All her life Cass has been the wallflower, quietly content to make her mark from behind the scenes. As a cognitive psychologist in the research field, she will use her intellect and tenacity to heal the “broken” brain. Because she learned long ago she isn’t capable of fixing broken minds; maybe not even broken hearts.
Bryan doesn’t want to even think about his present. To escape his past, he had always looked to the future. As a materials engineer, he will use his ingenuity and talent to develop state-of-the-art products and devices. But now an accident has drastically broad-sided his life – and the hits keep coming.
They give each other the motive to step beyond self-consciousness – to reach outside themselves to touch the other. They discover the courage to pull one another close. To love. To be loved. From one another they draw the power and fortitude to move beyond mistakes.
“Cass! What are you doing here?”
Her weak knees managed to get her through the curtain and to Bryan’s side where he lay on a hospital gurney. She took in his bent legs, arm draped across his abdomen, and pale face sporting a sheen of sweat.
“I stopped by the Biosystem Lab. While Jeff was failing miserably at making something up, Marcy told me he had dragged you to the medical center.”
He looked back up at the ceiling.
“Since apparently, you were ambulatory, I took a chance and came here to Urgent Care rather than Emergency. What’s going on? Are you okay?” That was stupid. He plainly wasn’t, but the question slipped out anyway.
Bryan winced and screwed his eyes closed. “I’ll be fine. They’re just covering their butts.”
“Quit being such a guy. What procedure are they performing in order to cover their butts?”
“How did you get in here?”
“I lied. What’s wrong?!”
His eyebrows lifted. “Lied about-“ His breath hitched and suffering washed across his face. “-what?”
Worry tightened her chest. “Bryan, please!”
“I’ll call you la-“ His words became a groan and he rolled away from her, curling into a fetal position with his arm wrapped tightly across his abdomen, panting forcefully.
Cass turned to run to the nurse’s station, almost colliding with a man in scrubs pushing a wheelchair into the curtained area. Was it a good thing or a bad thing that he was the same nurse who had been at the front desk handing over forms when she was plying the receptionist?
“So sorry about the wait. Let’s get you loaded up. But first, how about I give you a little something for the pain?”
Bryan grunted out between clenched jaws, “No, I’m fine.”
The nurse looked over to her. “We men are too hard-headed for our own good.” Turning back to Bryan, he admonished, “That’s what got you into this mess. Okay, sit up and step down.” Bryan relinquished his grasp around his belly, then levered himself up and reached down toward the floor with one foot. The nurse looked back at her. “You can wait in the chairs just out there, Mrs. McCaffrey.”
Oh crap! Her stomach leapt and her mouth dried instantly.
Bryan’s head whipped around so fast his hand slipped off the gurney mattress when he was only halfway off. Luckily the nurse was a large man and caught him easily, then guided him to the wheelchair seat. “Careful, now.”
Bryan’s surprised gaze was firmly pinned on Cass. She narrowed her eyes into a “Don’t you dare!” expression right as Bryan opened his mouth, then another spasm of pain caused him to curl away as he was pushed through the opening in the curtain.
“He’s right in here.” The nurse indicated the room with a wave of his hand through the doorway, then went on his way down the corridor.
Cass stepped in and, heart in her throat, walked over to the side of the bed and sat in the chair. “I’m sorry I told them we…that I was… But I figured they wouldn’t let me in to see you otherwise. I just panicked. Please don’t be mad.”
The corner of Bryan’s mouth tipped up. “Of course not.” He swallowed. “It’s good to see you again.”
She nodded and grasped his hand in hers. Now, how should she present this? If she asked, he would say no, he was fine, she didn’t need to do that, he could take care of himself. But it wouldn’t be right to take charge and state her intent as if he had no say in the matter. Giving him back his service dog was a no-brainer, but how was she going to weasel herself back in as well?
A midline approach seemed best. “When you’re released, I’ll drop Iambe at your apartment. She can help you out while you finish recuperating, so you don’t need to strain anything while your incision heals. And I can stop by often -"Her eyes slid away."- maybe even stay there for a bit to take care of her so you can rest and not have to worry about taking her out for walks or bending over to feed her, that sort of thing.” She lifted her gaze to assess his response.
There was a moderate smile on his face. “That’s not necessary. The incision is quite small, actually. They did their repair laparoscopically.” A teasing light came into his eyes. “So you’ll need to come up with another excuse.”
Cass took a deep breath and leaned closer, resting her chin on her crossed arms atop the side rail. Her voice shook. “Can I come home?”
His smile slowly slid away as he reached out, tucking a stray section of hair behind her ear. He ran the backs of his fingers down her cheek and thumbed away the escaped tears. Softly he pleaded, “Please come home.”
Tucked away in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, Sage divides her time among being a mother, a writer, and the program director for a non-profit. Growing up, and for quite some time after, she was a reader and a dreamer, but didn’t often put pen to paper. Then late one night, listening to music, story ideas dancing through her head, she was overcome with an inescapable urge to actually write. She is a nature-worshiper and spends a fair amount of time hiking and camping when she’s not playing Sudoku.