In Between Shadows

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Chapter 21

Carrie had not found Brad in the lounge, and there had been no answer when she’d tapped on the door of his study. She pushed open the door, but he wasn’t there, and he wasn’t in either the music room or the library either. She checked the downstairs bathrooms, then went through into the kitchen area.

“Did Brad come through here?” she asked one of the staff.

Maureen, recently married wife of the senior chef, stopped her task of packing one of the dishwashers, and looked at Carrie. “Yes, he went up in the lift. He didn’t say a word, looked as if he had the whole world on his shoulders. Is he ok, Carrie?”

Carrie shrugged, and gave a little sigh. “A slight set-back, that’s all. I think I tried to push things along too quickly. He’ll be fine, as soon as he gets back on his feet, which won’t be too long. His faith has taken a bit of a backward step at the moment. He probably went to lie down.”

She took the lift and went along the corridor to their bedroom, rather confused to find that Brad was not there either. She called his name, checked in the bathroom, and even in Sarah’s room. A sudden thought took her back along the corridor to the gym.

The door was open and she saw Brad sitting in the wheelchair in front of the parallel walking bars where they had been earlier. His hands were on the bars, gripping them, and Carrie leant against the door and stood quietly watching him without him knowing that she was there. His back was turned towards her and he appeared to be muttering to himself, though she could not hear what he was saying.

She could see his arms shaking as he pulled himself to his feet, and she had to stop herself from running towards him as he swayed. He was breathing hard in his effort, and he continued to shake and sway as he tried to keep his balance. His voice was becoming louder, and hoarser, and Carrie realised he was sobbing, crying out for help to the God he was convinced had left him.

Her heart went out to him, and she moved into the gym silently, going to stand directly in front of him. His eyes were closed, screwed up as if he was in pain, and there were beads of sweat on his forehead, tears pouring unheeded down his face. The knuckles of his hands were white as he gripped the bars to stop himself from falling.

“Move, dammit! Move!” he shrieked at his own body, and Carrie put her hand gently against the side of his face, as his eyes shot open.

“Don’t force it, Brad! You’re too tense. Sit back down.”

He shook his head wildly. “I have to move my legs, Carrie. I won’t give in like a weakling! I’ve already let you down too much!”

She pushed him gently backwards, but he strained against her hands, his arms shaking even more until he at last collapsed back into the wheelchair with an anguished cry.

“I have to do it! I can’t just give in!”

There were tears in her own eyes as she leaned over him, holding him in her arms as he sobbed.

“It’s ok, my love. You haven’t let me down at all. You could never do that! You need to relax!”

“I can’t!” he sobbed. “I need to walk again!”

“And you will, darling, you will! You’re just too tired right now. Listen to me, Brad. Let me take you to lie down. Trying to push yourself is doing more damage than good.”

She kept her arms around him, holding him as tightly as she could until she felt the trembling and his sobs subside somewhat. Then she bent down and lifted his feet back onto the foot rests.

He was quiet as she pushed him along to their bedroom, his head resting on his chest, embarrassed and disgusted at his contemptable show of emotion.

When she had settled him onto their bed on top of the duvet, she removed his shoes and sat beside him, stroking his hair back from his forehead, but he wouldn’t meet her eyes. There was silence between them now.

Carrie sat for some minutes, just watching him as she gently massaged his temples. He had closed his eyes, and his hands were clenched into tight fists, his arms stiff at his sides. His breathing was erratic, and he was trembling again.

“Try to relax, Brad. I know how disappointed you must be, but you must remember how long it took you to get back on your feet after your ops. It doesn’t all happen at once. Your body is still recovering. Give it time.”

He opened his eyes, turning his head towards her. “It’s - been months already! And I don’t even have the pain anymore. I - I d-don’t think I can - do it this time!”

She shook her head, seeing the tears well up in his eyes again. “You can do it, love. Is that why you think you can’t? Because there’s no pain? Don’t you think you’ve had enough pain in your life? Jim told you that he hoped the fusion would stop that.”

For a moment Brad was silent, then he muttered, “Pain reminded me that God had given me a miracle! Now, He’s taken it away.”

“No, He hasn’t, darling! How many times do we need to tell you that? Why have you stopped trusting Him?”

He averted h is eyes again. “I haven’t! I - I don’t know why I can’t feel Him with me anymore. When I came round after Jim operated, I could still feel Him. Then, He - He was just - gone.”

“And when was it that you thought He’d gone? As soon as they put you into that wheelchair in the hospital, that’s when! Brad, you’ve always said that if you ended up in a wheelchair, you’d never get out of it again. You’ve convinced yourself that God is not going to give you another chance. Another miracle! It isn’t God you don’t trust, it’s you.” She stroked the side of his face. “Until you get your confidence back, without the pain, you’re not going to walk. I believe it was that pain that gave you the courage to fight. Now that the pain is gone, you think God has gone too. But He hasn’t gone. He’s waiting in between the shadows for you to come to your senses and fight again!”

Very slowly, he turned his head and met her eyes. “I haven’t any fight left in me. You don’t understand, Carrie! I feel so blasted weak all the time!”

She smiled. “Of course, you do! I’ve told you that you need to build up your strength again! I can help you with that, if you let me. But it isn’t going to happen all in one day. You need to curb your impatience, my love.”

“People expect me to be able to walk,” he muttered. “I can’t even move my legs.”

“Since when do you care what other people expect of you? Please try to relax, Brad. I’m sure your blood pressure is sky high. You shouldn’t try so hard to move your legs. It’ll happen when you least expect it, just the way the feeling came back!”

She sat beside him for some minutes, stroking his head, watching his chest rise and fall as he took shuddering breaths. But he soon allowed his body to relax, and reached for her, pulling her down to him as he kissed her.

“I think - I think I’d like to try and sleep for a while if I can. I don’t know why I feel so tired. I slept well enough last night. My whole body is so pathetically weak!”

“You’ll soon feel strong again, darling. Don’t push yourself. I’ll leave you to sleep now.” She hesitated. “I can help you get over this depression. You’ve already identified the cause. Now we just have to deal with it. And we will, I promise.”

When she’d gone, leaving him alone to sleep, he lay for some minutes with his eyes closed, thinking about Carrie’s words. “You’ve identified the cause.” He wondered if he had really done that! There would always be that secret he had kept from her, from everyone! She hadn’t actually asked him outright what things he had done with Barbara that he found repulsive! Even when he had briefly mentioned that Barbara had her own ways of ‘punishing’ him when he wasn’t able to please her, or when he refused to take part in her freakish sexual plans. Excruciatingly painful ways! Those things were too embarrassing to tell anyone. And Barbara had been cruel. He actually wondered if his gentle, caring wife suspected what Barbara had done to him. Carrie was a nurse, and she had been so careful and tender about whatever part of his male anatomy she had touched, even long before they were married, while he was only her patient! Her training had seen to that!

His head ached interminably, and he knew that Carrie had replaced the bottle of mild headache pills in his bedside drawer. But he was too nervous to reach for them. He had made up his mind that he would never take pills that were not specifically handed to him by either Carrie or his doctor. Never again!

The room was warm, but he was shivering, despite the light blanket that was over him. He felt ill, and tried to relax, to sleep away the weakness of his pathetic body. Perhaps he would feel better, stronger, when he awoke.

He had thought that his nightmares of late had to do with his erection problem, or maybe his inability to walk. Certainly, being stuck in a wheelchair had caused his depression in the beginning, but he understood now that the thought of not being a whole, complete man, as Barbara had so often taunted him with, was foremost in his mind these days! That was why his miracle meant so much to him. Maybe that was why God had left him, to show him that disabilities were not something of which to be ashamed. He was a man, a blessed man, whether he could walk or not!
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