Lately, when my parents visited, they took me to the outdoor patio for lunch. It was a nice break from the rehab routine. Generally, my mother fed me my lunch, which was way better than having an aide do it. I was gradually getting used to the idea that I wasn’t going to be able to feed myself anymore. Dr. Greenly did another physical exam where he put his hand on my biceps and felt for a twitch, but there was nothing there. We continued doing electrical stimulation in occupational therapy, but it still wasn’t enough for me to do any real, coordinated arm movements.
Today I was eating chicken and mashed potatoes. My mother had cut the chicken into small pieces for me and was leisurely feeding it to me while we talked. They had attached a cup to my wheelchair and I had a long straw so that I could take sips whenever I wanted.
“The construction to the house is coming along really well,” Mom told me. “We should be done within the month. I’m so excited about having you home, Nicky.”
“Me too,” I said. Which was mostly true. I wanted to go home, but I was also nervous. While I was in rehab, everything still felt temporary. Once I went home, that would make it real.
We were quiet for a little while as Mom fed me and Dad messed around with his Blackberry. My father was always busy, always doing like three things at once. It was actually sort of amazing he came here to visit me, but it was mostly because he worked the whole time. He basically never looked up from his Blackberry and took about a dozen calls during every visit. I knew I had to get his attention and bring up Savannah’s requests, but I didn’t know how.
“Hey, are you casting for Water High?” I asked Dad, out of nowhere.
Dad looked up from his Blackberry and gave me a weird look. I used to be really interested in his movies when I was a kid and always used to tag along with him on his trips to the sets, but that stopped when I become a teenager. These days, I never asked him about his movies or expressed any interest in what he did. “Yeah,” he said, his big bushy eyebrows narrowing at me. My father was the hairiest man in Hollywood.
“You know who would be great for the part of Rita?” I said, already feeling really lame. “Savannah.”
Dad’s bushy eyebrows shot up. “You mean your girlfriend?”
I felt my cheeks getting hot. “Yeah.”
My parents exchanged looks. I knew they were thinking she was using me, but that wasn’t true at all. I mean, it wasn’t Savannah’s fault that she also cared about her career. If there was something I could do to help her, then it seemed like as her boyfriend, I ought to do it.
“So,” I said, clearing my throat. “Do you think she could get an audition?”
“I don’t know about that, Nick,” Dad said. “Rita is a big part. And we already got Miley Cyrus interested in the role.”
Miley Cyrus, Savannah’s “rival”. It was almost ironic.
“Please, Dad,” I said. “It would mean a lot to us.”
Dad sighed really loudly. If I were anyone else but his son, he’d have said no. But he always had a lot of trouble saying no to me. “Can the girl act?”
“Sure,” I lied.
“Well, then, she should get an audition,” Mom spoke up, nudging my father. He grumbled and nodded. Even though my father ran a billion dollar company, it was amazing how my mother still made a lot of the important decisions.
I wanted to ask for the collagen injections next, but the words stuck in my throat. Not that my parents had anything against plastic surgery. My mother was 48 and looked ten years younger, thanks to Botox and a facelift. You just can’t live in this town and not succumb to plastic surgery.
But I knew what they’d think if I asked for money for Savannah to get her collagen. They’d think she was definitely using me, even though that wasn’t the case. I could see how it would seem that way to a person who didn’t know us, but the truth was that Savannah was broke. It wasn’t unreasonable to ask her rich boyfriend to help her out.
“Nick, honey,” Mom said. She’d been holding a fork in front of my mouth and I hadn’t even noticed. “Are you okay? Not hungry anymore?”
“I guess not,” I said.
Mom removed the napkin she’d tucked into my collar and wiped my lips. I felt anxious about what I was going to tell Savannah. I’d become really scared by the idea of her leaving me. After all, if she left me, what chance did I have of ever getting another girlfriend again?
Jane had been doing my aggressive stretching of my arms and legs. The muscle tone was getting really bad and they’d already started me on a medication for it. The medication did nothing, as far as I could tell, besides make me tired. Right now, Jane was trying to stretch out my hands, and my fingers were refusing to go straight anymore.
My legs were even more of an annoyance. When someone moved them, they would start jumping on their own. Before Jane could strap me into my wheelchair, we had to wait a good minute for the muscle spasms to stop. It didn’t hurt, but I still hated it.
“I’m going to talk to Dr. Greenly about increasing your baclofen for spasms,” Jane told me, as she straightened my fingers against hers. “And I’m going to have to make you a new splint. You’re starting to get some skin breakdown.”
She showed me the red areas on my knuckles. I knew my healing ability was shit, so getting a sore would be really bad for me. But I hated the idea of increasing my medication. It really knocked me out.
“I’m fine,” I said. “I don’t need more meds.”
As if on cue, Jane brushed against my leg and it started jumping like I was trying to dance or something. “I disagree,” she said. “If the tone gets really bad in your legs, you can dislocate your hip. Or not be able to wear shoes anymore. And you see what it’s doing to your arms.”
“It makes me really tired though,” I complained.
“Well,” Jane said thoughtfully. “There’s a pump that we could surgically implant in your abdomen that would deliver baclofen directly to your spinal cord. That would help a lot with the spasms in your legs. What do you think?”
So these were my options. Another surgery to put a pump in my spine, a medication that knocked me out, or horrible spasms. “Fine, just increase the medication,” I mumbled.
“That’s m’boy,” Jane said, winking at me.
She kept stretching my hand out and it made me think of how long it had been since a woman held my hand for real. Savannah never touched my hands, and I didn’t really blame her. I liked watching Jane massaging and stretching my hands though. I could almost imagine the soft feel of her skin against mine. Even though Jane was really strong, her hands seemed somehow delicate.
“Don’t worry,” Jane said. “Your parents will probably get you some awesome therapists to stretch you out at home. I bet you’ll do fine.”
“So you won’t stretch me out anymore?” I asked.
As soon as I said it, I blushed. I didn’t want Jane to get the idea that I was flirting with her.
The awkward silence was broken by Savannah's entrance into the room. Whatever else you can or can't say about that girl, she sure knows how to make an entrance. She came in, her blond hair shiny and loose down her back, her face carefully painted to make her appear as if she was wearing no make-up at all, and her perfume overpowering. She was really beautiful and it made me wish more than anything that she wouldn't dump me.
"Hey, there, sweetness," Savannah sang, sashaying up to me and touching my shoulder.
Jane ignored Savannah’s presence, but I could hear the irritation in her voice. “All right, Nick. Let’s practice doing a weight shift now.”
I was supposed to do weight shifts every thirty minutes to keep from getting a pressure sore. There was a button near my head that I pressed, and the entire seat would tilt back in space so that I’d be staring up at the ceiling. I had to stay that way for about two minutes.
“Can’t you do that later?” Savannah said. “I just got here.”
Jane straightened up and stared at Savannah, looking pissed off. "Savannah, we're in the middle of a therapy session. If you're not willing to be part of the session, I'd like you to wait outside."
"I won't be a bother," Savannah said, smiling sweetly. "I just had a little question for Nicky."
She didn't have to ask me the question. She gave me a stern look and I knew what she wanted to know. "You got the audition," I said.
Savannah's eyes brightened for a moment, then she said, "And what about the collagen?"
I swallowed. "It's not... he won't... I'm sorry, Savannah. I really tried."
I tried to smile. "But you got the audition. I mean, isn't that the most important thing?"
"I suppose," she said thoughtfully. Then she added, "If I get the part."
"You will," I assured her, even though I thought there wasn't much chance of her actually getting the part. I mean, if she was up against Miley Cyrus, what chance did she actually have? But I’d work on making her understand, and maybe some other role would come up in the meantime.
"Okay," Savannah said, somewhat placated, although I knew she wasn't going to let me off the hook just yet. "I'll come back later, I guess. Goodbye, Nick. Bye, Jean."
Jane didn't bother to correct her. But when Savannah was gone, I could barely bring myself to look at Jane. When I did, she looked outraged. I actually felt a little physically scared of this skinny girl. Not that I could defend myself against anyone anymore.
"What the fuck was that about, Nick?" Jane asked me.
"No big deal," I mumbled. "Savannah wanted a part in one of my dad's movies. It's pretty reasonable, I think."
"And she wanted you to pay for plastic surgery?" Jane spat.
"I guess," I mumbled. "Anyway, I'm not doing it."
"Don't you have any fucking respect for yourself?"
"I guess I don't." At first I was embarrassed that Jane caught me, but now I started to get angry. Who the fuck was she to tell me that I couldn't help Savannah with her career? That wasn't such an awful thing. "This isn't any of your business, Jane."
Jane narrowed her eyes at me. "You're right. It isn't."
And after that, she didn't mention it again. I was worried she was going to be huffy for the rest of our session but she wasn't. She just acted like the whole thing didn't happen.