“Marry me,” she says.
I stare up at her from my hospital bed. If not for the morphine, I would half believe what I see is true. But then she touches my leg, and I feel nothing.
I try to say her name, “Shelia,” but my voice is raspy, my throat dry, as if I haven’t had a drink in days. I swallow and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. “Water.” It can’t be above a whisper, but she looks up and our eyes meet.
“You’re awake!” She turns and calls for a nurse, then drops to her knees. She scoops up and kisses my hand at my side over and over. I’m relieved to at least feel her soft, moist lips on my skin. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she repeats, and again she says, “Marry me,” but I’m still confused why she’s here, why we’re both here.
The nurse enters and says, “Mr. Boston, how are we feeling today?”
I shake my head. I can say nothing else.
“Do you remember being in a car accident?”
It’s foggy to me, but I do remember Shelia. I remember leaving the baseball game together after the fireworks show. I was mesmerized by how her eyes lit up the night, more even than the bursting kaleidoscope in the sky, and even though I should have been focused on the road and the stopped car in front of me—its break lights reflected in her olive skin—I wanted to lean over and kiss her, this girl I’ve loved since I was eleven, and tell her everything I ever felt, confess that I couldn’t be satisfied with just a friendship anymore, because I loved her too damn much to watch her give her heart to another man who could never treat her like the treasure she was, not like I could.
And now I wake up to her voice pleading, “Marry me,” and in my head I scream yes, yes, a thousand times, yes, even thought my lips don’t move.
“Can you feel that?” she asks. My heart beating through my chest? Of course I can, but she’s referring to the nurse who stands at the foot of the bed, the covers pulled back to my ankles. She pinches my big toe between her index finger and thumb and wiggles it around, but if I weren’t watching her I never would have registered that she was even in the room.
I close my eyes and pretend this isn’t my new reality, that I’m not paralyzed from the waist down. But if this is just a dream I’ve woken into, then that means my love for Shelia continues unrequited, and somehow that seems like the bigger nightmare, so I open my eyes, the tears trailing down. Shelia is crying too. She leans down and kisses me on the cheek, so close to my mouth that my bottom lip tingles, and it’s the only feeling I could ever want.
It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt asks us to write an ugly duckling story, but after receiving absolutely no inspiration from the prompt and spending all day writing, erasing, writing, erasing, I turned on the TV, and a man was saying he woke up in the hospital (after being run over by a train— ouch!) to a woman he never even dated asking him to marry him… And they got married! So this is my story. 🙂