Layne O’Keefe was walking in complete darkness. It was so consuming that she couldn’t see her hands in front of her face. As she kept walking, she heard a male voice calling out to her. The voice sounded familiar, so she kept moving towards it. She took a few more steps; and the voice began to get louder. By now she knew that she was having a dream, but she wanted to find the face that went with the voice. A hand reached out, and took hers. On the hand was a silver high school class ring with a garnet stone in the center of it. It looked to be like a class ring that many of the guys at her school wore. She just wondered who the owner of the ring could be. Her heart’s wish was that the guy in the dream would be who she wanted him to be, but knew that wish would be wasted because it would likely not come true. The touch of the figurer’s hand did make her feel so safe and secure. Those feelings were so strong that the fear that had hung over her heart had disappeared without a trace.
Then the figure stepped out of the darkness. Still unable to see his face, Layne waited as the figure leaned over to her when her alarm clock woke her. She had more then once had that same dream, and it always ending the same way with her always left wondering who the mystery guy was. Why couldn’t she have a normal dream like a normal teen age girl? But, she had come to terms with the fact that there was nothing normal about her.
It was a steamy June morning as the sun came thorough her bedroom window. While her eyes were adjusting to the light, she looked around her room. The room was painted in the shade of crème, while the curtains, bedspread, and carpet were a deep pink rose color. The pillow cases that matched the bedspread were also crème and the same shade of rose. The light wood framed bed was in the center of the room with a night stand to the left of it, and the closet was to the right. The window was at the left wall with bookshelves at either side of it. The right shelf housed her CD player, and some books, while the other just held her CD collection. The dresser also had a light wood finish faced the bed with the bed room door to its left, and a desk to its right. All the decorating ideas were Layne’s. Her parents let her change the room for her sixteenth birthday back in December.
After a few minutes of just laying in bed not wanting to get up, she pulled the covers back, got herself to the edge of the bed, and carefully transferred herself into her wheelchair. Layne had been paralyzed from the waist down since she was thirteen. She had been in a car accident with a girl that was in her History class and the girl’s mother. She was supposed to wait for her dad, but he was almost an hour late. The girl’s mother offered Layne a ride home, which she gladly accepted. But, on the way to Layne’s house the woman was in a hurry to get a job interview, and ran a red light that caused them to be hit head on by an on coming car. Layne barely survived, while the girl and her mother died on impact.
She spent the summer months in rehab, and looking back on what happened to the two people that were in the car with her, it was just a small price to pay. When she first got to
the rehab center in Fayetteville, North Carolina, there were a lot of changes that she had make, and there was one change that was made, which was relaying on people for help. Layne had always been an independent person, and to have someone wash and cloth her was a shock to her system. Those kinds of activities went on for no more then a week before she was trying to do those things for herself. The more she was told that she would be capable of doing something by a doctor or nurse, the more determined she became to prove them wrong. By the end of her stay, she was doing all of her physical demands herself.
And, that wasn’t the only change that she had to face. While she was in rehab, her family moved into a one story ranch style house that was an hour away from the house that she grew up in. The ranch house had three bedrooms, two bathrooms (both were handicapped assessable, so that Layne would not have any problems using them), a living room, a kitchen, a laundry room, and an extra bedroom that was turned into an office for John.
The hardest part for her was how she was treated after the accident. To start off with the teachers that she had at her new school treated her like a poralin doll. They wouldn’t let her do anything for herself. It took some time, but they finally realized that she was capable of doing things on her own. But, what bothered her the most were some of them treated as if she had lost the ability to think in the same that she always had. That was something that she would have to deal with for the rest of her life, so she had to develop a tough layer of skin that at times wasn’t tough enough because the kids that she once knew stopped calling or writing. When that started happening, it cut Layne to the bone. And, to make matters worse, the kids at her new school treated her as if she had the plague. They wouldn’t talk to her, or even come near her. When she would go down the hall, it was like she was a creature from outer space because all eyes were on her. She did make a few friends that treated her the same as anyone else, and that meant more to her then anything.
It had been only four years since the accident, but to Layne it felt like a life time ago. Her friend Gabe was always telling her that everything happened for a reason, so it wouldn’t help to question why that the accident had happened to her. The best thing that she could do would be to move on, and to live her life because that was all anyone could do.
Her doctors did tell her that there was a slim possibly that she could regain some use of her legs, but they didn’t seem too hopeful. That was three years ago. In some ways, she had also felt like that the ship had sailed on the subject, but all and all she refused to give up all hope of ever walking again. Only time would tell.
That morning, she was going to Camp Willow Tree. It was a camp for kids with mental and physical disabilies. She would be there for a month. She loved her family, but for four weeks out of the year she could be on her own. She didn’t know how her parents could afford to send her there for the last few years because her mother was a dance introducter, and her father was a contrducion worker. However they managed it, she was grateful.
She looked at the clock on her nightstand, which read: 8:00 am. She was going to be late as usual. She needed to be at Camp Willow Tree by 12:00 pm, and the camp was almost six hours away. But, she was glad that she didn’t have to go out of state just to go there like most of her friends had to. As she got dressed, she could smell sunny-side up eggs frying, which was one of her favorites. She could hear her parents and brother talking to each other. She then quickly brushed her deep chocolate brown hair that hung half way down her back, and put it into a ponytail. She checked herself in the mirror, and noticing the only thing that stood out about her were her dark green eyes. Her father had always told her that she looked exactly like his mother except for her eyes, which reminded him of the Irish aisle from which his family came. When Layne was born, he looked down at her seeing his mother who had long since died, and said that she should be named after her.
“Good morning, Layne,” Evelyn O’Keefe said, as Layne wheeled herself up to the kitchen table.
The kitchen was painted a country blue, while the fixtures were done in crème. The table was in the center of the room. To the left of it was the stove and refrigerator. Behind Layne was where the cabanets, sink, and dishwasher were located.
“What do you want for breakfast?” She asked.
“I’ll just eat a piece of toast. There is not enough time for anything else.”
John O’Keefe looked at his daughter as she took a piece of toast from a plate on the table putting peanut on it, and taking a bite. He had no idea why she was such a peanut butter frantic because it wasn’t a family favorite. He just figured that it was one things the defined her. “Layne, it’s just ten after seven.”
“But, my clock said that it was eight.” Her brother Patrick snickered. “You little weasel.”
He laughed, “Layne, I couldn’t pass it up. I just wanted to see you on time for something for once.”
“Why I ought to….”
“Now Layne, what do you want to eat?” Evelyn asked.
“Two eggs, but I can get them.”
“Let me, it’ll be the last thing that I get to do for you for a while,” she said, while putting two sunny-side up eggs on a plate, and handing it to her.
As everyone ate, Evelyn went to Layne’s room to make sure that she had all of her things packed and ready to go. Within ten minutes, she was back in the kitchen with Layne’s suitcases in hand. “I put a little something extra in your suitcase,” she said.
“Mama, you didn’t have to do that.”
“I know that. I wanted to.”
“Layne, can I come with you?” Patrick asked, as he stuffed a piece of his pancake into his mouth.
“I thought that you were going to go with Grandpa fishing,” she said.
“I was, but I changed my mind.”
“He is going to be disappointed if you don’t go,” John told him.
“I talked to him last night, and he understood.”
Layne grinned, “The only reason why you want to go is because you want see Sarah.”
His face turned as red as his hair. “It is not.”
“It is too.”
“Mama,” he wined.
“Layne, leave your brother alone,” Evelyn said.
“Patrick, it is going to be a long trip,” John says, taking a sip of his coffee.
“I can bring some video games and cards, so that me and Layne can play.”
Layne knew that he would miss her, but he would never admit it. She was so glad that she wasn’t twelve again because Patrick always tried to be so grown up, but at the same time he wanted to be a kid. She knew that he would get through the personal battle within himself just like any twelve year old had before him.
“Dad, its okay with me if he goes.”
“Are you sure? Because how the two of you can get.”
“P-L-E-A-S-E!” Both of his children exclaimed.
“Okay, I give.”
“Alright!” Patrick said.
Evelyn watched as he rushed to his room and back again within minutes. She often wondered where Patrick got his looks from. With his dark red hair, and his light blue eyes, she just assumed that he got them some where off of John’s family tree. Another great mystery was that either one of her children had any of her physical attributes. Because of her shoulder length honey blonde hair and her blue eyes, sometimes she wondered if they actually came from her.
“Patrick, did you forget anything?” She said, seeing that his back pack was filled to the brim with games and other things.
“Nope,” he said, going out the front door to the van.
Laughing, Layne, Evelyn, and John followed him. As soon as Layne got through the door, she noticed Gabe Pruett leaning against his electric blue Honda Acord. She thought that he looked great with the white tee shirt that showcased his broad chest and his medium build. She noticed that he hadn’t shaved in a day or two, which she didn’t mind one bit because truth be known she loved that look on him. And, he looked if he was very comfortable with the grey shorts, and the running shoes that he was wearing. She guessed that he had already been on his morning run by the way his tanned rippled abs shown through his sweaty shirt.
She watched in awe as he wiped beads of sweat from his bowl with his right hand revealing his new class ring. As he was doing that feelings of being safe and secure came over her once again. Layne gasped remembering her dream. Could Gabe be the person to pull her out of the darkness that she some times felt tripped in, and bring her back into a world of light and happiness? Her heart leaped when he ran his fingers through his sweat soaked hair. It was like he was in slow motion as he was going it. After he was done, he gave her a sly grin. Gabe knew that grinning at Layne would drive her insane. He was taking back by the way her face would literally glowed at the sight of him. It was as if she lit up from the inside with a happiness that would never go away.
As for him, he was crazy about her as well. She was beautiful, smart, and she had a remarkable since of humor. He had to admit that if he was in her shoes, he wouldn’t be as half as strong as she had been through the last few years. Her strength was what drew him to her. Every time that he saw her, she was doing everything for herself. She never asked for help, and if she was offered any, she would say no, but there was a kindness about it. He had been asking around about her for days before he got up the nerve to go
up to her and talk to her. She was so shy that it took her an hour to warm up to him, but once he broke through the wall that she had put up it was smooth sailing. He found out everything that he wanted to know about her. He didn’t mind it because she was the most interesting person that he had ever met.
He wondered why not more people could realize that. He hated the fact that Layne was for the most part treated like someone who didn’t have the mental compasaity to function in the world. Gabe remembered an example of that kind of behavior when they were at the movies once. A woman just came up to her, and talked to her like she was a two year old child. She asked Layne where her parents were (the woman asked the question in a much louder tone then she would normally use). Layne answered her in the nicest way possible. She told the woman how old she was, and that she was allowed to go places on her own. The woman didn’t seem to be embarrassed by Layne’s reaction, and went on to tell Layne that she commended her on her courage because most people like her would not go out in the world because of their disability. Layne thanked the woman and went on. Gabe was very impressed by the way she handled the situation. In turn, he was impressed by her.
He asked her why she didn’t say something a lot hasher to the woman, and she told him that it would not have done any good because there were a lot of people like her around. And, getting upset by them would be pointless. She explained that if she did say something to the woman; she would be wasting too much time and energy because the woman’s brain did not have the capability to process the correct messages, so that she could understand what Layne had said to her. She joked that it was better to be nice about it then be angry because that way she wouldn’t be as tried and cranky, and she would have more free time on her hands. That day, Gabe knew that without a debt that he was going to marry her because Layne was a one of a kind, and he would never find anyone else like her.
Since the first time that Layne saw Gabe, she knew that he was the one that she should be with for the rest of her life. She knew that it was premature to think that way, but he was like no other guy she had ever met. Like a lot of girls her age, Layne had read or seen in movies where a woman would fall in love with a man, and think the very thing that she just had. But, in Gabe Pruett’s case nothing was truer. He was so kind and so sweet. He was too good to be true. There were many times when she would think that if she blinked her eyes that he would disappear into thin air. It didn’t seem right to her to have someone like him in her life. But, something inside her told her that he was meant for her, and she was meant for him. All that was left to do was for them to say what they felt for each other, but taking that first step was always the hardest thing for anyone to accomplish. If and when this difficult task was performed, it was sure to be the most satisfying and rewarding thing that they had ever done.
At first, she thought that he pitied her, but she soon realized after the many long talks between them that was his true nature. In some ways that frighten her because she had never had a guy treat her the way that he had in the few months that they had known each other. It was like he didn’t see the person in a wheelchair he just saw the person, and that was what she loved about him the most.
Her heart raced as he walked up to her. For once, she was glad to be in a wheelchair because she thought for sure that her legs would turn to jelly if she stood up. She looked
into his beautiful eyes that were a magnificent shade of blue. They were like looking into an ocean’s waves, and she couldn’t help being swept into their warm and inviting gaze. As she peered into them it felt as if her heart would actually stop because it felt as though she was looking into the very core of his heart where she could see a glimpse of their future, which was filled with so much love for her. All she had to do was say that her feelings for him were just as strong, and his love would be hers for the taking.
Suddenly a light breeze began to pick up some speed, which ruffled his already wavy brown hair that had natural blonde highlights that blended in with the rest of his hair perfectly. He was wearing his hair it a little longer then the way he usually kept it. She came to the conclusion that he was wearing that way just to get on his father’s bad side. He did many things like that to get his father’s goat.
If Layne didn’t know any better, she would have thought that Gabe was just being friends with her just to see how angry he could make his father. But, luckily she knew him better then that because when Gabe loved or cared about somebody (in her case, she wished that his feelings for her was love), but wither he cared about her, or loved her; his feelings were for life. She could have kicked herself for telling him that she just wanted to be friends. She had to be crazy to do something like that, but there was nothing that she could do about it because what was done was done, and she would have to live with her decision.
“Gabe, what are you doing here?” She said, trying to hide her excitement all the while wanting so much to jump in his arms, and put her arms around his neck and kiss him.
“I just came to see you off if that’s okay?”
“Yes,” Layne said, with a smile. “I’m glad that you did.”
John let the lift down, and watched as they just stared at each other. He could tell how they felt about one another. Anybody with half a brain could see that. Like most fathers, John didn’t like the idea of his daughter falling in love, but he realized that Gabe was the right guy for her. He could see that the first time that Layne had brought him over for dinner. He thought that Gabe was too good to be true. But, after he got to know the boy; for once he was glad to be wrong. All he had ever hoped for Layne was that she would be happy, and with Gabe by her side, he knew that she would be.
“When are they going to get together?” He thought. “Layne, we have to get going,” he says, as Gabe touched her hand.
“Okay, Dad. I’ll be right there.” She wheeled herself toward the black Chevy van, which reminded Layne more of a bus then a van because it could sit up to ten people. “I guess I will see you when I get back.”
Gabe smiled, “I might see you before then.”
“I hope so,” she thought, getting onto the lift and into the van. “See ya.”
“See ya,” he said, hugging her not wanting to let her go. Then he kissed her cheek softly. He desperately wanted to kiss her lips, and he came close when she turned her head; and his lips caught the corner of her mouth.
“Bye,” she whispered lovingly.
“Bye, baby,” he whispered in her ear.
Realizing that want he had called her a look of fear came over his face. Layne just smiled, and touched his cheek.
“It’s okay that sounded nice coming from you.”
Gabe watched as the van went down the driveway, knowing that he loved her more then she would ever know. The only problem was telling her that. He knew that if he told her, she would run in the other direction, but after want just happened maybe she wouldn’t fight what she was feeling. He also knew what she feared the most, and that was if she loved him (and he knew that she did), Layne believed that she wouldn’t be enough for him. But, what she didn’t know was that she was everything that he had ever wanted and more. As he got into his car, he then promised himself that the next time he saw her, he would tell her how he felt about her no matter what the outcome.