I woke the next morning to find Sarah in the recliner, reading a book. Her turn to babysit me I assume. Her eyes are not the cheerful appearance I am used to seeing, they are swollen and blood shot.
“Where’s Charlotte?” I ask her. She stands up from the chair barely looking at me and heads for the door.
“Oh hi”, she nervously says. ” Charlotte went home to take a shower and grab some more clothes.... I will go get Nate for you”.
What was that all about? Did I scare her? She’s probably upset with me like everyone else is after yesterday.
Nate enters my room right after Sarah leaves.
" Morning”, he says to me while he grabs some of my clothes from the bureau.
He seems to be acting like his normal self, so that puts me at ease a little.
" What’s wrong with Sarah, she looks like she’s been crying”, I ask him.
Nate brings my clothes over and starts sitting the bed up but does not look at me.
" She is the one who left the pool door unlocked yesterday, she’s been beating herself up about it ever since”, he solemnly answers.
Shit! I need to apologize to her, to Nate too... to everyone really!
“I’m sorry Nate, I didn’t know what I was doing, what I was thinking... I’m really sorry”, I blurt out.
" Listen, I get it man! But you have people who care about what happens to you, people who are here for you every day, and you need to start opening up, not keep it all inside until you collapse “, he rants on in an authoritative tone.
" And you have to stop being a dick to Sarah when she tries to help you, she doesn’t deserve it”, he adds.
I agree with him and continue to apologize while he helps me dress and get into my chair.
" Is Charlotte coming back today”, I hesitantly ask him.
" Yes, she will be back soon, but in the meantime, she asked me to make sure you eat and then have you ready in the gym for her”, he replies.
I did what Nate said without giving him a hard time. I ate all my breakfast for once, and he chuckled at me. I just do not want to upset anyone any further. We got to the gym and he transferred me up onto the exercise table. I can sit on the side of the table using my right hand for support.
I can’t help but smile when Charlotte walks in. I am relieved she came back, I started to convince myself that she would hand me off to someone else to do therapy with me.
She places my leg braces on the table next to me.
" Good morning Levi”, she smiles at me. “When you finally fell asleep, I thought it was a good time to run home to shower”.
I feel like a jerk, so I look down and say, ” But you didn’t get any sleep though... I am.... I’m sorry”.
Charlotte places her fingers under my chin to lift my head up. She does not look upset with me at all. Her eyes a beautiful green shade today brought out by her forest green tank top. She focuses on my face and nonchalantly says, ” I will get some sleep later, right now we have a lot of stuff to do”, and grins.
She stands right in front of me and places her hand on both my sides to help me sit straight so I can practice balancing for a few minutes. She lets go of me but keeps her hands close to my body, so I do not fall. It is getting easier, but I can only hold myself up for a few seconds at a time. Charlotte beams at me the whole time letting me know I am doing good, I guess.
She lets me lean on my right arm again while she starts massaging my legs and moving my joints around.
" I’m sorry Charlotte”, I whisper
“I am here for you every step of the way, you know, that right?” she asks me.
When I don’t respond, she stands up to face me.
" Levi, please talk to me, tell me what you’re feeling... please”.
The only thing I can manage to say is, “I’m scared”.
She nods while still looking at me and waits for me to continue. I am not good at this talking about my feelings or anything else, I have always had everything under control. But I think she might literally stand here looking at me until I spill.
I take a deep breath and nervously start rambling off every thought in my head.
" I’m scared of being in that chair the rest of my life, I’m scared that I will fail everyone, that my friends and family will always treat me different now, I’m afraid to go to that fucking gala and having everyone stare at me, I’m afraid that I’ll never make another movie, and I can’t help feeling that no one will ever want me this way and that I’ll always be alone.”
Dammit! Now my eyes are swelling. She is still standing in front of me, her hands on my knees now.
” I’m sorry you feel alone”, she quietly says to me.
I pause a moment to compose myself before going on, ” I’m scared that you’ll get tired of trying to help me and you’ll find someone else to do it”.
She squeezes my knees with her hands and says without any hint of pity or doubt, but absolute certainty in her voice, ” I’m not going anywhere”.
Her words send a releasing sensation through my whole body and I feel my muscles letting go of all the built-up tension with just the way she looks at me.
Without delaying any further, she attaches my leg braces and locks them in place, so my legs are straight. She stands in front of me again and grabs both of my hands and wraps them around the back of her neck.
" Ready?” she asks.
" Ready for what?”
" You are going to stand up”, she says without any worry.
I feel my body start shaking and she notices it too.
“Levi... what’s wrong?”
“I’m afraid of what it will feel like, what if I fall?” I tell her.
" It will feel strange at first, and I promise I won’t let you fall”, she assures me.
She then wraps her arms around my body, gently pulling me towards her, sliding me off the table until I am standing.
Shit I’m standing! she’s right it feels weird and I do not have any balance in my hips, but her embrace is keeping me from falling.
After a minute she releases her embrace and moves her hands to hold my hips.
” I’ve got you”, she reminds me.
" Hold onto my shoulders”, she instructs, and just stands there with me, keeping me steady while I soak in this moment.
She lets me know that we will be doing this a lot for the next week or so, along with a bunch of new exercises to get my lower core and hips stronger before I can take any steps.
Hell, I do not care what kind of work I will have to do. I start laughing a little, it is more of an excited nervous laugh, but a happy one too...
I am happy just to be standing.