Home > When It Falls Apart (The D'Angelos #1)

When It Falls Apart (The D'Angelos #1)
Author: Catherine Bybee



Dear Reader,

Thank you for trusting me with your valuable time as you pick up When It Falls Apart and settle into the pages that I’ve created for you. Oftentimes, when I put my fingers on the keyboard and begin a new book, I start with completely made-up people in made-up worlds with made-up drama.

This is not that book.

At least not in its entirety.

For the sake of argument, let’s suggest that I have perhaps taken liberties with certain truths pulled out of the pages of my own life and of the people I know. Let’s call these portions of When It Falls Apart “creative nonfiction” and leave the reader to guess which parts of the story are real.

I have pushed this story a few years into the future from the year it was written, 2021. And have used my creative license as an author with what I feel will become a way of life when it comes to caring for our elderly in group homes. If my assumptions do not stand the test of time, then all I can say is this is, at the heart, fiction.

As many authors will tell you, life is often stranger than fiction. So why do we always strive to fill our books with things greater than life? Why not simply tell a story that so many will relate to and find the inspiration to overcome within the pages?

This, dear reader, is that book.

Happy Reading.





The wretched shriek of the telephone ripped the deep bliss of sleep instantly from her head and had Brooke shooting up off the pillow. Her heart started to pound as the second ring did in fact prove she wasn’t hearing things and the phone was ringing. Her palm smacked the lit screen of her cell phone.

“San Antonio Hospital” flashed like a bad omen.

“Not again.”

Beside her, Marshall moaned at the interruption and rolled over.

Brooke took a deep breath and answered. “Hello?”

“Miss Turner?”

“This is her.”

“I’m calling from San Antonio Hospital’s emergency room. We have your father here.”

Brooke swung her legs off the side of the bed, turned the light on. “Is he okay? Did he have another stroke?”

“No, no. Not a stroke.”

Marshall sat up behind her. “What’s going on?”

Brooke placed her hand over the receiver. “It’s my dad.” She turned her focus back to the conversation on the phone. “What’s wrong with him?” she asked.

“He has a bowel obstruction.”

Brooke sighed with some relief. That didn’t sound too bad. The last time she received a middle-of-the-night call, he was having a stroke. And that had ranked right up there with flirting with death. “Okay.”

“I’m going to admit him and see if we can stabilize him before taking him to surgery.”

“You’re the surgeon?” Brooke thought she was talking to one of the nurses.

“Yes, I’m sorry, I should have said that right away. I’m Dr. Dubois. Your father is really sick, Miss Turner. I understand you’re his advance care director for health issues. I’ll need your permission for surgery.”

“He can’t consent?”

“No. The medication we’ve given him for pain has elevated his confusion . . .”

Brooke pushed off the bed, switched the phone to her other ear.

“Babe?” Marshall questioned.

She lifted the phone from her ear briefly. “Dad needs surgery.”

Marshall let out a sigh, and Brooke tiptoed from the bedroom into the kitchen and turned on the lights. Not that she needed to be quiet since they were both wide awake now, but the late hour made her want to walk softly and whisper her words.

She sat at the small dinette set and pulled a pad of paper and pen in front of her to jot down notes as Dr. Dubois spoke. The momentary relief of hearing her father only had an obstruction quickly turned to dread at how deadly his condition could be. The doctor described some rather disturbing scenarios involving blood infections and ICU admissions. Brooke lifted a hand to her lips in an old habit of biting her nails, caught her nervous response, and twisted a lock of hair instead. Her eyes narrowed on the clock. It was just after midnight. Late-night flights were a crapshoot for availability.

By the time she was off the phone, her anxiety was making her twitch. Her mind scrambled with how she was going to rearrange her schedule to accommodate her father . . . again.

Footsteps told her Marshall had walked into the room. He moved around her and crossed to the sink, where he turned on the water and filled a glass. Wearing only a pair of lounge pants, he turned to face her and leaned against the counter. “How bad is it?”

“It doesn’t sound good.”

She looked up, and he averted his eyes.

Brooke reached for her laptop and opened it. She needed a flight.

“You’re leaving.” His voice was accusing.

“Of course.”

“What about Florida?”

They were scheduled to go to Key West the following week. Marshall made his living creating travel vlogs for YouTube, and he’d been grounded a lot over the past few years. They’d been looking forward to this trip. “You’ll have to go without me.”


The disappointment in his voice snapped her chin up. “My father is sick.”

“Your father is always sick.”

Why did he do this? Why did he always do this? Marshall’s judgment on her relationship with her father came through in his digs, sighs, and shakes of his head. “I’m his only daughter.”

“You have a stepsister.”

“Who is going through a divorce and has her own ill parents. It’s not the same.”

Marshall rolled his eyes, drank from the glass. “This is getting old.”

They’d argued about this before when she’d returned from California after almost six months of rehabilitating her father. The first couple of weeks had been touch and go. But once it became certain her father would survive, the long haul of rehab took over. A lengthy stay at an in-patient rehabilitation center was followed by daily visits to physical, occupational, and speech therapy when he returned home. He progressed from a wheelchair to a walker to walking on his own, albeit slow and wonky, and if a stranger was watching, they’d think he’d been drinking. His speech suffered, but he managed well enough. And the right side of his body simply didn’t speak to the left side very well.

But he’d survived.

“What do you expect me to do?” Brooke asked Marshall.

He ran a hand through his hair. “Is he dying?”

She narrowed her eyes. “I don’t know. I hope not.”

A flash of something she didn’t want to name crossed over his face.

“How long will you be gone this time?”

“My dad is in the hospital right now with a possible expiration date on his life and all you want to know is how long I’ll be gone? I don’t know, Marshall. A week. A month . . . a year?” Three years she’d been with this man. Six months in they both agreed that marriage was a paper that neither of them needed. Both of them from divorced families, hers several times over and his twice . . . they didn’t need it. They agreed to keep it honest and faithful. And they’d done that. At least she knew she had. Their base was Seattle, but they traveled often. She worked from home with a creative marketing company, which had made life easier when her father got ill two years prior.

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