Absolution
Author:Amanda Dick

“I can’t read your mind,” he said. “You need to talk to me. Please?”

 

Maybe it was just as well he couldn’t read her mind. It was such a mess in there, she was having enough trouble understanding it herself. She took a deep breath that seemed to rattle around inside her chest. Nothing she had planned to say came out of her mouth – none of the carefully prepared speech, explaining about the range-of-motion exercises and why she needed them. Instead, what came tumbling out were the fears and insecurities she had been hiding for so long.

 

“I think I knew it was serious, even before Callum and Tom told me what had happened,” she said, staring at his hand on hers. “I was so scared. I felt trapped inside my own body. I think I got over the whole unfairness of the situation pretty quickly, though. I remember thinking that freaking out about it was just making it hard on everyone else, so I had to just get on with it. But it took a lot longer to understand what living like this for the rest of my life really meant. Then one day, it just hit me – this is it, this is what it’s going to be like, always.”

 

She took a shuddering breath. Jack’s thumb stroked the side of her hand and she closed her eyes, taking a moment to organise her thoughts before continuing.

 

“It’s funny, you think about all the big things first, stuff you’ll never be able to do again – walking, running, climbing – the obvious stuff. But it’s the other stuff that takes longer to sink in. I’ll never walk down the aisle in a pretty white dress. I’ll never stand up in the shower. I’ll never be really, truly independent. That’s the stuff I really miss.”

 

Jack squeezed her hand and she took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. She could feel the tears building behind her eyes. She had to get this over with, before she lost it completely.

 

“I need to stretch the muscles in my legs to stop them from permanently contracting. It’s not something I can do by myself, so Callum helps me. They’re called range-of-motion exercises. I really love him for learning to do this for me, but at the same time, I really hate them, y’know? It just makes me feel so… ”

 

Her breath caught in her throat and she tried hard to breathe normally.

 

“What?”

 

Helpless, vulnerable, useless, different – nothing she could bare to say aloud. Instead, she shrugged. She didn’t have the heart to try and change the subject. There didn’t seem to be any point anymore.

 

“So this is what you meant when you said that Callum helps you with massage and exercise?”

 

She nodded, sniffing back the tears she was determined she would not let fall, not this time.

 

“I can’t pretend I have the first clue how that feels.” He leaned closer, his voice thick with emotion. “And maybe this is gonna come out all wrong, but I want to help. Because I see you as strong, capable, courageous, determined – anything but dependent. I really want to do something for you that’s not just you letting me help for the sake of making me feel better about it. I want to really help, Ally. I want to be part of your life, not just standing on the outside, watching. I’m not saying that I want Callum to step aside or anything, but I’d really like to be able to step in for him sometimes, with stuff like this, if it’s okay with you?”

 

She looked up at him, shaking her head, sure the raw terror that rose up inside her was written all over her face. He looked as close to tears as she was. Before she could speak, he pulled her into his arms.

 

“Do you trust me?” he whispered.

 

She could feel his heartbeat, strong and fast. They sat locked together on the floor, although inside her head, she squirmed and wriggled, searching for an answer.

 

“That’s not what this is about,” she mumbled into his shoulder.

 

“I think it is. Do you trust me – yes or no?”

 

She pulled away, staring at him in pure desperation. It felt like the entire universe was holding its breath. Slowly, she nodded.

 

“Then let me help – please?”

 

She had said she wanted him to stay. She wanted him to be a part of her life again. This was her life now, for better or for worse. No more secrets, no more hiding things from each other.

 

She nodded.

 

The great release she’d been expecting didn’t come. Instead, there was a quiet acceptance, an inner sigh of relief, a relinquishing of some of the fear she had been holding onto for so long.

 

She leaned into him again, and he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close.

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 26

 

 

 

 

“And ever has it been known that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”

 

- Khalil Gibran

 

 

 

 

Ally reached for the step nearest her and pulled herself onto it, her shoulders submerged in the water. She held onto the edge, watching her legs take on a life of their own, bobbing in the water in front of her.