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Jen and William

Jen is an average girl. Then she meets William. When she is in an accident and is paralyzed from the neck down, how will she cope?


2. Chapter 2

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Chapter 2I’ll Deal

When I opened my eyes, I was in a hospital room. It was white and smelled sterile. I tried to stretch, but my arms would not do what I commanded them. I started to panic, but a set of strong, cold hands placed themselves on either side of my face.

“What happened?” I asked William. “I don’t remember.”

He looked at me gently, but there was a strained look to his face. “You were in a car accident. You were injured in your lower neck. It’s called quadriplegia when you can’t move any of your limbs. That’s what you’ve got.”

Images flashed back through my mind. I remembered the scene at the beach, then driving down the road, then I remembered William’s strong arms dragging me from my smashed car.

I regarded him coolly and asked evenly, “What are my chances?”

He replied, obviously relieved that I was taking it so calmly, “Well, you aren’t going to die, we know that. And you don’t need a ventilator to help you breathe, so that’s good.” He hesitated. “But we don’t know yet if you’re going to regain any use or feeling in your limbs. Some patients do, and some don’t.”

“So what determines the difference?” I asked curiously. I still felt like all of this was happening to someone else; my brain hadn’t had time to process it yet.

“The extent of the injury and the willpower of the patient. The greater your motivation, the greater your chances of recovery. I have to warn you, though, that very few people with an injury as extensive as yours make a full recovery. The chances of a full recovery aren’t good.”

I nodded. I was determined that I was going to be one of those whose recovery was complete. If I had to kill myself to do it, I would not spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. I told William this.

He smiled and nodded. Then he asked slyly, “So how much exactly will the rest of your life be?”

I grinned. “If I want to live to be a hundred, I have another eighty-one years.”

He nodded his head. Then for some unfathomable reason, he laughed. I heard him mutter vaguely, “What would it be like to be a hundred again?”

I cocked my head to the side. What was he talking about? I asked him abruptly, “What happened?”

His eyebrows furrowed as he looked at me. “Did you hurt your head, too? Didn’t we just go over that? You were in a car accident, remember?”

I scowled. “Yeah, I remember. I meant at the beach.”

His face fell. “Oh. I, uh, I don’t know…”

“And then in the car. When you pulled me out, you ripped my seatbelt in half. And your hands! They’re colder than ice.”

“You noticed that when you were eating ice, I take it?”

He was trying to distract me, but I wasn’t having it. “Yes, I noticed it when I was eating ice. Why? Why are they so cold?”

William’s face darkened. “I can’t say. I’m sorry.” He got up from his chair and strode from the room. After a few seconds, a nurse walked in the doorway.

“How are you feeling today?” she asked.

“Just peachy,” I said sarcastically. “I can’t feel my arms or legs, and I can’t move them, but then, who wants to be able to move their limbs?”

The nurse looked taken aback. “I, uh, okay.”

I almost wanted to laugh at her bewildered expression. She was obviously new, young and pretty. She probably had a bright future ahead of her. One involving a husband, children, walking, running… I let my thoughts ponder this. How much we take for granted, I realized. Then I returned to the present.

The nurse was staring at me. “Are you okay?” she asked warily.

I tried to fool her. “Yes, I’m fine.” But I could feel the tears coming. “I’m just great. Perfect. I’ve never been better.” My voice broke and I began to sob.

The nurse was startled. She walked to me slowly and sat on the bed beside me. “There, there,” she told me, patting my hand. “It’s going to be alright.”

“No,” I choked out. “No, it’s not. You sit there and pat my hand. I can see you doing it, and yet I feel nothing. No, it’s not going to be okay. William lied to me. I know my chances are low. Lower than he tried to say. I’ll never walk again. That’s what he should have told me, that I’ll be paralyzed and in a wheelchair, depending on everybody else for the rest of my life. I don’t want to depend on everybody else!”

She had tears in her eyes as she smoothed my hair. “It’ll be alright, I promise. Dr. Taylor will take care of you.” She stood from her position on the bed. She injected some fluids into the tubes leading into my veins and turned to go. As she reached the door, she said to me, “My name is Patty. If you need anything, anything at all, I’ll be here. Even if it’s just to talk.”

I nodded slowly. “Thanks.”

It wasn’t long after she left that the drugs started to take effect. I felt my eyelids starting to get heavy and I let them close. I fell asleep quickly.

* * *

I tried to get up from my chair, but my legs weren’t listening. I looked down at them and I saw them hanging limply from the seat. Beside them I noticed the wheels attached to the chair.

‘I’m in a wheelchair?’

I didn’t know why I was here. Or where here was, for that matter. I looked around quickly. I was in a department store surrounded by racks of clothing. The jeans were long and tight-fitting, the shirts designed for someone tall and skinny.

‘Someone like me!’ I thought excitedly. I had an entire department store full of clothes just my size!

Again, I tried to stand from my wheelchair. Again, I was unsuccessful.

‘Fine, I’ll go with it.’

I wheeled my chair to the nearest rack with a bit of difficulty; these things were hard to navigate! Then I began to pick through the clothing. As I browsed, I saw my hands for the first time. When I noticed them, I stared in shock. They were wrinkled, shriveled, and old. Forgetting the clothes, I wheeled as quickly as I could to the dressing room with the three sixty degree mirror.

I closed my eyes as I positioned myself directly in front of it, not yet prepared for what I might see.

‘One. Two.’ I hesitated. ‘Three.’

I opened my eyes. Sitting in a black and red wheelchair in front of the mirror was a hideous old hag. She was wrinkled and ugly with wisps of white hair coming from the top of her head. And she was fat, probably from the years in her wheelchair. And it was me.

I started to scream.

Nameless faces swarmed around me.

“Do you need help?” they asked. “Here, let me get that for you.” “I got it, you just relax.” “It’s okay, I’ll do it for you.”

The faces taunted me mercilessly, offering me help. I didn’t want to depend on anybody! Nobody but me!


Somebody was shaking me roughly. I could feel my head joggling.

“Jen,” said a silken voice. “Jen, wake up, it’s just a dream.”

I opened my eyes. “No it’s not,” I said sadly. “It’s not just a dream.” I started to cry again.

William scooted me over gently on the bed and sat beside me. He stroked my hair softly and asked, “What was it?”

“I was in a department store full of clothes my size. But I was in a wheelchair and I couldn’t get out of it. I was pretty okay with that, but then I saw my hands. They were wrinkled and old. I went to the mirror and I saw myself. I was fat and ugly and old. And then there were a bunch of people all around me asking me if I needed help. It was awful!”

I peeked up at William's face, expecting him to look critical or derisive. Instead, his face was full of compassion and another expression, one that I didn’t recognize.

“Patty told me what you said,” he confided. “I wasn’t lying to you. There are some people who make a complete recovery. I’m betting you’ll be one of them. And you know what? I don’t know if it’ll make any difference to you, but I’ll be there with you, standing by you.” Instantly his eyes widened and he grinned sheepishly. “Did I just say that out loud?”

I smiled. “Yes, you did. And oddly enough, it does make a difference. Even though I’ve only known you for two days, it helps me to know that you’ll be here for me. I think I’ll be able to live through this. I’ll deal.”