad." She needed to be here. He needed her here.
"I'm sorry, sweetie."
"No. I'm not leaving him to die just so you can feel better about it."
Her mother's eyes widened and her mouth gaped. "I know this is difficult for you, but I don't want you to see this, honey."
"He won't die as long as I keep him awake."
"You can't stop this."
"Yes I can."
"No, honey, you can't. Everyone has a certain number of days.... "As her voice trailed off, Haley sensed that her mom didn't believe those words herself.
"Before God steals them?" Haley choked on the words, barely able to push them out.
Gabrielle cocked her head, concern etched on her brow.
"No, no! No!" Haley screamed. "This isn't fair!" As if watching it from afar, Haley saw her mom fall back a little as a blunt force slammed into Gabrielle's shoulder. Then another. When Haley looked down, she realized it was her ... uncontrollably punching her mother. Her two small fists pounded the only object within reach, again and again. She had no control over her arms, no control of her actions. Every impact released something that hurt inside of Haley, numbing the pain. Something told her that if she just kept punching, maybe she'd feel better, so her fists kept flying.
"Honey, stop! You're hurting me!" Haley ignored her. Her balled up hands evaded her mother's frantic grasp. She couldn't stop, and Gabrielle clearly couldn't stop her.
This one's for Dad leaving me.
This one's for God taking him.
This one's for the doctors who couldn't save him.
Gabrielle stepped back and evaded the next blow. Haley's wild fury was delivered to thin air. This time, her mother managed to catch both Haley's wrists, ceasing their firing. "Stop. Now."
A feeble cough from the corner of the room interrupted them. Both heads turned toward the distraction. Frank weakly raised a hand and motioned for his daughter to come closer. Haley dragged her feet as she approached--the journeying time from the chair to the bed felt like an eternity.
Afraid to touch him in case she broke him, Haley rested her head next to his pillow. She held back newly formed tears. She had never seen him like this ... so fragile with tubes entering his nose and needles puncturing his wrists. This skeletal man before her appeared ghostly, ashy.
Haley missed the sun-kissed olive complexion he once had; this stranger looked nothing like him. So weak. So small. The man that once towered over her, cuddling her with strong thick arms and broad shoulders, was gone--replaced by this sickly substitute. It couldn't be him.... But it was.
She felt the cool of his skin as he leaned his forehead against hers. It felt suddenly like there was just the two of them in the room. Everything around them seemed to vanish into space; the walls and people faded as the moment froze in time. Their eyes locked as he held her chin between his finger and thumb.
She refused to blink, as if one glance away would send him off this planet and out of her life. As long as she maintained eye contact, he couldn't leave her. She stared so hard that her eyes burned. His fingertips gently brushed against her cheek and absorbed a fallen tear.
"I'm sorry you have to go through this, honey." His husky voice sounded like it always did. A welcome sound.
"No, let me say this. I know this isn't easy for you, and I wish I could make all of this better for you girls. But Haley, you're strong." He paused to catch a shallow breath.
Her reply got stuck in her throat somewhere. Her mind rumbled through all the things she had wanted to tell him. Both good and bad. And questions she wanted to ask.
"You know I love you, don't you?"
Their hands found each other's, and Haley timidly squeezed. She felt all their years together in that gesture. Though everything else about him looked different, his touch hadn't changed. It had the same texture, the same warmth that she recognized. He squeezed three beats: I love you. She returned the covert message with four: I love you too. It was their private language that they shared without words, started before Haley could remember. Somehow they always knew what the other was trying to say. Will this be his last secret communication to me?
"Promise me something." He wheezed before finishing the thought. Haley dreaded hearing it, for it sounded too much like last words. She didn't want last words. "Promise me that you'll let go of the pain."
Let go of the pain? The words smacked her cruelly and she blinked back sobs. He knew what he was doing to her and was doing it anyway. She bit her lip. But it was a dying man's last wish--not just any dying man's, but her father's.
Haley didn't understand the weight of his request just then--how it would shape her entire future--and she wouldn't understand it for years to come. But she spoke the words anyway. "I promise."
The Halo Effect
Genre: Romantic Thriller
Publisher: Lachesis Publishing
Number of pages: 248
Word Count: 76,500
Cover Artist: Laura Givens
Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/e01c82VMbEI
It started with a glance. And ended with a nightmare.
Small-town girl Haley Montgomery meets two men who will change her life forever—the handsome Marc Vincetti whom she falls head-over-heels for, and the big-time Hollywood producer Allen Michaels who has the power to turn her screenplay into a movie and a ticket to a better future.
It seems as though life couldn't get any better—until things take a decidedly dark turn when Haley spots Marc with his former high school sweetheart and Allen develops a consuming obsession with her.
As Haley is faced with a choice between love and fame, Marc becomes the target of a stalker and Haley's life is thrown into a tailspin. Suddenly everything she thought she knew about Marc and Allen is completely wrong—and Haley's life will never be the same again…
About the Author:
Pamela Crane is a North Carolinian writer of the psychological thriller The Halo Effect and wannabe psychologist, though most people just think she needs to see one. She’s a member of the ACFW and EFA, and has been involved in the ECPA, Christy Awards, and Romance Writers of America. Along with delving into people’s minds—or being the subject of their research—she enjoys being a wife to her best friend, mom, and riding her proud Arabian horse, when he lets her. She has a passion for adventure, and her hopes are to keep earning enough from her writing to travel the world in search of some good story material.