My words come out harsher than I intend; I do not need to see Sadie to sense the wretched grimace of sorrow her face twists into. "I'm sorry," I say to her, hoping she recognizes the sincerity in my voice. I don't want to lose her. She is all I have.
There is an achingly long silence in the courtyard, as if everyone else is also waiting for her response. The seconds tick by at an infuriatingly slow pace.
Relief floods through my tired bones when her tinkling voice replies, "It's okay, Lane. I shouldn't have tried to hide the truth from you." Her typically cheerful voice sounds dampened, but I can still sense the usual hopefulness lurking somewhere just under the surface. I push my ragged mouth into a grin, flashing my teeth in her direction.
"No harm done. Why don't we go back inside?"
"Do you want me to leave?" Her voice fills with what I have determined is her fear of rejection, and I speak quickly to dispel those thoughts.
"No, no, don't go. The sun just isn't what I thought it would be..." I can't help but include a little grimness in my speech; I am a self-loathing cripple, it is hard to speak only in the positive.
Sadie's voice immediately perks back up, almost as though nothing had happened, as though our bitter conversation had been a hallucination. "Back inside it is!" She clearly just wants to make me happy, especially after having hidden the truth from my blind eyes.
As she rolls me in my wheelchair through the hospital hallways, she chats amiably about what is going on with her life. I can barely pay attention to the words because her presence is distracting in itself. The perfume she wears is exquisite, and combines so perfectly with her natural scent it is as though she is the sweetest flower. Her lilting tones and quiet exclamations send shivers down my vertebrae. In the places where our skin just barely touches, I can feel a tingle of unusual warmth. I love the fact that she isn't afraid to touch me.
But I sigh inwardly. These are not thoughts I can allow to occur. Sadie and I cannot and never will be. She is beautiful, and whole, and has so much to live for. I am crippled, and broken, and can hardly find a reason to continue on most days. Without her I would have already given up. Still, sometimes she permeates my dreams, and for one instant I imagine what it would be like to hold her. Those are the worst dreams, even though they are the best. And yet I hope for them every night without fail; I want the fantasy, if only in my dreams. I want to look into Sadie’s eyes, if only in a dreamland of never-will-be.
I am roughly snapped from my daydreaming by our arrival back at my room. Sadie calls Teresa, and together they haul me back into bed. As the sound of Teresa leaving reaches my ears, Sadie pulls up a chair next to my bed.
Her hand brushes against mine, magical for a moment, and she speaks in a somber tone. "I want you to be happy, Lane. What truth may I tell you?"