Friday, January 1, 1993

Forging Ahead

“Can you make the first Friday of next month, Ms. Limonov?” Mara nodded and took the appointment card from the perky receptionist. “Okay, you’re all set. See you next month!”

Perky people annoyed Mara. There was nothing authentic about the overly eager personna, and this receptionist was no exception. If this wasn’t the best doctors office in the city, she’d probably leave and seek recovery elsewhere.

Preferably somewhere without perky, cheerleader types.

As it were, that wasn’t really possible. Dr. Elizabeth Reacher was the one who had developed the antidote for the disablement serum. She was the only doctor who truly knew the ins and outs and the full effects of what it did. Mara knew that having  her assigned as her doctor was more than luck; and, she had a feeling her grandmother was really behind it. Regardless, she knew she’d only made the strides in physical recovery that she had because Dr. Reacher was her physician.

So, she put up with the annoying woman once a month.

After all, things could be worse. She reminded herself of that as she walked behind a man in a bulky wheelchair being pushed by a petite woman. Mara presumed the woman was the man’s attendant since, judging from the bulky wheelchair, he couldn’t do much on his own.

That could’ve easily been her. She shuddered at the thought. As she continued walking behind the pair, she stared at the wheelchair and her mind drifted back to a few weeks ago when she’d seen Jake at the bar. Of course, she hadn’t really seen him, per se, just his back, but she’d seen that he was out and about and alive and well-ish.

And still ignoring her calls.

As soon as she was back at her apartment that night she’d given him a call. One single call, to catch up and thank him for the glass of wine, and to find out what the hell had been going on with him for the last six months. The call had yet to be returned.

“Excuse me?” The lady in front of her, the one with the man in the wheelchair, turned around and pulled her out of her reverie. “Would you mind holding the door so I can push him through?”

Mara sighed. She hated it when strangers talked to her. Especially when they asked for help. But even she wasn’t going to ignore someone that addressed her directly. Unlike some people, she thought to herself bitterly, still thinking of Jake. She nodded curtly and grabbed the door handle, opening it wide for the woman and man to go through. As soon as they had, she dropped the handle like a hot potato, not wanting to get trapped holding it open for every criminal on their way into Dr. Reacher’s office.  

Her mind wandered as she walked slowly back to the bus stop. Dr. Reacher’s office was on the outskirts of the city. A car had shown up at her apartment this morning to take her to her appointment, but she’d staunchly refused. Instead, she’d told the little porter boy that she was taking the bus. Of course, the bus didn’t run regularly anymore, so it was a crapshoot on whether you’d get to where you were going on time, or if you’d be able to get back to the city before curfew.

It seemed today was her lucky day though, she thought as a bus came rumbling up to the stop. The door opened and she stepped through them, dropped a few coins into the meter, and headed towards the back. Usually it was a race to pay your money and get seated before the buses sped off down the road. Today however, the bus remained idling as a pair of guys -- one in a bulky, slightly reclined wheelchair, the other who looked to be his attendant -- worked on lowering the handicapped ramp in the back.

Her lucky day indeed. She didn’t have a good view of the man in the wheelchair but she recognized the attendant from the bar the other day.


“Wait!” Even though Jake and his attendant hadn’t completely gotten off yet, the front doors were already closed and the driver was revving the engine up. She hurriedly made her way to the front, tripping slightly on her still clumsy feet and legs that only cooperated half the time. “I’m getting off.”

The driver grumbled but opened the doors anyway. The doors seemed to open at a glacial pace and in the time it took her to get off the bus, Jake and the other man had disembarked completely and were about thirty yards away. She walked as fast as she could to catch up. When she was about ten feet behind them, she called his name, ready for him to turn around so she could light into him and demand answers for his stony silence for the past seven months.

At the sound of his name, Jake stopped. Slowly, he turned his wheelchair around to face her. For the first time since her grandmother’s birthday, Mara found herself face to face with Jake Maher. And as she did, every hateful, demanding question and query left her, replaced instead with shocked silence.

She’d only seen his back at the bar, but looking at him now, head on,  it was obvious the toll that his sentence had taken on him and how it had progressed. Jake sat reclined in the bulky wheelchair completely still with a strap over his chest and his lap effectively holding him upright. Even so, he sagged a little in the seat. His left arm rested lifelessly on an armrest. His right armrest though ended with a U-shaped rest. His wrist was placed in the crook of it and Mara guessed that he must still be able to use his right arm well enough to drive his wheelchair, or something.

He looked small and shrunken and exhausted. And for the first time since she’d met him, Jake seemed truly disabled, like his sentence was truly a punishment and not simply an  inconvenience.

Jake grinned as she stared and his piercingly blue eyes sparkled with a glint. At least that hadn’t changed. He nodded towards her bag, and in a soft, weak voice said, “I see you still have the pointer-reacher I gave--.”

“It’s about time you showed your fucking face,” Mara said cutting him off while trying not to choke on her own words. Damn it. Why was she feeling emotional? “Friends don’t usually just disappear on each other for months on end without any notice, you know.”

“They do in a world ruled by this government.”The snark in his weak voice made Mara grin despite herself. It seemed the old Jake was still there, just trapped inside a body that had deteriorated significantly. Jake sighed. “It’s been a rough couple months, Mara. I’m sorry I wanted to deal with it on my own.”

Mara was torn between wanting to rip him a new one and wanting to simply pick up where they’d left off. Well, maybe not exactly where they’d left off -- she wasn’t even sure if he’d be able to do that in his current state -- but somewhere in that area. She didn’t have to make the decision though, because before she could think much longer the wiry looking man with wild hair that was with Jake spoke for the first time. “We need to get inside, Jake. Gotta be there in ten minutes.”

“Fuck. Forgot where we were on our way to Elizabeth’s.”  Jake closed his eyes for a moment and took a shallow breath. When he opened them, he was looking straight at Mara. “I’m done in a few hours here. How about a round at the bar to catch up around 4:00? On me, to make up for my extended absence,” he added with a familiar looking smile.

It wasn’t like she had anything going on. It was Friday and she’d taken the rest of the afternoon off of work. Rachel had been called in on another raid. And other than going to work, hanging out with Rachel, and going to her physical therapy, she didn’t do much else. Unless you count annoying her grandmother’s errand boy on a semi-daily basis.

She knew she’d regret it if she didn’t. “I’ll see you there at 4:00.”

Jake grinned, turned his chair slowly back around, and headed inside to his own appointment with Dr. Reacher.