Preview my Non-Fiction books “Empty Chairs” & “Faint Echoes of Laughter” @pursoot #RRBC #IARTG #IAN1

Please be advised, the contents of my non-fiction memoir books are disturbing. Child abuse is not a pretty topic. If my books helps you understand the long term repercussions  of abuse, it will have been worth the pain of writing them.

.”Empty Chairs” BOOK 1 (Standing Tall & Fighting Back) By Suzanne Burke writing as Stacey Danson.

empty-chairs-cover-kindle-showing-series-details

 

Newly Edited May 2017.
Stacey Danson, lived through and beyond horrific child abuse. This book tells of her brutal beginnings, the streets of Sydney at the age of eleven were preferable to the hell she endured at home. She ran, and those streets became her home for five years. She was alone, ill, and afraid. Stacey also had an unshakeable belief that she would do more than just survive her life. She would not allow her future to be determined by the horrors of her childhood. She reached out for something different; there had to be more to life; if she could only find it. She had a dream of a life where pain and humiliation had no place. She was determined to find that life. Empty Chairs is the beginning of the journey. Now she is living the dream.

Just one of the 390 outstanding reviews of Empty Chairs.

on March 13, 2017
This was a profoundly painful read. The author writes from her experience, from her terror, from her strength. She uses the language of this experience to powerfully capture the depraved situations that she ultimately survived. Everyone should read this book – everyone. Why? Nothing will change in terms of child abuse until we are all aware of its horror. Perpetrators, whether doctors or priests or parents or neighbors, need to be incarcerated where they will learn what it means to be terrorized and used. Therein rests the hope for our children. No one who tortures the most precious among us (little children) has a right to walk our streets freely.

“Faint Echoes of Laughter” Book 2 (Standing Tall & Fighting Back.) By Suzanne Burke writing as Stacey Danson.

Faint echoes kindle with series details. (2) copy

The shocking and spirited sequel to the much-praised ‘Empty Chairs’. Life on the streets of Sydney was preferable to the nightmare Stacey Danson had survived in the hell that was home.

She hit the streets running at the age of eleven, and armed with a flick-knife and a fierce determination to live a different life, she began the journey from the 1960s to today. For those that came to know ‘Sassy girl’ in ‘Empty Chairs’, and for those caring people that asked how her life worked out from there, ‘Faint Echoes of Laughter’ continues the story.

For those that haven’t met her yet, this book stands alone as a tribute to the kindness of strangers, the loyalty of true friendships and the way things really are on the streets of any town …. anytime.

JUST ONE OF THE 189 Outstanding Reviews.

on April 26, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read Stacey’s first book ‘Empty Chairs’ and was eager to read the sequel and find out what happened to this brave and courageous little girl, who ended up living on the streets of Sydney at the age of eleven. ‘Faint Echoes of Laughter’ continues her story. As you read you are pulled into Stacey’s world, her struggles, her thoughts and despite it all, her dreams for a better life for herself. Tough decisions are made and with a reference written by the local librarian and friend Eunice, Stacey lands herself a job after many knock backs. A page turner in every sense of the word you read how are slowly her life changes for the better. Heartbreak and pain follow as the scars from the past are impossible to erase, despite being married to a loving husband. The roll of honour at the end of this most emotional and inspiring memoir brought me to tears as Stacey recounts what happened to her friends from her past life on the streets. An absolute must read.

BOOK 3 of my memoir “Still Sassy at Sixty” Available early 2018.Still sassy at sixty 1st promo SEPTEMBER 2017

“Pulse!” A short story from my upcoming Anthology: “Front-Line Heroes.” #RRBC #IARTG.

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My latest work in progress is an anthology of stories dedicated to the bravery of men and woman worldwide. ALL those that silently and without fanfare hold down the Front Lines. ALL the front lines. On the streets of any town, anywhere, you’ll find them, The Policeman, Paramedics, Firefighters, Nurses and Doctors and all their support personnel. Those on the battle-fronts in foreign lands, and those on the battle-fronts of streets peopled with others that have slipped through the cracks and crevices of the world we now live in. The many brave souls that endure the lasting, life changing flashbacks, and battle each and every day with the nightmare that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These are their stories.

 

Front-Line Heroes … An Anthology of short stories.

PULSE.

By

Suzanne Burke 2017.

Chad moved gingerly, his bruised ego competing with his other more visible bruises for distinction.

He’d once believed he could hold his liquor better than most guys his age, but his heaving stomach rapidly turned that hopeful little daydream into a blatant lie.

He made his way to the bathroom, pleased with himself for a moment as he looked around his small apartment, and found contentment by the order he found there.

He avoided the mirror this morning. His hands were too shaky to risk a shave.

The shower revived him to a reasonable degree. Orange juice and strong coffee took care of the rest.

He flicked a look at his phone,  checked a couple of missed calls, but nothing urgent needed his attention for now.

Today was already planned, based on an assumption that the few drinks with the guys and girls from his future work place couldn’t possibly result in feeling less than the six-feet-four, well-muscled and lean persona that belonged utterly to Chad Williams. Ego is such an inconvenient thing. The thought made him smile for a moment.

He shook his head to clear it a little: he’d need to get moving if he wanted to see and map out the sections of the city that would most likely need his attention two nights from now.

He glanced across at the uniform and jacket that hung on the hook outside his wardrobe. The jacket, large and in screaming yellow with Paramedic emblazoned across it to identify him to anyone that needed to know why he was wherever they ended up.

He’d not so long ago worn a different uniform in a very different theater of combat.

“Old habits die hard, that’s how it goes down. I need to take the pulse of my new terrain, do you get that?”

He’d spoken those words to the paramedic he’d be riding with in just a few short days.

“Yeah … Oh yeah, I get it.” Katrina Georgiou gave him a brief smile. “But …” She stopped to better form the question, “I’m gonna be ridin’ with you, Chad. I need to know what you’re bringin’ with you from your past, into my current equation. Do you get that?”

“So … why did I choose to leave? Is that what you need to know?” He asked, with a mask rapidly descending over a face once young, but rapidly ageing.

“Yeah … that’ll about cover it.” she’d said.

Chad had considered his response for a few long moments. His face reflected sadness accompanied by a firm resolve. “When you do your job … you do it for strangers, and the chances of you being called to attend someone you know and care deeply about are minuscule at best. Would that be an accurate assessment?”

She nodded her head, “If you mean family, I’ve only ever heard about that happening, maybe twice or three-times in my twenty-three-years on the job. But, I guess there are many different layers of caring … aren’t there?” She questioned gently and then continued, “Go on.”

“The people that I saw, the dead and the dying, the ones I could help and the ones it was too late to offer anything but  a prayer for, … a thankful prayer that death had been mercifully fast to take them. They weren’t nameless strangers. I ate with those men and women; I played cards and shot the breeze about baseball, and basketball and whatever other damned sport you care to name. I laughed with them and occasionally at them … and then far too often … I watched them bleed.

“So, here I am. These folks we’ll try and help, these folks will be strangers. Strangers I can tend to, to the best of my ability, and when they have been handed over to the hospital I can walk away without the need to hear the ones that care, the ones remaining, cry out their despair.” He looked into her face and saw the beginnings of understanding reflecting back at him from her kind eyes.

She touched his arm, “You’ll do me just fine.” She stood then and offered her hand, “Welcome to your new battle station, Chad.”

He shook the hand that she offered and left her.

He had uncharted terrain to explore. He’d grown up in this city, but he knew her pulse had changed.

He was almost done … only a couple of the dockyard places remained to  be looked at more fully.

The pulse of the city had slowly revealed itself to him,   making itself known to his hyper-alert senses.  He recognized the heartbeat of this city he’d been born in … and over the course of three long days and nights he began to recognize the areas that could explode with testosterone-fueled rage, or the rage of futility … for he knew too well, that rage had its own unique pulse.

Fear signaled a different beat again, the fear pulse came with a residual echo, as if hopelessness had its own sounding chamber.

The visual images of fear burned themselves into his core memory … .

He would save them for later.

Partly satisfied that his recon had given him at least some parameters to work with, he crawled into bed and finally slept. The sunrise heralded the beginning of his new tomorrow.

He watched it rise, and spent the day quietly; his shift began at 2100 hrs … 9.00 pm he corrected inside his military trained head … . He wanted to be, needed to be … must be, on premium, optimal, alert.

He was a little tense on the drive in, and pulled over and breathed through it before he continued.

Katrina  Georgiou,  acknowledged him briefly “We already have a call out, Chad. I’ll fill you in once we get underway.”

Chad climbed up into the ambulance and seated himself in the shotgun position beside her.

“Ready to rock n’ roll?” She asked.

“Let’s do it.”

She nodded and drove out.

She pulled expertly into the heavy traffic of a Friday night in this city, and hit the siren. She grunted in satisfaction as cars began to pull over to let the ambulance through.

“Okay, Chad, here’s where we’re at. We have a Police officer down.  Multiple shots fired, officers responding report  that our patient is on the pavement at the entrance to the old art-gallery off George and Park. No movement detected.”

“We first in?”

“Looks that way.”

“Understood” … “ETA?”

“Four minutes.”

Katrina pulled the ambulance expertly into the boundary already set up by the responding officers.  It was bordered shoulder-to-shoulder with a blue breathing wall of police.

The officer on the sidewalk was around fifteen-yards from the edge of the police presence.

Katrina spoke up, “We need to get to the casualty.”

The officer in charge nodded his head. “I understand that. He’s my man, but we still have a shooter somewhere in that alley. The rear access is covered, so our shooter could be more than a little desperate right around now.”

The body on the sidewalk moved slightly, an arm suddenly extended to drape itself across the side of the man currently facing them.

Chad looked at the blood rapidly pooling on the sidewalk.

“Oh fuck … he’s gut shot.” he said half to himself. “We don’t have time for this, guys. He  could bleed out pretty quickly.” He looked at Katrina and she gave him the yes nod he’d hoped for.

The cop in charge looked at them hard for just a moment “God bless you both.” He turned to his men. “Let’s do this … Jesus … okay, move … on my signal” He gave it, and put both he and another two officers in the direct line-of-fire to escort the paramedics the short distance to the fallen man in blue.

No shots came at them,  and Katrina and Chad set to work.

They were both on autopilot now … focused only on what they needed to do to give this one the very best chance of surviving.

“We’ll need the gurney to move him.” Katrina spoke softly.

“It’ll take too long, Katrina. I’ll carry him, if you go ahead of me and hold the drip feed lines. Yeah?”

She agreed and they prepared him hurriedly for the necessary dash to the ambulance. Both of them focused only on what was ahead and not what could well be waiting to kill them all from behind.

The cops closed ranks and provided them a brief shield, falling back into line with a rapid but pleased glance from the others still waiting to be ordered to move in.

Katrina climbed in to the driver’s seat once they had their patient secured, and Chad sat alongside the unconscious man and willed him to hold on.

The sound of a second shot startled them both, and not waiting to hear more, Katrina revved the vehicle, set the sirens screaming …  and got them all the hell out of Dodge.

The casualty made it the hospital and was still alive when he was handed across to the ready and prepared E.R staff.

***

Chad joined Katrina outside and was grateful when she offered him one of her cigarettes.

“That was quite a christening.” Katrina said as she lit up his Marlboro.

He looked down at his hands, relieved and a little surprised to find that they were steady.

“It was the same, wasn’t it … that Pulse beat you were talking about?” She asked suddenly.

He was surprised … then felt suddenly guilty at feeling that way. “Uh-huh … yeah, yeah …  it was.”

She reached for his arm and gave it a gentle squeeze.

“You do know that those boys in blue will be buying you beers for a long while to come … If you let them that is. Will you let them in close enough to allow that, will you let them be grateful, Chad?”

Chad checked his pulse rate, and then gave her a weary smile.

“I have no choice. Do I? Can we check on him before end of shift?”

“Welcome back to the land of the still living, Chad.”

Chad just nodded his head.

Ready or not … He had finally come home.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Alexis in Blue” A short story from my upcoming Anthology “Front-Line Heroes” @pursoot #RRBC #IARTG #IAN

My latest work in progress is an anthology of stories dedicated to the bravery of men and woman worldwide. ALL those that silently and without fanfare hold down the Front Lines. ALL the front lines. On the streets of any town, anywhere, you’ll find them, The Policeman, Paramedics, Firefighters, Nurses and Doctors and all their support personnel. Those on the battle-fronts in foreign lands, and those on the battle-fronts of streets peopled with others that have slipped through the cracks and crevices of the world we now live in. The many brave souls that endure the lasting, life changing flashbacks, and battle each and every day with the nightmare that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These are their stories.

 

Alexis in Blue

 By

Suzanne Burke

I have always been one of those people that should never be around bleeping car alarms, or crying babies.  There is just something about the urgency of those sounds that creates a twitch in my brain and a frown on my face.

The restaurant was crowded.  The food was good.  My date was not, he had pulled the old left my wallet at home number on me again, and I was pissed as hell about it.

He left.  I stayed.  The phone rang.  The booth was just off to my right.  It rang and rang and my twitch and frown deepened.  I got up and walked over and into a nightmare.

“Yes” I said.

“There’s one born every minute.”  It was a male voice, flat, and cold.  It continued, “Well now, I expected a woman to pick up. I figured it would be a woman, women always stick their noses in where they’re not wanted.”

“Fuck you, whoever you are.”  I said about to slam the phone down.

“NO!  Not a smart thing to do, lady.”  The voice screamed.

“I’ll play.  Why not?”

“Because, you stupid bitch, you activated the timing device on a bomb when you picked up the phone.”

I remained silent.  The words unscrambling themselves in my alcohol-infused brain.  “Bull shit, creep.  Ha ha, I’m not buying it.”

“Too bad, bitch. That pretty blue dress is gonna get all covered with blood and brains. Such a pity.”

My brain kicked into overdrive.  This bastard could see me.  He was watching me.  I looked around me fast, trying to see who it might be.  Whoever it was, they had to be on a cell phone.

“Well,” he said, what do you think?  Which one of us is it, bitch?  Huh?  C’mon bitch, figure it out; which one of us are you talkin’ to.  Which one is gonna blow you and all these other assholes to hell?  Talk to me, bitch.  Don’t make me push my little button too soon.  Where would the fun be in that?  I like to have fun.”

I couldn’t afford not to play the sicko’s game.  If this was a game.

“What do you want?”

“Ah, see now, that’s better.  Play nice.  It can be fun; you just have to find a way.  Can you find a way, bitch?”

Sweet Jesus, what the hell do I do?  What if it’s real?  What if there is a bomb?  “What do you want?  Please, tell me what you want?”

“Oh, you disappoint me, you already asked me that.  Shouldn’t disappoint me, I don’t like it when women disappoint me.”

I swallowed the bile that came up in my throat, I had to think, think. My stupid brain wouldn’t respond.  What could I say?

“Um—my name, is Alexis.”

“So?”

“So, what’s your name?”

“Boring and stupid.  Is that all you can come up with?  My name is Alexis.  I can tell you my name, but I won’t.  How ‘bout you guess my name.  Yes, that will keep me amused, for a while.  Alexis has to guess my name.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Wrong!’

“Please, why are you doing this?”

“Wrong!”

My knees were shaking and the nausea was threatening to overwhelm me. Why didn’t anyone come near?  Why couldn’t they see?  I looked frantically around again trying to make eye contact with someone, anyone.  Please, please why can’t you see?

“Um … Robert.” I said, trying to keep my voice from breaking.

“Do I sound like a Robert?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t know.  Can you give me a hint?  Please.  Will this stop if I guess your name?  Why would you do this, do I know you?”

“Oh—poor little bitch.  Poor little bitch in a blue dress.  Poor bitch wants a hint.  Will I give you a hint? Lemme think ‘bout it.”

What can I do?  Think … dammit … think.  Keep him talking, keep him talking.  This place has to close.  Someone will get suspicious; surely, someone will wonder why I’m on the phone so long.  Keep him talking.

“If not, Robert.  Then give me a hint.  Play fair.  Or don’t you know how?”

“Wrong answer, bitch.  Nice try.  But gettin’ me mad ain’t a good idea.”

“Then give me a hint, please.”

“Say sorry.”

“I … I’m sorry, please.  Don’t do this.”

“Pleadin’ won’t help, bitch.  What is my name?”

“Frank.”

“Wrong answer.”

I could feel the tears running down my face and turned around so people could see them.  Dear God, please someone look at me.  Can’t you see?  That woman, that woman in the leather jacket she is looking at me.  I nodded my head at her.  Yes, yes.  Please come see.  Please. No! Don’t give me me an embarrassed smile and turn away.  No, no no.

“What is my name, little bitch in blue?”

“I don’t know … I don’t know! Please why, why are you doing this?  Why?”

“It’s time.”

“Ti … time … no … no …! Time for what?”  I screamed into the phone, a couple of people looked up, and looked away again quickly.

“Time for all the people to pay.  Alexis in the blue dress.”

“Pay for what?  What did they do to you?”

“Too late—too late, it’s done.  Nobody cared, Alexis in the blue dress.”

“I—I care!”

“Of course you do … you are going to die.  Everyone cares when they are about to die.”

“Then–why don’t you tell all these people, why they must die?  Punish them like you are punishing me.”

“Tell all the people?”

“Yes, yes.  Tell all the people. You want them to be afraid, don’t you?  You want them to suffer with that fear like I am before they die. Don’t you?”

“Make them afraid.  All of them?  Yes … NO!  What is my name?”

“Look, look around you.  More people are leaving.  They never got to care what happened to you.  They never got to be afraid.”

I said a silent prayer that he didn’t just push the damned button.  My instincts told me it was suddenly more important to confuse him. He appeared to be rattled just a little.

“What did they do to you to make you hate them?”

“I don’t hate.  I don’t feel anything.  They have to pay.”

“Because … because you don’t feel anything?”

“Yes—Alexis in the blue dress.  Because I don’t feel anything.  They did that.”

“Who is they?”

“People.  Just people.”

“But, why me? Why these people in particular?  What did I do to you?  What did the woman and that little girl in pink do to you?”

“Wrong—no more questions.  Just answers, get it?  What is my name.”

His voice was becoming agitated.  No longer cold and flat, it was raised in protest at my questions.

“George, is it … George?”

“No.  This is boring.”

“You will die too, won’t you?  You are here in this restaurant, watching every little move I make. So, you will die too.”

“Yes—of course.  No matter, I feel nothing.”

“You don’t feel pain?”

“I feel nothing.  No more questions.  I’ll give you a hint.”

“What if I don’t get it right?”

“Get it right.  Alexis in the blue dress.  Do you like music?”

“Yes, yes I do.”

“Do you know music?”

I thought hard before I answered.  “No—not very well.  I just like music, that’s all.  If you give me a hint, and I get it right what will you do?”
“What will you do?”  I repeated.

“I’ll stop.”

“You’ll stop the bomb from detonating?”

“Yes.”

“Why should I believe you?”

“What choice do you have, Alexis in the blue dress?”  He laughed.

The terror had gone. I’d replaced it a with a desperation that was tinged with acceptance.  I was going to die.  These people were going to die. How dare he decide so many fates.
More couples left the restaurant.  The woman in the leather jacket looked at me again, I mouthed the word…  Help.  Again, Help.  I couldn’t risk signaling her in any other way.  He was in here.  Watching me.  Watching everything, I did.

She looked at me oddly.  Then she picked up her purse and she and her male companion left the restaurant. She gave me a brief backward glance as then disappeared from sight around the screen near the entry door.

I could barely breathe.

I had wet myself and all I could do was stand there in silent unobserved humiliation. Was this how my life would end?  I hated knowing that it was.

The restaurant was emptying, faster now.  It was getting late.  Time was running out.  The waiters were going around to the occupied tables and soon after a few of the customers here and there got up and made their way slowly outside.

That was good, I was relieved it might end up with just me and some staff perhaps.  The woman and the little girl got up to go.

“What are you doing?”  His voice was querulous, agitated, different.

“Nothing—you can see me!  What does it look like I’m doing?  Nothing—right.  Just waiting for the hint.”

I looked around, again.  Damn who was it; there weren’t many of us left.  Five males, four females and the staff.  Was it one of the staff?  What good would knowing do me?

“So—come on—what is the hint?”

“I’m thinking!”  He raised his voice angrily this time.  I had rattled him.  I don’t know how.

“C’mon, c’mon.  If I’m going to guess your name, I need a hint.”

“Wait!  Are you in a big hurry to die? Alexis in the blue dress.  How old are you?”

“Why does that matter?”  I have to stall him now.  The longer I can keep him occupied the more people would get out.
“I asked how old you are?” he was angry.

“And I asked you why that’s important.”

“Tell me!” he screamed.

“I don’t think I will.  You have to give me the hint.  You said you would, now you will not.  If you are a liar, why would I believe you about the bomb?  I think I’ll just walk out of here.  You have had your sick fun.”

“Tell me your age and I will give you a hint.”

“How old do I look?”

“Stop it!  You must answer the questions.  Don’t ask them.”

I looked around; several of the waiters appeared to be going off duty.  Why had no one questioned me still being on the phone?

I saw him!  It had to be him, or one of the staff.

No! It had to be him.  He sat at the back of the restaurant, alone.  That’s why he couldn’t guess my age.  He was too far away to be sure, or even close.  But, was the bomb on him, or planted?  I couldn’t let him know that I had figured out who he was.  I must not.

“I’m thirty.”  I lied.

“That’s better.  That’s young.”

“How old are you?”

“As old as time.”  He sounded weary, fed up.

“What is my hint?”  I pushed it.

“Purple Haze.”

“What?”

“Purple Haze.”

I watched another couple of people that could only have come from the kitchen walk out the front door. One of them still wearing the white cap of a kitchen hand. There was none of the laughter and good natured ribbing you would expect to hear from people finishing work and heading elsewhere.

I realized then that they knew.  Someone had tipped them off.  Maybe the woman in the leather jacket.  The lights were all still blazing.

“I said, Purple Haze.  Alexis in the blue dress.”

He was so focused on me I don’t think he had noticed that hardly anyone remained in the restaurant.  I turned around and looked in his direction.  I couldn’t make out detail.  He was in clear line of sight from me.  Sitting behind the table.  His hair was dark and long.

“Answer me.”  He screamed again.  “What is my name?”

Jimi, it must be Jimi.” I screamed the name.

“How? How … did you …?”

I put the phone down on the bench.  I wanted to run like hell.  But I forced myself not to.

I walked outside, slowly in an sleepwalkers mist … straight into the arms of the bomb squad member ushering the other occupants to safety.

Everyone but Jimi was out.  I sobbed in the arms of the big guy in the full kefla suit.  I threw up, and then had to sit; I was grabbed by two more big cops and carried to the barricades down the block a piece.

Jimi exited the restaurant.  There were cops and bomb squad people everywhere.

Jimi was in a wheelchair.

“I feel nothing,” he had said.

“Oh God” I screamed … “He’s gonna do it…please, please, no! No, he’s gonna do it!”

The blast knocked a few cops off their feet.

I remember crying out, “NO!” and then I passed out cold.

I awoke in hospital, groggy from the tranquilizers.  The woman that had called the cops was sitting beside the bed.  So was my ex-husband.

“I … who was he?”

“Later, Alice,” said my ex. “Rest up okay.  Just rest.”

“No dammit—no! I need to know?”

“His name was James Fredericks.”  The woman said, flashing her badge as she spoke.  “You are one brave woman.  How did you know to lie about your age?”

“You’re a cop?”

“Yes, I was off duty last night, but as soon as I realized there was a problem we put a tracer on the phone line and listened in.  Then, we started very slowly getting people to leave the restaurant, just one, or two at a time.”

“How did you know the answer?” she asked.  “I mean it was an ambiguous hint, Purple Haze.  What is that?”

“A song by Jimi Hendrix.  I’m a child of the sixties.  As soon as he asked me about music, and my age, I figured he was gonna try and make it something I wouldn’t know. I love music.  And Purple Haze was a favorite.”

“He was a Nam Vet wasn’t he?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Not all of them came home.”  I whispered sadly.

I cried for Jimi.

I cried for all the Jimmies.

***

“My Name is Flic.” A short story by Suzanne Burke. From my upcoming anthology. “Front-Line Heroes” @pursoot

FIRST RESPONDERS BEST LARGE

What follows is one selection from an Anthology I’m working on.

The books title: “Front-Line Heroes.”

I want to pay tribute to ALL the Front-Line Heroes. The Soldiers, Paramedics, Police Officers, Firefighters, Doctors, Nurses, Drug Enforcement Agents, Teachers, Foster-Parents, Counsellors and Carers.

The selfless angels that work the streets every night from all the marvelous charitable organisations. They are the Front-Line Heroes … every precious one of them.

I hope my stories assist in further understanding their utter devotion, and undeniable humanity, and how they may need to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These are all works of fiction. However I hope that each reader will recognize these people, and give thanks that they exist.

***

My Name is Flic.

A Short Story.

By Suzanne Burke

Some people grow into the name they were given at birth by a mother caught up in hormone driven, wishful thinking. I wasn’t one of them. She named me Felicity. Now, I’ll grant you there is nothing wrong with the name. But, you know, sometimes people have a visual image pre-ordained in their heads that have all the Felicity’s as golden-haired, blue-eyed and sunny-natured, shining examples of goodness.

So, everyone that knows me understands that I prefer to be called Flic.

It had always been strange coming into this office. Trepidation was my constant companion on those days. The smell of the furniture polish never changes, nor does the light penetrating the squeaky-clean glass of the double glass doors.

It’s lonely here gazing down at the quadrangle, knowing I can see so clearly, without being observed.

I feel like an intruder in other people’s guarded moments, yet I need the comfort that observation will grant me right now. I needed to know what’s waiting down there in the quadrangle. I need to prepare.

The new intake of girls stand segregated for now, whilst the teachers act upon predetermined decisions on who to pair them up with. Each newbie will be partnered with an older, more experienced member of this community of discarded young people. A mentor to help ease them in to the difficult period of adjustment that lay waiting.

I watch the body language of the group, I need to identify them for my own satisfaction … I’ll know better how to move among them that way.

Four of the young people are quietly standing, eyes downcast, shoulders slumped. They have long believed themselves unworthy of being loved. It would take time, and patience before that could change … if it ever did.

Three of the new intake are afraid. They have been suddenly taken from their comfort zones, their sanctuary. No matter how bad it had been, it was familiar, and something they had lived with all of their lives … until now.

Now the courts had made the choice to remove them from that environment. To place them into the care of people trained to help them redefine who they were.

Definitions were difficult in those early weeks and months as both teachers and students struggled to be accepted. I knew that.

I recognized two of the girls standing to the rear of the assembly. These girls were not new. I know them. They had been placed in foster homes and returned when they had proven too difficult to keep. The haunted look in their eyes battled with the sadness, as they accepted finally that the only home they would ever know … was this one. Until and unless they found the courage it would take to make it alone. My memory was rippled with the scattered bodies of these kids.

I knew their anger seethed just below a surface they created to expel any thought of comfort or human contact. They had long ago witnessed just how their skin could be stripped from their bones with words used like weapons on their fragile defenses.

I knew that anger. I also knew that it could and would explode into violence, unleashed by any one of a thousand trigger situations they could suddenly find themselves in …utterly unprepared.

The other girls stood out clearly, they didn’t walk to assembly, they strutted. Tossing long hair and smiling as if they held a secret that only they could ever see. These broken babies flirted with everyone, irrespective of gender or position in the pecking order. You were human and breathing and that was enough to force them to offer you themselves in return for whispered lies of love. Learning to stop equating sex with being loved was a lifetime of counseling away.

I knew too that the teachers burned out fast here. Some managed to survive all the pain they witnessed daily; but it was the support network they had outside these walls, that offered them their only tangible comfort.

Those that tried to absorb all that they witnessed in the vain hope they wouldn’t get flamed into nothingness by it … they crumpled like singed tissue paper and burned to a cinder. Many of them would never be able to teach again.

I looked on as a few of the youngest students started to cry. I watched them comforted by the others that had enough heart still left in them to offer it.

It all came down to the look in the eyes of both students and teachers. There was a hunted and haunted look that ate into your soul and remained there … indelible, immovable, and endlessly sad.

The door opened and Margot the school secretary caused me to turn away from the window.

She glanced at her wristwatch and gave me what passed for a reassuring smile, “It’s time, Flic.”

I nodded and answered, “Be right there.”

She smiled in acknowledgement and left the door ajar.

I gathered my scattered thoughts and wrapped them around me as I walked downstairs, and caught brief smiles of recognition from a few of those assembled.

I stepped up to the microphone. “Good morning, everyone.”

And sixty voices echoed back at me, “Good Morning Principal Flic.”

I had traveled full circle. I had come home.

 

 

 

Celebrating the newly edited edition of “Empty Chairs: (Standing Tall & Fighting Back Book 1) #Memoir On sale now at $0.99.

The following trailer and the contents of my memoir are very confronting. Because they absolutely must be. Child abuse will never cease if we continue to turn away, seeing nothing … doing nothing.

HERE IS THE TRAILER Created by my dear friend Sessha Batto.

PREVIEW EMPTY CHAIRS BELOW.

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Two weeks ago I was taken to hospital. One week ago I was asked a question I should have been prepared for, but wasn’t. “Do you want to be resuscitated, Suzanne?”

It would appear that I’m not six-foot-tall and bullet-proof after all! I’m not looking for answers my friends, not here. What I am doing is sharing with you what my world looks like at the moment, in the hope that by writing it down I can gain more insight and clarity into something I have steadfastly avoided thinking about for most of my crazy chaotic life. I’m not throwing a pity-party here. I’ll indulge myself with the poor-poor-pitiful-me stuff when I lay in the dark and try vainly to sleep.

I have always bounced back. Something in me refuses to stay down for the count. I have never allowed myself to think differently. That changed nine days ago.

For the last six weeks my already poor health has taken a nose dive. Up until six weeks ago I could still manage to walk unassisted from my bedroom at the front of our cottage to the bathroom at the rear.

To venture outside has required a wheelchair for over three-years now, I had adjusted my mental attitude to that fact. Hell, I hated the loss of my independence, I fought against it … hard, but I had to accept that the wheelchair was now an integral part of my life. Like everything else in my crazy life to date my sense of humor rescued me from the depth of the depression that I was sinking into. My daughter and I managed to find ways to still get out and I was able to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine with my darling daughter steering from behind and my small grandson perched precariously on my lap, not to forget the picnic basket we always took with us.

I became hell on wheels, at least in my own fertile imagination.

The onset of winter is never a good time with my advanced C.O.P.D always wavering in the face of the cold. The winter here in our new location has been very severe, we Sydney dwellers are accustomed to the mildest of winters with minus degree temperatures unheard of.

The day I was admitted to hospital just over two-weeks ago it was -7 degrees Celsius, that’s around 19 degrees Fahrenheit. I had been struggling to breathe for over two weeks beforehand, needing to use the nebulizer far more than I should have. Until finally the worry on my daughter’s dear face registered with my stubborn refusal to accept the inevitable, and I asked her to call the Paramedics.

Long story short … Double pneumonia, which had sent my insulin dependent diabetes out of control. My health issues are many and complex, and four of them are individually life-threatening. I know that.  I have known that for a very long time, but as long as no doctor sat me down and had ‘the’ talk with me I was able to convince myself and everyone else that Soooz would always bounce back. I always laughed it off. I can’t do that now.  Nine days ago my doctor came into my room, I had been moved from ICU to a private room  because my coughing was keeping the others in a shared room from resting.

He closed the door behind him and pulled a chair over to my bedside.

He looked weary and dispirited, and little wonder, he’d been on duty for seven-very-long days. I’d seen him early every morning when he’d done his rounds, all throughout the long days and late every night as he’d pop his head in and take a look at my chart before heading home to what would have only been very little sleep.

I did my usual, “So … what’s up, Doc?” I smiled at him. He gave me a tired grin.

“Suzanne, there is never an easy way to approach what I need to talk to you about.”

I looked at his face again and saw the sadness there. “Well, Doc, straight talking always works best for me. So okay, go ahead.”

“I need to talk to you about your wishes regarding resuscitation in the event that you go into arrest.” And there it was. There was no punch line.

I felt like I’d been kicked in the guts by a mule.

I struggled to stay in the moment, and not shut out his words because they were words I didn’t want to ever be asked.

“How close did we come?” I heard a voice ask, surprised that my vocal chords were working at all.

“I won’t lie to you. It was damned close, my dear. You need more information which I’ll have the chronic care team go over with you when you go home. I’ll arrange for them to come and do a home visit. Your daughter is your carer, yes?”

“Yes, yes she is. Are we talking full life-support here?”

“Full life support would be necessary, Suzanne. With all the possible problems associated with its implementation. We can go over the ramifications with you to help you make an informed decision. I’m so sorry, Suzanne. This is never a conversation that any doctor wants to have with his patient. I’ll answer any questions for you that I reasonably can, but keep in mind every situation presents us with a unique set of circumstances.”

I think that’s what he said.

My mind was already searching for ways to make all this go away.

It didn’t succeed.

He came across to the bed and squeezed my shoulder. “We’ll talk when you are ready to. You are still a long way from well, but certainly in better condition than when they brought you in. I’m ordering something to help you sleep. We’ll leave the oxygen on tonight.”

“I need to wean off it. I don’t want it at home. I’d rely on it too heavily.”

“Let’s discuss that further tomorrow, shall we? For now I think it best to keep the oxygen levels at an acceptable level to allow you to sleep. It is far better to make decisions when you are well rested, my dear.”

He stood at the door for a moment, then without saying anything more he nodded slowly and left the room.

I couldn’t think. Or more accurately I refused to think. I needed more information. The one thing that did keep pummeling at my head was the knowledge that IF I chose to be resuscitated  and placed on life-support, it would then fall on my child to make the decision to turn off the machines if and when the doctors advised her to do so.

How in the name of all I hold dearest could I ever place her in that position? I know my girl, it would be something she’d never fully recover from.

I’ve had close friends with family members on life support, I’ve been with them on two occasions when they were called upon to make the decision to switch off the life-support keeping their loved ones alive.

I’ve seen the devastation of the guilt that overwhelmed them, and then held them tightly as they also expressed their relief that their loved one would suffer no more.

I didn’t sleep in spite of the medication, I lay there in the dark listening to the hiss of the oxygen as it helped me to breathe.

I had so many questions, and needed answers to them before I could even begin to contemplate discussing this with my daughter.

Two days later my doctor came by with a colleague and I asked if I could return home. He agreed, but hastened to tell me that the chronic-care-team would visit me at home to discuss my home care needs and answer any questions I needed to ask. All the follow up appointments were made; he shook my hand, wished me well, and I came home.

It’s been nine-days now. I made one attempt to discuss the current situation with my daughter and she responded as I knew she would. “You will absolutely be resuscitated, Momma Bear!” She then teared up and needed to leave the room.

I discussed it with her again, and she understands that this must be my decision. I understand that this must be my decision, and it will be made armed with the best information I have.

Today is Wednesday August 9th 2017. The Chronic-care-team will be here in an hour. My daughter will sit in until I ask the questions about life-support. I’ve asked her to leave the room then, and I will give her the Reader’s Digest version after the team have left.

They have been and gone and it was a productive hour of discussion. Home help is being offered to my daughter for a period of six-weeks. At the end of that time I should hopefully have improved sufficiently not to require her to be on constant alert all the time. She is a single mom raising a five-year-old boy, I’m so grateful that she will have help for a while.

The team were lovely dedicated folks, and I have an enormous amount of paperwork to read through before I can make the final call on the decision to either allow resuscitation and life-support … or decline it.

My child, will I think, rest a little easier tonight. She deserves to.

The road ahead is not going to be easy, I know that. I’m already leaning toward the do NOT resuscitate option, but I’ll make that call after I’ve become as well informed as I can be.

What I do know with absolute certainty is that if pure cussed pigheadedness has anything to do with me getting back on my feet, then I’ll do it. Spring is fast approaching, and then our glorious summer … the warmer weather will grant me hours sitting outside in the sunshine. I look forward to that.

One thing my daughter and I have discussed and agreed upon is what I’ll finally have on my gravestone. It’s not original but I know that it will make her smile each time she sees it. I want her to smile.

And what have I decided upon? Simply this … “She’s not going to take this lying down.”

I’ll give this my best shot, my friends. I have too much remaining that I have yet to achieve. Wish me luck and thank you so much for caring enough to stop by.

 

 

 

 

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Being held hostage by your memory. #Flashbacks.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Being held hostage by your memories. #Flashbacks.

Definition of Hostage

If you say you are hostage to something, you mean that your freedom to take action is restricted by things that you cannot control. Such is the force of PTSD.

Memories are something unique to each and every one of us. They are perhaps the only thing apart from our DNA that truly sets us apart from any other of our species.

They can be triggered by the sweet joyous sound of a baby’s laughter, the scent of a freshly baked cake, or a scene from a movie that we watch over-and-over again. All our senses take part in the remembering process.

The lingering refrain of church bells on Sunday morning and the butterfly touch of a spring breeze on our faces may all take us to places we once inhabited in real time.

But not all of our memory is sweet.

The darker times of loss, the time a love ended, the tragedy  that life hands out … but never in equal measure, all those times remain there in that memory and at our weakest moments they will surface, to test our strength, or to force us to become aware, finally, that we are  no longer in that place of weakness.

Our memories hand us our self-knowledge, and at times, those memories are the very things by which we judge our own self-worth.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has as a bi-product its own unique way of enabling our darkest memory to surface. These are the FLASHBACKS  … I have experienced many. I will share with you one that it still shakes me to recall, in the hope that in some small way I can help shine a light into the darkest of places.

When it came, there was only a fleeting moment of recognition before I catapulted straight back to hell.

It was a crisp August morning, mid-winter here in Australia. I was beyond excited, anxious and happy that morning. I wore a new business suit, my hair was freshly cut and styled and I was ready to attend my second interview, at a firm of Merchant Bankers that were well known and respected, located in the Sydney CBD. I really wanted that job. Hell, I really needed that job. Blowing the funds on the new clothes and hairstyle was done in the belief that I had what it took to nail this position. I had worked in the field for a good many years and my reputation was solid. They had now compiled a short list of five possible candidates, including myself. I liked those odds.

I arrived at the tower of power that rose high above our beautiful harbor, and joined the throng of workers lined up for the elevators.

I have always hated elevators, but twenty-two floors up was my appointment location, and my lungs already knew that stairs weren’t an option.

My life long claustrophobia clung hand in hand to my inability to stand at the front of the elevator … my unease at having people behind me unseen won the argument. I entered the elevator and went to the middle against the back wall … my ass was covered. I smiled, remembering my dear Jamie’s favorite expression, “Always cover your ass, Sass!”  The other occupants soon created a wall in front of me, which I escaped by keeping my eyes closed and only briefly glancing up as the lift stopped and disgorged people on each floor.

I believe I had a handle on the claustrophobia, and just breathed deeply.

We stopped again, someone else entered. I watched an older woman, well attired, and confident looking stand just in front of me. She loosened her colored scarf and her perfume was captured and sent in my direction by the movement.

I inhaled that scent. My guts clenched so tight I could scarcely breathe. The nausea was my second warning sign that something was wrong. I took a deep breath to quell the wave of it as it rocked me. That is when it truly began. That smell … the woman who gave birth to me always wore that perfume. I was shaking and attempting not to throw up; I couldn’t move my limbs, for they were weighed down by the concrete of fear.

The fight or flight reflex kicked in and I lunged forward and hit the next floor button. Those brief moments seemed endless, and I had wet myself as I had as a small child when that scent of her would linger long after a beating. That odor had me back in a hell I had long run from. A hell that held me hostage with the memories that even the smell of a perfume could bring back into being.

I was that broken child again, kneeling on the floor and then placing my mouth at the light coming from underneath the locked door in the darkened room. The forty-year-old woman that I now was simply ceased to exist. I was four-years-old again. My back so sticky with crusted blood that the singlet I had been wearing for days stuck fast to the surface. I could feel my control slipping away and could find no logical thought that would both stop it and me from spiraling deeper into that remembered nightmare of pain and darkness.

The lift door finally opened and I half fell out in my haste. I don’t know what floor I landed on, my only coherent thought was escape. I needed a bathroom but couldn’t open my mouth to ask for directions. I headed to a corridor that I hoped would contain public washrooms. I threw up all over the plush-pile carpet in the corridor, and all over myself, not knowing or caring if anyone bore witness to my humiliation.

I found a washroom and locked myself into a stall. I sat down on the closed lid of the toilet and searched for the ability to breathe. I sat with my head down and focused on the tiled pattern on the floor until I could at last see it clearly, that gave me a route back to the immediacy of the moment, the now time, the real time where she had no power over my life … except in my memories. I had no idea how much time had passed. It had for me, seemed like a lifetime. I didn’t think to check my watch. Such is the nature of Flashbacks.

I cleaned myself as best I could, using paper towel and soapy water. I had nobody I could call to come and pick me up from the city. At that time in my life, I was living alone. I inspected myself, grabbing reassurance from the adult face reflected in the mirror, surprised to discover not the child I’d once been, but my grown self. I looked at my reflection for a long time …  until I had gathered as much of me together as I could hope for just then. I lightly sprayed on my own signature perfume, in the hope of hiding the stench of my clothing and my fear from the Taxi driver on the twenty-minutes it would take to him to drive me back home to safe haven.  I tipped him well.

I recall unlocking the door and resetting the alarm system before sliding down and sitting with my back firmly in place against that door. Nothing and no one could come near me … for now.

I showered, dressed, and then rang the folks that had expected to interview me. I apologized of course. I’d simply told them that I had taken suddenly ill. They thanked me, but they didn’t suggest a reschedule. I was distantly grateful for that, for I knew with absolute certainty that I would never take the risk that that woman could possibly share any space whatsoever in my life. I rated the chance of her working there far too high.

It took me a couple of days to regroup. I thought about and then tried not to think about what had happened. I knew I didn’t want to take the option of isolating myself … not again.

The temptation to reach out for alcohol to numb me against everything was resisted, this time. Being under the influence of the large amounts of alcohol I knew I could consume would make me a loaded weapon placed in the hands of a terrified four-year-old child.

I didn’t sleep fearing the nightmares that experience had told me lay waiting. I needed to cry it out, but I could not.

Finally, after almost three days of constant vigilance, exhaustion claimed me, and I slept. I awoke on the morning of the fourth day and knew that, I had,at least for now, regained control.

I refocused my attention on finding a job.

And life went on.

For those who suffer from P.T.S.D, and for those loving, caring folks that have someone in their lives that are trying to deal with the challenging packages P.T.S.D hands out, please know this … there are people out there in the now of your world that can help you. They will help you go to battle … and they will cheer you on as you win.

Reach out. There will be many loving hands ready to take yours.

I have listed below sites that are available world-wide, it is by no means a complete list, but if anyone reading this needs to learn more, these sites will point you in the right direction.

Depression Alliance U.K

ABeyond Blue Australia. Information and help

Anxiety and Depression Assistance America

Police Post Trauma Support Group | PPTSG | Post Traumatic Stress

Help line. 0432 569 589. 7am – 10am. The PPTSG is a not-for-profit organisation, … Its aim is to provide support to those who are suffering from PTSD, anxiety, … officers, and emergency workers, PPTSG provides a family and spouse support function. … He has been through the system & suffers ongoing medical problems of …
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause fear, anxiety and trauma memories that persist for a long time and affect a person’s ability to function.
Blue Knot Helpline (formerly ASCA Professional Support Line) provides help, … The MindSpot Clinic does not provide an emergency or instant response service. … health conditions, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, …
Posttraumatic stress disorder (sometimes called PTSD) is a form of anxiety … Ask your doctor about any concerns you have, or contact the SANE Helpline on …
PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) can cause fear, anxiety and trauma … information, online programs, helplines and news on mindhealthconnect. … PTSD is a treatable anxiety disorder affecting around one million Australians each year. …. (000) for an ambulance or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.
Trusted information about complex PTSD, including symptoms, causes, diagnosis and … If someone has attempted, or is in immediate risk of attempting to harm … Complex posttraumatic stress disorder describes the long-term effects of …. Helpline 1800 18 7263 Home Mental Health & Illness :: Facts & Guides Get Help …

Find help for the effects of trauma – Phoenix Australia

phoenixaustralia.org/recovery/find-help/
This page lists Australian helplines and websites. For urgent support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for confidential 24/7 counselling and …. PTSD and trauma.
People with posttraumatic stress disorder often experience feelings of panic or extreme fear, which may resemble what was felt during the traumatic event.
  1. Confidential online assessment. Free to Australian adults.
    Dedicated IT Team · Free & Effective Service
    Steps: Learn, Get Assessed, Treatment…

 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) | Mind, the mental health charity …

Explains what posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD are, and provides information on how you can access treatment and support. Includes …

It is normal to experience upsetting and confusing thoughts after a traumatic event, but … The Combat Stress 24-Hour Helpline 0800 138 1619 is for the military … trauma in military and emergency service personnel and also complex PTSD and … Rivers offers treatment for the whole range of post traumatic disorders with the 

 

 

 

 

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