“Would you date again if something happened to Joe?” Heather is silent for a moment contemplating how to answer.
“I haven’t thought about that much I guess, but maybe. I just hope that it would never come to that.”
I know exactly what she’s saying. Not once had I ever thought that I would be left single … not like this. I know Heather is treading lightly, so she doesn’t hurt my feelings. I’m not trying to put her in an awkward spot, and I definitely would never wish this upon her or Joe. Ultimately, I just need some sort of direction. I am terrified of being alone, but I just may be more terrified of dating.
“Why are you asking? Do you have a potential candidate?”
I can’t help but laugh. “No. I don’t know if I’m ready for that, yet.” I answer truthfully.
“Thank heavens. Nikki, I think right now you should focus on you for a while. Plus, it would probably be impossible to find the right guy who would actually be willing to push you around in a wheelchair. You should probably wait until you can do a bit more on your own.”
I can’t believe the words coming out of my sister’s mouth. They sting like a dull spoon being shoved into my back. “Really? Your advice is to not date because I’m in a damn wheelchair. How can you even say that?”
“Wait … Nikki that’s not what I mean. I just think when you are a little further along with your therapy, you’ll have more self-confidence.”
This entire conversation reeks. “No Heather, I get exactly what you mean. I’m a worthless invalid that shouldn’t expect a guy ever to want me. I’m broken … I get it.”
“Stop, I don’t need to hear any more.” The crappy part about Heather saying these things out loud, I know she’s right. I am an older woman with nothing to offer. My uplifted spirits this morning are now flattened out like road kill. The rest of the ride home is silent.
I’m pleased that Lexie and Ben stopped by to visit, but I’m still out of sorts from my earlier argument with Heather. I haven’t left my cave since we got back to their house. I am just a visitor—a prolonged visitor. I truly am grateful that they have opened up their space to me, but I feel like I am just a drain and maybe I have overstayed my welcome.
“Momma, can you believe it? Graduation is on Saturday. Aunt Heather has everyone’s tickets.” Her face is beaming with joy. Those glacial blue eyes sparkling, her cheeks pink with pleasure, she’s so excited, and it glows from her. I couldn’t be prouder.
So far, Sean and I have done a pretty dang good job raising our kids. They are turning out to be very productive and responsible adults. “How did you grow up so fast?”
“Just because we are taller and doing more grown up things does not mean we grew up. “Ben teases.
“Hey, that’s you, not me. You’ll never grow up.” Lexie was the one who always acted more mature than her older brother. When they were younger, it was her chasing after him telling him what or what not to do. Surprisingly, he listened to her … most of the time. I love them so much, even my younger son Mathew. I know he’ll come around.
My spirits still aren’t quite as high as they were this morning, but I’m not in such a foul mood after my kids leave. Even Heather had come in and told me she was sorry for saying those things to me. She apologized profusely and said that she had no right to talk about things she had no clue about. In the end, she affirmed how strong I am, and we cried and hugged it out.
“Don’t forget we have to meet the lawyer after your therapy today.”
This morning I was feeling ambitious and made cranberry-orange muffins and hard boiled eggs for breakfast. I can’t lift my arm very well yet, but my grip is getting better, and I’m able to do a few things in the kitchen. I know Joe appreciates a few new items on the menu.
“Can you pass me another egg, please?” Heather grabs the bowl and hands them over to me. “Is there anything I should be expecting?”
“I’m sure he’ll ask you about the details that you do remember.”
A lot of that horrible night is still a mystery to me. Bits and pieces have been reemerging in nightly nightmares, and the rest I have just put together from what everyone has told me, “I’ll do my best. Revisiting that night is like putting hot pokers to my eyes—torturous.”
“You’ll do fine Nikki. I will be right next to you. You don’t have to go it alone.”
The monotonous routine of therapy and watching TV is getting to me. It’s pathetic that the excitement in my routine is the therapy. If I didn’t have it, I would probably sit in bed watching TV and reading books all day. I would never see the light of day. The beams of sunlight reflecting on my arms do feel pretty amazing. This spring has been unusually warm. I soak them in on the car ride to my daily therapy ritual.
I am highly disappointed when I see Laura the groucho waiting by the poolside. I’ve grown accustomed to having Mr. Eye Candy as my own personal helper. On a good note, I might focus more.
I’m standing—on both feet. Being almost weightless helps, but I am standing in the water. My leg is listening and not giving way. I feel elated. I can do this. I will walk again. The excitement hums through my veins.
“Now step toward me.” She has to be insane. I just got the mechanics to stand.
Laura gets frustrated with me when I’m unable to move closer to her. No matter how bad I want this, my leg won’t move. It simply stays put. I personally feel like this is a feat in itself. I couldn’t even stand a week and a half ago. This has to be progress. Thankfully she doesn’t keep pushing something that obviously is not going to happen today. I’m sure my image mirrors her disappointment. After all, isn’t it me that’s stuck in a damn wheelchair? I want to be out of that thing more than anyone else. For the rest of our therapy, she does more passive movements, and I try to stop imagining much stronger and more masculine hands against me.
“Pay attention!” she snaps getting aggravated by my lack of concentration. I don’t mean to be somewhere else, but thoughts of Ethan’s adorable dimple keeps consuming my mind. Her sniggers and loud sighs are not going unnoticed. I brush them off and keep wondering where Ethan might be. Did I scare him off after our last session? Maybe, I shouldn’t have mentioned the girl I had seen him with, but I need to know if he’s with someone. It’s only fair…
“… Nikki! I can’t help you if you’re not willing to help yourself.” She snaps for the umpteenth time.
I know that she’s right. My head has been so out of the game lately. I’m trying to heal and rebuild myself. The last week and a half I have been in complete darkness, hurt and numb. On one side of all of this, I feel lost by not having my high school sweetheart to help me cope through this, we always leaned on each other. On the other side, a boy that has sparked my barely visible pilot light. Could Ethan be the one to fuel that fire and make it glow again? Before I get another huff, I focus for the next fifteen minutes that we have left of therapy.