Special thanks to naughty one for his invaluable help in pointing out storyline issues, some inconsistencies and errors! All remaining problems are solely my fault.
When the bomb went off the walls fell, bringing the roof of the building with it in a cascade of destruction unlike anything the city had ever seen before. Great billowing clouds of dust and smoke obscured the scene for hours, leaving the first responders stranded on the periphery, unable to approach the epicenter.
The damage was not limited to a single building either. Falling concrete, shattered steel beams, shrapnel ranging in size from a grain of sand to as large as a school bus, pulverized several of the surrounding buildings and bringing them down as well.
The initial death toll, even before the emergency crews could step foot on ground zero, was predicted to be almost as great as that on September 11th, 2001.
I was twenty-four when the Chase tower came down, and I was working as a stock broker. I should have been in a bullpen on the 30th floor, taking orders and calling in trades, but I had arranged for my fiancé to take a tour of the operation and was waiting in the lobby for her to arrive.
Her arrival preceded the first explosion by mere seconds. I watched her walk through the glass doors, her golden hair lit in a halo by the morning sun at her back. She was wearing a very smart business suit, all in shades of green that made her emerald eyes sparkle even from across the room.
She smiled brightly, her left hand up and starting to wave and my chest was filling with warmth and happiness. She was my other half, the missing piece to my life and I loved her more than I thought possible.
My last sight of her was a shard ... a sheet, really, of glass at least three feet across, slicing through her from her left shoulder to her right hip. There was a look of surprise on her face, and an instant of acceptance before the roof the lobby crashed down around us, blotting her from my sight forever.
Saying it was dark would be disingenuous. It was pitch black and I couldn’t see anything at all. I had managed to clear the dirt and dust from my eyes and nose, using my one free hand, but the world smelled of smoke and burned flesh, hot metal and that distinct, coppery iron smell of blood.
My left arm and both legs were trapped, but I couldn’t see by what. There was pain, but it was distant, remote. Mostly I was wracked by coughing fits as my body tried to expel the dust I had breathed in. My throat was dry and it took forever to even work up enough saliva to spit.
It seemed like every other second, the vision of my sweet Nancy would appear, torturing me. I could see the glass bisect her, the blood beginning to spray, the infinite sadness on her face for that instant before the roof fell. I tortured myself, hating myself for being alive when my soul mate was dead. If I had been smarter, faster, if I had arranged to meet her for breakfast like she had suggested.
It was a day, or a week maybe, time meant little here in my private hell, before I could hide that memory away in the dark recesses of my mind. I knew I would be seeing that image again, in my nightmares.
I thought about my family, what little there was left. Mom and Dad were both gone, so was Andy, my brother. Only Sophia and her daughters were left. Breast cancer had taken mom, too advance to fight before they even found it, and dad seemed to waste away, lasting less than a year after mom died. Andrew, Andy, my older brother, gave his life overseas as one of the Doctors Without Borders, the victim of an Improvised Explosive in Iraq.
I had friends though, a few of them anyway. Christine was my best buddy since we were in diapers. Her family lived next door to mine for my entire life and we ran the streets and alleys of Western Springs, a suburb on the outskirts of Chicago. When we were toddlers, everyone assumed we would marry, but we remained best friends through boyfriends and girlfriends, broken hearts and casual flings. Christine would be inconsolable.
Selene, she was an unattainable fantasy. She had the same taste in women that I did, and she was no-so-secretly in love with my fiancé. She became a friend in college when mutual acquaintances tried to push us together. She was drop dead gorgeous, smarter than I was and had a sense of humor that left me in stitches. I adored that woman, but she would grieve and move on. I hoped she would think of me every now and then, and raise a beer in my honor.
Lucy was the little sister I never wanted. She was my first assignment when I became a TA, and I was to get her through the class with a high enough grade to pass and get her out of the professor’s hair. Lucy was a tiny little thing, raven hair and as needy as the day was long, but she grew on me. I was the person she would come to with a problem, sure I could do just about anything. At times I raged, sometimes cried, often rejoiced in her successes, but I could no more reject Lucy than I could kick a puppy. I wondered who would care for her when I couldn’t?
Hunger and thirst had come, ravaged my body, and faded away. I knew, to the very core of my being, that I was trapped here until I faded away. I raged and cried until there was no moisture left to spare, then I wept without tears for those I left behind.
When the tumbled chunks of concrete around me shifted, and a blinding beam of light speared down, I was sure it was Lord coming to bring me home. I had lived a good life, been kind to strangers, I was sure I would go to heaven and this was my moment.
Imagine my confusion and surprise when a very human hand, covered in dust and bleeding from a half-dozen scrapes, reached down to touch me. The trembling fingers were pressed to my neck and I heard a glorious sound.
It was twelve more agonizing hours before they freed me from the rubble. They snaked a tube to me and gave me water, even some thin gruel to tease my stomach. There was always someone nearby, and they talked to me.
Sometimes it was just a jumble of disconnected sounds; at others it was questions repeated time and time again. Was I bleeding? Was I in pain? What was my name? Where did I work? What did I remember?
Eventually, even the most curious ran out of questions and one of my rescuers, a man named Jim Evers, began to tell me his story. I learned about his childhood and his siblings, about his parents. He told me about his huge family, a raft of aunts and uncles, a herd of cousins, nieces and nephews. I learned that his wife, the love of his own life, was a nurse and that he had been a fireman for eight years.
He just talked, keeping me company, keeping my mind off the tons of concrete and steel that held me prisoner.
I loved Jim and I hated him. I loved that he was here, that he was compassionate and brave, that he was risking life and limb to give me comfort. I loved that he had chosen a profession dedicated to helping others. That kind of selflessness should be celebrated, but I hate him too.
I hated that he had a family, a big, happy family to go home to. His wife and his children mocked me and made me release the nightmare from where I had locked it away. He made me face living without Nancy.
They finally got me out and strapped to a gurney. The press swamped the EMTs who were trying to get me to an ambulance. Flashbulbs, like the muzzle flash from machineguns, lit my little world. Screamed questions and clawing hands came from every directions and the press of bodies threatened to overturn the gurney, almost spilling me back into the rubble from which I had so recently escaped.
We made it through, eventually, though it took officers with riot shields and batons to stem the tide. The closing doors of the ambulance produced a bubble of almost quiet.
“I know this won’t mean much now, but those folks out there, they have already crowned you the patron saint of Chicago.” the EMT said, busy cleaning the dirt off my chest and hooking up leads to his equipment. He added another clear bag of fluid to my IV, then sat back, his eyes on mine.
“How many survived?” I asked, my throat still raw and my voice, barely a croak.
He shook his head, his eyes distant. “Outside, they found four. From those inside the building, only you so far.” He sighed and rubbed his face with the heels of his hands.
“For the first couple of days, we were full of hope. They had found people in the twin towers, right? After the fourth day, the chances dropped to almost nothing but they still kept digging. What else could they do, right? That you were found, still alive, after seven days, it was a shot in the arm to everyone there. Hell, it was a miracle and something that made the whole city feel hopeful.” he said quietly.
Arrival at the hospital was almost as bad as my escape from the scene. The press were piranhas and there was a hint of blood in the water, driving them to a frenzy. Blows were thrown, patients and hospital staff attacking the press, destroying equipment and clearing a path into the hospital itself. Common citizens arm in arm with police to keep the press out.
The next forty-eight hours were a blur of tests. X-rays, Cat Scans, MRIs, EKGs, sight, hearing and a thousand other tests. Blood drawn by the gallon. I think I slept through more of it than I stayed awake to actually witness.
Once the initial flurry was done, I was placed in a private room and the healing began. Not just the physical healing, though there was a lot to be done. I was dehydrated, had breathing issues and two broken legs. My left arm had been crushed but the nerve damage kept it from hurting much.
Sophia and her daughters, Mina and Amy were first, since they were family. Mina and Amy were twins, fourteen year old clones of their mother. Like Sophia, they were already tall. Thin framed, almost delicate, they had the small breasts, slim hips, fine bone structure and radiant blue eyes of their mother.
Sophia was older, of course, but time had taken nothing from her beauty. Instead, it had added that touch of maturity that made her truly radiant. She was a bit bigger in the chest, a touch wider in the hip, a couple more wrinkles around her eyes showing she loved to laugh and she still turned heads wherever she went.
She was the oldest of my sibs, thirty-four this year. Andrew would have been thirty-two this year. I was the youngest at twenty-four, a surprise baby according to my parents.
Sophia was an interior designer, her skills ranking her among the best in the city. Her ex-husband had been a male model who left her after the girls were born, chasing the eternal youth of barely post-pubescent models he worked with. Sophia had been phlegmatic about the divorce, knowing that her childish infatuation had run its course. Now she lived for work and for their daughters.
We were close, though that had not always been the case. As a baby, she considered me her plaything, her doll and took great pleasure in dressing me up and carting me around with her. As she grew older, she became my baby-sitter, unwilling once she discovered boys, and our relationship grew strained.
The death of our parents, and the death of my brother, brought us together and we were closer than ever. Their deaths made us realize how precious family was, and I spent as much time with them as I could. I became the beloved Uncle to my nieces; friend and confidant to my lovely sister, and I reveled in both roles.
“Uncle Dave!” the girls cried out in stereo, launching themselves from the doorway to my bed in a flash. Raining kisses down on my face as I laughed and cried, I wrapped them both in my arms and crushed them to me. My left arm was swathed in bandages and a brace, but that made it harder, not impossible.
“We thought you were dead, and we cried, and couldn’t sleep and school was cancelled so we watched, one of us was awake all the time, so we would know.” they babbled, their tears mingling with my own.
“Shhh ... it’s okay. I couldn’t leave you two! I promised I would be there for your graduations, that I would walk you both down the aisle when you get married. I never break my promises.” I said happily, earning even more kisses.
“Girls!” Sophia’s voice cracked in the room like a whip, the twins faces turning in unison, but they didn’t let go.
“You could be hurting him! He was just in a horrible accident!” Sophia said, then spoiled her stern look by almost collapsing into my arms.
“You asshole! You scared the hell out of us. I couldn’t bear to lose you too!” she sobbed, crushing the girls to me as I gathered all three of them in my arms.
There was a moment of quiet as we all caught our breath, the crush of bodies on top of me felt like a blanket of love. It couldn’t be perfect though.
“David, I...” Sophia pulled back, sitting on the edge of the bed and my hand in both of hers. She wouldn’t meet my eyes and I knew...
“I couldn’t get a hold of Nancy. I tried your apartment, I tried hers, I even tracked down her parents. Then I got a call back from her roommate. Is it true?” she asked, finally meeting my eyes. What she saw there must have been enough confirmation. She burst into tears and buried her head in my chest.
Mina and Amy were laying on each side of me, their own silent tears rolling down their cheeks as they tried to comfort me and their mom at the same time.
“She was coming to see me. She wanted to see what a trading floor looked like. She was supposed to start Monday at Paine Webber and wanted to see behind the scenes. She was so excited.” I said brokenly.
“She walked through the door when the world exploded. I saw her, just for a couple of seconds. I couldn’t...” I broke off, unable to continue. It felt like I was choking. The guilt, the loss, they rose up into my throat and tried to punish me, to drag me back down into the hole again.
I don’t remember the hospital staff injecting me with a sedative. In fact, I don’t remember much of anything until the next day.
I woke up to a smiling face leaning over me. Flaming red hair and amber eyes wet with unshed tears above a smile that threatened to split her face wide open.
“About time you woke up, jerk.” Christine said, then leaned down and kissed me, hard. By the time she broke the kiss, I was out of breath and I think my toes had curled so far they would never be straight again.
“I was terrified, but somehow I knew. I never gave up hope. I know you wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye and you didn’t, so you were alive.” she said, taking a deep breath and a seat on the bed. She held my hand in both of hers, pressed to her chest.
“I stayed at your apartment. Sophia let me in. I slept in your bed and I wore your t-shirts, just like when we were kids. I could smell you everywhere, but especially on your pillow. I went to the site, as close as they would let me, and I was there every day, David. Every fucking day.” Christine said, her tears finally falling.
I pulled her down and held her, wondering if I would ever stop crying. I kissed her hair and stroked her back and told her how much I loved her, how I thought about her when I was down there.
She spent almost a half hour before they made her leave. We talked about camping the back yard, about hide and seek in the park. We talked about junior prom when we couldn’t find dates and went together. We laughed and cried and healed.
When they forced her to leave, I told that she was welcome at my home any time, all the time. There would always be room for her there.
Next came a parade of faces that I knew only from television. The governor and his entourage, the mayor and his toadies. Even that brain-dead idiot of a Vice-President found his way to my room, much to my chagrin. Maybe his secret service agents had GPS.
All of them followed the same script. They were glad I survived, I was an inspiration to millions, if I needed anything, just call. Yeah, right. I was the headline today, but would be forgotten when that no-talent big booty bitch showed her tits to the press again.
Selena and Lucy came together, just before the end of visiting hours. Selena laid a lip lock on me that made me wish for magic powers. I would zap her hetero and never let her out of bed!
Lucy followed suit, and who knew that little mess could kiss? I thought she was going to crawl inside of me and take up residence.
“Christ, David. If I knew the lengths you would go to, I would have given you a pity fuck.” Selena joked, wiping her eyes and kissing me again. Softly this time, and I almost believed her. “You are one of the few straight guys I actually like, so don’t do this again, okay?”
“You know how manic I am about checklists, and there was a box...” I joked, my eyes telling her how much I loved her even if I could never say it.
“Selena came over and kidnapped me, made me stay with her. I thought she was going to ravage me, but no such luck.” little Lucy joked, her head still buried in my chest. “I was a mess, David. I thought I would die too.” she admitted softly.
I glanced up at Selena, and saw the truth to that statement in her eyes.
“I knew you loved the little ditz, lord knows why, so I treated her like a lost kitten.” she joked. I knew I would have to get a private word with her at some point so I could hear the real story.
The next visitors, first thing in the morning, almost ended me.
Nancy’s parents, Mark and Eilene Prescott, walked through the door and I actually wanted, for a moment, to crawl back in the hole again. How could I face them?
Nancy and I had flown to Nantucket, where her parents lived, over a long weekend to tell them the good news. That was barely a month ago. Her parents had met me several time before, Nancy and I had been dating for two years, and they seemed overjoyed at the news that we were finally getting married.
We had come home and announced it to everyone else, her friends and mine, and threw a big party the weekend before ... before.
Eilene was a small woman, but she had a substantial presence. She could walk into the dressing room of the Chicago Bears and take command of the room. Her husband Mark was no wallflower, but his wife was the power in that marriage and he was the first to say so.
Eilene looked shrunken somehow, smaller and fragile. Her face was pale and her eyes red. She shuffled in, held up by Mark and when her eyes met mine, I felt her pain like a red-hot poker through my heart.
It was a long time before either of us could speak.
“She loved you with all her heart. I had never seen her so happy, so thrilled about life.” She said as they left several hours later. “I know you would have been happy together. Thank you, David, for making her last days so joyful.”
I think that if I could have managed it, I would have taken my own life that night. With only one working limb, I couldn’t come up with a way to do the deed and the staff was forced to sedate me again when I couldn’t stop crying.
They moved me to the psyche ward for a while after that, and my visitors were kept away. I ranted and raved, railing against the doctors and against fate, but I knew I needed help.
When they decided that they couldn’t save my arm and amputated, I almost welcomed it. It was small enough price to pay, a down payment on my guilt.
I did come to grips with ... everything, or at least enough to function and it was just shy of six weeks before I finally got out of the hospital. The surgery on my legs was successful and the titanium screws and bars that held my bones together were being assimilated. I was still in casts, but all that was left was physical healing.
They were all there on discharge day. Sophia and the girls, Christine, Selene and Lucy. A wall of smiling faces, each one beautiful and each one holding a piece of my heart. They were how I got through the darkest nights. They were my reason to live.
“Well, you about ready to get out of here?” The doctor on shift was smiling as he walked through the door. The nurse had just finished helping me get some gym shorts and a sweatshirt on in preparation to leave.
“If I never see your smiling face again, Doc, it will be too soon. Nothing personal, you understand?” I said with a smile. He just laughed.
“I just signed the release papers. I am going to tuck these after care instructions in your bag here. There is a list of follow-up appointments, therapy appointments, the scripts for your antibiotics and so on in here.” He said, waving a stack of paper in my direction. “And none of them mean a damn thing to you right now, you just want to see the last of us!” he finished with a grin, shaking his head.
I reached out my hand to him, “Doc, you guys have been great. Absolutely outstanding, really, and I appreciate everything you have done. Having said that, I have six gorgeous ladies waiting downstairs for me, so you will pardon me if I don’t stay to sing your praises?”
The man was still laughing as the nurse wheeled me out of the room.
Much to my surprise, the hall was lined with staff and patients. Nurses, doctors, techs, even cleaning staff stood side by side with patients from other rooms, and they were all smiling.
As the nurse rolled me between the rows, each person reached out to touch my hand, my shoulder. They wished me luck, offered me condolences, said they would pray for me. They smiled and I even got kisses from a sweet little girl who asked me to sign her arm cast.
I thought I had finally gotten past the constant tears, but it turns out I had a few left.
Downstairs in the lobby, I felt like a rock star. All of my ladies were waiting, almost as excited as I was that I was being discharged. I got kissed from each and every one, and stares from everyone else in the room as I was mobbed by these adoring ladies.
“Uncle Dave, look!”
“Mom got you a van for your chair!”
“And it has a lift and everything!”
The girls were doing that thing again, where they each spoke a portion of a sentence, starting and stopping flawlessly so that if you weren’t actually watching them, you would have thought it was one voice.
Sure enough, there was a big, cobalt blue van waiting at the doors, and there was a wheelchair lift already down at ground level for me to be rolled up on. There was a neat little locking lever that clamped the rear tires, then the whole chair rotated so I was facing the same direction as the van.
A push of a button raised me up and pulled the chair in so I was sitting about even with the first row of seats. It was pretty cool and I gave the twins a smile and a thumbs-up.
The ladies all piled in, with Sophia and Selene in the front, the twins in the first row beside me, both squeezed into a seat just a touch bigger than a normal bucket seat. Christine and Lucy took the rear bench seat and hit a button to close the side door again.
I was going to Sophia’s apartment, evidently, since my apartment had stairs. I had really wanted to be in my own place, but I recognized the futility of arguing the matter.
Christine had gone back to work, having used up almost two weeks of vacation during the vigil and to spend time with me, but was less than an hour away so she could visit. She had taken a half day off to be here when I got out this morning, but had to head back to work.
“I will be back on Saturday, and you are mine for the whole day. The rest of these tarts can come if they want, but only if they agree.” she said, sticking her tongue out at the other ladies who were laughing at her.
Selene had taken the day off and Lucy was skipping school, so they stuck around. Sophia was self-employed, but had an afternoon meeting with a client she was going to take, leaving me in the hands of my college chums and my nieces.
“Hey, why aren’t you two in school today?” I asked, thinking about everyone’s schedule. We were just arriving at her apartment building, the Lex, a tall, modern glass structure where she had purchased two penthouse apartments on the 31st floor. She had joined the two into a spacious living area, taking out a bedroom to create a huge living room where she could entertain.
“Like we would go to school when you were getting out of the hospital? Not if mom wanted any peace and quiet, like, ever!” Mina said, rolling her eyes. Amy, on the other hand, just laughed. “Mom wouldn’t do that to us, Uncle Dave. You are much more important than gym class.”
Sophia pulled the van up to the valet, getting a few looks until the ladies started popping out. With six gorgeous women, they could have driven a garbage truck and still been treated like royalty.
Unloading my wheelchair was the reverse of the loading process. My chair was drawn out of the van, rotated so I faced the interior and then lowered. The wheel locks released and one of the valets stepped forward to pull the chair off the small platform.
“Sophia, I think I will need one of those power chairs. These casts are not coming off for another month and I won’t be much good and rolling this around with only one hand.” I said thoughtfully, looking down at the stump of my left arm. They had amputated just after the elbow, and I had taken to holding it close to my chest to prevent bumping the still-sore stump.
The valet had turned me around and looked a bit unsure of what to do next. From the main doors, a middle-aged man in an expensive suit, followed by three people who obviously worked for him, were making a bee-line straight for us.
“Ms. Falcone, lovely to see you again.”He said obsequiously, shaking her hand and smiling before turning to me. “Mr. Weaver, we were all touched by your story, and by the hope that you gave the city after that devastating attack. I am so very proud to make your acquaintance! “ He offered his hand to me as well.
“Ms. Falcone, the modifications you requested were completed this morning. The ramp is in place and we have smoothed the transitions to the patio. Please let me know if there is anything at all we can do to make Mr. Weaver’s stay here more pleasant.”
I looked over at Sophia and she winked, but turned her attention back to the suit.
“Mr. James, thank you so much. My brother has a long recovery ahead of him and those changes will make a world of difference. Now that you mention it, David brought up something I was going to speak with the concierge about. We will be needing to rent or lease a motorized wheel chair. If you would have him provide us with a few references, we would appreciate the help.”
“But of course!” Mr. James said, turning and gesturing to one of the suits following him. “You know Derek, of course. He manages concierge services here at the Lexington, and he will happy to work with you on whatever you need.”
“Ma’am, sir.” Derek said, nodding to each of us.
“Well, then, that is all for now, I think. Thank you ever so much for your courtesy, Mr. James.”
Derek took the valet’s place at the controls for my wheelchair while the valet, with the help of the twins, got the lift stowed away so he could move the van.
Mr. James and crew followed us to the elevator and stood watching as the doors closed.
Sophia, a smirk on her face, rubbed my head like she used to do when I was five.
“You get good service here, sis. Is it your legs or do they treat all the penthouse owners that well?” I teased.
“The penthouse residents receive preferential treatment as a perq for choosing the Lexington, sir, though our services are available to all of our residents, of course.” Derek said, surprising me. I had forgotten he was there.
Christine, always the jokester, bent down and in a stage whisper, opined, “I think it is the legs, but you would have to ask Selene to be sure. I like hairy ones.”
Selene, not to be outdone, took a long, careful look at Sophia’s legs and raised her eyebrows. “I would do it for the legs.”
Sophia’s apartment was always immaculate. She had a cleaning lady that came every day, and her place could have been used as an advertisement for the tastefully decorated abode of the modern woman.
Marble floors and hardwood accents, chrome and leather furniture, modern art chosen carefully and hung tastefully on the walls. It looked more like a showcase than it did a home, as long as you didn’t look in the girls’ bedrooms.
Derek rolled me to the door, assured Sophia that he would contact her this afternoon with the information on wheelchairs, then left us alone at the apartment door.
Inside, the twins took charge and rolled me to the living area.
“Tada!” Amy said, waving at the floor. Sophia had installed a ramp that would allow my chair to roll down into the sunken living room conversation areas. In the spot where there had been three steps down, the ramp flowed smoothly to the bottom and was covered with the same Berber carpet as the lower floor.
Next Mina showed me that they had put in tiny ramps on each side of the large sliding glass doors that provided access to the balconies. The chair would not be forced to try and hump up over the sills. Now they were more like speed bumps than they were barriers.
As always, the view out the floor to ceiling windows along the outside walls of the apartment were stunning. She had a large corner to herself and the view to the big greenway, the lake and the city skyline at night were mesmerizing.
“David, we put you in Amy’s room, and she will be doubling up with Mina. We brought over some of your things, clothes, laptop and toiletries, but if you need anything else, you just let us know.” Sophia said to my back as I sat there and stared out at the city.
I grabbed one wheel and managed to get myself turned around, much to the twin’s chagrin. They rushed over and stood behind me, giving me the evil eye for usurping their prerogatives.
“I honestly hadn’t thought about it, but now that I am, I really hate taking a bedroom from one of the girls. Maybe I should just see about...” was as far as I got before the whole bunch of them started protesting.
Waving my hands in the air, I managed to get them settled again.
“Okay, okay! I get it. I am helpless and you all are in charge. Sheesh ... a man could get a complex.” I grumped.
“Uncle Dave, I won! We both wanted you to take our bedrooms, so mom made us play cards to see whose room you got. I won so you get to sleep in my room.” Amy said, looking very proud of herself.
“Wait, you won? It sounds to me like you lost. You got kicked out of your room!”
Amy stepped in front of me and bent down so our eyes were on the level. “I won. I know I can’t do much to help, but that I could do. I wanted to. I wanted you to be in my room.” she said seriously.
“Thanks, baby girl, that is very sweet of you.” I whispered to her with a big smile.
“Hey David, you need someone to keep an eye on your place, water the plants, keep out squatters and so on.” Christine piped up, making little head motions towards Lucy. From where Lucy was standing, she couldn’t see Christine.
“Oh, so you just used me for my apartment for a week, then you go back to the ‘burbs? Sheesh ... okay, fine. Hey, Lucy, any chance you could help? It have a two bedroom apartment in a decent building, walking distance to campus. I’d hate to have some crack head move in while I am over here.” I said, acting as if it were my idea.
Lucy perked up, a huge smile on her face. “You mean it? I could stay at your place? My roommate SUCKS! She always has guys over and when they get drunk, I have to sleep in the common room or one of them tries to end up in my bed. YECH!”
When I nodded, she hopped around the room like a twelve year old on Christmas, then came and gave me a very non-twelve-year-old kiss.
“I would love to! You know I would do anything for you, right?” She asked, her eyes telling me that anything meant just that ... Little Lucy’s crush on me had matured while I was in the hospital, it seems.
The girl was twenty, but acted twelve most of the time. At not even five feet tall and built like a girl scout, she could easily have passed for much, much younger. She had an innocent charm that must have driven her dirty old men professors insane, and a childlike glee about life that made me smile. Her crush on me, initially a cute little affectation when she was a freshman and I was a teaching assistant, had grown steadily until she was making these endearing, yet still child-like passes at me.
I really wasn’t sure how to treat those offers, so I retreated into acting like she was a cute but annoying little sister. Part of me was intrigued by the offers, I was a man after all, but I would hate to be the one that took her innocence away.
“You are a real sweetheart, Lucy, and I appreciate it. I can’t think of anyone better to take care of my place for me.”
Christine chose that moment to break in, dropping her arm around Lucy’s shoulder. “Lucy, I have to leave in a minute, work calls, but I can give you a ride and the keys, show you around if you want.” she offered.
“That would be great! Thanks Christine!” Lucy beamed.
She came in close to give me a very sensuous kiss, her tongue flicking out to tickle my upper lip for a second, before bouncing off towards the front door.
Christine just grinned down at me, then dropped to one knee by my chair and hauled my head around to deliver a toe-curling kiss of her own. “I almost lost you, so I am going to let you grieve, but you and I have some unfinished business.” she whispered in my ear before rising and walking out, Lucy in tow.
Just, what the fuck?
The twins were smirking and Sophia had a knowing look on her face. Selene looked her normal, unflappable self as she glided across the balcony and took a chair from the table. She turned it around and sat down, gracefully crossing her legs and folding her hands to rest on her upraised knee.
“David, if I know you, and I think I have come to know you pretty well, you haven’t thought this convalescence thing through. So, before I go, I want to make sure you know how this is going to go.”
“Wait, what? I have to stay here because I have stairs. Sophia will make sure I get to my appointments, I stay out of the twins way. Doesn’t sound all that hard to me.” I answered, wondering what she was up to.
Selene and Sophia exchanged amused glances.
“David, you are a sweet, sweet man, but you are useless without a checklist. Your ability to make plans off the cuff are legendary ... and not in a good way. So, listen closely. You will be living here with three ladies. How, exactly, did you plan on getting from your chair to the toilet? How about showers? How are you going to dress yourself with only one hand? What about meals?”
Selene leaned back in her chair and looked at me expectantly, but she was right. I hadn’t really thought about any of that. In the hospital, the nurses had taken care of bed baths, bathroom issues and so on. Even meals were handed to me. I had been in such a rush to get out of the hospital that I hadn’t really considered how I would live after.
One thing became crystal clear to me at that moment though. I was an idiot.
There is no way I would subject my teenaged nieces to this, and no way I would allow my sister to handle this, especially on her own. Even if I put my pride aside, the thought of her having to ... no, no way.
They were all watching me, their expressions telling me that my thought processes were pretty transparent.
“Okay, you are right, and I really didn’t think things through. I hate that you have already spent time and money to modify your lovely apartment, Soph, but Selene is right, and I need professional care. There are places I can go where they have staff who will help me do the things I need.”
“Has he always been this dense or did he hit his head in the attack?” Selene asked Sophia acerbically.
“Oh, he was always a little slow in social situations, and I think this applies. Don’t get me started about how he acted around girls before he started college.” Sophia was smirking at me, and I could feel my temper starting to boil.
“If you two are quite done?” I said through clenched teeth. “I know I made a mistake, but if I can use your phone, Sophia, I will rectify that and get out of your hair.”
Selene raised and eyebrow and Sophia looked a little upset, but the twins looked crushed.
“You can’t leave, Uncle Dave. We want to help, we have to help. You are our Uncle, our family! You can’t go away and let strangers help you! They won’t love you like we do!” Mina cried, holding on to her sister.
“You aren’t really going to leave, are you?” Amy asked, sniffling.
What? What what WHAT? Jesus fucking Christ. I am fucked if I do, fucked if I don’t. What did they want?
I used my good hand to turn my chair again, staring out over the city and trying to calm my mind. I knew I was on edge, I knew I wasn’t dealing well with this. The doctors, the shrinks, they warned me. Deep breaths. Think things through.
I felt a hand on my shoulder but couldn’t bear to turn me head and see who it was, not yet.
“David, we were not asking you to leave. Yes, we teased you a little bit, but we simply wanted you to be aware. The girls know, we discussed this at length, and they are ready to help. We, the girls and I, are going to see you naked, We are going to help you bathe and help you dress. We are going to help you in the bathroom if you need us and we are doing all of that because we love you. We want to do this for you. None of this is a surprise to us.”
Sophia bent down and rested her chin on my shoulder. “We love you, David Weaver. All of us.” she said softly, then kissed my cheek.
The twins were next, one kneeling on each side of me.
“Mom told us all about what you would need.”
“She was worried about how we would feel, but we want this.”
“Let us help you, please?”
I wonder if there is a surgery to shut off tear ducts? This crying stuff is getting really old.
On the plus side, when I did have to use the bathroom, I found that Sophia had a grab bar installed over the toilet and another over the bath tub and one over my bed. It hung from the ceiling and attached to a swivel so I could grab it and rotate myself.