A short story based on the image shown
from a prompt from Writers Unite! – April 2019
First Steps of Recovery
A Short Story by Lynn Miclea
Danielle grimaced in pain and massaged her right thigh. It was aching again, even more than usual. Both legs ached, but the right one was worse today. She wondered if she would ever stop hurting.
Rage surged through her as her mind drifted back to the accident that had left her crippled. She had been crossing the street and was in the crosswalk when some guy who was high on something came barreling down the road, driving much too fast, and hit her. She had gone flying, and both legs were shattered, along with a fracture and dislocation of a vertebra in her lower back. If only she could take that day back and have walked somewhere else instead. But she couldn’t. It happened. And she didn’t want to lose herself in the depths of anger and self-pity. She needed to move forward and not dwell on the past.
When she had first come to the hospital, the doctors had said that she may never walk again. There was the possibility of being paralyzed from the waist down. But after lumbar spinal fusion surgery, and now with plates and pins in her legs, she was getting feeling and movement in her lower limbs again. She spent many days working through the pain, going to physical therapy, and learning to walk again. It was now time to let anger go and to heal.
And finally, it was time to be discharged. Today was the day. She couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital, but at the same time, she did not feel ready. She felt safe and protected while in the hospital, and her stomach fluttered with nerves at the thought of being on her own. Was she ready to be independent yet? A lump rose in her throat. She had been dreaming of walking on the beach, but that dream now seemed distant.
“Hey, beautiful!” Miles strode into the hospital room, a big smile on his face, his light brown hair hanging over his forehead. “Today’s the day. Ready to go?”
She smiled back at her boyfriend. “I think so. I can’t wait to get out of here. But I’m nervous, Miles.”
“I know, sweetheart.” He placed a light kiss on her lips. “But you’ll be fine. And I’ll be here to help you every step of the way.”
“I know. You’ve really helped me through all of this. I could not have done this without you.”
“Hey, where do you want to go on your first day of freedom?”
Danielle’s smile grew wider. “To the beach.”
“Dani, there’s a storm coming in.” Miles’ face got serious. “The beach is not the best idea today.”
“I don’t care. It’s my first day out of this hospital, and I really want to go to the beach. Even if it’s only for five minutes.”
“Okay, sweetheart. The beach it is.” He ran his fingers through his disheveled hair. “Ready?”
Danielle nodded and pointed to her small bag. “That’s it. I’m ready.”
A young woman in a scrub suit entered the room with a wheelchair. “Okay, dear, we have to take you down in a wheelchair, it’s hospital regulations.”
Danielle checked her back brace, then carefully eased into the chair and sighed. Even sitting in the wheelchair was awkward. How would she walk on the sand? But she was determined. This was all she had thought about for the past week—walking on the beach. Especially on her first day out.
After being wheeled out of the hospital and slowly shimmying into Miles’ car, Danielle licked her lips. “I’m scared, Miles.”
“Do you really still want to go to the beach?” He leaned into the car and pointed. “Look at the weather. The wind is really strong.”
She looked through the windshield at the heavy, dark gray clouds overhead, and spoke softly. “Yes. I still want to go.”
“Okay, the beach it is.” He closed the passenger door, got in on the driver’s side, and started the car. “You doing okay?”
Danielle nodded. “I think so. I really want this.”
Miles reached over and squeezed her hand. “You got it.”
Twenty minutes later, he parked the car in the empty lot next to the desolate beach. The entire area was deserted.
Danielle giggled. “It’s beautiful.”
“What?” Miles’ gaze searched her face. “You can’t be serious. Look at it out there! The storm is crazy! It would be hard to walk out there even if you were in great shape.”
“I know,” she whispered. “It’s fresh and real and raw and exciting. Nothing like the hospital.” She returned Miles’ gaze. “I have to do this.”
She put her hand on the car door and hesitated. What if she couldn’t walk here on the soft sand? She wasn’t sure she had the strength yet. This was probably a bad idea. She bit her lip and gazed out at the storm whipping the waves as whirlwinds of sand blew across the beach.
Miles reached out and touched her cheek. “You don’t have to do this today.”
“Yes, I do.” She quickly wiped a tear that ran down her cheek. “I have to do this.”
“I’m here for you, sweetheart. I believe in you.”
Danielle looked up into his eyes. “Miles, I’m not sure I can.”
“Sure you can. I know you, Dani. Let’s go. Show me. I’ll be with you.”
She took in a deep breath. “You’re right. I have to. If I don’t do this today, I’ll regret it. I don’t care what the weather is. I won’t let anything get in my way—not a hurricane, a tornado, or a downpour. Nothing will stop me. This is my day. My first day of freedom and recovery.”
“I’m here. I will walk beside you no matter what.”
“Okay, here I go.” Danielle opened the car door and swung her legs out. The wind wrenched the door open and she gasped. She slowly stepped out of the car, grabbing for the door. Her hair whipped across her face and up in the air as she slammed the door shut. She squinted against the wind as tears formed in her eyes. It didn’t matter. This was her time.
Miles ran to her side. “Dani, you got this. You will be fine.” His fingers brushed her hair back. “You hear me?”
Danielle nodded, as tears ran down her cheeks.
She stepped off the pavement and took two steps forward in the sand, feeling the gale-force wind buffet her, almost knocking her over. She took a few more steps. A powerful gust of wind threw her off balance, and Miles grabbed her. Two more steps.
Fat drops of rain splattered down from the heavy, dark clouds. Danielle laughed, threw her arms out to the side and spun in a slow circle.
A brilliant flash of lightning split the sky.
Danielle glanced at Miles. “Okay, maybe it’s time to go.”
Miles nodded and helped her back to the car. Once inside, she turned to him. “Thank you. This really meant a lot to me. Even just a few steps.”
He nodded. “I know. This was important to you.”
“All those days in the hospital I dreamed of this day. My first day being free. The start of my independence and recovery.” She wiped the raindrops off her face. “I feel on top of the world now. I know I’ll be okay.”
Miles looked at her, his eyes misty. “Dani, you’ll be more than okay. You amaze me. You can do anything.”
“Well, I don’t know about that, but I know I’ll walk again. And I feel great.”
Another flash of lightning lit up the sky, and a powerful crash of thunder immediately followed. Rain pelted and splattered on the windshield in huge drops, making it hard to see.
“Okay,” Danielle said with a laugh. “That was enough. I think it’s time to go home.”
“You got it,” Miles said, driving out of the empty, wet parking lot and back onto the road. “You doing okay?”
Danielle sighed. “Yeah, I’m achy and sore, but I’m glad I did this.” She leaned her head back on the headrest. “And now I’m exhausted and I can’t wait to get home. I need to rest for a while. It’s been a big day.”
Miles nodded. “But you did it.”
“Yeah, I did it. After all I’ve been through, I walked on the beach.” Danielle smiled. “I am no longer a victim. Now my recovery can really begin. I am free.”
Copyright © 2019 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.
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