Secrets Change Everything

Secrets Change Everything

by Maggie Branath, Noel F. Caraccio


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“Good characters...and a solid debut”!........

KirKus Review

Fannie honestly believed she was doing the right thing by keeping a secret from her teenage daughter, Abby. However, many years later after Fannie’s death, circumstances bring Fannie back from the dead to disclose the long buried secret and to settle unresolved issues with her daughter. The secret leads to blackmail, intrigue and murder. Now Abby has a second chance with her mother. Fannie and Abby deal with the unfinished business between them with love, sarcasm and humor.

When Fannie returns from the afterlife, she helps Abby save a young man, Rick, who is determined to commit suicide by plunging to his death from a bridge. Rick’s fateful encounter with Abby turns out not to be a coincidence at all. Fannie helps Abby save him from an untimely death, since Fannie knows he will be the key to unlocking the secret. Rick and Abby’s friendship leads Abby ever closer to the events from the past that created the secret in the first place and leads Rick on his own journey to rebuild his life. As events unfold, Abby anguishes that like her mother, she has kept a secret from her own children. Ultimately, Abby learns that family secrets have a way of revealing themselves and changing the lives of everyone involved.

Reviews from Amazon:

“Could not put it down, I want more”......Honore

“Perfect page turner”.........Nicole

“Wow. This is a book you will not want to stop reading.

The ending does not disappoint.”........Joseph

“Not to be missed”.....Pat

“The characters and their conflicts were very real and their interactions were alive on the page.” Ralph

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504366052
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 11/21/2016
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt


If Abby thought life had been difficult with her mother, Fannie, sick at home, having her in the hospital was far more difficult. Frances preferred to be called Fannie, which was the nickname her grandma Brown had called her as a young child. Abby was now spending a lot of the day in the hospital and running back and forth to check on her father at the house. Fred came to visit Fannie in the hospital, but he didn't have the stamina to stay the whole day, nor did he want to. It was too emotionally draining for him.

After Fannie was stabilized in the emergency room, she was transferred to the intensive care unit. The next day, the pulmonologist approached Abby and said he had conferred with the surgeon, and they both felt Fannie needed a tracheotomy. They needed Fred's consent. Fred really didn't quite understand the implications of this decision and looked to Abby for an explanation. As hard as this was, since the doctor felt this was in Fannie's best interest, Fred signed the consent form.

Despite the doctors' best efforts, Fannie continued on a downward spiral. One morning as Abby was sitting in the hospital room with her mother, Fannie started having a severe epileptic grand mal seizure due to an allergic reaction to the medication. Abby ran out of Fannie's room, yelling for the nurse. The nurse paged one of the doctors, who prescribed Dilantin. Eventually, the seizures ended, but Abby was clearly frazzled by them. It was now another thing to have to worry about.

Abby had had seizures as a child, so when Fannie was stabilized and more coherent, Abby said, "Mom, you scared the living hell out of me. Now I understand what it must have been like for you to feel helpless when I was having the seizures."

Fannie picked up the pad of paper and pen Abby had given her to communicate with since the tracheotomy. Fannie scribbled, "Yes, scared. Did the best I could. So did you."

The combination of medicines for the emphysema and the seizures caused Fannie to have a bleeding ulcer. In addition to that, her stomach was badly distended, and she was in a great deal of pain. The doctor told Abby that Fannie needed surgery sooner rather than later to repair the bleeding ulcer.

That afternoon, Abby was walking alongside the gurney as they wheeled Fannie toward the operating room. Abby was holding her hand and telling her yet again that everything would be all right. Abby wasn't sure she really believed what she was telling Fannie, but what choice did she have? Fannie smiled at Abby and blew her a kiss as the doors to the operating room opened. Abby called to her and said again as she had every day, "I love you. I'll be here when you wake up." The doors closed, and Fannie was gone.

About four hours later, Abby was awakened by the doctor, who came to find her in the waiting room. He told Abby that the surgery had gone well and they had repaired the bleeding ulcer. Abby could see Fannie in the recovery room shortly. The doctor continued. "The problem is that when a patient reaches a certain age and something happens, whether it be due to disease or injury, medicine can only do so much. Complications arise, which make a good outcome difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. There's a snowball effect. It's like trying to pull someone back after they've fallen over a cliff. Sometimes you just can't reel them back in. In your mother's case, there are far too many complications for us to get the outcome we would like. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

Unfortunately, Abby understood all too well. Less than a week after the conversation with the surgeon, Fannie died.


Abby left the hospital at about eight thirty the night before Fannie died. Fannie had been very alert that day. After Fannie's death, one of Abby's friends told her that hours before some people die, they become much more aware and lucid. The radial pulse diminishes, and the pulse in the carotid arteries becomes almost impossible to detect. She was right in both cases. Had Abby known this at the time, she would not have left Fannie's hospital room. Abby told her mother that she wanted to check on her father and take care of a few things at home.

Fannie's eyes were intently following Abby around the room. Abby leaned in to kiss her mother and told her that she loved her and that she'd be back early the next morning.

About six thirty the following morning, the hospital called and said that Fannie had died. Abby started to tremble and hung up the phone. Abby went upstairs to her father's room to tell him and asked him if he wanted to go to the hospital with her. He said he'd stay at the house and wait for Abby to come back. Abby said, "Are you sure you want to stay here, Dad?"

Fred replied, with tears forming in the corners of his eyes, "I've seen your mother in her best light, and that's the way I want to remember her." With that, Abby hugged him tightly and then left for the hospital.

Abby had a gold 1972 357 Pontiac Le Mans — a screamer. It was the last year they made "three on the tree." A normal ride to the hospital would have taken a good twenty minutes. That morning, Abby made it in ten.

When Abby went into Fannie's hospital room, she noticed that the ever-present respirator was gone from the room, as well as all the other life-support equipment, including the pulse oxygen monitor and the intravenous poles. Fannie was lying peacefully in the bed; the tracheotomy tube had been removed, and her hair had been combed. Abby bent down to kiss her on the forehead, and when she did, she could feel how cold Fannie had become already. Abby wanted to be there with her mother, to hold her hand and tell her again that everything would be all right. Abby wanted to tell her that it was okay to go. Abby needed to be there with her when Fannie took her last breath. Abby didn't want her mother to die alone. She felt she had made the wrong decision to admit Fannie to the hospital against her wishes, and now Fannie had died alone.

Abby sat down in the chair next to her mother's bed and took her hand. The waves of grief poured over Abby, and she started to sob. She was crying for her mother; she was crying for herself. She was just crying because she had to. Abby felt there was still so much she wanted to know about her mother, and so much Abby wanted to tell her.

Abby was very grateful for the time she had had with her mother. They both tried to make up for the years they had missed being with each other. Abby had missed out on knowing her mother as an equal, instead of just knowing her through a child's eyes. Her gratitude still didn't take away her feeling of failure to make the right decision about taking her mother to the hospital and not being with her when she died. Abby realized that sometimes, even though it feels like it's not enough, all you can do is your best — and then you have to let it go.


Seventeen Years Later

It had been a beautiful day at the beach — Silver Beach to be exact, not too far from Seaside Heights, which was known for its boardwalk restaurants and amusement park. Adam, at just five years old, loved the kiddie rides. He always smiled, laughed, and screamed, "Faster! More faster!"

Rick and Jennifer had bought a vacation house at Silver Beach with her parents. Rick couldn't have asked for better in-laws, especially since his own parents had passed away. The house was one block from the beach. It was large enough to have some alone time if he needed it, and big enough to gather the troops. It had a wrap-around porch with more than enough Adirondack chairs to sit in. The porch just made him want to kick back, put his bare feet on the porch rail, and tilt back a cold one.

Rick had just gotten off the phone with his boss. He was needed back at the law firm for an emergency. A client was in the midst of a battle over a corporate merger and acquisition, and Steve Goldrick, the managing partner, was calling in the best associates. There went the rest of Rick's vacation. He knew his heading back to Manhattan wasn't going to go over well with Jennifer or Adam. Rick could already imagine the disappointment on Adam's face. Rick thought he would break the news to Jennifer after they all finished dinner. No need to ruin a good barbeque.

The next morning, Rick, Jennifer, and Adam went for an early morning walk on the beach. Adam enjoyed looking for tiny crabs and shells washed up on the sand. He was running away from the surf making its way to the beach and then chasing it back to where it met the ocean. Adam would turn around every once in a while to see where his parents were and say, "See, Daddy, the wave can't catch me."

Rick would yell back, "That's 'cause you're too fast for the wave!"

Rick was content and happy with his life. I am one lucky son of a bitch, he thought.

Rick finished loading up the car and was saying his goodbyes. Jennifer said, "Drive carefully, and call when you get home. Promise?"

"Yes, I promise," said Rick. "Are you going to leave tomorrow or stay until Sunday?" "Mom said she wanted to head home on Sunday, so she'll be there for her board meeting, without having to rush home on Monday. It's just not the same here without the 'Grillmaster,' so I will see you, as she pointed a finger at him, "on Sunday and be ready for some fun in the bedroom."

Rick leaned over and grabbed Jen tight. "Fun sounds good," he whispered in her ear. He then kissed her and picked up Adam, who had just run over to his dad with arms outstretched.

"You looked like an airplane coming at me; what am I a runway?" Rick said as he picked Adam up and twirled him around.

"Daddy, you're funny. You're a people, not a runway."

Adam hugged Rick tightly. "See ya Sunday. Love ya, buddy."

"You too, Daddy," Adam replied as he ran toward the house.

Rick's ride to Manhattan was uneventful and quick. Surprisingly, not much traffic. He breezed through the Lincoln Tunnel and made his way across town to the office. Work was work — time for the game face. Rick worked Wednesday through Friday and part of the weekend in a flurry of activity for Monday and the next onslaught in the war for the corporation. As Sunday morning turned to Sunday afternoon, Rick was surprised that he hadn't heard from Jennifer. Rick tried Jen several times on the cell phone, but each time the voicemail came on. They were either on their way or more likely stuck in the Sunday afternoon traffic on the Garden State Parkway, "shore traffic." It was on a par with the traffic on the Tappan Zee Bridge and the George Washington Bridge during holidays or rush hour. Just sitting in that traffic made ya wanna jump off the bridge. If the jump didn't kill ya, you could probably swim faster across the Hudson. Rick was beginning to get concerned, but he tried to tell himself that Jen just forgot to turn her cell phone on.

Rick left the office at about three o'clock on Sunday afternoon and arrived home in less than an hour, since most of the traffic was coming east into Manhattan. As Rick pulled into his driveway, he noticed a police car pulling up behind him. He had an overwhelmingly sick feeling rising up from deep inside. Why haven't I heard from Jennifer by now? She always called. Did something happen to Adam? Why the hell is a cop pulling into my driveway? This can't be good. Oh fuck, he has that look on his face — something has happened! So many thoughts tumbled through his head in a split second. Rick and the officer got out of their cars at the same time.

"Mr. Singleton?" the officer asked in a very deep voice that reminded Rick of a very young country-western singer on American Idol. Jennifer was so hooked on that show. "Yes, I'm Rick Singleton. What's going on?"

"I'm afraid I have some bad news; can we go inside?"

"Just tell me now! What is it? What happened?" Rick could feel the bile rise in his throat.

"There's been an accident, and your wife and son are in the hospital. Why don't you let me take you to the hospital? Is there someone you can call to have them meet us there?"

"How bad is it — just fuckin' tell me." Rick began to pace, his hands to his temples and brushing the hair back from his face.

"All I know is that they are seriously injured; we need to get to St. Barnabas Hospital — now. While we are on the way, why don't you call someone to meet you there?"

On the way to the hospital, Rick called Jason, his older brother. "Jas, it's me; there's been an accident. Jennifer and Adam are at St. Barn. It's bad. I don't really know any details except they were hit by a car crossing the center line. Meet me there."


Abby looked out the window above her bed. All she had to do was roll over in the morning, and she could see the most beautiful sunrise. Since it was so early, she was able to see the brilliant white glow of the full moon and the shadows the moon cast on the trees. For whatever reason, she couldn't sleep, and the alarm clock on the nightstand just continued to blink the minutes away. It was early September, and the nights were cooling down with the unmistakable feel of autumn. She lay still for a few minutes, feeling the breeze as it blew the curtains above her head, and she could feel the night air on her face and arms.

Abby finally decided that any hope of getting back to sleep was futile. She was beginning to work up a sweat from rolling over so many times trying to get comfortable; she decided to get up and go downstairs to the kitchen. She looked over at Tina Bean, her big beautiful black Lab. Tina had found Abby when Tina was about a year and a half old. It was a time in Abby's life after Jerry had died, and she was trying to keep everything together for herself and the kids. Abby had been having a conversation "in her head" with her deceased mother. Abby asked her mother for a sign, and Abby wanted to know if her mother had heard her. Seconds later, a big black Labrador was standing at the kitchen door. Abby had checked around at vet offices and shelters to see if Tina had run away or belonged to anyone else, but nothing was found. Abby guessed that Tina's purpose was to just be, to be in Abby's life with her and her children. Abby strongly believed that her mother had everything to do with Tina's sudden appearance, even though Fannie had been dead for many years. Abby looked at Tina as she was curled up sleeping and thought how cute she must have been as a puppy. Abby had missed that part of Tina's life, but she was so thankful that they shared the rest of their lives. Tina was sleeping soundly next to Abby on the bed. God only knew how many sheep or maybe dog biscuits Tina was counting. All of the dogs and cats she had ever acquired had slept in her bed. "Where else were they going to sleep?" she would say to her mother. It was a good thing her husband, Jerry, had an understanding and an affinity for animals as well. He would have loved Tina. All Abby had to do was put one foot on the floor, and Tina popped her head up. That particular morning, as Abby started to get out of bed, Tina looked at Abby as if to say, "Do you know what time it is? It's still dark. Even I, who likes to wake you up early, don't want to get up before the crack of dawn." Tina gave Abby the equivalent of a dog shrug and jumped off the bed.

Abby threw on shorts, T-shirt, sweatshirt, and sneakers and started her descent down the stairs with Tina at her heels. Abby stood at the kitchen counter and poured herself a glass of water and got a biscuit for Tina. Since they were up anyway, Abby decided to go for a walk. "Tina, do you want to come along for a walk?" Stupid question to ask, Abby thought to herself. Since Tina never wanted to miss anything, she began to wag her tail and waited by the sliding glass door in anticipation. "Here's some carbs for the run," Abby said, and tossed her the biscuit.

Because it was so early and they had so much time, Abby thought it would be great to drive to a trail in the woods where they could see the deer feeding in the early morning. The trail had been cleared by the town to create a path along the river for running or biking or for a very early stroll in the morning. Some mornings it was absolutely breathtaking to see the sun rise. Abby opened the passenger side door, and Tina practically knocked Abby over in her haste to get in the car.


Excerpted from "Secrets Change Everything"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Maggie Branath and Noël F. Caraccio.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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