Carrie was angry - and worried! It had been a couple of months since Jim Dennison had performed the surgery, and still Brad was convinced that the miracle he had lived for thirteen years, was now over. Admittedly, he no longer suffered the excruciating pain that he had endured at times. The spinal fusion had been effective in that respect, which was, of course, the main reason for the operation in the first place! But Carrie was sure that her husband was deliberately refusing to put in the effort to get out of the wheelchair.
He felt that he was self-sufficient, of course! His arms were strong and he could manoeuvre the wheelchair with ease wherever he wanted to go. The ramps in the grounds outside had been constructed years ago, not that he had ever used them since the recent surgery! And the mansion was equipped with all the utilities that an incapacitated person would need. But he wasn’t happy, or even slightly contented.
His smiles these days were either forced or fake, even when he hugged his little daughter. He still kissed Carrie regularly, and held her tightly in his arms while they slept, but he had made no attempt to make more intimate love to her. Their long conversations, and his occasional silly jokes, had diminished. And his nightmares had become a regular occurrence!
He would often sit in the wheelchair, staring out of one of the windows into the grounds, lost in thoughts that no one could fathom. His siblings tried hard to make things as normal as possible, but they were all aware that their eldest brother was depressed and distant, and there was nothing they could do to help him.
Vicki had not returned to the primary school when the new year had begun in September as she was still on maternity leave. The triplets had been born on 12th July and only released from the clinic three weeks later. They were now almost four months old, but still very small. The breastfeeding had gone well enough, though she had needed to supplement with formula so often, that she had decided to permanently bottle-feed.
Now, when she handed Brad the bottle to feed the fretful little Daniel, she smiled at him. “You don’t mind, do you? Nanny is busy arranging tea, and Carrie is feeding Joshua. I’ll take over as soon as I’ve finished changing Casey.”
Brad nodded, glancing at Carrie. He knew she was angry with him. And he knew why. He had never refused to play the piano for a charity concert before! But he had always been able to walk onto the stage in any previous event. He had never had to be pushed in front of an audience in a wheelchair! That was just embarrassing! Darling Carrie, the love of his life! He had thought she would understand!
While he fed the tiny baby on his lap, he was aware that Carrie was watching him. He wanted to respond with at least a real smile, but it was so hard to smile genuinely these days! He needed to pull himself out of this well of despondency, allow her to help him. She was a psychologist, for God’s sake! Yet she had seldom tried any of her ‘talk-therapy’ on him this time. He was grateful for that in a way. He had already spent too many times sobbing in her arms when he had been the miracle man with an understanding with almighty God. Now that it was over, now that his God had turned away from him, he had to learn how to cope on his own.
Even little Sarah treated him differently now, he thought. Oh, she still loved him, he knew that. As Carrie did too! They all loved him. But it was different. He was different! He was the cripple he had once fought so hard against being. But he no longer had that fight in him! Might as well just sit back and accept what fate had in store for him. Only, he did not want to accept it! And the family were making it hard too! Always trying to pretend that this was just a temporary situation. There was nothing temporary about it. Why couldn’t they accept it?
Daniel had finished his bottle by the time Vicki came back, and Carrie had taken the other baby boy to change him.
“He’s still very small,” Brad muttered, holding the baby up to his shoulder and patting him gently.
Vicki raised her eyebrows. It was strange for Brad to speak these days without first being spoken to, and usually it was in monosyllables.
She smiled. “They’re all still tiny. But Dr. Max says they’ll grow quickly. Shall I take him? Casey is fast asleep already.”
“He still needs burping.” But he allowed her to take the baby from him, and carry him out of the lounge, just as Nanny came in, pushing the tea-trolley.
“Only the four of us for tea today,” she said cheerfully. “The kiddies have had their juice and some muffins in the playroom. They’re making decorations for the children’s ward in the clinic. Grace is helping them.”
Brad closed his eyes for a second, willing himself to feel something. Anything! He opened them again when Nanny touched his arm.
“Just coffee,” he muttered, expecting the argument when it came.
“You will eat something!” she said firmly. “You didn’t eat breakfast, and you’re looking very pale. Max can’t join us for tea but he’s going to be livid if you don’t eat now!”
Brad gave an inward sigh, but he didn’t reply. Of course, they would be worried if his blood sugar dropped! He could feel by the pounding headache, that it was probably already too low! And he was confined to the blasted wheelchair! They didn’t need a hypoglycaemic invalid in their midst too!
He dragged his fingers through his hair, and looked up at Carrie as she entered the lounge. Nanny had handed him his coffee and set a small plate of some of his favourite sweet treats on the little side table next to the wheelchair.
“It looks like we’ll have some rain later,” Carrie said, taking a plate and helping herself to brownies. She sat on the couch, close to the wheelchair, and put her hand on Brad’s arm.
He met her eyes, reaching out to touch the wig that she still sometimes wore, but his expression did not change. Did she know how much he loved her still? Brave, wonderful Carrie, always so ready to forgive him when he made her angry! He swallowed. He knew she would understand, if only he could pluck up the courage to tell her! Maybe she knew already! Maybe that’s why she never questioned it when he kissed her goodnight and didn’t make any attempt to make love to her anymore. She was a nurse. She must know!
He clasped her fingers in his suddenly. The pain in his head was getting worse, and he couldn’t even take anymore of those pills that Jim Dennison had prescribed, until he had something in his stomach. He’d been warned sharply that they had to only be taken with, or after, food, exactly as prescribed, and he was too much of a coward to face the allergic reaction that had happened the last time he had ignored medical instructions! In any case, Carrie administered his medication and she was watching to make sure he ate. She had been cross when he hadn’t eaten breakfast, and then the phone-call about the charity concert which Brad had refused to be part of, had angered her even more.
Brad scowled at the plate on the side table. Maybe his sweet tooth had also been taken away from him. His whole appetite had gone. He ate because he was told to eat, not because he wanted to, or because he was hungry. He didn’t get hungry anymore! In fact, all he felt was numb! The only time he ever actually felt a semblance of pleasure was when Carrie was in his arms and he was kissing her. At least he still had Carrie by his side, even if he couldn’t…
He shuddered inwardly. Yes, Carrie was still here now. But she didn’t deserve a husband like him, an impotent cripple! He’d seen the way guys looked at her when they were out somewhere together, and he’d been so proud of the fact that she was his! But for how long now? How much longer was she going to tolerate this? Even with his desperate love for her, he knew he had to let her go. If she could no longer bear his miserable silence, there were plenty of men who would be only too happy to show her what a real man was like! It was only a matter of time.