Shattered and Shaken

By: Julie Bailes

Shaken Series Book 1

Chapter 1- Shaken

WAKING UP TO SORE muscles and a tight chest, my body feels like it's been torn to pieces. My head hurts, my heart aches, and my soul is shattered. The sun is unwanted, shining bright into my eyes. The loud joyful chirping of birds infuriates me.

Fighting against the sun, I force my eyes open and look at my surroundings, praying I'm lost in a nightmare. The events from this week remain fresh in my mind, and I'm having difficulty grasping the concept that Kyle's never coming home. The thought of never seeing him again is unbearable. Not only was he my brother, he was my best friend, my provider: my everything.

How could he leave me? He had promised to come home safely; he promised to think of me and push through whatever came his way. He lied. I'm hurt, but I'm also livid that he could be so selfish. When Kyle decided to join the military, he didn't consider the emotional hell he'd inflict on Mom and I; he didn't give a flying fuck about either one of our opinions. Kyle was as stubborn as a mule, and once he had his mind set on something, he made it happen - no matter what the consequences were. Prime example, him joining the military. I pleaded for him to stay, but he didn't, and look what his stubbornness resulted in - death. Now he's gone and we have no one!

Our father was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer my junior year of high school, and Kyle's sophomore year of college. Dad's physician estimated he would live no more than six months, but he was a fighter and determined to prove them wrong. The cancer was so advanced the physicians were uncomfortable providing him with chemotherapy treatments. The doctors had explained that chemo wouldn't cure his cancer, but there was a possibility it could help prolong his life. Despite the physicians’ beliefs, dad decided to give chemo a try, but it made him deathly ill.

After six months of treatment and a two-week hospital stay, he decided to let the cancer run its natural course. Dad thrived to live, but unfortunately, he died eighteen months later. Mom, Kyle, and I watched as dad withered away to nothing. The tall, dark, and handsome man I knew as the strongest man in the world had turned brittle and weak. His thick curly locks disappeared, his broad body frame became narrow, and his muscles deteriorated. As days passed and the cancer spread, dad's will to live diminished. We stood by him and held his hand as he struggled to take his last breath; it was the most painful experience I've ever encountered - until now.

After our father's death, mom took on a second job to pay for his medical bills. It seems that insurance companies only want to provide their services to healthy patients. Get sick and they kick your ass off the policy faster than you can blink. We were determined to beat cancer's ass.

Mom had to refinance the house and take out several high interest loans so that dad could receive his treatments, home health, and follow-up doctor visits, putting her eyeball deep in debt. She worked as a nurse for the local emergency room every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights. The other nights, she worked as a private nurse caring for patients with disabilities. Before our father became ill, Mom was gorgeous, sporting healthy long brown waves, glowing sun-kissed skin, vibrant green eyes, and a nice toned body. But depression set in, and with the stress of two jobs, mom's great looks and enthusiasm diminished. Her hair became brittle; her appetite vanished, and she lost an absurd amount of weight. Her cheeks sunk in, while her skin paled, and her eyes lost their shine. In all honesty, she looked like shit. Don't get me wrong, I mourned the loss of my father, but life moves on. Kyle mourned and moved on, but seeing Mom worn out and defeated made Kyle take matters into his own hands. He knew the true reason mom had to work two jobs.

Mom was a Dave Ramsey graduate, and she refused to let us take out student loans. She was being unrealistic believing I could pay cash for college. Dad's insurance policy expired before he died, and the money left from his 401k was only enough to pay for one of our tuitions. Since Kyle was oldest, it belonged to him. Kyle wouldn't allow me to skip college. He put his foot down and demanded Mom drop her second job. He advised her to take his tuition money and invest it into my education. He had made the decision after he had met with military recruiters. They fed his brain with lies, luring him into their trap; it was all bullshit. If being ‘Army strong” is such a great thing, then why must you sign a contract with your blood, huh? What other job requires you to sign a minimum four-year contract to offer up your life? Go ahead, I'll wait...not a damn one. Their contract isn't one you can breach and be forced to pay fines or anything like that. You go AWOL and breach your contract, your ass is going to jail. The only pro of enlisting into the military is that it's a career that requires no experience, and they pay a decent salary for you becoming a life-offering slave, simply my opinion.