by Anj
(a.k.a. Azurenon)


All disclaimers in Chapter One


        The afternoon passed quickly, because I slept most of the time. After dinner, Sara and I picked out a long sleeved black dress -one of the few that were rather plain- which would hide the bandages on my left arm, as well as the scratches and bruises on my right. It also covered my legs, which I knew people would be staring at, wondering about my paralysis.
        Sara spent considerable time arranging the black silk scarf for my turban, trying to make sure the bandage was completely covered. She suggested we use makeup on my hands to disguise the bruises. It didn't cover them all on my left hand, but did a fair job of camouflage. She also used a little on my face, around my eyes to conceal the lingering bruised circles from my head injury. When she let me see the result of her labors in the vanity mirror, I could hardly believe my eyes. I truly did favor my mother, much more so now than ever before. Was it only the dark brown hair that had made me believe otherwise?
        "Now the finishing touch," she said, as she handed me a bottle of perfume.
        "Chanel No. 5?" I asked, looking up at her.
        "It was here on the vanity," she explained, with a shrug.
        I smelled of it. It wasn't bad. I wouldn't want to wear it all the time, but since this was supposed to be a special occasion, I decided I'd try something new.
        "Did you buy this?" I asked, dabbing it on my neck.
        "No, like I said, it was here on the vanity, along with all this makeup."
        Surely Brandon hadn't done this, had he? She'd informed me he'd picked out a few frilly nightgowns, but what would he know about makeup? What did he know about clothes, for that matter? And yet he'd certainly supplied me with a wardrobe filled with what he liked, hadn't he?
        "You're very pretty, Faith," Sara said, looking at my reflection in the mirror.
        "Thank you," I responded, a bit embarrassed by her comment. "Why aren't you getting dressed?" I inquired, noticing her nurse's uniform. "Aren't you coming to the party?"
        "Brandon wants me to wear my uniform and... 'act like a nurse'” Two fingers of each hand formed quotation marks in the air. “So, you're on your own for a while. Remember what I said now…"
        "Don't get too tired," we both said, simultaneously.
        "You're incorrigible," she muttered, squeezing the muscles of my shoulders. "Brandon will be here soon, so... I'll..." She made walking motions with her fingers in the direction of the door. "Have a wonderful time."
        When Brandon knocked and entered my sitting room, I was waiting for him. He stopped in his tracks, his mouth dropped open. "You are... absolutely beautiful," he said, his eyes lighting up. "Your mother would be so-o proud." He finally moved over towards me, holding out his right hand. "Might I have the honor of escorting you to the ball, my beautiful princess?" he inquired, gallantly, as he took my hand and placed a kiss on the back.
        "Why thank you kind sir," I responded, playing along. He extended his arm and I put my left hand on it, while moving the chair's control with my right.
        "Your guests await you," he said, as we neared the door.
        All of a sudden it hit me that I wouldn't know anyone there, except him, Jason and Sara. This frightened me. I didn't feel ready to face all those strange people, alone. I wanted Sara beside me. She had been my emotional rock for over a week now. Funny how short a time it takes to become very attached someone, especially when you're in desperate need for something to cling to. I now became aware of just how dependent upon her I was. She had been there for me. I trusted her. I glanced over at her door, then down at my hands, which were now lying still in my lap.
Brandon had preceded me through the door, but now turned around. "What's the matter, Princess?"
        "I... I'm a little nervous. All those new people and... look at me, I'm..."
        "You're beautiful," he said, kneeling down in front of me. "Simply beautiful. And you wouldn't want to disappoint all those people who came to see you, now would you?"
        I sighed heavily and glanced back at Sara's door one last time. "No, I wouldn't want to do that," I halfheartedly agreed.
        "I'll be right here beside you the whole time, Princess," he reassured, as he got to his feet.
        Would he? I wondered, as we started down the long hall. I was about to find out, despite my fears.

        Brandon carried me down the stairs and placed me in the manual wheelchair. As he wheeled me into the enormous living room on the east wing, every head turned our way and conversations abruptly came to a halt. I felt like someone had turned a spotlight in our direction; there had to be at least forty pairs of eyes trained on us.
        "May I have your attention, please," Brandon requested, though no one had to be silenced or prodded. "I'd like you to meet my niece, Miss Marion Faith Neilson." Heads began bowing around the crowd of assembled guests, as they turned their attention to me. A waiter then walked up beside Brandon with a glass of champagne. "She will be living at Shady Grove now and I'd appreciate it very much if you'd make her feel welcome. Faith," he paused, turning towards me and holding up his glass, "from all of us… a hardy welcome and sincerest wishes for a speedy recovery." Everyone clapped.
        I felt like a bee trapped inside a jar, with curious and strange eyes staring at me from the outside.
        Jason was the first to come over to me. "Welcome to Shady Grove, Faith," he said, with a smile. "I... I hope we'll soon be friends." He then glanced up at his father, who nodded. This made me wonder if Jason was being truthful or just playing a part like an actor in a movie.
        Needless to say, that was my last contact with a familiar face -besides Brandon's- for quite a while. He wheeled me into the crowd of people and started introducing me to everyone. I heard so many names, I couldn't recall any of them clearly, a second after he uttered them. Each one who had known my mother commented on the remarkable resemblance. And I began to wonder if I should have shaved my head and dawned a turban years ago.
Not a one had anything negative or unpleasant to say. Yet, after Brandon finished with the introductions and became involved in a business discussion, not one soul seemed interested in me any longer. I listened to my uncle as they discussed mutual funds, CD's, and of course the stock market. Needless to say, this bored the heck out of me, so I started looking around for Sara.
        I hadn't caught even a glimpse of her all evening and was beginning to wonder if she had even come down, when I overheard two women behind me talking about my turban. They evidently thought I was deaf, as well as paralyzed. One said she “wouldn't be caught dead wearing something that hideous” on her head. I found out then and there that I was no swan like my mother, nor was I even close to being a duck; for, these remarks did not glide off my back; they penetrated and stung. I wheeled myself away, as fast I could -to get out of ear shot- all the while feeling the scars on my left arm stating clearly that this was not to their liking. And, finally I thought I'd found a safe place, only to hear:
        "Pitiful, isn't she?" - "Yes, poor thing." - "I don't know, but I heard she was paralyzed for life." - "No, Bill said Brandon told him it was temporary." - "You know how Brandon is... don't you remember how long it took him to accept that Ashley was dead. He had them drag the river three different times." - "And you think he's just being optimistic?" - "Let's just say, Brandon didn't get where he is by being ruthlessly honest." This was followed by a giggle from both voices.
        That did it! That was the last straw. I was getting out of there if it killed me! Headed towards the door to the foyer… my arms screaming in agony… then my chair suddenly came to a halt. "Going somewhere?" asked a familiar voice from behind me.
        "Yes! Outta here," I whimpered, instantly recognizing Sara's voice.
        "Whoa," she said, as she placed one hand on my shoulder and leaned down. "Hold those tears. These kinda people can be very cruel, but let's not give'em the satisfaction of seeing you cry, hmm? Think now, what would your mother do?"
        "I don't care," I grumbled, struggling to hold back the tears. "Wait a minute… how did you know what happened?"
        "I've been… close by... I've heard things. And I know how they can be. You're not the first one to face a crowd in a condition like this, either. My clients are people who can afford to have a private duty nurse/therapist, remember? I've seen it happen before. These people will never change."
        "Then what do I care what they think?"
        "Because this is your world now. Brandon has tossed you out here in this pool of sharks… against my better judgment, I might add… and now… you have to swim or be eaten. So… which will it be?"
        "Damn," I cursed, softly, and wiped my eyes.
        "Believe me if I thought I could get away with it, I'd slug the old bitty,” she offered, squeezing my shoulder. “But... I can't. Now, let's turn you around and stroll over there." She motioned to a table set up in the corner where an elderly lady was serving drinks. "Tears go down easier with a little coke."
        Leave it to Sara, I thought, to pull me out of a bad situation and make me laugh. I glanced up at her. "Slug the old bitty?" I asked, with a snicker.
        "Yep, right between her beady little eyes."
        I laughed heartily. I wanted to show them their cruel remarks hadn't touched me. At least, not as long as Sara's around, I thought.
        She pushed me over to the refreshment table, where champagne and wine was being served. "Hello, Miss Faith," said a short gray haired lady with a decidedly unrefined British accent. I noticed right away she dropped a lot of her consonants as if swallowing them. "I'm Celia, your maid."
        "Celia, nice to meet you," I responded, hoping this would indeed prove true.
        "Nice to meet you, too, 'mum. What can I get for ya?"
"A coke will be fine, thank you. Well, make that two," I said, glancing over at Sara.
        "Yes, 'mum, right away. Good to see sum'one who doesn't take ta the drink, these days," she said, as she rambled under the table. "Sorry I wuz to hear about your accident, 'mum. All of us here would like ta wish you the speediest of recoveries."
        "Thank you, Celia."
        "Yes, 'mum." She handed me the two cokes.
        "Have you met my nurse, Miss Benn..." I paused, as Sara looked down at me, giving me the eye. "Sara?" I finished.
        "Yes, 'mum, we already met this afternoon. Enjoy your stroll 'round the estate, 'mum?" she inquired of Sara.
        "Yes, thank you, I did,” Sara replied. “Now we'll just have to get Faith here well enough to do the same."
        "Yes, 'mum. That would be very good. Very good indeed."
        Sara wheeled me away from the table and away from everyone else as best she could. Several people glanced at us and I just knew they were talking about me. Some were faces I remembered vaguely as being nice to me only a few moments before.
        "You'll get used to it, sweetheart," she said, as I handed her the glass of coke.
        "I feel like a gunfighter in this movie I saw once."
        "Hmm? How's that?"
        "He said he always sat with his chair against the wall to avoid being shot in the back."
        She laughed and squeezed my shoulder. "That's a pretty good analogy. Not bad advice either, in this sorta crowd."
        "Faith... Faith?" Brandon again. "I've been looking all over for you. You shouldn't be way over here. You should be the center of attention."
        I wanted so badly to say, Oh but I am…I'm the center bull's-eye on the target board and your classy friends are very good shots! But, instead, I merely complained of being tired, so he wouldn't push me out there again.
        "Alright, Princess, I'll carry you upstairs then."
        "No… no please, stay with your friends. Sara can manage, can't you?"
        "Of course," she responded, but her eyes said she wanted desperately to make another comment. What it could have been, I didn't know.
        "Stay with your guests and have a good time,” I added. “Make my apologies for me, I'm sure they'll understand." And then they can talk about me all they want, I felt like adding, but held my tongue.
        He agreed and as soon as we finished our drinks, Sara and I were on our way to the kitchen and the lift chair. "I know this isn't the best time to learn to use this thing,” she admitted, “but I'm not strong enough to carry you up those stairs. Believe me, if I could, I would.” She paused, looking things over. “Okay, now listen to me and this'll be a cinch."
        "Uh-huh," I said, as if I didn't believe her.
        "Oh you," she teased, bending down to free my lifeless feet. When she did, I couldn't help but notice the dark roots, where her hair had parted. I wondered why I'd never noticed this before. "Come on now," she said, coaxing me to help her get me into the chair.
        Together, we tackled the lift chair and within twenty minutes I was safely in my room, lying on the bed, while Sara massaged my back and legs. I had bitten my lip several times, holding back the tears that threatened to surge forth and explode from my eyes, but when Sara was putting on my pajamas and mentioned walking again, I busted.
        She held me in her arms. "You're just not ready to face that kind of world, yet. But one day you will be."
        When she started to leave my room, I knew it was silly, but I felt so very alone, like a child without its usual nightlight. Before she had been only a few feet away, but now she'd be across the hall. Not so far for someone who could walk; not so far for someone who could crawl even. But to me, who could do neither, it seemed like miles.
        "Sara, please don't go," I expressed. "Please… stay here… tonight?"
        "I can't, Faith. There's no cot in here."
        "This bed is large enough for two. Please... at least until I fall asleep. Just this once..." I pleaded, sounding more like a whiney child than I had in many years.
        "Alright... just until you fall asleep. First though, let me change my clothes. Besides I'm sure your uncle will be up to tuck you in and give his princess a kiss, hmm? And how would it look if you and I.... Well, I'll be back... after he leaves."
        Sara was right, Brandon did come up a little while later to kiss me goodnight. I had a feeling this was going to turn into a nightly ritual. I noticed he lingered longer than usual on my cheek and I could smell the alcohol on his breath. He mentioned my perfume and his eyes grew glassy. He appeared lost in some memory, but I wasn't sure of whom. I just didn't like the way he was looking down at me.
        "Where did you get these?" he asked, his forefinger motioning to the pajama top.
        "Sara." He groaned. "I asked for them," I lied.
        He glanced from me to the pajama top. "Your mother let you wear these?"
        "Uncle Brandon, I'm twenty-one years old, I'm not a child anymore. My mother had no say so over what I wore anymore and she wouldn't have objected anyway. She'd want me to be comfortable, so I can rest."
        "Well, yes… of course," he said, clearing his throat and backing away slowly. "I… I have… guests to entertain. I'll see you in the morning, Princess."

        After he left, Sara came in, closing the sitting room door and the two double doors behind her. Then she hesitantly lay down on the bed beside me.
        "I... I feel so alone, Sara. If it wasn't for you..."
        "Sh-h… it'll be alright. Time heals, sweetheart. And soon you'll be running circles around me."
        "I... I heard one woman saying I was paralyzed for life, is that true?" I asked, finally voicing the question I had been avoiding for quite awhile.
        "I'm hurt, Faith," she said, as she raised up, propping her head on her hand. "Really hurt. Do you truly believe I'd lie to you about that?" She stared at me and I noticed she had removed her contact lenses.
        "No... I just... Well it scared me is all."
        "I'm not lying to you, Faith and neither is Brandon. Not about this, at any rate. I heard the doctor say he felt the paralysis would be temporary. Why would he lie to me? Why would I lie to you, as a matter of fact? What purpose would it serve?" I shrugged. "That wouldn't be in your best interest," she asserted, still staring into my eyes.
        "Why do you wear blue contact lenses?" I asked, curious as to the answer and yet desiring to change the subject; for, I wanted to accept her word on the issue.
        "You don't miss a thing, do you?"
        "I try not to."
        She sighed heavily and lay back on the bed. "Blue eyes look better with blonde hair, or so I'm told."
        "But you're not a natural blonde," I stated.
        "You're terrible, just terrible. So what else have you observed about me, hmm?"
        "Oh, that you have pretty eyes. And they're far more interesting than the fake blue ones you pretend to have. I think you're sad inside for some reason. And... you and Brandon have a mutual dislike for one another."
        "My, my," she said, as she rolled over on her side to face me. "I'll have to watch you or you'll find out all my secrets."
        "I intend to," I replied, teasingly, though I was being truthful.
        We both smiled and gazed into each other's eyes. I felt those strange feelings again, along with the desire to be close to her. I wanted to be as close as we had when I accidentally kissed her on the lips. Just the memory of that brief moment made my heart beat faster. My eyes fell to her lips and I found myself wanting to kiss her again. Reacting on impulse, I reached over and touched her face.
        "You're becoming too dependent on me," she said, as she reached up and removed my hand. "I can't... You... you need your rest. Please don't..." she objected, as I touched her arm, when she started getting up. "I know it's my fault and... I know..."
        "What I feel... is this dependency?" I asked, curious at to why I felt so strongly about her.
        "Yes," she replied, as she rolled away. "If you had someone else closer... someone you could trust and... felt close to... you might not feel this way. Just remember it will pass in time."
        Will it, Sara? I wanted to ask. Will it go away like my paralysis? Leave with it, perhaps? When I take my first step will I walk away from you? Or will you walk away from me? Are you even now considering walking away from me?

        The days passed and I grew stronger. My feelings for her, however, did not pass; they seemed to become even more pronounced, building in strength like the muscles in my arms and upper body. Sara had me lifting weights with my arms –two- pound dumbbells to start- and doing every conceivable exercise she could think of, or so it seemed. And every day she backed away a little further, making me do more for myself. I missed her catering to me. I missed her touching me, as she moved me about, because after two weeks time I was doing that all by myself.
        I began to move from the bed to the chair and from the chair into the tub and back again, all under my own power. She was always there of course, watching every move, but she would not intervene unless I truly needed help. I did feel more independent and yet I longed for her to be by my side even more. Needless to say, it seemed the more she backed away, the stronger my feelings became, instead of the other way around as I assumed they were supposed to. But, I didn't dare let her know this, because I feared she'd back away altogether and leave me with no emotional crutch whatsoever.
        I took solace in the physical therapy and especially massage therapy, because this soon became the only time she touched me. Of course, I wasn't starved for that type of affection, because Brandon touched me a lot. And he did indeed spend more time with me than he had before. He was pleasant company, for the most part. While he was there, however, Sara would always leave, which I didn't find very pleasant. Sometimes I'd catch a glimpse of her out the window, walking around the grounds, looking quite unhappy as well. Or so it seemed. Then again, maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part.
        They all tried to get me outside for short trips, but I didn't want to leave the security of my rooms very often. Here, I was Faith the brave, in control of her small environment, where she could move about as she pleased. Out there, I was Faith, the cripple, no longer in control of this outside world that presented so many varied obstacles. I seldom even went downstairs, even though I had mastered the lift chair and could get around fairly easily. It was always so tiring and for what? To get a book Celia could very easily bring up with my meal? It just wasn't worth it to me.
        Dr. Rosemund came out to remove the stitches in my arm, a week after I got to Shady Grove. Two weeks later he removed the ones on my face, applied a new bandage and checked on my progress. After gauging my strength and lack of feeling, he didn't seem pleased with the results. He spoke to Sara outside the door in hushed tones. Whatever he said seemed to worry her. And she was lost in thought for the rest of the afternoon.
        After dinner that evening, Brandon relieved her, saying he had a surprise for me. But, before I received it, I'd have to agree to a short trip outside. I knew I needed to get out, so I finally relented. He took me out by the pool and to the tennis courts. I assumed this was a way of making me want to walk. But to me, walking meant facing the outside world again and losing Sara. Neither was an appealing thought.
        When we returned to my room, I was shocked to find a massive white entertainment center on the wall in front of my bed. A very expensive stereo system lined one side, a 27-inch television and expensive VCR covered the other one. Brandon promised I would have cable before the end of the week. But, he never mentioned my clothes from home, nor my own stereo system which I'd asked for twice now.
        Jason was off on spring break now. And it was he who handed me the remote control. "This controls everything," he explained. "It's a universal remote."
        I was at a loss for words. I hugged his neck and then hugged and kissed Brandon for getting me something I desperately wanted, even if it wasn't my own.
        Jason taught me all about the remote and how everything worked. Brandon made a selection from the classical music he had purchased for me and a Bach concerto filled the room. This brought Sara to the sitting room door. It was obvious she hadn't been in on this. She did, however, smile and wink at me, before disappearing again.
        When I inquired about her later, as Brandon and Jason were leaving, he informed me he'd given her the night off. And went on to purport that this would soon become a routine thing, since I no longer needed her around twenty four hours a day. Then he said he'd be back to tuck me in. What about my therapy? I wondered. But, didn't ask. I assumed she must have felt I needed a night off, as well.
        After I changed my clothes, I maneuvered myself into the bed. I looked over to the chair by the window, where she usually sat reading or just staring outside. A very lonely, forlorn feeling flowed over me. One day, she wouldn't be here, at all. I wouldn't need her anymore and she would leave to help some other patient like myself. The thought depressed me, terribly.
        Brandon finally came up and tucked me in, yet he made me a bit uncomfortable, the way he kept looking at my breasts. I wondered if he could see through the nightgown I had on, which he had picked out. He asked why I no longer wore the perfume he liked so well, meaning the Channel No. 5. And I remarked that I didn't feel pretty right now.
        "Perhaps if you put it on, you will feel prettier," he offered, as he walked over to the vanity, retrieving the bottle. He then brought it to me. "Please, it's such a lovely fragrance."
        I dabbed some on and he sat it on the nightstand, as he inhaled deeply. "Your mother used to wear this you know," he remarked, as his eyes took on that glassy appearance.
        "You were in love with my mother, weren't you?" I accused, the words falling from my lips before I had the chance to stop them.
        He merely stood there for a long time, with his eyes lowered. I assumed he was thinking his answer over very carefully. "Living here, in the same house, we... became close. Your father... was away a good deal, trying to promote his first novel. So... your mother and I did spend a good deal of time together. I had a... a deep abiding respect for her. She was a strong woman... despite her overt compassion for the hardships of others. I came to admire that about her. I suppose you could say... I loved her, in my own way, yes."
        "Did you have an affair with her?" I asked, pointedly, noticing the cloudy look in his eyes, when he spoke of loving her.
        "What?" he asked, as if he hadn't heard me.
        "I said, did you have an affair with her?"
        He turned away abruptly, as if I'd slapped him in the face. "No!" he answered vehemently. "Your mother was far too loyal to your father to ever... No, we did not have an affair." He rapidly moved towards the window, shoving his hands deep into his pockets, rattling the change in his right one. "It's getting late. You need your rest. I'll check on you tomorrow." He walked over to the door and turned to me, as he opened it. "Your mother was a wonderful woman, Faith. She never.... betrayed your father. One day, you might understand about lonely people... sometimes they live in the past, when the future holds little solace for them." He walked out then, leaving the door slightly ajar.
        I couldn't help but wonder what it was like for him to love my mother, knowing she would never return that love? Is that why mother and father left? I wondered. Did mother know and tell father, so he would move her away from here, in order to avoid torturing Brandon? Is that what it had all been about?
        I laid my head back and sighed heavily. The perfume on the nightstand caught my attention. Why was it here on the vanity? Had Brandon put it there for me to find? If so, why? Seems he would only be opening up old wounds time and time again. Then again, perhaps as he'd said, he lived in the past, because he felt the future held nothing for him. Now, that, I could relate to. My future seemed a constant uphill road, a slow climb for me. And once over the top, I would eventually lose someone who had become my best friend. The thought saddened me immensely. Hadn't I lost enough people in my life?
        I did know something about loneliness, because I had felt it creeping up on me little by little, each day that Sara backed further away. And as I lay there, I started to wonder what she was doing now. Was she visiting her family? She rarely spoke about them. She'd only answer questions, never offering any details, and to be honest I hadn't asked that many questions. I knew she had a father and a little brother and that she lived near Atlanta. Where her mother was, or what had happened to her, I didn't know. I never pressed the matter too far, because she would get very uneasy and sad when I asked too many questions. I hated to see her that way. She'd retreat inside herself and close off all the doors behind her. Of course, then she would usually leave, only to come back later her old, cheerful self. But losing her for that brief time was not worth the acquired knowledge to me.
        As soon as I turned off the lamp by my bed, I heard a noise out in the hallway: footsteps. It sounded as if someone were dragging their feet and moving awkwardly. The footsteps stopped outside my sitting room door. Muffled by the carpet, they continued to my bedroom door, where they paused. The door slowly squeaked open and my heart started beating very fast. Who could this be? Brandon? Why's he here again? Why's he dragging his feet?
        The footsteps continued over to Sara's chair by the window. The light from outside struck the side of her face as she sat down in the chair rather hard. I could make out her silky white blouse, as it moved up and down to the rhythm of her heavy breathing.
        What's she doing here in the dark? I wondered. Why's she walking so funny and breathing so heavily? The faint smell of alcohol drifted over to me. Could she be drunk? Sara, drunk? Why?
        Her breathing returned to normal after several moments and she raised up. The light hit her face, as she looked over at me. "Did you have fun?" I inquired.
        She flinched at the sound of my voice. "Je-sus H. Christ!... I... I didn't know you were still awake."
        "I just wanted to... to check on you before I turned in."
        "Turned into what?" I quipped, reaching over and switched on the lamp.
        "Good God!" she exclaimed, shielding her eyes. "Cut that damn thing off."
        I was quite surprised at her appearance. Her hair was not in its usual coif, but long and flowing, falling around her shoulders. She looked quite nice, yet a bit worse for wear. Her white silky blouse was wrinkled, with smudges around the collar and shoulder; her jeans bore a few creases high up on the legs, which I knew could only have been made by them being off her body for some length of time; one leg of her jeans wasn't even tucked into the black leather calf high boots she was wearing. All together, except for her hair, her appearance was rather masculine. And the strangest part was, I liked it.
        The silence in the room was deafening, as she finally removed her hands from her eyes and looked over at me. Her expression was one of guilt, pure and simple.
        "Did you have fun on your night off?" I asked again.
        "Uh… not really," she responded, looking away.
        "It would appear you did," I remarked, staring at her blouse. "Was he good looking?"
        "Who?" she asked, sounding perplexed.
        "Whoever wrinkled your clothes. Or should I say… whoever removed them?"
        "Oh... you… Damn! You don't miss a thing do you?" she muttered, as she stood up.
        "I try not to," I replied, watching as she stumbled forward several steps. I thought she had regained her balance, but then she struck my wheelchair with the toe of her boot, stumbled forwards, then sideways, and fell headlong onto the bed and across my lap. "Drunk too, I see," I added, as she slowly rose up and looked over at me.
        "You don't have to be so... so damn high and mighty," she said, starting to get up. As she did, she must have pressed against my leg somehow and I yelped in pain. "I'm sorry, I didn't...."
        "I felt that!" My voice betrayed my utter shock. "I thought I felt it when you fell on me, but I wasn't sure... I mean... I definitely felt that, though!"
        "Really... you felt pain?" she questioned, straightening up.
        "Yes, I did." Tears leapt into my eyes.
        "Let's see," she said, fumbling with the covers and finally pulling them back. She pressed against my right leg. Nothing. Then she pressed against my left leg.
        "Yes! I feel that!"
        "Close your eyes."
        "I didn't imagine..."
        "Close your eyes, damn it," she demanded.
        I did as ordered. I felt nothing for a while then… slight pressure on my left leg. "I can feel that on my left thigh... pressure, yes, I can feel it!" I said, excitedly, as I opened my eyes.
        "Yes... I believe you did," she agreed, sitting down on the bed beside me. "Dr. Rosemund said you should have regained some feeling by now. I thought... I was failing you when he told me you should be making more progress." Tears welled up in her eyes, as she looked down at me.
        "But, you haven't. I did feel that. I did!" I grabbed her around the neck, throwing caution to the wind.
        She held me tight, as tears of joy ran down both our cheeks. I hadn't realized that such a small thing could feel so wonderful. I would get better.... I would walk again... I would.... lose Sara!
        I pressed her closer to me. I didn't want to lose her. I needed her. I had no family, except for Brandon and Jason. And I had no friends. I needed her desperately. I pressed my lips to her neck, expressing the affection I felt for her inside. Her perfume tantalized my senses, making me aware of how very close our bodies were. I could feel the softness of her silky blouse above the low cut bodice of the nightgown. I could feel her body against my own.
        "Please don't leave me, Sara," I pleaded, my voice breaking up like a loose connection.
        "I'll have to one day," she responded. "Remember… butterflies are free? And you're the most beautiful butterfly I've ever seen. One... I cannot keep." She tugged at my arm, urging me to let go of her neck.
        As she pulled away slowly, her face came so close to mine I felt an irresistible urge to kiss her, despite her alcohol breath. Which is exactly what I did, scaring even myself. My heart skipped a beat as my lips touched hers. Then it fluttered wildly as if it had wings. For a few fleeting moments, she allowed the contact, almost as if she enjoyed it. I felt her lips part slightly and her tongue flick across my own. Oh god, that felt good, I mused.
Abruptly she pulled away, got up and left the room, without a word, seemingly a more sober person than when she'd entered. I merely sat there and watched her leave, feeling quite numb all over. I had deliberately kissed another woman. And... I had enjoyed it. Oh God what is wrong with me? I asked aloud. Why do I feel this way? Before I had blamed these feelings on dependency, just as she had said, but could I blame this on dependency? Could I blame it on the excitement and/or sadness of the moment? Or would I have to accept the blame? Had I become attracted to another woman?
        But that was preposterous! Wasn't it? Yet, I did kiss her. I wanted to be close to her. So close, in fact, that I could feel her body next to mine. Didn't I watch her when she walked across a room, taking note of her shapely hips as they swayed back and forth? Didn't I purposefully look when she bent over in a low cut blouse and admire her cleavage? Yes, I had to admit it: I had done all of these things and more! And thinking back, hadn't I always felt fond of female teachers, especially the coaches? I had. But, it only felt natural to do so. I'd never thought of it in these terms before. The concept of having unnatural tendencies scared me!
        I lay awake for a long time, turning things over in my mind. There had to be another reason, because I was not ready to confront the possibility that I might be... homosexual. Even the word itself sounded... horrible! They were immoral, evil people, weren't they? At least that's what they taught in the Baptist church we attended. God had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of this type of immoral behavior. Lot's wife had been turned into a pillar of salt just for looking back. The few entries in psychological texts –I hadn't gotten far enough in my schooling to learn much on the subject- still weren't sure whether homosexuality was a choice or a product of some biological component. Either way, however, most religions deemed it an unnatural behavior. And I had been told there were still laws against such deviant relations.
What must Sara think of me? I wondered. Oh God, I'd die if she thought of me as evil! And what if she turned her back on me? I made up my mind then and there that no matter what I felt, and no matter how hard it might be to resist, I would never, ever let those feelings show again!

Part 8

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