Crystal and Erick's preparation for her education begins.
Leaving McDonald’s, Erick and Crystal headed for UK’s campus. “This should work out just fine, honey. We have a 2:45 appointment with one if their admissions councilors," Erick said as he drove.
They arrived at 2:25, which was fine, since they still had to find the Administration Building. They’d never been on the UK campus before. Erick had attended NKU. They walked in the door with about 5 minutes to spare. “Admissions Department, room 135,” he recited from the directory. He wheeled Crystal down the hall.
“May I help you?” the receptionist asked as they entered.
“We have a 2:45 appointment with Sam Waters,” Erick said.
“Please have a seat,” she said, kindly. I’ll tell him you’re here. Could I get your name, please?”
“My name is Erick Metcalf,” he said. “I made the appointment. It’s regarding the admission of Crystal Eryn Sandlewood as a freshman.” Erick wheeled Crystal to the seating area and sat beside her. A few short minutes later a tall, heavy-set gentleman walked up to them.
“Mr. Metcalf? I’m Sam Waters. Welcome to UK.” Erick stood and shook his hand. “And you must be Miss Sandlewood,“ he said extending his hand. Crystal shook it firmly, noticing he hadn’t flinched at her situation at all. That felt good inside. Had to. Erick saw a quiet but understanding and appreciative smile slowly crawl across her gorgeous face as she fully realized that.
“Yes, sir, that’s me,” she said, smiling. Erick heard the nervousness that was still there, but said nothing. The best way for her to deal with it was one-on-one when possible. And this was perfect.
“Nice to meet you both,” he said. “If you’ll come with me, we’ll get everything arranged.” They followed him down an adjacent hallway into his office. “Have a seat, Mr. Metcalf,” he said warmly. Erick sat next to Crystal. “I can see why you needed this appointment,” he smiled. “Crystal’s situation is indeed unique. Not just to her, but to this campus. We have quite a few students, at all grade levels who have lost one or both legs, or the use of them, and two students who have lost an arm, but she will be the first one on campus to have lost both an arm and a leg. But I’m sure she’ll do just fine, especially with the consideration you have in mind. I’ve notified all her first quarter professors, and they’ve all agreed enthusiastically to what you and I discussed. They said it’s the least we can do to help her start her education on schedule and keep it there. She shouldn’t be forced to wait until after her recovery.”
“What ‘consideration’, Erick?” Crystal asked, puzzled but with a grin on her face. “You’ve been thinking ahead for me again, haven’t you?” Despite her surprised smile, Erick heard those wonderfully characteristic, loving tears of hers building again.
“Yes, he has, Crystal. He’s arranged to be your companion throughout your class schedule. From arrival to departure, each and every day. He insisted on caring for you personally if at all possible, and we felt that since your accident was so recent and you have a lot of recovery ahead that having the one you were comfortable with nearby to help you was the least we could do.”
Erick had been watching her as Mr. Waters spoke, and even before he was done she was crying again. Erick hugged her one-handed. “Thank… you, Mr… Waters,” Crystal sputtered. “I’m.. sorry.. I.. just.. can’t help it. He’s… been so good… to me, and now to… get this kind of help… from you…”
“Think nothing of it, Crystal. With what you’ve been through these last weeks, your being emotional like this is perfectly normal. Please don’t feel embarrassed or self-conscious. There’s really no reason you should. Between Erick and your father we know the whole wonderful story. And we’re only too happy to oblige.” He smiled warmly.
“My… father?” she asked. The element of surprise had stopped her tears in their tracks. Now curiosity had taken over.
“Yes, your father. After Erick called me, I called you father. I needed to have him send me a power of attorney for Erick to be able to sign some papers on his behalf. In the course of our discussion, he explained the wonderful relationship you two have.”
“Ah-hah,” she said, knowingly. She decided then and there to razz her dad for not letting her in on things. “But.. Erick? How are you going to stay with me all day, every day. You have to work, don’t you?”
“I will, honey. I will.” He glanced at Mr. Waters.
“Erick will be sitting in a back corner of each of your classes, Crystal. Doing his work on a laptop PC with a cordless modem while you’re studying. He’ll be right there in case you need anything.”
As the tears came, just slightly this time, she leaned over and hugged him. “I love you, Erick!”
Erick saw Mr. Waters smile. Turning back to her, Erick said, “I love you, too. And now I think you know that even more.” He smiled lovingly.
“Yeup, I do.”
“We’ll stop by my office and pick up the laptop when we’re done here, and we’ll be all set for class tomorrow,” Erick said warmly. “I’m back in college again, and for the best reason in the world.”
They spent the next ½ hour signing papers, with Erick signing for both Crystal and her dad, since she hadn’t yet had time to learn to write left handed, and getting her classes scheduled.
Once that task was done, Mr. Waters asked, “Would you like to meet your first quarter professors, Crystal?”
After meeting her professors, they headed back to the truck. “Erick, I think I’m really going to like it here. Even my professors are so nice. And knowing you’re right there with me will really help me be able to relax in class and concentrate. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.”
He stopped the wheelchair and knelt in front of Crystal. “Darling, you don’t have to thank me, or make it up to me, or anything. I’m doing it because I love you, and I want you to succeed in your dreams. The unconditional love that we share is the only reason I need to do anything.”
She laughed, but the tears that filled her eyes said she understood him, too. “Erick, I remember the first time you told Dad those very words. The night I called you in a panic because they knew everything about us and I was afraid it was over. Remember? Those were the last words you said to dad and I on the phone that night, “ she grinned. “I’ve never forgotten that, honey. I love you!”
“You’re right, sweetheart,” he said, suddenly remembering that night. He leaned down and kissed her, warmly. She pressed her lips hard on his, feeling the need to convey the love she felt at that moment. “But having you here is well worth what your dad put me through that night, darling! I love you!” Erick said lovingly as he kissed her again and stood up to finish the trip to the truck.
“I love you, too, Erick, and I’m glad you feel I’m worth everything you’re doing.”
He stopped again, and knelt again. He had to make sure she wasn’t getting down on things again. “Honey,” he said as he took her lovely head in his hands and made her look at him, “you’re not only worth what your dad put me through, you’re worth any price I must pay in the future. Keeping you with me, by my side, as my wife, is worth any price I must pay. For the rest of my life. He saw the tears again, bigtime. “Go ahead and cry, Crystal. Let it out. I’ve wanted to tell you those words since we met. And it’s something you’ll hear for the rest of your life. Sometimes every day. Because without you, darling, I have no life. I love you!” He stood her up and held her close while she cried those tears of joy once again, this time more deeply than before. A few minutes later, she wiped her eyes on his shirt sleeves, and looked at him with more love in her eyes than ever before.
“Erick, those words just brought everything home to me. All of it. How much you really love me, how much I love you, and the real depth of our wonderful love. And I couldn’t be more thankful than right now that you came into my life, and especially that you saw me, and loved me, and still love me, as a person. Honey, I knew last night in bed that I don’t need these limbs to be a whole woman to you in bed, you know that now. But now I also know that your wonderful love makes me feel so very complete that I don’t need them at all. I’m truly fulfilled. Yes, I’ll use the new ones to help make things easier, but I don’t need them to feel complete. Not now. Not anymore. And, my love, I will never be able to make up to you for what that means to me. I truly love you with all my heart.”
She laid her head on his chest as he held her. For a whole ten minutes they stood in that parking lot, just holding each other, and letting this wonderfully deep addition to their love become part of their whole being. Forever. Then, with one more tight squeeze and a probing, sensuous, loving kiss, they went on to the truck to finish their day, all the time their hearts reveling in the pure love that He has bestowed on them.
About 45 minutes later they arrived at Erick’s office.
“This place looks brand new, Erick,” Crystal said as they entered the building through the employee entrance.
“Actually, honey, it was built about 1996. But they do a really good job of maintaining it,’ Erick said as he wheeled her into the elevator. When they got out on the 8th floor and entered the floor from the corner door nearest his cube, she got her first look at his working environment.
“Rows and rows of cubes,“ she laughed. You really do need those name plates, don’t you?”
“We get used to where we are, honey. But visitors on the other hand…, “ he laughed as they smiled at leach other. He rolled her chair up to the boss’ cube. Same shape cube as the rest, just taller walls and larger size space. Erick knocked on the door frame. No door. “Hi, Steve!”
“Hi, Erick, c’mon in,“ he said, looking up from his PC screen. “And I take it this is Crystal,” he said, extending his hand and smiling.
“Yeup, that’s me,” she smiled, shaking his hand.
“Nice to meet you, Crystal. I can see why Erick is so protective of you that he needs to work away from the office for a while.” Smiling wider, he added, “I don’t blame him a bit.”
“Thanks, Steve, I appreciate that,” Crystal blushed.
“Here’s the laptop, Erick. It’s all loaded and ready to go,” Steve said as he handed it to him. “Use your usual ID and password. If they won’t work, call me.”
“Thanks, Steve. I sure appreciate your consideration here.
“As do I,” Crystal added.
“No problem,” he said warmly. “Why don’t you introduce Crystal to the rest of the group while you’re here, Erick? After all the things you’ve told us, I’m sure they’ll want to meet her. Besides - we won’t be seeing you much around here for a while,” he laughed.
Erick looked at Crystal. “Want to meet the rest of the crazy people in my group?” he asked.
“Sure,” she laughed. “Maybe I’ll find out why you fit in so well.”
Steve laughed out loud. “Crystal, I’m glad to see you have a sense of humor through all this,” he said, laughing again.
“Thanks, Steve,” she said, smiling. Then she got serious for a minute. “But I wouldn’t have that sense of humor if Erick wasn’t with me through this. He can tell you. When I first called him and told him about it, I was anything but happy.” I’m just glad I have him to lean on,” she said, squeezing his hand.
“I can see that, Crystal. Believe me when I say the love you two have is very special. It’s obvious to anyone who looks at you,” he said warmly. Crystal smiled. “Now go meet the rest of our ‘crazies’, he said, laughing.
“Yeah, I want to see how he fits in,” she said again.
“See ya, Steve!” Erick said as they started down the aisle of cubicles.
“Thanks again,” Crystal said.
“No problem, you two,” he quietly called after them.
After introducing her to most of the “normal” people in his group, he rolled her chair into the pod of four cubes that contained his. Plus two other residents. Two of the nicest girls you’d ever want to meet, and two of the four “international” team members. Annthu, a petite Vietnamese woman of 35, a widow with two small children, and Gayathri, who came here with her husband five years ago from India. They have a 3 year old daughter and another child on the way.
Going around the corner to a single cube on the end of that row, they found the third of Erick’s “international” teammates, Alla, a young Russian woman.
“I’ve saved the ‘best’, or at least the funniest, for last, honey,” Erick said as he rolled Crystal “around the block” to the opposite side of the rectangle of pods that housed his team. Rolling her into Mike’s cube and knocking, as he looked up, Erick said, “Mike, this is Crystal. Honey, this is Mike, our team clown and smart-ass.” He smiled as Mike laughed.
“Hi, Crystal,” he said warmly as he shook her hand. “You know this guy can’t stop talking about you, don’t you?”
“Hi, Mike, yeah, I know. He brags about me all the time, or so he says. It’s a little embarrassing, but I kind of like it at the same time.”
“Trust me, Crystal, he’s honest about that. Can’t quit bragging. And now that I’ve had the chance to meet you myself, I can’t say as I blame him.”
“Not you too,” she laughed, embarrassed.
“Sorry, Crystal, but it’s true. I can easily see why Erick is so in love with you.” This time she knew he meant it.
“Thanks, Mike, I really appreciate it. I’m a lucky girl to have someone who loves me as much as Erick does,” she said affectionately, squeezing his hand.
“Mike, we’ll see you later,” Erick said as he backed her chair into the aisle. “I hate to introduce you two and run, but we’ve got to get dinner, and get her things organized for school tomorrow. It’s her first day at UK.”
“No sweat, man,” he said, smiling at Crystal. “Just don’t be a stranger - either of you. Crystal, it’s really nice to meet you,” he said, shaking her hand again.
“Same here, Mike,” she said as they left.
With that, they hit the elevator and headed to dinner and home to make sure they had everything she’d need for her first day of classes.