Elated, I walked beside my little friend as her wheelchair approached the assembled group. I was proud of her and proud to introduce her to the motley crew I called friends.
"This is Elainie!" I beamed, waving my arms toward her like Vanna White.
The crew just stared. "Uh, Hi," stated the closest member near her when she rolled up. It was Casey. He had been supportive of my crazy idea to bring Elainie to meet my friends. His bright white smile didn't quite reach his eyes as he tried not to stare too hard.
"She just got out of the hospital and is going to come to our school tomorrow!" I continued pushing through the awkwardness. I knew if I just kept going, things would mellow out.
"What was she in for?" ventured Annie, who wanted to be a doctor when she grew up. I knew she would be too curious not to want to meet Elainie.
"She had some surgery on her leg, see her brace? But she can walk on it."
"She can walk?" asked a surprised TJ, who only showed up because he thought meeting Elainie would be a freak show.
"Elainie, you want to walk?" I asked her, my eyes shone with encouragement. She blinked, her cheeks flushed. I worked the levers that released the foot rests on her wheelchair and lifted them out of the way. Then I reached around her and grabbed the belt around her waist. She stood and I steadied her wobbly body. Then with a big smile she walked a few steps to the picnic tables where my friends sat. I held her belt the whole way as her body tilted far forward with the momentum of her steps. She stopped at the bench seat, turned and lowered herself with my steadying hands aiding her movements. I sat beside her.
"I have to sit beside her, because her muscles are weak that support her torso and she could slump and lean over at any moment," I explained. I took a breath. I looked at the confused faces of my friends. They didn't know where to look, what to say, or what to do next. I broke the tension with some information. I feel that the more informed you are, the better you can handle situations.
"Elainie was born with Rhett Syndrome. She was normal until about age 3, when she began to lose physical functions. She can't use her hands, she doesn't talk, and most girls her age who have this syndrome can't walk, so she's pretty special!"
"Yeah, special," muttered TJ, but her was interrupted by Annie, who asked, "Girls? Most girls her age? Like, only girls get this disease?"
"Well girls live with it. If boys are born with it, they die within days."
"Why?" Casey chimed in.
"Because Rhett Syndrome affects the X chromosome and boys only have one. Girls live because they have two X's."
"Cool," Annie was starstruck.
"And Elainie will be in some of our classes. She has normal intelligence, and uses her eyes to communicate. One blink is yes, two is no, and she has this awesome computer that reads her eye movement and she uses it to talk."
"Can we see it?" Casey asked, he loved gadgets.
"Elainie, do you have your computer?"
She blinked twice.
"Sorry guys I guess she left it at home." I was a little disappointed as well, her computer was my biggest bargaining chip in the whole social deal. I knew she could win them over with that. Not that she was doing so bad now. She started to list onto my shoulder.
"Are you tired, Elainie?" One blink. "You want to go back to your chair?" One blink. I helped her back into her chair. My friends stood to leave.
"Nice to meet you, Elainie," nodded Casey, always having the right words to say. "Yeah nice to meet you," chimed the others.
They walked off and Elainie and I began walking toward her house. "Well, that went well." I stated, sighing out all the worry I didn't realize I had. Elainie blinked.