She laid there, an observer in her own life. The nurse had just given her a sedative, and as she was drifting off, she thought about the previous 10 years. They had been life-changing in so many ways.
It had been their anniversary and it was time to open the first installment of the wedding gift they’d given to each other on that August day ten years ago. They had made a promise to each other that they would take a second (and third, fourth, and hopefully fifth) honeymoon to celebrate each 10 years together.
As the plane carried them over the Pacific, she had congratulated herself on making it that far. It had been touch and go for a while there. He denied it, of course, but she had been almost certain that Bob was fooling around a few years earler. Late nights “at the office,” a brief flurry of phone calls to Johnson Heating and Plumbing, and worst, a feeling when he was with her, his mind was somewhere else.
When she could ignore it no longer, she’d asked him if he had a girlfriend. He’d paled (or maybe she’d imagined it?) and denied it vehemently. It was the merger, he’d said. It had been particularly difficult period for him, but now that the merger was complete, he promised things would get better. And they had.
At the time, she’d had her doubts that the second honeymoon would ever come. But then they were on their way to
Just as she was dozing off, the voice of a flight attendant had come on the intercom. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are approaching our final destination in
. The pilot has turned on the Fasten Seat Belt sign. Please return seat backs to the upright position and secure your tray tables. We will be landing shortly.” Honolulu
And that was the last thing she’d remembered before she awoke under bright lights surrounded by masked faces. Before she could even gather her thoughts enough to ask all the obvious questions, she had fallen into the black hole again.
When she finally came around again, Bob was sitting in a chair beside her, his chin resting on his chest as he snored lightly. She reached over to shake him awake. Or she tried to, but nothing seemed to work.
“Bob? Bob!” she’d called out in panic.
He awakened with a start, and jumped up to grab her hand and bring it to his lips. She could see him do it, but she couldn’t feel a thing. Her mind did all the thrashing around in panic that her body didn’t seem able to do.
“What’s going on? What happened? Why can’t I move?” she screamed.
“It’s okay, Linda,” he said. “It’s just temporary. You’ll be fine as soon as the swelling goes down.”
He’d explained that their plane had undershot the runway in
, and they’d crashed into the rocks. No one had been killed, but several people had been hurt, and she was one of them. She’d been knocked unconscious, and when they got her to the hospital, they discovered she’d suffered a neck injury. Honolulu
“But they say you’ll be fine, Linda. They operated and repaired the disks in your neck that were injured. When the swelling goes down, you’ll need some therapy, but you’ll be okay.”
Except that the swelling had gone down, and she wasn’t okay. She was paralyzed from the neck down.
The following years were a blur. After she'd recovered (Recovered? Hah!), there was the lawsuit. Of the passengers who’d been injured, she was the only one to suffer permanent damage. She had sued the airline, and when they’d been unable to point the finger of blame at anything but pilot error, the airline had settled. Handsomely. Her brother, a lawyer, had made sure her interests were well represented. By the time she received the settlement check, she had appointed her brother as her power of attorney, and he’d invested the proceeds. She’d had enough income to support her for the rest of her life if she needed it.
And she’d soon realized that she would need it. About three years after the accident, Bob had been first “too busy” to spend much time with her, and then he became angry and distant. He told her she was being unrealistic, and she should just accept her condition and get on with her life. Before long, he made no pretense about the way he was spending his time. She knew there was another woman. Thank heavens they’d never had any children. She hadn’t yet gathered the strength to leave him, but she'd known she would eventually.
She remembered reading a book many years ago about the five stages of grief. She’d gone through every one of them except the final one, acceptance. She would never accept that all this had happened to her. Never! Using her brother as her avatar, she sought second and third opinions. She was “treated” by acupuncturists and faith healers. She tried alternative medical approaches, traveling to
Mexico and then to find them. Nothing had worked. There seemed to be no hope. Switzerland
She looked around the room. It looked like so many hospital rooms she had spent her time in for so many years. This was not your ordinary hospital, though. Located in an isolated village in the
Alps, this sanitorium would be her home for the next few weeks, if all went well. Tomorrow, she was going to become a pioneer in medical science.
The doctors here had warned her that this had never been attempted before, and was highly risky. It had only a 5% chance (as best they could estimate, never having done it before) of success. And if it failed (“when it failed” was what they meant, but didn’t say), she would die. Die? She was already dead, in her opinion. As far as she was concerned, this procedure gave her a 5% chance at life. It was a risk she was more than willing to take. It was also atrociously expensive, but she was willing to pay that price as well. What good was all the money in the world when you were living in a dead body? Satisfied that she had made the right decision, she gave herself over to the sedative and went to sleep.
It was their anniversary. They’d been married twenty years today. The cab pulled up to the house, and she got out. She asked the driver to wait, and then walked up to the front door. She rang the doorbell (she’d thrown the key away years ago) and then listened to the sound pf his footsteps coming down the stairs. He opened the door, and his eyes widened. Standing in front of him was the most beautiful woman he ever seen. He quickly recovered and gave her his most winning smile.
“Hel-lo. Can I help you?”
She burst out laughing. This was everything she’d dreamed it would be. The barely-hidden leer in his words were the icing on the cake.
The smile on his face froze, and then faded. He opened the screen door and peered more closely at the perfectly made-up face in front of him.
She knew he’d realized it was her face looking back at him, but it was a face glowing with good health and satisfaction. Then his eyes dropped. Below the neck was not the wasted body he’d last seen on his wife. It was not even the healthy but far from extraordinary body of the bride he’d lost on the plane to
twenty years ago. In fact, it didn’t even remotely look like it could be her body at all. This body was stunning! No, it was drop-dead gorgeous! Hawaii
“Linda!” he exclaimed again, and moved to embrace her.
She stepped out of his reach and smiled again.
“Happy anniversary, Bob. I’ve come to deliver the next installment of our wedding gift.”
She handed him the divorce papers, then turned and walked back to the taxi, knowing his shocked eyes were following her every step. She grinned broadly, and climbed into the cab.
************************************This was written for 10DOM.