by Anj
(a.k.a. Azurenon)


All disclaimers in Chapter One


        She was right. My emotions were like raw nerves, swaying in the breeze and the slightest thing would set them off. So, until their protective shell was repaired, I tried to bear in mind the advice she had given me. It didn't, however. For, over the course of the next several days, every time I turned around I was crying. Not sobbing, per say, but merely weeping constantly like one of those new fangled “soaker hoses”. And what time I wasn't lamenting, I was sleeping. Even the simplest things wore me out. Like changing gowns or being repositioned to prevent “bed sores”. But the most tiring of all, since my tests, was two days later when Miss Bennington got me up so they could change my sheets. This was my introduction to the wheelchair.
        When she first wheeled it in, I cringed at the thought of getting in it. Knowing all the while, that as a kid, I would've thought it exciting to do so, because back then I could easily get up and walk away when it no longer intrigued me. But now, to get in it was to acknowledge the fact that I was crippled.
        Miss Bennington must have sensed my reluctance. "Think of her as a friend, hmm? Because ole Nellie here,” she said patting the back of the chair, "she's gonna take you outta here."
        Since she put it that way, how could I refuse? I didn't like feeling so helpless and dependent on everyone and I knew the chair could offer some semblance of independence.
        I had assumed Miss Bennington, or Sara -as she insisted I call her now- would have to get an orderly to help put me in the chair, but she didn't.
"This is the way you'll eventually move yourself, once we've built up your upper body muscles, she explained, while lowering the bed to chair height, letting down the guardrail and placing a smooth, slick board in the space between myself and the wheelchair. “But, until you're strong enough, I'll do it for you." She then proceeded to show me how to properly position myself on the board and moved me into the wheelchair.
I was quite surprised by her strength. Although, a rather small built woman, hardly over five- foot- six 130 lbs, she handled me as if I were light as a feather.
        "They teach you how to do this, so neither of us gets hurt," she said in response to the questions in my eyes. She then wheeled me over to the window.
        My first glimpse of the city of Atlanta was not tremendously exciting. It was raining –a wind-driven rain from the looks of it- a gray haze hanging over the tops of the tall buildings, which was about all I could see from my vantage point. March appeared to be building up to “going out like a lion”.
        My next great adventure came two days after this, when Sara got me up for a bath. "I think you'll enjoy this," she said, as she wheeled me out the door and down the hall. "This is no ordinary bath you'll be taking today. This'll be part of your therapy." I liked the way she always explained anything new to me. It was as if she eased me into it, just like she eased me into the chair.
        When we reached two large silver doors, she pushed me onto a large black mat (an automatic door opener) and both doors swung wide. The room reeked of disinfectant. I grimaced at the smell, as I glanced around. A rather large silver tub, which looked more like some type of vat from a horror movie, loomed over in the left corner. There was a seated contraption hanging from what appeared to be some type of arm that was extended out over the tub. I realized after a quick survey, that it was for lifting patients like me, in and out of the tub. I grimaced at the thought of being in it and stark naked at that, while the machine lowered me into the water.
        "We'll be using this one over here," she said, as she pushed me to the right side of the room. "Your uncle's had one of these installed in your bathroom, so we'll get used to this. Eventually, you'll be able to do this by yourself. I think you'll enjoy the jets." She stopped beside a white tub, which looked ordinary enough at first glance, except for the four small silver holes running down the length of its sides and the grip bars on the sides and the wall.
        She walked over and turned on the water. Jets of water shot out the openings and began to fill the tub. She tested it with her fingers and turned up the hot water just a tad. Then she began to roll up the long sleeves of her white uniform. I soon found out why she always wore long sleeves. There were several long scars up the inside of her left arm, the one she had injured in the car accident.
        She noticed my gaze and smiled. Then she came over and removed my gown. I felt quite embarrassed. Of course, I'd been naked in front of her before, that was nothing new, but not like this. I felt so very exposed here. I was even more surprised, when she very gently and easily lowered me into the hot water. I grimaced and squealed a little at the temperature of the water on my stomach.
        "I'm sorry, but it does need to be rather warm. It's for your back and legs; to get the blood flowing and aid in your recovery. But if it's too awfully hot I'll cool it down for you."
        "No," I replied, my voice still deep and raspy, yet sounding much stronger and not so much like a broken speaker. "It's fine."
        She eased me back in the tub and the water felt quite good to my upper back. Once it stopped stinging, that is.
        "Comfortable?" she asked, gazing down at me.
        "Um-hmm," I replied.
        "Your voice is getting better, hmm?"
        "Yeah, but it isn't the same. It's deeper than it used to be and... scratchy sounding."
        "It'll more than likely return to normal," she reassured me, as her eyes drifted over my exposed body. "We'll need to keep those muscles in shape with therapy. You'll find it grueling work, but it'll pay off in the end. For now though, we'll just keep those muscles massaged, so they'll stay as... shapely as they are," she added, as her eyes traveled up my body to meet my gaze. She smiled, her eyes flowing back over me. "You've got good muscle tone."
        I felt a fluttering in my stomach, as she reached out and touched my leg. I felt nothing on my skin, but in my mind… I felt the way I thought I should if a man had touched me. Even though, every time any man or boy had touched me in the past, I felt dirty and repulsed. I assumed it was because I knew what they wanted from me. She, on the other hand, wanted nothing from me and surely had not meant this as a sensual touch. And this left me even more bewildered at my own reaction.
        "You just relax and I'll be back in a second, there's something I need to get," she said, as she arose and turned the water off.
        After she left, I felt the true helplessness of my situation. If someone comes in, I'll just die! Seeing as how my gown was out of reach on the back of the wheelchair. When the door did open, a few minutes later, I cringed at the thought of some orderly walking in on me. My hands automatically went to my breasts. But that left another area exposed. I breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing her face.
        "What's wrong?" she asked, noticing I had my arms around my chest. "You look... frightened."
        "I was afraid… someone else would walk in on me," I replied, as I watched her approach me, holding something down by her side.
        "I flipped the sign outside to read 'occupied'. No need to worry, no one will come in," she said, with a smile. She then opened her hand, revealing a pink bar of soap. "So far, we've bathed you with hospital soap. But, I thought you might prefer something more... well, something that smells a little better. Think you can manage on your own, if I helped you sit up?"
        "Yeah, I believe so."
        She helped me to a sitting position and then handed me a washcloth and the soap. I began bathing myself, as she occupied herself with looking around the room. I thought the soap was a very thoughtful gesture. It did smell much better, because it was one of the perfumed brands, enriched with bath oil. As I rubbed it over my legs, I wondered how long it would be before I could feel this? When I finished, I felt much better. And I didn't smell like a hospital, either.
        "Through?" she asked, as I laid the washcloth down. I nodded. "Okay, then I'll just wash your back and we'll get you back to your room."
        She was very gentle and spent much more time on my back than she usually did when giving me pan baths. I assumed she was trying to make sure that I had a good first bath.
        "Alright, we're through. Just lemme get your towel." She retrieved the towel, which she had laid on the back of the wheel chair and draped it around her neck. Then she leaned over and raised me up, sitting me on the side of the tub. She dried off my back, swung my legs over the side and turned me around, then started on the front.
        I wanted to say that I could do it, just as I had given myself a bath, but she was so much faster, I let it go.
        "I bet you have more boyfriends than you can count on both hands," she commented, as she rubbed the towel lightly over my breasts.
        "Uh, no… not really," I replied, hesitantly, wondering why she would broach this subject now.
        "Modest are we?" she asked, with a sly grin, then continued over the rest of my body at a rapid pace, never lingering anywhere else for very long. "Alright, now let's get your clean gown on." She put it on me and then tied it in back. "Now back in the chair."
        She wheeled me down the hall in silence. A silence that made me feel a bit uneasy, for some reason.
She put me back into my bed and lowered it.        "I'll let you rest now. The doctor should be here... in about two hours," she said, looking down at her watch, as she pulled the cover up on me. "I imagine you're pretty tired, but don't worry, soon you'll have your strength back. At any rate, I need to run an errand. Remember if you need anything, just press this button," she said, raising the guardrail and pointing out the red button hanging from it. "I should be back before the doctor gets here." With that said, she patted my hand and left.
        This must be why she'd been so quiet before, I reasoned. She had something on her mind she had to do. With my own mind more at ease and my body quite relaxed, I was asleep in no time.

        I awoke to voices in the room. Dr. Rosemund was talking to Sara. They had their backs to me, huddled around some type of tray.
        "I'll need you to assist me," I heard him say. "If the wounds on her arms have healed sufficiently, we'll apply a smaller bandage. If not, we'll..." I strained to hear what he was saying, since his voice dropped so low. "The condition of her head wound will determine whether she leaves Friday or maybe even before. As you know Mr. Neilson is pushing to have her discharged sooner than I'd like, but since you'll be there... You will be starting physical therapy this afternoon, won't you?"
        "Yes, I'm sure she'll be strong enough for a light session. She had her first bath today, you know. Held up very well. She definitely has good muscle tone."
        "That's always good. Okay, let's wake her up and...." He paused, as he turned around and saw I was watching them. "Oops, well, no need to wake her... So, how's my favorite patient?" he asked, coming towards me with a broad smile on his face.
        "Good... good. Miss Bennington told me you had your first real bath today. Any pain, discomfort, dizziness?"
        "Great. Now then, the next order of business is to change your bandages. I've asked Miss Bennington to assist me," he explained, as she rolled the cart, which held an assortment of scissors, gauze and tape, up to the bed. "Let's raise you up and we'll start to work, okay?"
        I merely nodded. I was thinking about the wounds, especially the one on my head, wondering what it looked like. I had asked, but Sara said that she didn't know, since she'd been hired after I was taken out of ICU. She said she'd been told I had several lacerations, but didn't know the extent of them.
        As the doctor went to work removing the bandage on my forearm, I watched intently. A few seconds later, a thin scar running up the front of my arm was revealed. "Looks real good," he said, with a smile.
        Then he went to work on the other one on my upper arm. When this was removed it revealed a larger, curving scar, snaking its way up my arm, tapering off at both ends -elbow and shoulder. I could tell that these two should not be so hard to cover up. But, I was reminded of Sara's and wondered if there was something different about the skin on your arm, which made it more difficult for plastic surgery.
        "This is doing very well, I think we can use a smaller bandage here." He went to work doing just that.
        By the time he got around to my head, I was a bundle of nerves, wondering what would be revealed. Perhaps it wasn't as bad as the bandage implied. Perhaps there was only a thin scar like the others and they'd simply gone wild with gauze and tape.
        When he finally started snipping the bandage, I wondered if I'd have any hair beneath it. I had a short stubbly growth on the right side where the bandage didn't cover it, but I wasn't even sure whether hair would grow beneath a bandage or not. Could this retard its growth? I wondered. I also pondered how big the wounds were and exactly how many there were and if they'd leave an awful scar like the ones on Sara's arm.
        The doctor unwrapped the bandage slowly. Sara watched him very closely and I, in turn, watched her, to see what type of reaction she gave to my unveiling. I would use this to judge how bad it was. She must have felt my eyes on her, because she glanced down at me and smiled. Must not be that bad, I thought.
        "You're healing nicely. Very nice, indeed," he commented, as he moved closer to examine something up there.
        "Can I see?" I inquired.
        They both looked at each other. I could tell the doctor didn't like the idea.
        "If you don't, I'm sure she'll try to remove the bandage herself," said Sara, as she rubbed the back of her neck. Her overall reaction suggested she was uncertain as to whether it would be good for me to see it or not.
        "Alright," he relented. "Get a mirror for her. But..." He paused, as he fixed me with his gray eyes. "…you have to promise not to get too upset. What you'll see now is not... I repeat, is not permanent. There are wonderful plastic surgeons around, who can perform utter miracles these days."
        Plastic surgeons, I thought. Utter miracles? Would I need a miracle? If so, then it had to be absolutely awful. Suddenly, as Sara handed me a small compact, I wasn't so sure I wanted to see it anymore. I wasn't sure whether this was for my own good or not. I stared at the closed compact, then at Sara, watching her face for any hint of what she thought of my injuries. I could read nothing in her eyes or facial expressions.
        Finally, I slowly opened the compact. The first thing I saw was a long jagged scar that started on the right side of my forehead, just above my eyebrow, and ran horizontally across my forehead, curving upwards at a slight angle, as it inched its way towards what should have been my hair line, but was only a very fine light brown stubble. From this point, near the left side of my head, it took an abrupt 90-degree turn and continued across the top, where it tapered off about midway.
        "Oh my God!" I said, aloud.
        "Remember it's only temporary," Sara said, trying to reassure me, as I surveyed the damage.
        I shifted the mirror to the left side, where my ear had been covered and found to my utter dismay, yet another scar. This one was even more pronounced than the one across my forehead. It started near my temple, missing my ear by centimeters and continued to grow progressively larger, slicing a straight path to the back of my head, where it tapered off.
        I stared into the mirror, feeling my heart sink. I could not take my eyes off, what to me, was a grotesque sight.
        "Faith... Faith, look at me... look at me, Faith," Sara said, in a stern voice, as she reached over and turned my face towards her. She had already sat down on the left side of the bed by now. "Mine was far worse than yours. Believe me. Now, tell me, can you see it?"
        I looked at her, quickly searching her face for any hint of a scar, then turned back to the mirror. She's lying to me, I thought, as I stared at the hideous scars.
        Dr. Rosemund reached over to take the mirror from me, but I wouldn't let go. "Faith, we need to put another bandage on," he said, calmly.
        "Do it then!" I growled.
        He hesitated a moment, glancing up at Sara and then went to work, while I watched, seemingly in shock. I felt numb all over. Soon my head was covered with another somewhat smaller bandage. Still I stared into the mirror. I was so angry at the injustice of it all, that I couldn't say a word, much less movea muscle. First, I'd found been told I'd lost the use of my legs, although perhaps not permanently or so they hoped. Then I learned I had lost my parents! And now... now I had been stripped of my dignity. All of my silky brown hair was gone; my face and head marred for life! Of course, I'd already pondered these possibilities in my mind before, yet just thinking about it was worlds apart from actually seeing it up close!
        "You're healing very nicely," said Dr. Rosemund. "At this rate I see no reason why you can't be out of here by Thursday of this week."
        "Did you hear that, Faith?" Sara asked. "Thursday. Isn't that good news?"
        Tears welled up in my eyes. Sure, I'd be out of here, but in another strange place to face what? Yet another set of new obstacles? That long road of recovery, which I'd previously envisioned stretched out before me, has suddenly grown much longer. I felt like someone had removed a pair of binoculars from my eyes. What had once seemed possibly within my reach, now seemed miles away! Long, rough, slow, agonizing miles for someone in a wheelchair. For someone... Crippled! The word resounded in my head. My mind began to taunt me with a childlike chant. "Faith is a cripple… Got a scar and not a dimple."
        How long will I be this way? I wondered. How long before my hair grows back? Or before I could have plastic surgery? Who would look at me now, the way I was? Or more to the point how would they look at me? With pity? Revulsion? Or would they merely turn away?
        "I'll check on you later, Faith," said Dr. Rosemund, as he exited the room.
        I stared into the mirror at my reflection: eyes that had once been a soft blue, with green highlights, now seemed to be a piercing, cold steel gray. They were filled with anger. The scar across my forehead only completed the picture of a very ugly young woman. I didn't like what I saw at all. I never wanted to look at myself again. I felt like I had been slapped hard across the face by the unseen, uncaring and immensely cold hand of Fate. And I wanted revenge! I wanted to lash out at something, anything. I felt the rage boiling up within me and knew trying to stop it was useless. I grasped the compact in my right hand.
        "Faith, no," Sara said, reaching for it.
        It was too late. I threw the compact across the room. It hit the wall and broke in half. The mirror shattered into half dozen tinkling pieces. Shattered like my whole world, I thought, as I watched the other half -containing the makeup- skid across the floor.
        "Faith, sweetheart..." Sara began, as she touched my arm.
        "Go away!" I said in a deep, determined voice I hardly recognized as my own. I gnashed my teeth together, knowing my voice would probably never be the same, either. Nothing would! "Just… leave… me… alone," I growled, accentuating each word, sounding like a dog that had been cornered, warning away a pursuer.
        She didn't take her hand away, however. "Don't do this to yourself," she said, tightening her grip. "I know what you're feeling, I..."
        "You know nothing!!" I spat, trying to wrench my left arm from her grasp. I didn't want to be held or patronized anymore. "Nothing at all about how I feel! Now get away from me!" I pushed against her with my right arm and she grabbed hold of it. I was able to get my left one free, however, and before even thinking about what I was doing, took an openhanded swing at her.
She blocked it and grabbed hold of that one, too. "Stop, damn it!" she exclaimed.
        I wiggled to free my arms, but she was too strong. She overpowered me and pinned my arms to the bed, over my head. She was only inches from my face, her eyes wide and wild looking.
        "Enough, goddammit!" she exclaimed. "You can't get rid of me that easily. And yes, I do know what you're going through. Look at me.... Damn it, I said look at me!" She continued, as she followed my face. "You see this face, well sweetheart five years ago you wouldn't have recognized it. I sure as hell didn't! My face was a goddamn disaster area. Just one huge mass of cuts and gashes."
        I was surprised at her ferociousness and the fact that her face had ever been as bad as mine.
        "Oh yeah," she continued, "I wore a bandage all over, not just part of my head like you. No, mine was all over my face. I had two holes for my eyes, two for my broken nose and one for my mouth, which was wired shut by the way! And you think you got it bad! Huh? You don't know what bad is."
        I turned my face away; her anger was too much to bear. I stared at her arm - the button on her cuff having slipped free, her sleeve open, revealing her scars- which she obviously noticed.
        "Oh, you think I'm lying about my face, do you? Why, because I have these on my arms? Well, let me tell you something, sweetheart... these weren't caused by the accident. No, I did this! Yeah, that's right, me,” she growled, answering the unvoiced question in my eyes. “I didn't wanna live anymore! Now look at me and tell me again how much I don't know!" She let go of one of my wrists and then gathered them both up in one hand. "Look at me, damn it and tell me I don't understand," she grumbled, as she grabbed my face with her left hand, forcing me to look at her. “I know a lot more than you think I do!”
        The sight of her rage had calmed me down considerably. I had never had anyone talk to me quite this way, nor get this mad at me, that I could remember. She had sure taken the wind right out of my sails. And as I stared into her eyes, I realized she had left me with something else. There was a very strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. Before this, I had thought of her like my mother, but now... now she had shown me quite another side of her personality. She reminded me more of myself. The mother image I had held of her flew right out the window, the moment she pinned me to the bed. For, my mother would never have done that. She would have left me alone. She would never have fought with me. I had a new found respect for Sara now. Even Uncle Brandon had been beaten by my rage, but not Sara, no, not Sara.
        I studied the face that had once been so scarred, searching for any telltale signs. At this distance I could see faint lines here and there, but they were so light they were barely noticeable. There weren't even hints of the disaster area she had described. Matter of fact, her face was beautiful. Her vibrant blue, slightly slanted eyes, finely arched eyebrows, slightly upturned nose and even the faint light brown moustache across her shapely upper lip were a very appealing combination. I found myself unable to take my eyes off those rather shapely lips. Butterflies began to flutter around in my stomach and I felt rather light-headed.
        Slowly, she let go of my face and then my wrists. When she started to back away, I could not resist reaching up and touching her face. I knew there were scars, but they just weren't visible on the surface.
        When my hand touched her skin, the butterflies fluttered wildly. I didn't understand why I was feeling this way. All I knew was I liked the feeling.
        My eyes traveled upwards to meet her gaze. "Think we should ask your uncle to bring along two pairs of boxing gloves, the next time he comes?" she asked, a smile forming at the corners of her mouth.
        I found myself moving my hand slightly and running my thumb over her unadorned lower lip, tracing its succulent red path from one corner of her mouth to the other. She cleared her throat, I flinched, and she backed away from me, just as the door to my room opened. Uncle Brandon walked into the room, looking quite dapper in his dark brown suit, tan vest and neatly pressed white shirt.
        "How's my Princess, today?" he asked, sounding more cheerful than ever.
        I looked over at Sara, who was getting up from the bed.
        "Uh… better… now," I replied, as Sara's shoe crunched a shard of the mirror on the floor.
        "What happened over there?" he asked, looking at the pieces of the mirror lying all over the floor, next to the table.
        "I... I dropped my compact," Sara responded. "I'll just… go get something to clean it up."
        "How come you weren't already cleaning up?" he asked curiously.
        "Because… because I... I asked her to adjust my pillow before she left," I spoke up.
        "Hmph. Well, I met Dr. Rosemund downstairs in the hallway. He said you'd be able to go home Thursday. I assume you were delighted to hear that?"
        "Um… Yes, yes of course," I replied, as I watched Sara disappear around the door. "I... uh… I can't wait to see Shady Grove," I added, trying to sound cheerful; for, I didn't want to hurt his feelings. I also didn't want him asking questions I didn't want to answer at the moment. I was having a hard enough time concentrating on what he was saying anyway; my mind was on previous events. Why in this world has I reached up and touched her lip? I wondered.
        "You'll love it. I know you will. Your mother did, but... I suppose she told you about it."
        "Uh… No," I replied. I saw his smile fade instantly. "I mean… No, I… I'd rather you tell me about it."
        His expression changed abruptly and his brown eyes seemed to light up, as he began telling me all about Shady Grove. I could tell he loved horses and horseback riding; for, he went on and on about the thoroughbreds he raised and the large expanse of land on which he rode them. I wondered if I would ever be able to ride one of them.
        I listened intently as he described Shady Grove in great detail. He made it sound even more like Tara than mother had. I found myself profusely wishing that they were here and we could all go there together. But, alas, that was not to be. Nothing could change what was. And I knew they wouldn't want me to dwell on the past, so I allowed myself to be carried along by his excitement and enthusiasm. It seemed inevitable that this would be my future, for a while at least.
        I listened to him expound further on the advantages of living at Shady Grove, while I watched Sara clean up the broken shards from the mirror. I hadn't even stopped to consider that it was her compact. Perhaps if I had known this I wouldn't have broken it, I thought. Then again, none of the previous events would have taken place and... I quickly realized this was one of those times when if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing.
        Before Brandon left, he placed a kiss on my cheek, as always, promising to see me tomorrow. Just two more days and I'll be outta here. The thought did excite me and yet the future was frightening! How long would my recovery take? I looked over at Sara, who had been very quiet since cleaning up my mess. She was still sitting on the heating unit, staring out at the city beyond.
        "Sara... how long will it take before... I can walk again?" I asked.
        "That depends on a lot of different factors," she replied, her eyes never leaving the window. "Foremost is your body's ability to heal itself. Some heal faster than others... and that depends a great deal on your state of mind."
        "What do you mean?"
        "Whether you want to get better or not and how hard you're willing to work for it," she replied, still staring out the window.
        I could tell there was something weighing heavily on her mind by the way she crossed and uncrossed her arms, then rubbed her hands up and down them, as if she were cold.
        "I'm... sorry about your compact," I offered.
        "Don't worry about it," she said, with a shrug. "I never used it anyway."
        My mind replayed the scene before Brandon came in. I remembered how she had backed away from me and how I had felt at that moment. Why did I reach up and touch her lip? I didn't know. But I did want to be close to her again. I wanted to feel her arms around me, the warmth of her embrace. I wish you would turn around and look at me, I thought.
        "Sara..."I paused, hoping she'd turn around.
        "Hmm?" she answered, but never moved.
        "Is there something wrong?"
        "No… just thinking about getting some fresh air, is all. Dinner'll be served soon, so I won't be long," she replied, as she got up and walked over to the door. She paused for a moment. "We… we'll start your therapy after dinner. So, get some rest," she added, without even a glance my way.
        Now I knew there was definitely something wrong. I wondered if it might be because she had stirred up some painful memories, when she told me about her face. I assumed she probably just needed to be alone for a while. And who wouldn't in her position, since she was on duty, twenty-four hours a day? I had never really given this much thought before. I'd merely taken for granted that she would be here, whenever I needed her. I realized I'd been acting very selfish, thinking only of myself, when around me there were other people with their own problems.

        I must have dozed off; for, when I opened my eyes again, a young Hispanic man was bringing a food tray into the room. "Sorry to wake you," he apologized, as he sat the tray down on the table. "But, your nurse, she did not answer when I knocked."
        "That's alright. She woulda woke me up anyway," I replied.
        He pulled the table over to the bed and positioned it in front of me. I noticed he kept looking at my head out of the corner of his eyes.
        "Where's Delilah today?" I asked.
        "This is her day off," he answered, as he uncovered the tray.
        He gave me one last quick glance. "Everyt'ing alright?"
        "Yes, thank you."
        After he left, I raised the head of the bed to a more comfortable position. I was removing the cover from the plate, when Sara walked in.
She looked over at me, seemingly quite surprised by what she saw. "Well, looks as if you can get along just fine without me," she observed, as she walked back over to the window.
        I could tell by her demeanor that her time away had not helped. So, I tried to think of something witty to say, but all I came up with was: "It's because of you that I can do without you, for a little while, at least."
        She smiled, as she walked over to her chair by the bed. Funny, I thought, how I consider this "her" chair. "Have you eaten?" I asked.
        "Yes... that's why I was late getting back."
        I wanted to say something to try and cheer her up, but I couldn't think of a thing, so I ate in silence. And to my surprise, I found that I truly missed her being involved in everything I did. I wanted to be independent, yet adored the attention she lavished on me. Perhaps that's it, I thought. Maybe she realized I was depending on her too much. And this was just her way of loosening the apron strings, so to speak.
        After my meal, I pushed the table as far away from me as I could possibly get it, so that she would see I was trying to be more independent. She didn't seem to notice, however, she merely sat there reading her book. I eased the head of the bed back down and lay back. I listened to the sounds of the hospital, all the while aching for her to say something… anything. But she merely kept right on reading. I then began to wonder what this therapy would be like.
        Finally, the young man came back for the tray. She still made no attempt to get up or even acknowledge his presence with more than a glance over her book. I thanked him.
        About thirty minutes later, she got up, went into the bathroom and emerged with something in a squeeze type bottle. "Think you're up to your therapy now?" she asked, without even looking over at me.
        "I guess so," I replied, not really sure what to expect, since she hadn't explained anything about it. Yet, in a way I was eager for anything, as long as she would talk to me.
        She placed the bottle on the table and then changed the sign on the door to read "Do Not Disturb". She closed the door very slowly, as if she were contemplating something. She definitely had that "lost in space look" as my mother always called it, when I was so deeply involved in my own thoughts I blocked out everything else.
        Upon pushing the table over to the right side of the bed she finally looked over at me. "We'll start with your legs," she said, decisively. "I'll rub them legs with the oil to stimulate the circulation of blood. Then..." Pausing as she lowered the bed. "Then I'll turn you over and do the same to your back."
        She pulled the cover back exposing my seemingly lifeless legs and then she sat down on the bed. Retrieving the oil, she placed a small amount in the palms of her hands and rubbed them together. A bit hesitantly, she started rubbing my legs. I could feel nothing, yet I closed my eyes, trying to imagine it, since it looked like it should feel pretty good. It was to no avail though, so I settled for watching.
        "Was this part of your training?" I asked, desiring to break the silence between us.
        "Um-hmm," she answered, as she got up and went over to the other side of the bed.
        She massaged my left leg and then picked it up, bending it at the knee, pushing it towards me then pulling it out straight. She continued doing this, back and forth, back and forth, for at least two minutes, without ever looking up. I started to feel like I was just another job to her. When finished, she moved over and did the same to the other leg.
        "Okay," she said finally. "Let's turn you over."
        She crossed one of my legs over the other then came up to turn my body. I kept staring at her, but she wouldn't meet my gaze. Slowly, one part at a time, she turned me over. Clearing her throat, she started rubbing oil on my back. Every once in a while, I could feel what she was doing, when her hands came above the paralyzed zone, then they would disappear into the abyss again.
        "Alright, let's get you...."
        "Um... would you... do the rest of my back?" I interrupted. "I'd like to know what it feels like."
        "Whaddaya mean?"
        "I mean, I watched you do my legs and I couldn't feel anything. I'd just like to know what it feels like."
        "Very well," she said with a sigh.
        She rubbed gently at first, her hands gliding over my upper back. Now I knew what my legs had been privy to. Increasing the pressure, she moved up to my shoulders. I was unaware of how sore they actually were. It felt as if she were kneading my flesh. It didn't hurt though. On the contrary, it felt good and I told her so.
        "Your shoulder muscles are tight,” she said, in response. “You're storing tension here. Are you worried about something?"
         Finally she was talking to me.
         "You," I answered.
        She abruptly stopped for a moment, then without a word resumed. When finished, she repeated the process of rolling me back over.
        "I realize it's none of my business," I acknowledged, as she came up to roll me over the last leg of the way. "But what's with all this silence? It's about to drive me up the wall."
        She looked down at me, her eyes a dark watery blue. Several seconds passed. Then she sighed heavily and sat down on the bed. "I suppose we should discuss this. Of course, most of the time this doesn't come up until later on. But, since I've seen it before, I suppose I recognize the first signs." She sighed again, as if reluctant to continue. "Sometimes... especially when a patient feels alone... they become... too dependent on their therapist, nurse or… whoever is with them most of the time. Do you understand?"
        "Well, I suppose. But, there are only so many things I can do for myself. And… I try to do them, don't I?"
        She shook her head. "No, I'm not referring to a physical dependency. I'm talking about an emotional one."
        I considered this for a moment. The only way I could see that I was emotionally dependent upon her was when she held me, while I cried. And I had only asked for that once. "You mean, I shouldn't expect you to hold me when I cry?"
        "That, too. I mean... Yes, that was my mistake. I caused you to become dependent that way. And now I need to remedy it."
        "Well, why didn't you just say so? Why all the silence?"
        She stared at me for a long time, as if she were trying to say something with her eyes that she couldn't bring herself to say with her mouth. "It goes deeper than that, Faith. I think we both know that," she finally answered, staring deeply into my eyes.
        "Oh, you mean thinking of you like my mother. Well… I don't anymore. Not after this afternoon."
        Her eyes opened wider, as if I'd hit the proverbial nail on the head. I searched through my memories of that afternoon, trying to remember what I could have done to upset her. Of course, it came back clearly: running my thumb over her bottom lip. I wanted to offer an excuse and say, I only wanted to see if you were wearing lipstick. But, that wasn't the truth and besides, I didn't think it would fly. At least, it didn't with me, because I hadn't given any thought to whether she was wearing lipstick or not, until after my finger touched her lip. What were you thinking? I questioned myself. Hell if I know, I silently answered. It… it just… happened is all! It was an impulse! Just… just a stupid mistake! I… I felt grateful to her and… I was just showing that… wasn't I?
        Instead of excuses, however, I ended up taking offense. "Oh, you mean it's alright for you to show affection towards me, but I shouldn't do that to you? Is that what you're saying? The patient-therapist relationship only works one way, hmm?” The words were tumbling out. “I shouldn't feel gratitude towards you? Shouldn't feel… anything, even though you're about the only person in this world right now I feel I can trust?" My bottom lip trembled, betraying my emotions.
        "Faith, I…” She paused and looked away, shaking her head. Her eyes rolled skyward before coming back to rest upon mine. “You're… very emotional right now," she said the corners of her mouth turning up as if she wanted to smile. "I'm not the only person you can trust, ya know."
        "I'm sorry I've grown so dependent on you,” I offered, my lip still trembling slightly. “But I think you can tell, I don't really know my uncle that well. Matter of fact, I'd never met him until what… seven... eight days ago? I mean, he seems nice, but... in the back of my mind, I know there's a reason my mother and father didn't like to talk about him. And this… well it makes me wanna keep my distance. Plus, whether he was protecting me or not, he still lied. I could tell you would've told me the first day. You wanted to, didn't you?"
        "Hmph, well... I guess I can't fool you."
        "That's part of it, too. My mother was like that. I could read her emotions in her eyes, too. You're very open with your feelings. I can tell that my uncle would put up a facade and probably does quite often. His cheerful ways had me fooled into thinking my parents were... Well… I don't mean to judge him, but something tells me… there's a lot hidden beneath those cheerful, sparkling eyes."
        Sara frowned, nodded and looked away. "I wasn't aware you'd never met him before. Perhaps… it's a bit too early for this talk, hmm?” She looked down at me. “And I guess there's very little I can hide from you."
        "Nor me from you," I added.
        She smiled. "This is one time I'll probably regret it when my patient takes her first step."
        "Because…" She paused, glancing down at her hands. "…you won't need me much longer after that. My job will be finished, for the most part."
        "Hmm… Well, can't we still be friends?"
        "I… I suppose. That is if you still want to be friends at that time," she answered, as she fidgeted with her hands. "By then though, you may hate me.”
“Hate you? Why would I hate you?”
“'Cause you'll get tired of me pushing you so hard. That is, unless you're one of those unique people I haven't had the pleasure of meeting yet."
        "My mother once told me that between love and hate, there's a very thin line," I stated. "She said in order to hate someone with a passion, you must have once loved them. Because hate is love turned inside out. Sorta like laughing and crying, hmm? Even though they're opposites, they are related. And if love can turn to hate, then hate can turn back to love."
        "You sound wise," she said, as she reached over and touched my cheek. "I hope you're right. I truly do."
        "Read to me?"
        "Alright," she replied, as she reached over and retrieved the book from the nightstand. She opened it to the first bookmark.
        "Think we'll finish it before I walk again?" I asked.
        "I don't know," she said, softly, as she looked over at me and smiled.
        I knew things were back to normal, I could only hope that they would stay that way.
        Soon my eyelids began to grow heavy. I tried hard to fight the sleep that seemed to be invading my body. The last thing I remember was feeling her close to me, the aroma of her perfume wafting around me, as she whispered, "I'd read to you forever, if I could." Then she kissed me lightly on the cheek.

        Sometime during the night, I awoke with a start and sat up. I had felt that my mother and father were right there in the room with me. I glanced around in the darkness as their voices replayed in my head. "Beware... have no illusions," they had said.
        I broke down in tears; it had felt so real. Sara must have heard me, for I heard the patter of bare feet on the floor and then the night light above the bed came on.
        "What's wrong?" she asked, with a look of grave concern on her face.
        "My parents... they were here... I..."
        "Oh sweetheart, it was just a dream," she said, soothingly.
        "No, this was no dream, they were here. I could feel them... I could hear them..." I blubbered, remembering their voices.
        "Cum'mere," she said, letting down the guardrail and then leaning over putting her arms around me. "It was just a dream."
        "No, I heard them. They... they said... beware... have no illusions."
        She held me away from her and stared deeply into my eyes. I thought I saw tears in her green eyes. Green Eyes? But her eyes are blue, aren't they? Yes, of course they are; a very warm deep blue. Could it be the light?
        "Your eyes they're... they're green," I said in astonishment.
        "Um... yeah, they are. I wear colored contacts," she explained.
        Was this what my mother and father meant by illusions? Were they referring to Sara, who presented the illusion of blue eyes? Blue eyes like my mother's. Could she have known about my mother? Were they warning me about Sara for some reason?
        "Whatsamatta?" she asked, with a puzzled look on her face.
        "Nothing... I mean, you're probably right. I musta been dreaming," I said, wiping my eyes. "It... it just seemed so real, that's all." I laid back on the bed and looked away. Was it just a dream?
        "Well... you get some rest now. Tomorrow will be another big day for you. Dr. Rosemund said we should get you out for some fresh air," she said, as she pulled the covers up on me. "I think you'll like that."
        I merely lay there staring into the darkness wondering what new set of obstacles I would be faced with now. The only person I truly felt I could trust might very well be the one my parents had been warning me about. After all, hadn't she said that I shouldn't be emotionally dependent on her? And yet she had just put her arms around me once again. She had contradicted her own self!
        I suddenly felt very lost and alone. Could I, or more to the point should I, still trust her? Was there not a soul in this world I could rely upon? I yearned for the warmth, comfort and security of my parents! Silently, I cried myself to sleep.

Part 5

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