With-in the confines of chapters one and three, Brent, while working in his back yard, experiences a heart attack. Writhing from the pain, he struggles along the ground in an effort to seek help. During this time, he will relive the joys and tragedies from the three loves of his life. Please accompany him on his journey and I hope you enjoy the read.



The bitter breeze strewn lifeless brown leaves along my cold, hard Midwest lawn. Only a couple weeks prior they dazzled brilliantly against the sun as it shown through the yellow, orange, and red colors of fall. Now, I struggled against Mother Nature; my only weapon to stop their attempted escape on the wings of her frosty breath was an old fashion bamboo rake, a hand-me-down from a generation long since passed.

I worked feverishly, gathering the last remnants of summer into piles to be bagged and picked up before the first snow fall. The dull, gray sky and wintry winds told me time was short.

My left arm was still hurting as it had been for most of the day. Normal, I suspected for a man who, like the season, was also approaching winter. The long tentacles of the old rake scraped along the ground when suddenly it dropped from my hands. I went down to my knees clutching my chest from the worst pain I had ever experienced. My body twisted from tightening muscles and I fell hard upon the frozen ground behind my house.

I was paralyzed from the agony. My body refused to function. I heard the rustling of leaves under me as I rolled uncontrollably from one side to the other.

I had to regain control. I was alone, blocked from view of the street and my neighbors. Somehow I had to get to the house. Then it hit again. My body curled in a ball as it was wreaked with a second wave of burning torment.

I laid there. I struggled to breathe. I could feel the erratic rhythm of my heart pounding in my chest, when off in the distance I heard a voice.

“I love you,” it said like a whisper in the wind. There was something familiar about it. It was almost like a dream, yet so real…no, not a dream, a memory. I heard it again, “I love you with all my heart.” This time I recognized it. It was a voice I hadn’t heard in over fifty years, the voice of my high school sweetheart; the first love of my life.

“Tanya,” I said in a raspy voice. It was all I could manage but it brought me back to a warm summer’s night in my home town.

We lay under the stars, our naked bodies entwined, our hearts pounding, our minds spinning, as we both had just experienced the rapture of making love for the first time in our lives. Tanya turned toward me and caressed my cheek with her dainty hand. “I love you,” she said. “I love you with all my heart.”

I still remember how it all started. Back then, as far as I was concerned, it was the most unlikely romance I could think of. I was certainly no lady’s man. In grade school I had red hair, freckles, and wore glasses. I was constantly ridiculed by the girls in my class. I guess I grew out of a lot of that by the time I entered high school. My hair turned darker in color. The freckles were all gone; I still couldn’t escape the glasses though and was nonetheless very self-conscious in spite of the small popularity I enjoyed as the school photographer.

Tanya Dickens was a cheerleader and certainly one of the most popular girls in school. She and I shared a class in English Literature, but other than that, I had no real contact with her except to take pictures of her at the football and basketball games.

I still remember my reaction on that cold November, Friday night after the football game when I felt someone tap me on the shoulder from behind. I turned around and saw Tanya with her winter coat wrapped around her little cheerleader’s outfit.

“Hi Brent,” she said, in what I was sure was the voice of an angel. “Hey, if it’s not too far out of your way, do you think you could give me a ride home tonight?”

My brain instantly turned to mush. Be cool, I thought, don’t get tongue tied, don’t act scared, just answer her.

“Sure Tanya, no problem.” Whew! I did it; I spoke to her and didn’t make a fool of myself…at least not yet.

It was only a ten minute drive from the school to her house, but it was the most stressful ten minutes of my young life. She didn’t wait for me to get out and open the car door for her like the gentleman I was taught to be. Instead, as soon as I stopped in her drive she opened the door herself, glanced over toward me with a smile that would have melted the heart of Genghis khan, and simply said thanks. A moment later she left me sitting there like a love sick puppy as she disappeared behind the front door of her house.

Driving off, I thought to myself, if I live to be a hundred, I will remember this night for the rest of my life, the night Tanya Dickens rode in my car. Little did I know at the time, there would be many more nights to remember.

The following week was pretty much like all weeks in school until Friday in English Lit. I was already seated when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up, once again, into Tanya’s smiling face.

“Are you taking pictures at the game tonight, Brent?”

“Sure, I’ll be there,” I said trying again not to pee my pants.

“Could you give me a ride home again?” She asked.

I was really finding this hard to believe. Two weeks in a row?

“Absolutely!” As fast as I said it I wondered if I’d sounded too anxious.

“Great,” she replied enthusiastically. “I’ll see you tonight then.”

That night all I could think of was taking Tanya home again. What if she wanted to talk? What would we talk about? I was so nervous I almost forgot to shoot pictures. I didn’t have a single photo that was even worthy of the high school newspaper until late in the fourth quarter. I happened to be in the right spot at the right time when I grabbed a great shot of the winning touchdown.

“Great shot, kid,” I heard from my left. I looked over and recognized the middle aged man talking. He was the head photographer for the largest newspaper in the state. They would occasionally cover high school sports in our area.

“Thanks,” I said, “just a lucky shot.”

“In this game, kid, there’s no such thing as luck. Sports photography takes a keen eye and split second timing. You just showed both. Are you a senior?” he asked.

“Yes sir.”

The tall man walked up next to me, reached for his wallet and took out a business card. Holding it between his index and middle fingers he offered it in my direction.

“You’ve got talent, Kid. If you think you’d like to learn the newspaper game after graduation, give me a call.” He smiled and walked off in the direction of the parking lot.

What a night this was turning out to be, I thought. Just then Tanya came running up and grabbed my arm. She was all excited from our big win.

“Hey,” she said still holding on to me. “A bunch of the kids are going to the restaurant in town. Do you think we could join them, or do you have to get right home?”

Everything was happening so fast. Whose life was I living anyway, certainly not mine; just last week Tanya rode in my car, now she’s talking about a…a…a date? Well, maybe not an actual date, but it was close enough for me.

“Sure, Tanya.” Just then a couple more from the school’s ‘A’ crowd came over.

“So, you guys going to meet us there?” asked Judy, another cheerleader.

“Yeah, Brent and I are heading over there now,” Tanya replied. When we got to the restaurant they pushed several tables together for us. I sat next to Tanya and was actually talking to several members of this elite clique, almost as if I belonged.

Our tables were just getting served when two more from our school walked in, Pete and Darrell, the two stars of tonight’s game. Pete was the quarterback who threw the winning pass and Darrell was the tight end who made the spectacular catch.

“Hey Brent,” Darrell called out like I was a friend of his. “Did you get a shot of me catching that pass?”

Hell, I didn’t even know he knew my name. “Yes I did,” I responded. “I got it just as you grabbed for the ball.”

“Alright!” he said with exuberance. “I’m going to have my picture in the paper.”

I didn’t think the night could go any better until we were, once again, sitting in Tanya’s driveway. This time I was ready.

“Wait right there,” I said as I got out of the car and walked around to the passenger side. She smiled and stepped out as I held the door open for her. It was at that very moment that I thought the universe might explode.

“Thanks,” she said. “I had a great time tonight.” She then stood on her tiptoes and kissed me on the cheek. I don’t even remember driving home after that.

The following weekend was even more sensational than the last. Once again our team won the game and insured their spot in the sectionals. Tanya was so excited she grabbed me around the neck and started jumping up and down while kissing me several times on the cheek.

Having Tanya’s body rubbing and bumping into me soon had my own body reacting. I became absolutely mortified when I felt an erection growing in my pants. Several times, Tanya’s body, dressed only in that skimpy little cheerleader’s outfit, came in contact with my, now fully engorged dick. I wanted to melt into oblivion and had no idea what to do. I could feel myself getting flush from head to toe. I heard Tanya giggle a couple of times. I didn’t know if she was giggling because she was aware of my situation, or she was just excited about the game. One thing was for sure, I wasn’t going to ask her.

That night several more kids showed up at the restaurant in celebration of the win. This time, however, in addition to talking about the game, the other main topic of conversation was my photograph of last week’s winning touchdown. I was truly living in a parallel universe, I thought, as some of the kids congratulated me and told me what a great photographer I was.

The following Tuesday, Jim, a long time buddy of mine from grade school, walked up to me while I was getting some books from my locker. Just by the look on his face I could tell he had something on his mind.

“Hey, Jim, what’s up?” He stared at me for a second before responding.

“Are you really dating Tanya Dickens?” he asked in a voice that more than showed his total disbelief, even in the question he was asking.

“Where did you hear that?” I inquired. It was extremely flattering but what came to mind first was worry, worry that Tanya would hear that and get angry. Driving her home and going out with the kids after the games was one thing, but if she heard some kids use the term, “dating,” she’d probably think I started the rumor and be really pissed.

“It’s all over school,” said Jim still with a questioning look. “Is it true? Are you really going out with Tanya?”

“No, Jim, it’s not true. Her house is right on my way home so I’ve been giving her a ride after the games, that’s all. You don’t really think she’d go out with me do you?”

I saw the look on Jim’s face; I think he was actually pleased. I’m not sure why, maybe he thought we’d no longer be friends if I was really dating Tanya. I’m not sure. We both had to get to our classes so, after a couple chuckles, he went one way and I went the other wondering if Tanya had heard the rumors and if she would ever speak to me again.

A couple days later I was relieved when Tanya stopped to say hi to me in the hall. Either she hadn’t heard the rumors, or she simply shrugged them off, I thought.

That Friday night everything seemed normal. Football season was winding down and it looked like we had a good shot at going all the way in the sectionals. As was now becoming the norm, Tanya and I met several of the kids at a restaurant after the game and talked again about our team’s victory.

I had been nervous the whole night. Sooner or later Tanya was going to hear the rumor about us dating and I didn’t want her to think I started it, so as we pulled into her drive, I had to take a chance.

“Tanya,” I said apprehensively. “Ah, well…I ah, well I heard there’s a rumor going around the school about you and I dating and…well, I ah, I just didn’t want you to think I started it, that’s all.”

I saw the smile leave Tanya’s face and really thought I’d blown it. Evidently she hadn’t even heard the rumor until I just blabbed.

“Are you ashamed of dating me?” she asked.

Okay, now I was really confused. I never had a sister and had absolutely no experience with girls, whatsoever. Was she mocking me, making fun of me, or was she being sincere? Then again, my dad said many times, “sincerity is what women fall back on when all other forms of deception have failed.”

I didn’t know what to say. Then, before I knew what was happening, it just came out. “Hell no Tanya, are you kidding, I love you.” Even as I heard myself saying it, I wanted to pull the words back into my mouth but I couldn’t. I think my eyes got as big as saucers about the same time Tanya put a smile back on her face. “Oh God, Tanya, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you. I…I didn’t mean to say that.”

“Oh, so you don’t love me?”

“No, I mean, yes, but…”

“Shhhhhh,” Tanya shushed me putting her finger to my lips. “Wow, that’s the first time anyone ever told me they loved me. Look,” she said, “my mom and dad would like to meet the guy who’s been driving me home. Why don’t you come in and meet them.”

“Oh jeez,” I said. “I’ve already made such a mess of tonight, I don’t know.”

“Oh come on,” she countered. “You haven’t messed up anything. Come on in, it’ll just take a minute.”

I reluctantly agreed. Tanya took my hand and led me into the lion’s den.

“Well, you’re the young man we’ve heard so much about,” said her dad as he reached out and shook my hand.

“Dad,” Tanya said. “Don’t embarrass me, please.” He chuckled and asked me to have a seat. Tanya had a younger sister who came running in, I guess to see what I looked like. As we all sat and talked I began to relax a little when Tanya’s mom brought me a Pepsi from the fridge. What do you know, I thought, Tanya didn’t live in a castle guarded by dragons after all; she was part of family just like me. In fact her dad was a no nonsense kind of guy just like my own dad. I really liked her whole family and they seemed to like me.

When it was time to leave Tanya walked me out. “I don’t know about love, Brent,” she said honestly, “but I like you a lot, and if you ever do decide to ask me out on a real date, I’d be happy to say yes.” She then reached up, put her arms around my neck, and kissed me; this time on the lips. It was the first time in my life I had been kissed on the lips. I remember thinking at that moment, if God were to strike me dead right now, I would have no regrets. I had just been kissed by Tanya Dickens, what more could life hold?

Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, was all that came to mind as I drove off heading for home. What’ll I do? I’ve never been on a date before in my entire life, not a real date. I’ve never had a girlfriend before. God! What to do? I have to talk to someone. I need advice, but who? I can’t talk to my folks…not about girls…oh God, I thought, that’s just sick!

Denny! Of course, my cousin, Denny; he was nine years older than me and was married. Denny and I were more like brothers than cousins. Cindy, his wife, was extremely pretty, too. Not as pretty as Tanya of course, but still very pretty. Tomorrow was Saturday, Denny didn’t work so I could go over there and talk to him.

Saturday morning at breakfast, all I could think about was Tanya and the talk I was going to have with my cousin. First; however, I had to help my dad with the last of the yard work. He handed me one of the two brand new bamboo rakes he had just bought, and we spent the next four hours raking and burning leaves.

After dinner I told my parents I was going over to Denny’s for a little while. They warned me not to make it home too late, we were all going to church on Sunday.

When I got to Den’s I was glad to see Cindy was in the kitchen doing dishes. Den and I sat in the living room. I guess he could read my face and knew I had something specific I wanted to talk to him about.

“Okay, Brent, you look worried, what’s going on?” he asked.

“Well,” I said softening my voice so Cindy wouldn’t hear me, “I need some advice. There’s a girl at school. I really like her and…well, I want to ask her on a date, but…

“Hey man, it’s about time,” Denny interrupted. “Who is she? Is she cute? Hey Cindy, come on in here, Brent has a girlfriend!”

Damn it, I thought, there goes the private conversation I wanted to have. Cindy came into the living room wiping her hands dry on a dish towel. She had a huge smile on her face as she sat next to me on their couch. This was going to be embarrassing; I could just feel it in my bones.

“Brent that’s great,” said Cindy. “Do we know her?”

“No, I don’t think so. Her name is Tanya Dickens, she’s one of the cheerleaders at school.”

“One of the cheerleaders!” said Denny with a surprised tone in his voice. “Hey man, that’s my cousin,” he said while shifting his body forward and leaning his elbows on his knees in a more intent listening posture.

“I think that’s great,” said Cindy.

“Yeah, she’s really something special,” I said with pride. “But…well, I want to take her out on a date but I don’t really know what to d…”

Before I could finish Denny broke in again. “The clit, man, go right for the clit. It drives them crazy, doesn’t it honey?”

I looked up at my cousin in shock.

“It’s right under the little hood at the top of the pussy,” he continued. “Show him yours, honey,” he said looking at his wife with a big grin on his face.

I could literally feel my entire body blushing. Cindy looked at me. “Den, will you stop, look at the poor kid; you’re embarrassing him.”

Denny looked back at me and laughed. “Ha, ha, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone quite so red in my life.”

“Brent,” Cindy said with empathy. “You’re a great guy. Just be yourself and you’ll do fine.”

“Oh hell, Cindy,” I said nervously. “She could have any guy she wants. I still don’t know why she likes me but she does. At least I think she does. She sure seems to.”

“What do you mean you don’t know why she likes you,” said Cindy in an almost angry voice. “You’re smart, witty, and good looking. You have a great personality…any girl would be proud to be your date.”

“I don’t know, Cindy. It just seems so farfetched that she really could like me. Anyway, I have no idea where to take her or what to do.”

Cindy thought for just a second. “Take her to a movie. You can’t miss with going to the show, Brent. Pick out a nice romantic comedy, or better yet, let her pick it out. When they turn the lights down low you put your arm around her so you two can cuddle. When it’s over you can take her out to a restaurant. If you can’t think of anything to talk about, you can talk about the movie you just saw.”

“Yeah,” I said picturing me with my arm around Tanya. “That’s a good idea. Thanks.”

“Hey, there’s also a little trick you can do by cutting a hole in the bottom of the popcorn box and putting it on your lap,” said Denny joking again.