A woman learns to fight for herself even when she thinks she can't
She awoke with a startle, her chest heaving. She had to remind herself it was another nightmare. She was safe at home. Then she recalled that her parents were no longer there, they left her alone for the first time in three months. As her excitement dwindled, she laid her head down, the coolness felt refreshing.
The next morning she stretched out her legs to find Bongo at her feet. “I’m sorry bud, I didn’t mean to kick you.” She reached down and gave him a gentle stroke. He fell asleep again, unfazed. She pulled the covers off and pulled her legs to the edge of the bed. They were not quite awake, she thought, rubbing them. It took a few minutes but she was eventually able to stroll into the living room, guiding her way with counting steps. Her therapist taught her this trick, it was going to take time but she would get used to it. She meandered her way to the kitchen and found the Kerig. Her family had set her up as much as possible to make her life easier.
Sierra moved into the townhouse three years ago. She was thrilled to be able to make her own way and be alone. When she diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis last year her parents urged her to move back home. She was determined to not let that happen. In the hospital, after the accident, they were ready to sell her home. She threatened to leave the state if they tried to do anything against her wishes. They agreed, on one condition. They would live with her for a short time. She had no choice.
It took a lot of work but she was proud she could live on her own once again. Three months was a long time to have people dictate your every move. She knew there were more challenges to overcome but had faith it was possible.
She turned on the tv after maneuvering to the couch. The coffee warmed her from the inside. As the news anchor introduced the weather lady Sierra felt the fuzzy nod to her calf, “Bongo, what should we do today?” She asked as she picked him off the floor.
She loved cats, always wanted a cat growing up. Her parents were not much for pets, so she was only allowed a turtle, “Sweetness” when she was seven. She was devasted when Sweetness died only two years later. Her mother told her it was an infection. She never really knew what happened, turtles were known to live for many years. She never had another pet until she found Bongo at the cat shelter. She was smitten with his long orange coat and sullen eyes. She was a sucker for eyes.
While she listened to the news, she heard a report of a car cash in a nearby area. This brought her mind to the night of the car accident. She had taken the advice of her friends and met them at the new local restaurant. She had contemplated skipping since the weather was to turn nasty. Her friend Monica volunteered to pick her up, she declined and drove herself. Since she was on a new medication she chose to stay away from any adult beverages, she wasn’t much of a drinker anyhow. When the weather began to thrash against the windows, she stood to excuse herself and head home. She was reluctant to drive due to her vision at night, but she figured she only had a short drive. She awoke in the hospital two days later. Apparently, the car careened off the edge of the road into a guard rail then flipping to its side. She was lucky someone had witnessed it and called the police.
Sierra strolled to the sliding door, hoping for some fresh air. As the door opened the swoosh of fresh flowers engulfed her. She knew her mom must have spent hours planting, there was never much of anything in her back yard. Her mom had volunteered many times to help build a garden, Sierra thought it was useless since she had two black thumbs. Her mom wouldn’t be there to take care of them. So why now, she asked herself. She hadn’t given it too much thought when the phone rang.
“Hi mom, how did you know I found your secret garden?” She inquired.
“Hi. I didn’t know, until now. How do you like it?” She stopped talking suddenly. “I’m sorry, Sierra. I wasn’t thinking.”
“Mom, it’s alright. I know you meant well. I can smell the daisies perfectly, Thank you so much. Just tell me, how am I going to take care of it?” The thought hadn’t crossed her mind until just then.
“I took care of it. There is a neighbor I spoke to, Cheryl. She promised to come by to check on it. She loves to garden and wanted to help.”
“Mom, I can’t afford a gardener.” She sighed thinking about the next time she could go back to teaching.
She and her mom talked for a few moments longer when she heard a knock on the door, “Mom. I gotta go. I will call you tomorrow.” She hung up before her mom could protest.
Sierra opened the door to a person introducing themselves, “Hi, you must be Sierra. Your mom talked about you so much, it seems like I know you already.”
“Please, come inside.” She stepped away with a little stumble.
Cheryl took my arm firmly, “Are you alright?”
She laughed a little, “I’m just a little clumsy. Did mom tell you that?”
Cheryl let it go, “So, how about that garden of yours. Mom said she planted a lot of annuals and some bushes. Can I see?”
Sierra pointed over to the slider, “Go on out. I will meet you in a minute.” She wanted to grab her walker; she hadn’t walked across the grass in a while.
Cheryl and Sierra talked about the garden casually. She brought up Sierra’s accident with curiosity. It didn’t bother
Sierra to talk about it. She knew it was her mistake and things have drastically changed because of it. What she also knows is that things always happen for a reason. She didn’t what reason, but she knew someday she would realize it.
After walking Cheryl to the door and heard her phone ringing again.
“Grand Central Station, Sierra speaking.” She mocked.
There was the laughter of a woman then she heard Sara, “You’re funny. Who has been calling?”
“Mom called first then I got a visitor. Apparently, mom hired a neighbor to come to check the garden. A garden I didn’t know I had until an hour ago. Now, you.”
“What are you doing for lunch? Want to go out? She inquired.
“Well, thank you. I haven’t been out of this house in weeks. Even that was just a trip to the doctor. But unfortunately, for you, I can’t. I have a date.”
“With whom? How have you found a date without going outside?” She laughed.
“If you must know it’s a phone date with someone I just met on a website.” Sara didn’t need to know it was a dating website.
“Sierra, I am so happy you are putting yourself out there again. After that last guy, I thought you would ditch all guys, forever.” She subtly laughed.
“That was not a relationship. That was a mistake. I thought he was …well, it didn’t go well.”
“When are you planning this phone date with…..this guy.”
“His name is David. He lives just over in Laconia. He is calling me soon, so I have to hurry and get dressed.”
“Is this a video call?”
Sierra could hear the smirk in her voice. “No, but I would rather feel more appropriately dressed, even if he doesn’t see me. That’s just how I roll.”
“Well, I can bring dinner to you if you’d like. What’s your poison?”
“Mom made food for an army. I don’t know what to do with it all. Why don’t you come over and help me with a roast beef dinner? Bring me some wine though.”
“Oh, I heard you gave mom the boot. How did she take it?”
“How did you hear that? My brother tell you?” Sara married Brad two years ago. Sierra was thrilled he married someone she actually liked, unlike all of his other girlfriends.
“Sara, I don’t know if I can do this. I haven’t dated in so long. What if he is like that other douche bag?”
The memory of her last date came rushing in, he was so brutal. Every comment he had was something Sierra had already heard, from her own consciousness. She was devastated knowing someone else thought of her that way. She never she would return to dating so soon. A few months ago, her counselor talked her into joining a dating site. She chose Balance, it offered more low-key conversation; time to contact prospective dates without pressure to meet. She was very skeptical when David contacted her. She had doubts about his true intentions. After emailing a few times back and forth she felt it was time to chat. Well, that’s what her counselor thought.
“What do you have to be worried about? You are amazing, he will notice that within the first few minutes, honestly. What’s his name again?” Sara sounded thrilled.
“David. I don’t know what to say. Do I tell him about my accident? How do I manage that? I also don’t want to do all the talking. Once I start talking, I don’t stop. I tend to ramble on about nonsense. I will sound so stupid. See? I’m doing it now, help! How do I make it stop?” She took a breath.
“Hold on, relax. Ask him about his work or his family. That always makes for enjoyable conversation. Ask him what he does on vacation; you will get a little info about his social life.”
“I will do my best.” A giant pressure behind her eyes started to throb. “I gotta go. We can talk when you get here. What time do you want to come by?”
“How about five? I have good feelings this date will be a success, just keep your head and humor. He will see your personality shine.”
She certainly had a bright outlook for the date with David. Sierra, on the other hand, had a small pit growing in her stomach as well as the pounding in her eyes. She wanted it to be more casual, just like friends talking. She knew if she kept perseverating, she would have a panic attack before the call actually happened.
After placing Bongo back down she stood to walk to the bathroom but nearly fell over her walker. She was only inches from hitting the floor but Johanna, her physical therapist, would have been happy to see she remained standing. “I guess therapy worked after all.” She said to herself.
In many ways, she wished she could slow the clock down. She didn’t know what she would say to David, the time was fast approaching. Conversely, she wanted to get to the other side of that conversation, to feel the pressure dissolved. Time was a very fickle factor. Wishing time to speed up made life feel a carnival ride, at any minute she felt her head would spin-off. Nor did she want it to slow down, to become stagnant, either. Unfortunately, we couldn’t have it both ways, even if it were possible.
Sierra was enjoying the heat coming from the window in the living room as she drank her coffee when the phone rang an hour later. “Hello? David?”
“How did you know?” He laughed. “I wanted to surprise you.”
“Didn’t we set a time for you to call? I just assumed it was you.” Typically, Sierra was excellent at sarcastic banter, she wasn’t on her game.
“I was joking, don’t worry.” He reassured her. “How are you?”
A simple question took her a moment to respond, “I’m glad you called.” She replied without regard to his question.
She felt heat rise from her belly.
“Why wouldn’t I? I told you I would. I try to keep my word.” David commented.
He sounded sincere, at least, she hoped he was being truthful. “That’s good to know.” Sierra tried to change her tone. She felt she was sounding too cold. She reminded herself that not every guy was a jerk and she needed to give him a chance.
“What have you been up to? Are you feeling better since you got home from the hospital?” He sounded genuinely concerned. “You never did explain what happened. Do you mind me asking?”
She was expecting the questioning, “I don’t mind. I was in a car accident several weeks ago. Luckily I managed to survive.” She hadn’t meant to sound so harsh.
“Well, that’s good. I don’t want to be speaking to a ghost on the phone.” He tried to laugh. She was glad he was trying to make light of the comment,
Sierra laughed in return. Why was she acting so foolish, she thought? “I am so sorry. That comment came out all wrong. I wanted to make a joke, but it turned sour.”
“Is everything okay? I hope you are comfortable talking to me about this. I was so delighted you wanted to talk to me on the phone in the first place. “
“Can we start over?” She didn’t wait for the reply. “Hi, David. How are you?” Her voice perked up.
“Hello. I am wonderful. So happy to be talking with you. How have you been? Seriously. I was worried.”
“Don’t worry about me. I will turn out just fine, just a small bump in the road of many. What do you do for work, David or Dave? Which do you prefer?” She felt the pressure in her eyes lighten as she took a deep breath.
“Dave is fine. I am a freelance writer. I make things up for a living.” His laugh was rich and hardy. She was reminded of how people thought her laugh sounded like a frog. She tried to keep that from happening.
“Wow, that sounds like fun. I would love to read your work.” I suddenly realized how difficult that would be. How can I tell him I was blind? I decided that it was a discussion for another time. “What do you like to write?”
“I will send you a copy of my first novel, “If First by Sea”, about a lobster fisherman out on his boat with his son every day. It’s more about their relationship with each other but also with the ocean. I know it sounds cheesy, but I am very happy with how it turned out.”
“What inspired the novel? Are you the son?” The story intrigued her a bit. “I look forward to reading it. You don’t typically hear about a male character’s relationship with his son.”
“I don’t want to spoil it, I’ll bring you a copy when we meet, face to face.” There was a smile in his voice.
“I look forward to that.” She knew that she would eventually have to face him, she just needed to delay the process a while longer. The longer the delay the more chance to prepare.
They talked for a while about his career and his relationship with his father. “Dave, it was so nice talking to you. I hope you enjoyed it as well.” She felt cheesy hearing herself.
“It was so nice talking to you too. When can we meet in person?” He questioned abruptly.
There it was, he was going to get persistent. She should have expected it. “I don’t know. Can we have some more phone dates first?” Her hand began to shake.
“What for? You said you had an exciting time talking with me. Don’t you want to meet me?” His voice was getting a little harsh. “I just had fun too, I need to meet you in person.” He tried to change the tone in his voice, but she could hear it.
“I just ask for some more time. Can you humor me a little longer?” She tried to sound sweet despite feeling a bit rattled at his insistence.
“Of course. I’m sorry. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.” His voice suddenly changed back to calm and easy-going. “Will you forgive me?”
“Nothing to forgive. I was being silly.” She was relieved he was not pushing the issue. “When do you want to talk again?”
“How about same time tomorrow?” He suggested.
“That sounds like a good plan. I hope you have a wonderful evening. Do you have plans?” She didn’t expect that question herself. She hadn’t considered the fact he would be dating anyone else.
“I have a date, with my couch.” He chuckled, “I had planned to see my sister but she’s feeling under the weather.”
“Nothing serious I hope?” Ah, she knows he has a sister. She forgot to ask as Sara suggested.
“I don’t think so. Thanks for asking. It was certainly a pleasure talking to you Sierra. I look forward to tomorrow’s connection.”
“Have a nice date, with your couch,” she laughed. He had hung up already.