Books by Sheryl Browne
Learning to Love
Explores the Fragility of Love, Life, and Relationships ~
~ and the sometimes tenuous bonds that hold people together. At the heart of the story is an emotionally withdrawn, angry little boy who is grieving the loss of his mother. Ten-year old Jake’s repressed anger is aimed at his dad, who In Jake’s mind deserted his mum in her hour of need. Dr David Adams, Jake’s father, is carrying the heavy burden of guilt around the death of his wife. For all his training as a doctor, David had been as ill-equipped to deal with her decision to delay anti-leukemic treatment for their unborn baby’s sake, as he is to deal with his son’s grief. He feels Jake’s anger is justified. Now, alone with his son, he has no idea how to reach him.
Andrea Kelly, David’s neighbour, mum of three and carer to her mother, is forced by circumstances to take refuge at David’s house and becomes instrumental in bringing this lost little boy and his equally lost father together. Andrea also has relationship issues and, as her attraction to David grows, she wonders whether she should love a man who is, by his own admission, flawed.
CHAPTER ONE TEASE
‘Shi-ooot!’ Noting the time on his radio alarm, David Adams threw back the duvet and shot along the landing. Poised to press down the handle on his son’s bedroom door, he debated, and then knocked and waited. ‘Jake, clock’s ticking,’ he called. ‘Time to get up.’
Shivering in only his boxers, David curbed his impatience and wondered again what had possessed him to rent an Edwardian townhouse in an antiquated village, which retained many of its charming period features, including the plumbing. There was the “spectacular” view, of course, which the estate agent had assured him people would die for. Blowing out an icy breath, David glanced through the high-sashed landing window to where the distant peaks of the “majestic” Malvern Hills were eclipsed by a charcoal grey mist, and concluded if they’d viewed it from where he was standing, they very probably did.
Jake was right. The place was a dump. And David was deluded, thinking he might do a better job of parenting here than he had in Oxford. So, why were they here? For his son’s sake. David reminded himself why he’d made the decision to take the position at Hibberton Health Centre. So he could start afresh. Work locally, while Jake attended the local school; and try to rebuild his relationship with his son.
‘Jake,’ he called again, not really expecting an answer. The most Jake had offered by way of communication since his aunt had dropped him off yesterday was the odd monosyllabic grunt. David couldn’t blame him. If he were Jake, he wouldn’t have much to say to someone who hadn’t been much of a father either.
Swallowing back the bitter taste of regret, David tried again. ‘Jake, come on. Get showered and dressed, please, or we’ll be late.’
Despairing, David squeaked the door open. ‘Jake?’
Apparently determined to ignore him, Jake remained mute, moodily stuffing his feet into his trainers, his hair tousled from a fitful night’s sleep. Awake most the night himself, thanks to rattling pipes and creaking floorboards, David had heard Jake tossing and turning. ‘Come on, small-fry, move it. Don’t want to get a black mark on your first day, do you?’ He tried cajoling him.
That worked. Eye-contact nil, the boy bent to scoop his T-shirt from the floor and then attempted to push past David to the landing. ‘Jake!’ Standing his ground, David tried to inject some authority into his voice; his ten-year old son’s reply was an impudent, ‘What?’
Noting Jake’s now openly mutinous scowl, David sighed and stood aside. ‘Go and get washed,’ he said, an argument on the boy’s first day being the last thing he wanted. ‘You’ll need a clean shirt,’ he suggested, as Jake shuffled grudgingly onwards.
‘Don’t have none,’ Jake retorted, without a backward glance.
‘Any, Jake. And there are plenty of clean shirts on the dresser. I put them there last night. I’d like you to put one on, please.’
‘And I like this one,’ Jake imparted, before disappearing into the bathroom to slam the door shut behind him. Great. David raked a hand through his hair. He was testing him, he knew. Wearing his insolence like a suit of armour, all his emotions stuffed safely inside.
David wished he knew what say, how to reach him. Being there for him might be a start, he decided, steeling his resolve to make that his first, and only, priority: one-on-one quality time with his son. If only he could get to the place where Jake actually wanted to spend time with him, doing whatever ten-year old kids … David’s thoughts screeched to a halt as a reality-check hit him head on.
He didn’t know what Jake did.
He had absolutely no idea what Jake was currently into. Yes, he knew what films he liked, the cinema being the safest bet when he had seen him.
But what music or computer games were cool, David had no clue. And, other than Big Macs or popcorn, he didn’t even know what food his son enjoyed. He needed to bridge the gap somehow.
Maybe he should get him a dog? Jake had wanted one, been desperate for one, before. Curbing his thoughts before they wandered too far down that dark road, David sucked in a breath and attempted to focus on the here and now. He couldn’t realistically fit in walking a dog, though, could he? Training it. With Jake to look after and with a new job to start, he was going to be pushed for time as it was. Feeling defeated before he’d even got started, David headed back to his own room, wondering what he should make Jake for breakfast. He’d barely touched the pasta he’d offered him last night.
Burger and chips, maybe?
Still pondering, David reached for the curtains hanging precariously in the huge bay window. The agent had laughingly referred to these depressing brown and tangerine floral things as retro. He needed to get new ones. The place needed cheering up. The natural wood flooring could hopefully stay, but the 60s nylon carpet had to go. ‘Grrreat!’ David closed his eyes and silently counted to five, as the “retro” curtains pooled at his feet, complete with rail.
Oops. Andrea pulled her gaze away from the semi-naked male torso in the bedroom window opposite. Quite a tasty torso, too. Pity the window ledge interrupted the view.
**Additional comments by Sheryl:
A little about the story behind the story: Learning to Love started life as a short – the theme of which was bereavement in childhood, which was accepted by the Birmingham City University to be published in their Anthology, Paper and Ink.
Not an easy subject to tackle some might say. My reasons for doing so were feelings around loss in my own life. Featuring a widowed father and his son, Learning to Love looks at the loss of a parent in childhood and how a child dealing with such a tragedy might be encouraged to grieve. Life events had fuelled the emotion. Research, talking to children who had suffered in such a way and to the surviving spouse, provided the story I felt I needed to tell. What struck me above all was the coping mechanism devised by one lone parent. He called it The Memory Box: A simple shoebox, stuffed full of photographs of the child’s mother along with other personal trinkets that would remind him of her. Importantly, remind him of the good times, the positive things his mother brought to his life, the times they laughed together. It was easy to see how humour plays a great part in the healing process. I called my short The Memory Box, in honour of that father and his little boy.
Poignant, yet humorous – or as a reviewer put it “fiction that “deals with loss & betrayal in manner that lifts it far above average ‘chick lit’”, Learning to Love is truly written from the heart.
Sheryl is a Loveahappyending Lifestyle Author and Feature Editor.
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