A Medium's Birthday Surprise
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Twenty-six-year-old Becky Tibbs inherited the ability to see ghosts the same as her brother and sister. They received this gift on the night their parents were both killed in an automobile accident. Becky readily accepts her ability and immediately begins to help recently departed spirits with their problems. However, her brother and sister want no part of this ability and do whatever they can to block out the pleading voices.
Release date: June 8, 2018
Publisher: Independently Published
Print pages: 184
Content advisory: none
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Behind the book
I lived in Asheville when I began to write this series. The ancient mountains, waterfalls, and lush scenery inspired this series.
A Medium's Birthday Surprise
Chariss K. Walker
Becky Tibbs, wrapped snugly in a gently worn pink terrycloth robe and with her feet clad in her favorite purple bunny slippers, descended the stairs while attempting to rub the sleep from her eyes. She padded softly into her large, cheerful eat-in kitchen on the first floor level of the family home where she had lived for… forever.
The aroma of freshly brewed coffee, thankfully set on a timer the night before, drew her like a magnet. If she'd ever needed the hot, caffeinated brew, she needed it on this bright, sunny morning. She hoped it would perk her up a little.
She hadn't slept well during the previous night. Truth be told, she felt as if she hadn't slept at all. Her night had been filled with foreboding and unsettling dreams.
Becky always drank black coffee. Fancy coffee shops with their exotic flavors and steamed milk choices were lost on her. Give her a good cup of dark roast anytime and she was happy. She hoped the strong, fragrant coffee would clear the cobwebs from her mind.
She'd just filled a large mug when suddenly she felt her long, unbrushed, coppery red hair lift at the back of her neck. A chill ran down her spine. Alarmed, she jerked around, sloshing her full cup in the process. The steaming-hot liquid scorched her hand.
"Ouch! Dang it!" Becky complained as she quickly set the steaming cup on the counter. "Look what you made me do! Didn't anyone ever tell you that it's not polite to sneak up on folks?" She'd planned to give the unexpected guest a piece of her mind but stopped mid-sentence when she recognized her visitor, "What the heck… Josh… is that re-really you?" she stammered.
"I'm sorry," Josh said as he reached out to stroke her arm.
His touch sent a chill slithering down her warm flesh. Then, he leaned forward, took her hand, and kissed her damaged fingers. His icy breath soothed the hot, burned skin immediately, but Becky secretly wished he hadn't done that.
She felt creeped-out enough already. She was shocked to see him.
Josh looked at Becky with a lopsided grin, "I just wanted to surprise you for your birthday."
"You certainly did. I haven't seen you in ten years and you show up like this?"
Becky was flabbergasted. Her heart raced erratically and pounded so loudly she wondered if Josh could hear its booming thwack in her chest. She certainly could.
Tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump.
"Well, don't be mad at me, Becky. I love you," His reply was quick and indignant. His stringent voice caused the clean plates in the dish-drainer to rattle.
Becky moved back and away from him.
"Look, Josh, this is so inappropriate," Becky struggled to keep her voice calm. Her five-foot-five-inch frame quaked with fear and trepidation as she looked up at him. She knew better than to rile him, "You've been gone a very long time and well…," her words hung in the air between them.
"That's not really my fault, Becky. I stopped by to see you last night, but you were sleeping. I waited in your room and I checked on you several times. You never woke up. I wanted to see you so badly that I came back this morning."
Becky shuddered. That explained a lot, especially the restless night. It's difficult to get any sleep when someone is watching you while you're in such a vulnerable state.
She felt exposed and tried to shake off the uneasiness of that thought as well as seeing Josh again after such a long absence.
She certainly hadn't expected to wake up to the sight of her long, lost boyfriend today. His presence after such a long absence scared the bejesus out of her. And, to be honest, she wasn't easily surprised or frightened.
Somehow, Josh had managed to do both.
Becky inhaled deeply in an attempt to calm her jittery nerves and then asked, "What happened to you anyway?"
Josh only shrugged his lean shoulders in response. He looked the same as he had all those years ago: tall, young, and with his blond hair slightly spiked-up like a rock star.
He'd always had an appealing, sad-and-lonely-artist-thing going on. Those traits seemed to be essential to all artists whether painters, novelists, or musicians.
Josh was a budding musician back then. And, back then, she hadn't been able to resist his allure. Now that she was twenty-six years old, however, it just seemed unsettling and out of place.
"Where have you been all this time? I think you owe me an explanation." Becky softly said, trying to keep her tone even and pleasant, trying not to upset him.
"I don't know," he replied, as he looked away.
"What's the last thing you remember?" Becky asked, gently prodding Josh again.
"I remember dancing with you in the backyard under the sparkly lights your parents set up. We slow danced. Your folks were awesome. They were always so cool and thoughtful, making everything just right for you. Not like mine at all."
The last sentence sounded bitter.
"My parents were great, Josh. They died five years ago," Becky said.
Josh fell silent and looked at his feet. He couldn't seem to maintain eye contact with her.
Becky carefully chose her next words, "What else do you remember?"
Flashes of lights and people… loud noises… filled Josh's mind. He shook his head back and forth several times as if trying to shake the images out of his skull. He felt pain… terrible pain in his head. Next, it seemed to center in his abdomen. He clasped his hands across his stomach and leaned over, gasping. Then, the pain traveled back to his head, ear-splitting anguish gripped him. Josh grabbed his head with both hands as if that would stop the onslaught of incomplete visions and torture, but he was still in agony.
Becky watched Josh struggle for several moments. She realized that he was scared. Not just scared, but terrified. Worried about his condition and the consequences more than she wanted to admit, she asked, "Josh? Are you all right?"
"I don't want to talk about it," Josh said, his voice suddenly high-pitched.
"I think we need to talk about it, Josh."
"Why? What good will it do?" he asked.
His tone was icy and Becky knew what that meant. Trying to spark his memories had only succeeded in making him more agitated. It was evident from each clipped sentence he spoke next.
"I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to think about it. I came here to wish you a happy birthday and to see you because I love you. You're my girl, Becky. You've always been my girl. Ever since second grade, you've been my Becky. Can't you just let the rest of it alone? Can't you just be happy to see me?"
"So wish me a 'happy birthday,' Josh," she whispered, trying to soothe the highly unstable friction.
"Happy birthday, Becky," he repeated but his heart wasn't in it. He was already too far gone, too angry, and too volatile.
She'd pushed him to remember and he didn't want to remember anything about it. She didn't know the reason for that, but she knew she'd have to find out. She'd have to help him if she could.
As Josh's frustration grew, Becky noticed all the signs of instability. The lights in the kitchen flickered off and on as if they were also irritated. The electrical charge seemed to spur his anger on. Static filled the air emphasizing his raw emotions.
A harsh chilled air blew across Becky's face. She took a deep breath determined to face Josh head-on. She didn't want to hurt him. She just needed him to see the truth.
"Josh, look at me," she calmly demanded. "What do you see?"
He looked at her and then looked away; his response a harsh, noncommittal grunt. This wasn't going to be easy, but Becky forged on. She'd been here before, she could handle it.
"Do I look like a sixteen-year-old girl to you?" she softly asked. Josh stubbornly ignored her question. He wouldn't even look at her for more than a few seconds. "Dang-it, Josh... I'm serious. Please, look at me. Do I look like I did the last time you saw me?"
"You might if you had on the same yellow dress," he said, mumbling so quietly she almost didn't catch it. Maybe his reply indicated he was calm again. Becky hoped he was, and wishing for that possibility, she kept going with an ultimate goal in mind.
"Josh, even that dress wouldn't make me sixteen again," she said, deliberately keeping her voice soft and gentle. "I'm not that skinny little girl anymore. I've grown up. I live here alone in the family home because after my parents died I took over their family business. Look at me, Josh, please." Becky continued to use all her skills, gently pleading with him, but when Josh replied, the contrast was so severe, Becky jumped further away from him.
"Don't do this!" Josh screamed; his high-pitched voice reverberated around the kitchen bouncing off the tiled floors and countertops.
Too late, Becky realized even her best efforts had failed. She'd pushed him too hard and too soon. His mood-swing had zoomed from one to ten in milliseconds.
Becky's coffee mug shattered into a hundred pieces of sharp porcelain shards. The now warm liquid splattered her face, hair, and upper body. A splinter of broken glass barely missed her left eye. Her ears rang… painfully, causing tears to sting her eyes. She trembled from the dampness that clung to her and the anger Josh displayed.
She had to admit that Josh was dangerous, more dangerous than she'd imagined. Suddenly, Becky didn't feel equipped to deal with him. She questioned her position in this situation. She knew that she was also in pain. Hadn't she suffered the loss just as much as Josh had?
Becky shut her eyes and tried to calm herself again, but there was no calming this panic, this fear. Still, she knew in her heart that she was the only one who could help him.
Didn't she know Josh better than anyone else?
When she opened her eyes again, hoping to try once more, the room was empty.
And Josh… well, Josh was gone.
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