Heather is twenty minutes late picking me up, but I have no place to reprimand her. After all she is doing me the favor by not leaving my butt here.
“Thank God it’s Friday,” she says when we get into her car. She looks exhausted. There’s no doubt in my mind that I am adding to some of those weary lines. I just wish I could speed up this healing process and get back on my own two feet again. I need to be out of her hair, so I’m not stressing her out.
“Mom and Dad want us to come over for dinner tomorrow night.”
“That sounds nice.” I haven’t seen my parents since I woke up. My mother has apologized repeatedly over the phone. I have told her that I understand. I really do. I know how difficult it is for them to get around especially since my seventy-year-old mother has been taking care of our father who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago. God bless her for taking such good care of him. Even on his bad days, she is always right there.
“She wants us to bring rolls and salad.”
“That sounds easy enough.” I reply, “Right now I am just happy I don’t have therapy for two days.”
“How’s that going?” I don’t hear any kind of hidden innuendos—like, yeah how is that going? Are you ready to work yet? I’m the one who is probably the most impatient over all of this.
“It’s good … look what I can do.” I have to concentrate really hard, but very slowly I close my fingers into themselves—not a full fist yet, but movement in itself is a huge feat.
“Man that’s weird.”
I look at her like she’s a psycho, “weird, I move my hand, and it’s weird?”
“No that’s not what I meant. You moving is awesome. It’s just the fact that splashing around in a pool for a week and a half is helping so much.”
“Yeah, that is pretty weird actually.”
She smiles at me and gives me a quick wink, “do you think if I ate Twinkies all day it could make my butt smaller?”
“I guess anything is possible.” We both laugh and joke for the remainder of the drive home about dietary miracles.
Morning dawns and I wake excited. Until, I remember its Saturday. I have no therapy today. I lay my head back down with a forced exhale. I’m absolutely pathetic; I think to myself. Sometimes it would be nice to be male. How often do men sit and revel in moments that … probably mean nothing? Nope, leave that up to us pining women. We’re always looking in between the lines stretching and reaching for subtle hints or messages—a sign. I want to think that Ethan feels something for me. Did I not feel his attraction pressed against me in the pool? But … what about that girl? The girl he kissed. I stare at the beige ceiling, confused.
I reluctantly force myself out of bed. Maybe, this weekend will turn out better than I hope.
Dinner was nice. My mother, of course, had her sister, Delores over, along with Heather, Joe, their two kids, and me with my three. Mathew said about two words to me. He’s still angry and confused about our malfunctioning home-life. At least everyone else was fun to be around. It was still rough to see my kids heading home without me. My sister and Joe must have seen my discomfort, and they tried to compensate my mood by swinging through DQ. I was stuffed from all of the pot roast at Moms’, but I could never pass on ice cream. MMM, chocolate covered cherry.
Sunday started out relaxing, with my sweatpants and baggie T-shirt on, then making breakfast with Heather and drinking a half pot of coffee. It really couldn’t get much better than that. I hadn’t sat down and read a book for a while, and I was getting into a great who-done-it when I got a phone call from Sean.
Seeing Sean’s name flash on my screen instantly raised my hackles. I never thought I could despise another human being so much, but after what he has done to me, I’m not sure I will ever be able to trust anyone ever again. He split my soul in two. I argued with myself about answering, but my overactive imagination got the better of me—what if something happened to one of the kids? I answered.
“Nik …” a long pause, “How are you doing?” The edacity he has, to ask me such a question.
I tried to act like his concerns were of no consequence to me, but it was a struggle to hold back my emotions. Why would he ask me how I am or if I needed anything? The whole conversation was dumbfounding. He was so nonchalant on the phone that I think he must have forgotten how badly he ripped my heart out. I was happy in our relationship—I gave him my all, and the worst part—I loved him, I still do.
The birds tweet happily right outside of my window. I should be happy they are back. I have always loved spring. That introduction to new life … green grass, fresh air and soon summer. I inhale deeply, filling my lungs with the fresh air that comes with the new season. Usually, I would be ecstatic about the beautiful spring weather, but lately I’m full of nothingness—numb.
I really need to pull out of this. My old life is gone. Things have changed, and I can both wallow and let these changes take me down, or I can embrace this and let this change happen … to take something good from it.
Every day I am gaining more movement and strength in my arm and leg. I can do this. I have to do this. I throw the covers back with new purpose and get situated in my wheelchair. I have actually gotten pretty good at it now. So far, my morning ritual has been Heather giving me a hand, but today … I am going at it—alone. I smile when I roll out into the living room and see the baffled look on my sister’s face.
“Wow!” Her open-mouthed, surprised stare disappears and is replaced by a wide grin.
“My ponytail is more like a side pony. I won’t elaborate on how difficult it was to get it even on the side.”
“You look beautiful.” It’s only a small compliment, but it means the world to me.
I’m not as nervous or giddy for my therapy today. It’s more like I’m … determined. I want to move forward. Get my life back on track. Hot young physical therapist or not, this is about me.
Ethan strolls up to the poolside about two minutes after I get there myself. Yep, he is definitely still just as cute as I remember. His blonde hair is short on the sides and longer—messy on top, and his one adorable dimple and his extremely sexy physique. I know that nothing will ever happen between us, especially after I saw his very attractive girlfriend.
“Hi Nikki, you look great.” He does a full body sweep over with his eyes before they come back up and meet mine. Those steel blue’s meeting my green eyes.
“Thank you.” I let myself enjoy his compliment … letting it seep in, to feed my starving self-esteem. I don’t linger too long though. I don’t want him thinking I’m desperate for attention. “We ready?” I urge.
“Oh yeah, umm … I think today we’re going to skip the harness.”
My heart jumps, and if it weren’t contained by my ribcage, it would be pounding on the concrete floor. “No harness?” I am in no way ready to be unharnessed. I panic. Drowning is the last way I want to go. I shake my head back and forth indicating I am not ready for that. If I weren’t in this damned chair, I’d be backing away.
Ethan leans over my chair—one hand propped on either side of me—using my arm rests he bends down further and gets rather close to my face. “Nikki, trust me. I won’t let anything happen to you. I promise I will protect you.” His words send shivers down my spine. His breath is sweet and very luring. I freeze in place. His lips only inches from mine. My eyes dart between his … looking at one and then the other. Almost a whisper, “You deserve to be protected. I’ll keep you safe.” Very slowly I nod my head—letting go—and placing my trust with him.
I accidently squeal when he slides his arm under my knees and behind my back and lifts. He’s carrying me. Scared my weight might be too much for him, I reach my arm around his neck to hold on. With ease, he steps into the pool carrying me. “Isn’t it against policy to be lifting and carrying like that? After all, you don’t want to hurt yourself.”
“We—technically speaking, are supposed to use the harnesses and lifts to help keep us … both patient and staff safe, but I want you to trust me.”
The seconds floating in the air are way too intimate. Here I am clinging to his neck while being held tightly in his arms. He cocks his head and looks down at me. I feel so lost looking in his eyes. I want him to kiss me. I see the burning in his eyes as well—he wants it too. Closer … closer, his lips almost meeting mine.
Laughter in the pool brings back my rational thinking, “your girlfriend is very attractive.” I blurt out before I realize what I am saying.
Ethan’s eyebrows pull together, and he stares at me confused. “The other day I saw her waiting in the lobby area. You came out and gave her a kiss, so I just assumed…” I second guess myself for saying anything. That heated moment—gone. What’s left is a very distinguishable look of disgust.
“That’s complicated,” and it’s left at that.
Not a lot of conversation goes on between us after that, but he was right … I did feel safe. I knew that he had a hold of me every step of the way. His little whispers of reassurance; don’t worry I have you, you’re safe, I got you, weren’t even necessary. I knew that he would keep me safe.