And there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.
And now I cling to what I knew
I saw exactly what was true
But oh no more.
That's why I hold,
That's why I hold with all I have.
That's why I hold.
After The Storm - Mumford and Sons
“If I can’t walk, then I don’t want to live,” I said steadily, with my eyes closed, trying to control my breath. “I would have rather died back in that street than to be here right now getting this award for living while my brothers and sisters died.” The room was silent and when I opened my eyes, I found the General standing in front of me with a grim face while my parents looked on from the corner, holding on to one another with tears streaming down their faces. I was back on Canadian soil, in
at the military hospital. It took me a month for them to transport me back here because I had been too unstable for the long flight home. Toronto
“I’m sure God has a plan for you, my daughter,” the Priest said that was standing next to the General. He calmly placed his hand on my head and uttered a whispered prayer. I could have sworn I heard him murmur something about my sanity, but I just sat there, attempting to tone him out. I was one angry woman. I didn’t want anything to do with this world. If God had a plan for me, there was no way in Hell he would break my body so that I was unable to use it.
Of course the doctors were all optimistic with me when talking about my future.
“It’s Fletch,” I bit at the Doctor. I could see my mother flinch when I spoke.
“Fletch,” the Doctor patiently began again. “You have to understand that people live a quite normal and fulfilling life even though they are paralyzed. This is not a death sentence by any means. You are very lucky that it is just your legs that you are unable to move. It is very feasible for you to still have children…”
“Why would I want to have a child if I can’t run after them and play with them like a normal parent?!” I cried. “Besides, do you really think someone is going to want me like this?!”
He took a deep breath before speaking again. “Fletch, I understand your anger right now…”
“You have no clue.”
At this, his patience had seemingly run out. He turned to my mother and father and began speaking to them as if I wasn’t there. “Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher, please beware she is going to need some psychoanalysis and is going to need counseling. Alexandra is basically going through the grieving process right now and needs all the support she can get right now. I’m sorry for all this news, I’m sure this is just as hard for you as it is her…”
“Is there any hope at all that she might walk again?” My mother asked quietly.
“There is always a chance. However, Alexandra needs to be in the right frame of mind and a lot of physical work will be need to happen for her to even have a chance; even then, no promises can be made. When the time is right, come to me and I will get you the names of some people who might be willing to take her on.” He looked over at me, nodded to me and then back at my parents and left the room.
After a few moments of tense silence I said, “Please go now. I want to be left alone.”
My mother came over, leaned down over my bed and gave me a hug and kissed me on the head just as she would when I was a child. My father just looked on and waited until my mother left the room. “You chose your life. Now you must live with it,” he said plainly. Despite my heart already being in pieces, it was now completely shattered with no hope of bringing it back to normal.
July 2010/Present Day
“I’m sorry, but
is really fucking annoying,” Patrick announced as soon as we got in my truck. “There is something about her voice that makes my hair stand-up every time she speaks…Oh! And how can I forget about that evil look she gives me every time I insist you come out to the bar with me for a guys night?! Totally creepy.” Eden
I laughed at my friend as he shook himself off like there were bugs crawling around on his skin. “Well, it’s not like she isn’t aware of your partying habits, Pat.”
“This is exactly why I don’t have a steady girlfriend!” he piped back. “Cogs, what do you think of her?”
Andrew was also here in
for the summer, training with me. We had just found out that he had been traded to London Anaheim, which was a big and bitter pill for me to swallow because he was my closest friend in . We had been roommates on and off ever since I joined the team and basically inseparable. We took some heat for this, especially after we tried living apart at one point, only to end up with him moving into my new place with me just a few weeks after the season started. Unfortunately, I knew exactly what his opinion about Edmonton was before he even obliged Kaner with an answer. “She’s a psycho,” Cogs said plainly. “I think I would have killed her if she had lived in Eden this past season…” Edmonton
“But you even said she was hot,” I whined, driving down the street towards a club that we had been frequenting fairly often this summer.
“Just because she’s hot doesn’t mean she ain’t psycho.”
“See Sammy, you need to drop this chick,” Patrick said matter of fact. “We’re too young to get tied down…”
I just rolled my eyes and shook my head. Maybe he was right. I endured an afternoon of nagging from Eden after buying the photograph and not buying the funky abstract shit she was begging me to purchase, so it was easy to see Pat’s ideas weren’t too far off.
“Why would you buy something so gruesome like this?!”
“I don’t think it’s gruesome at all, I mean it’s not a pleasant thought that the guy in the picture is dead, but I think it is a pretty moving picture. You don’t find it romantic at all?” I asked, totally miffed by her attitude.
“There is nothing romantic about that,” she said with disdain dripping off her tongue. “You obviously are twisted, Sam Gagner.”
Little did she know that the picture was going to be hanging in the bedroom.
The club wasn’t very loud and crazy tonight when we walked in, but that was to be expected since it was only a Thursday and the college crowd wasn’t around for the summer. Cogs and Tavares went to grab a table while Pat and I went up to the bar to grab the first round of drinks.
“Here’s to your last free night, Sarah!!” A group of girls suddenly squealed at a table nearby. I turned and watched 6 or 7 girls all decked out to the nines, some standing, some sitting, sling back a shot and make funky faces afterwards. “Ugh! I hate Tequila, you are not allowed to buy any more shots, Alexandra!” One of the girls exclaimed as she leaned down to her friend that was sitting and gave her a big hug and kiss on the cheek. I could only assume the girl complaining about the shot was Sarah since she was donning a gaudy tiara with a pink veil and a big sash proclaiming she was the Bachelorette of the Year. The girl she was hugging was a hauntingly beautiful oriental girl with long, dark tresses and a sparkling smile.
“Ooh, a Bachelorette party,” Kaner commented. “You can always find some fun ones with that…” he smirked. “Wouldn’t mind having the Bachelorette, as a matter of fact.”
“Dude, she’s obviously getting married soon…” I shook my head.
“Exactly. She ain’t married yet, so why not have a night in paradise before getting tied down, am I right?”
“You’re a dog.”
At this comment he howled, picked up his beer and headed over to our table, leaving me with 3 drinks to carry myself. “Jerk,” I mumbled under my breath.
Of course real men don’t use a tray to get their drinks over to the table, so I politely declined the offer from the bartender, strategically picked up the 2 beer bottles and my mixed drink and spun around to quickly walk over to the table before dropping anything. I didn’t realize until it was too late that my hauntingly beautiful oriental girl was actually right behind me, in a wheelchair.
Going out to public places wasn’t my thing since my life sentence, especially to dance clubs. A girl in a wheelchair had no place at a dance club, but Sarah insisted I be present for her “last night on the town.”
“Alex, you have been my best friend since we were little and even though you still don’t want to believe that God has left you on this planet for a reason, I do and I think that reason was so that we could still have fun together,” she pouted about a week ago when she stopped by to visit me at my apartment.
Everyone thought I was going to just get over the fact that I was paralyzed. Sarah knew I was too stubborn to just move on from this. It had been a long recovery process that in reality was just starting to begin. Every time I healed enough to start the rehab, I was back in the hospital for either an infection or some other surgery the doctors decided I would need. I was tired of hospital gowns and tired of being pricked like a pin cushion. Then don’t even getting me started about how much I didn’t enjoy being strapped into this chair.
More than a few times I had the pills in hand and ready to take so that I would never wake-up again. The last time was around Christmas time when my parents flew in to
for the holiday. I had everything all laid out, including the letter I had written when my mom walked in to say goodnight. The horror on her face when she realized what I was about to do was enough to give me the slight reality check that I didn’t want. Toronto
“Alexandra,” she choked, clutching her chest as she collapsed to the floor. “If this is about that boy in the picture; it is not worth it…”
The picture. I found the picture on the internet some months after I returned to
. It was as if it was out of a tragic Canada Hollywood star-crossed romance. Yet, unlike Juliet, I was still living, having to deal with the aftermath.
Counseling brought me a long way, but I had learned to play their games and I learned to say the right words at the right time to get out of all the bullshit they liked to put me through. The only thing that was going to make everything go away was the chance to walk again.
Sarah had moved to
permanently after she graduated college here and got engaged to Tim. I just moved here last month after Race, my old platoon leader, told me about a guy who had worked with paralyzed veterans with a lot of positive results. London, Ontario
Thank God for Race. He visited me everyday in the hospital those first few months and his wife, Denise was Heaven sent. Because of them, I was finally onto the next phase of my rehab and hopefully it would have me walking again.
So, tonight I was out with the girls, celebrating Sarah’s last night of freedom. Everything was going well and I didn’t feel too out of place, despite the fact that we were at a dance club and I was unable to dance. One or two of the other girls seemed to not be into the whole dance scene, so at least I had some people to talk to at the table. Of course it didn’t take away the nerves I always got when being out in public. I swear everyone constantly stared at me and gawked, but when I made a comment to Sarah about it, she would just laugh and say it was because I was so beautiful.
Overly optimistic friends really can be a buzz kill when all you want to be is overly pessimistic.
I finally got the courage to go over to the bar myself, despite the fact that it was probably going to be a challenge for the bartender to ever see me sitting there. It became old real quick to have everyone waiting on me, so I was attempting to be more independent. As I wheeled my way over, a curly blonde guy winked at me with a cocky grin while he strutted by. I was still shaking my head when the dark haired guy he had been standing next too abruptly turned around with full hands and obviously no clue I was nearby.
I could only cringe and hold my breath as he tripped into my wheelchair. Drinks went flying in the air and suddenly I had a guy lying awkwardly across my lap.
His eyes were a beautiful green, instantly making me think of another person’s green eyes. His hair was dark and on the longer side, tousled in a way that made me believe he didn’t even comb it this morning. I’m fairly sure he weighed more than it looked like he should, because just looking at him; it seemed he was on the scrawny side.
To be honest, I’m not sure who was the most embarrassed by the ordeal. He was sputtering out what I am assuming were apologies and I just sat there, turning beet red from humiliation. Somehow he managed to not get any alcohol on me or him which is exactly what one of his friends chirped as soon as he arrived on the scene of the accident.
“Damn Gags, how the hell did you fall on this beautiful woman without getting a drop of our drinks on her?! That’s talent man!” he laughed, reaching out a hand to pull him up.
“I’m so sorry Miss…?”
“Alex?! Are you okay?!” Sarah quickly ran over, joining the mob that had begun to surround us.
“I’m fine,” I mumbled, not even daring to look up at anyone.
I felt so bad. It was probably the most awkward situation ever to be in. Even worse for the simple fact that I was more floored by the fact that the pretty oriental girl was in a wheelchair… A WHEELCHAIR?! Totally would have never guessed that one. I was slightly surprised to hear her talk like a normal person, even though I’m not quite sure what I expected her to be. She didn’t look to have a mental retardation problem, but most of the people I had met in wheelchairs over the years did have that kind of problem or they were war veterans. I never met a beautiful girl who was in a wheelchair. I mean, I have, but they were usually in one because of a broken bone or something. This girl’s wheelchair was one that someone has when they are permanently confined to one.
“Sam?! Are you going to buy the pretty lady a drink or not you ass?!” John chirped, stepping over one of the broken beer bottles and outstretching his hand to her. She slowly reached out and shook his, nodding politely with a nervous smile crossing her lips. “John Tavares, sorry my friend Sam here is a little rude and clumsy.”
Before she could even say anything there was a god awful squeal from the Bachelorette standing next to her. “John Tavares?! I knew it! And you are Sam Gagner, Patrick Kane, and Andrew Cogliano!” she continued in a terrible squeak. “This is so crazy! My fiancé is never going to believe me! Alex! You need to get a picture of me with them!” she exclaimed, shoving a camera into the hands of the girl in the wheelchair.
Next thing I knew I was being blinded by a flash and we were sitting at the table with the girls of the Bachelorette party. Alex, the girl in the wheelchair, sat at the opposite end of the table, staying very quiet, seeming to observe everything that was going on around her. I caught her looking at me a few times, but each time I caught her, she looked away. After a while she and Johnny seemed to hit it off nicely, but by this point I was too enthralled with a red head that had me pulled out on the dance floor, dancing quite close to me.
“What happened, if you don’t mind me asking,” John asked me quietly.
We somehow got into a conversation about playing lacrosse. He informed me that his uncle had been a pro-lacrosse player and that he himself had often thought of playing professional lacrosse instead of hockey. I couldn’t help but laughed when concluded that thought with, “But, whoever becomes a national hero playing lacrosse?” A smile lit up his boyish yet charming face. It was strange, I was only a year and a half older than him, but in some ways I felt ancient compared to him.
“I mean, if you don’t want to talk about it, just tell me to ask another question or get away,” he quickly spoke, obviously sensing my hesitation.
“I was shot in
last year…” I said evenly, kind of feeling strange saying the words because I had never really talked to a stranger about it besides my psychologist and the people in my group therapy sessions. For some reason I felt comfortable talking with John, but it was his friend Sam that put me on edge. I’m fairly sure it had something to with his green eyes; they were instantly imprinted into my brain. Afghanistan
“So you were in the military?”
“What is your specialty?”
“I am a combat nurse.”
“You are a very brave woman.”
“Or a stupid one,” I laughed half heartily.
“Thank you for your service, Alex,” he said sincerely.
As much as I still feel like I failed at my job, I nodded and said, “Thank you.”