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Authors: Brown,A.S.

Begin to Begin

BOOK: Begin to Begin
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BEGIN TO BEGIN

A.S. Brown

KINDLE EDITION

Copyright 2016 © Angela Brown-Duckett as A.S. Brown

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, without written permission from the author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages embodied in critical articles or in a review.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Cover design by:
Najla Qamber Designs

Edited and Formatted by: Wendi Temporado of
Ready, Set, Edit

Table of Contents

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Epilogue

Dedication

To anyone who has had their heart shattered by tragedy; there is someone waiting to put the pieces back together.

Prologue

Standing in front of the hotel where I plan to say my vows tomorrow, I wait for Benji to come out with his brother and friends. I don't know what possessed us to get married in January but no going back now, tomorrow is the big day. It's the day that Benji and I make it official. I can't believe it's finally here. We made it through high school and college and now adulthood, despite what anyone had to say.

"Marin!" my best friend Amelia yells from across the parking lot where she very impatiently waits for me. "Get your ass over here! We have some celebrating to do since this is your last night as a single lady!" She wiggles her hips seductively, and I laugh and roll my eyes. She's crazy, but I love her. I don't even know where our next stop is at this point. I'm going in blind to the rest of this night.

I have a feeling I'm going to feel sorry in the morning.

"Just give me a minute; I want to say goodbye to Benji!" I yell back. I know it's only one night but I hate to be away from him, especially on the night before the most important day of our lives.

I look back over my shoulder and see Amelia shaking her head in amusement as I hear the doors to the hotel open and the loud banter of a group of men. Benji looks over and locks eyes with me, and we both smile.

How did I ever get so lucky to be marrying the man of my dreams tomorrow? Most girls only dream of this day. Mine is a reality. I would have never guessed all those years ago in chemistry when I was paired with Benji that we would one day be getting married. He was quirky and nerdy and not anything like the normal guys I dated. I think that's why I fell for him.

"Hey, guys, I'll meet you at the car. I'm going to go give my girl a goodnight kiss," I hear him tell everyone. Cat calls and whistles fill the quiet night as he walks toward me.

Swinging me up into his arms, his nose nuzzles my neck as he lifts me off of my feet. I am quite petite compared to his tall frame so I can barely reach his face if he isn't bending over, even in heels.

"Ughhhh, I hate leaving you tonight," I groan, "but it will all be worth it tomorrow."

He kisses me softly, nothing too passionate, though. We have a tendency to get carried away at times, and tonight I won't let him. I want tomorrow to be special.

"I can't wait for you to be my wife tomorrow, Marin." He tucks my short curls behind my ear. "I have been waiting for this day since the minute I laid eyes on you."

His friends start calling from across the parking at him.

"Yo, Benj! Hurry the hell up!" Joey, his brother, calls.

"She will be all yours tomorrow, man!" his friend Thomas adds.

We laugh together and give each other one last kiss for the night.

"Sweet dreams, my Marin," he says as he starts to back away from me. "I love you!" he yells one last time.

"I love you too, soon to be husband!" Reaching down, I slip off my heels—my feet are killing me.

Turning, I head to the other end of the parking lot.

Amelia is waiting beside the car texting away furiously on her phone. I chuckle at the sight. That damn thing is literally her lifeline. The rest of my bridesmaids, Gwenn, Melinda, and Chloe, left as soon as they could.

"Girl, put that damn phone away! We have to get our drink on." Looking up at me, she laughs and shoves it in her purse. "But not too much … I don't want to be hungover tomorrow," I add.

"Listen here, Marin …" She doesn't get to finish her sentence when we hear the first shot. We both jump and then immediately hit the ground, not knowing where it's coming from—definitely close. Another shot rings out, and I let out a small cry.

"Where the hell is that coming from? It sounds like it's across the parking lot,” Amelia whispers.

Two more shots ring out through the black night.

"Shit! Benji's over there." I immediately jump up, but Amelia pulls me back down at the same time that yelling starts across the parking lot. It's the guys, I can tell.

"Stay down, Marin!" she whispers. "We have no idea what is going on."

Frantically pushing her away, I get back to my feet. "I don't give a shit what's going on! Benji and the guys are over there!"

Just as I start to run across the parking lot, the yelling turns to screaming.

"Oh, my god. Help! Somebody!"
I look back at Amelia, sure that the look of horror on her face is mirroring mine. She jumps to her feet and we run the distance of the front parking lot and then around to the side of the building where I see a group of guys huddled on the ground. I am unable to make out who is who from this distance, but I know they are my group of guys. Picking up the pace, I reach them and notice Joey, Benji's brother, is on his cell phone already, presumably with 911 judging by the frantic words coming out of his mouth.

I stop dead in my tracks when I notice who is lying lifeless on the ground.
Benji
.

"Oh my god, Marin,” Amelia whispers from behind me.

Falling to my knees, I pull him onto my lap. "Benji. Babe. Open your eyes. Please," I beg as the tears stream down my face. "
Someone hurry up and get here!"
I scream to no one in particular but everyone at the same time.

The discernable tinge of copper is in the air. Only one thing has that smell. Blood. That's when I notice the gaping hole in his neck.

Blood has already seeped into my clothing and my knees are burning from my fall to ground when I grabbed him, but none of that matters. All that matters is him. Benji's eyes flutter open and try to make contact with mine, and I sigh in relief because he is still alive. A lone tear slips down his cheek as I whisper softly to him, "You're going to be fine Benji. Stay with me." Although, deep down, I know nothing will ever be OK again.

He slowly shakes his head and tries to talk but blood spills from his mouth instead of words.

Sirens blare in the distance, and I clutch his body closer to mine while sobbing. "I love you so much. You aren't leaving me. Please, Benji … you can't."

"Ma’am, please move back so we can help the patient."

Not wanting to let him go but knowing I have to, I place a kiss on his lips." Reluctantly, I let the EMTs do their job and step back into Amelia's waiting arms. Sobbing uncontrollably, she tries to give me as much comfort as she possibly can.

Nothing can fix this. Nothing can make it better.

I look on as the EMTs desperately trying to save Benji's life. It's not good, though. They look back and forth to each other with no hope in their eyes and one of them turns and looks at me.

Shaking my head, I try to rid my thoughts of what I know they are going to tell me.

After what seems like a lifetime, one of them turns back to me, a consoling hand on my shoulder. "I'm sorry, Ma’am."

Those three little words completely alter my life.

Those three little words take away the one thing I love the most in this world.

Falling to my knees and taking Amelia down with me, I sob as a piece of my heart dies right along with Benji.

Emptiness slowly creeps into my soul where he resided.

My heart has shattered into a million pieces.

This has to be a nightmare and can't be real life.

Arms wrap tightly around me from behind as I watch them place a white sheet over my Benji. From my peripheral vision I see someone approaching.

"Ma’am, I'm so very sorry to bother you at this terrible time, but can we talk for a minute?"

At least, I think that’s what he says; I barely register that he’s speaking at all.

"Please just let her be for a few more minutes," Amelia responds.

Shaking my head weakly, I respond, "I can't, I just can't talk to anyone."

"Shhh …" Amelia rubs her hand in circles on my back. "I will have the guys speak with the police." She pulls my face back a tiny bit and speaks to me as if I'm a child. "I will be right back. Please don't move, OK?"

Nodding my response, I sink back down to the ground and stare at the form under the white sheet.

He was kissing me a few moments ago.

Why did this happen to Benji? Everyone loved him.

How am I going to move on from this?

Chapter One
Marin
Thirteen Months After the Shooting

Marching up the steps of the police station is the only thing crossing my mind right now. It is the only thing that crosses my mind every month on the twenty-first.

I visit this god-awful place every month on the monthly anniversary of Benji's death in hopes that someone will have some answers.

They never do.

I don't know why I even bother anymore. It's always the same thing. "We're sorry Marin. The case is still open, but we have no new leads."

Well, I'm sick of this nonsense. Someone has to know something. Someone somewhere knows who shot Benji. The police are classifying it as a random act of violence; I'm calling bullshit. People don't go around shooting guns in that part of the city. It's not a bad neighborhood.

It's where Benji and I were going to grow old together.

I don't understand, and I probably never will. Even after they catch whoever did this—
if
they ever catch them.

As I push open the large glass door to the homicide unit, I'm greeted by Frank. He's used to seeing me.

"Good morning, Marin. How are you this morning? Little brisk out there today!"

Frank is quite the jolly guy. He's a detective for Orlando Homicide, but he is closing in on retirement so he stays behind the desk most days. Honestly, I think he is just over dealing with all the death and happy to see living, breathing people on a daily basis.

"Well, it is February! It's not exactly going to be ninety out today," I exclaim.

"Right, right, Miss Marin. But this is Florida. I live here to stay warm."

"It's not that cold, Frank. It's sixty out already and it's only eight." I smile at him.

Not much makes me smile these days. Not since last January, anyway. Aside from the rare occasions I engage in a pleasant conversation with a customer at the bookstore.

Owning and working day in and day out at Chapter Fifteen is the only thing that has kept my mind off of Benji not being here. I wake up every morning at four and get ready for the day, drive into town, and park before I head down Fifteenth Avenue—hence how I came up with the name for Chapter Fifteen—to be in the store by 5:30 AM. I never leave, unless it's to come here or go home at six in the evening. We are closed on Sundays—that is the only day that I sit at home in complete despair. My life is nothing like it was supposed to be now that Benji is gone. Without him in it, everything is just gray.

BOOK: Begin to Begin
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