When Trish sleepily came out of her bedroom on Thursday around ten she was surprised to find Shawn awake in the kitchen already, his eyes on his laptop, a steaming coffee mug in his hand, and looking very content.
Sitting there in sweat pants, a plain T-Shirt and sock footed he looked up from his computer, “Good Morning Trish.”
“Morning Shawn, you….” she smiled, “you are all up and ready…wow!”
He looked back at his computer, “Yeah, I couldn’t sleep anymore.”
“What time did you get up?”
He smiled at Trish, “You want some coffee?”
“That sounds great.”
Before she could move, Shawn already had his hands on his rims, spun around, got a mug, and poured Trish some coffee, “You take milk, right?”
Trish was surprised at Shawn’s good mood, “Ah, yes please.”
He handed her the mug, “Here you go.”
She pulled a chair out and sat down, watching him wheel back over.
Trish wrapped her hands around the mug and their eyes met as he pulled up to the table again.
He seemed very positive that morning, “You are in a good mood today?”
Shawn shrugged his shoulders and smiled, “Did you sleep well? No more raccoons knocking on your window.”
“It was quiet last night.”
They sat quiet for a moment, Shawn looking at his computer and Trish drinking coffee.
She wasn’t all the way sure what to make of his mood, “Do you have any plans for today or is there any place you have to go?”
Shawn looked up from his computer, “No, no plans.”
“Do you want to do something fun today?”
She had expected Shawn to be up for some fun seemingly being in the good mood he was in but to her surprise he declined, “Nah, I’m actually O.K. staying here.”
She shrugged her shoulders, “All right.”
He added, “…but if you want to go somewhere, it’s O.K. with me. I can stay here by myself, it’s no problem.”
Trish left to get into the shower and ready. She was somewhat intrigued that Shawn didn’t want to do anything more fun since he seemed to be feeling good.
Shawn was still on his computer when she came back out into the kitchen. He didn’t look at her but kept his eyes on the screen. She felt awkward, he seemed strangely distant.
“Did you eat yet?”
Without looking up he answered, “Yeah, I had cereal.”
Trish got herself something to eat and when she sat back at the table, Shawn didn’t say anything.
She didn’t know what was going on with him and after a while of silence she inquired carefully, “Shawn, are you all right?”
He looked up at her with dark eyes, “Yeah, why?”
Trish was intimidated, “You seem kind of quiet today.”
He leaned his head to the side slightly, “Really…nah, I am just checking my stuff on the computer.”
“O.K...I am sorry, I will leave you alone.”
He didn’t reply anything and turned his eyes back to his computer. Trish started cleaning up around the house and felt strange with Shawn not talking to her.
When in the afternoon they still had barely talked, Trish felt a little angry. Shawn was playing video games now. She walked over to the living room and sat down in the recliner. Shawn kept his eyes on the video games.
Trish started, “Shawn, why are you not talking to me?”
He paused the game and when he looked at her his expression was cool and his eyes seemed darker than usual, “What do you want to talk about?”
“Well, it’s obvious something is going on with you.”
“No, there’s nothing going on with me at all. I just don’t have anything to say right now.”
Trish got up annoyed, “O.k. whatever. I won’t bother you then.”
The afternoon became evening. Trish was working on school stuff all afternoon and then cooked dinner. They only talked when necessary. Even at the dinner table they were very quiet, Trish glanced at Shawn a few times, he ate without looking up.
As Trish was cleaning up the kitchen, Shawn’s cell phone rang and when he answered she realized it was Jesse.
Shawn talked friendly and cheerful to Jesse. He didn’t mention anything about the rough time he had had. Just once he said that the spasms were gone again and he praised Trish for her “superb” assistance. It sounded shallow and unfamiliar the way he said it. Trish became angry again at how Shawn was lying and acting like everything was good. The guys talked for about twenty minutes. As soon as Shawn clicked off on his phone he turned to the TV again without a word to Trish.
She walked over and stood next to the TV, “You’re not going to tell me what you told Jesse or what he said?”
“Nothing special, you heard everything I said.”
“Shawn, whatever your weird deal is right now, I don’t know but it makes me think I may actually have been wrong, you act like an ass right now for sure.”
With that she got back on her computer and did more school work. Shawn stayed silent and when she went to bed that night, he said he didn’t need any help with anything and Trish felt mad and sad at the same time. She didn’t know what was going on with him. He played Video games when she said Good Night at almost eleven and she didn’t hear him go to bed anytime soon.
It was difficult for her to fall asleep with the way things had been during the day. She tried to figure out what the problem was with Shawn and sought the fault on herself but couldn’t think of anything she may have done wrong.
Friday Trish had to work and when Shawn came out of his room around noon, she almost had to leave for work. They still only talked what was necessary and even though she wanted to confront him she didn’t. He stayed distant and not very verbal.
Just when she was getting ready for work he announced, “I may not be here this evening. My cousin is coming over to get me to spend some time with them. They’ll bring me home tonight too. If you want to go somewhere tonight or whatever, it’s fine with me.”
Trish was surprised, “Well, thanks for letting me know now….”
“I just found out last night when my cousin texted me.”
Trish looked at him sternly, “O.K. whatever Shawn….you know…” she felt her voice tremble, “I wish I would know what your deal is right now…did I do something wrong? If so maybe you can let me know where I screwed up along the way…and if you want me out of here, tell me and I will go…you may want to check this with your brother though.”
Her voice had become louder as she was talking. Shawn had his eyes on her and even though they seemed dark, his face had a sad expression to it.
He didn’t say anything and Trish went on, “You know Shawn, I liked you and I really thought you were actually a really cool guy and I thought this was going good with us…I felt like we connected over the last few days with everything that was going on with you but I guess I was wrong to think we could be friends…”
Shawn swallowed and he wanted to say so many things, he didn’t want her to be mad but he couldn’t bring it over himself to say what he really felt.
He stayed silent and Trish felt the knot in her throat when she said, “I will have my cell phone on me if you need to call or whatever. Have fun at your cousins.”
She grabbed her purse and bag with her swim stuff and headed for the door. Shawn was parked in the kitchen and when Trish turned around at the door once more he thought about saying something but he just couldn’t and when she said Good Bye all that came out of his mouth was a scratchy, “Bye Trish. See you later.”
The door shut behind Trish and Shawn stayed in the same spot until he heard her car leave the driveway. He hung his head in mental exhaustion, taking a deep breath. The avoidance tactic and hardly talking to Trish had cost him lots of energy.
Lying in bed the night before he had come up with this plan to protect himself. He knew he was starting to feel more for Trish than he should and in the two sleepless nights so many things were going through his mind and he wanted to find a way to not let get Trish to his head anymore. Keeping the relationship purely professional and not emotional seemed the best way. He wasn’t sure if he could keep this charade up for four more weeks.
He shook his head and said loudly into the empty house, “Fuck!”
He felt stupid and at the same time it hurt him to see her angry at him like she was when she left. He knew she was mad and he was worried a little that she would call Jesse and tell him how he acted weird and then Jesse would be mad at him too. He wheeled into the living room and parked his wheelchair next to the recliner in the living room and for a moment he just sat there. Angry at himself he balled his good hand into a fist and forcefully hit the recliner a few times, at the same time cursing into the room.
He wanted to get up, he wanted to run out the door, get into a car, drive fast and maybe get drunk somewhere but instead he just had to sit there, his body confined to the wheelchair and he couldn’t do anything in those moments of despair, and he wished so much Trish would have never came into his and Jesse’s life.
He waited until his anger subsided somewhat but it didn’t really go away. It stayed inside him and he wanted a drink badly. He wheeled himself to the bathroom to get done and take care of all his procedures.
At least the house was empty now and he could take his time with everything, not having to worry about Trish walking in on him.
His cousin Colby would come over after work around four and pick him up. They had asked if Trish wanted to come along but he told them she had stuff to do and also work, which was actually true. He didn’t want to spend any more time than necessary with her or close to her.
Trish felt depressed all day at work because of the way Shawn had acted. She didn’t know what was going on with him or if it was something she had said or done. She did her job and only when she instructed her water aerobics class that night she was able to get her mind off of Shawn a little. She loved being in the water and it made her feel good to guide and motivate the elderly folks in their endeavors to stay fit and as healthy as possible. She had a way with them and even though sometimes they were difficult, many more times it was rewarding and it always reminded her that nothing lasts and age will come to everyone and every day was special and needed to be enjoyed to the fullest. The water aerobics class was fun and enjoyable, everyone stepped out of the pool refreshed in mind and body.
Just when Trish unlocked her car, her phone rang. It was her friend Tara and while Trish got into her car and closed the door they chatted for a while; Trish just sitting in her car. Tara invited her to come out to one of the local bars to celebrate another friends 30th birthday. Trish agreed to meet them at the bar later on that night. She wanted to go to her apartment first.On her way to her apartment she thought about how Shawn had told her it was O.K. if she wanted to go out at night because he would probably be at his uncle’s house for a while. She decided not to worry about Shawn, he had her number if he needed her.
At her apartment, her roommate Shelley was surprised to see Trish walk in the door, “Hey girl, what are you doing here?”
Trish told her about the situation and they sat down in their small living room and caught up on the news from the week and what all was going on for them. Trish didn’t go into detail about her job with Shawn, she gave Shelley the overall explanation; they talked about college stuff and Shelley’s waitress job at a local bar and her boyfriend.
Trish still had clothes and toiletries at the apartment and at nine p.m. she was on her way to the party. She kept thinking about Shawn and for a moment she thought about calling him but then remembered how he had acted toward her and she decided not to.
Right when she got out of her car in the parking lot of the bar, her phone rang and she saw Jesse’s number and name on the display, “Hey Jesse!”
“Hi Trish, how are you?”
Trish leaned on her car, “I’m O.K. how about you?”
“I’m very tired actually…I just finished talking to Shawn…I see you guys are going separate ways this evening.”
“Yeah…” Trish explained and then added, “I just thought about calling him to check on him.”
“He’s O.K. They’re just hanging out at my uncle’s, playing Video Games, cards, and probably drinking.”
“So, are you O.K. with me not being there with him?”
“Of course. It is no problem! Is everything else O.K. with you and Shawn?”
“Yeah, everything is good.”
Trish was a little nervous as Jesse asked, “Why do I get the feeling something is not right?”
Trish sighed, “Well, for me everything was going good, but Shawn was acting kind of strange lately.”
“What do you mean?”
She told him about Shawn not really talking but she didn’t tell Jesse about Shawn’s spasms during the week and how rough it had been for him. She had promised Shawn she wouldn’t tell Jesse so he wouldn’t worry. She kept her promise.
Jesse finally suggested, “If you want I could come up tomorrow evening and set him straight. I would have to leave Sunday afternoon though.”
“No Jesse, that’s too stressful for you, it’s O.K. I just leave him be and maybe he’ll come around again…I’m O.K. Jesse.”
He paused a moment, then said lowly, “Well, it would have given me an excuse to come and see you.”
Trish felt nervous at his comment.
She liked Jesse but deep inside it was Shawn who she really wanted and she replied softly, “Jesse, why are you saying this? I thought…I thought we agreed on “no strings attached”…”
Jesse replied, “I know but I’m beginning to think I was wrong….” He paused, then said, “I think about you every day.”
“You don’t want to take this any further?”
“Not right now Jesse.”
He sounded sad, “I’m sorry Trish, I shouldn’t have brought it up.”
“Jesse, you’re a great guy, I like you but let’s not rush into anything right now…I mean you have to do your job down there and I am up here with Shawn and we should just focus on that.”
“You’re right Trish….I need to focus on my work here. I am glad you are there for Shawn.”
“How is your project coming along down there anyways?”
It was her way of changing the subject and Jesse went for it and started talking about his work and how things were going for him. They talked for a little while longer and eventually hung up on a friendly note.
Trish fluffed her hair a bit, shook it out again, grabbed her small purse and headed for the door to the bar. The bouncer smiled at her with a greeting, peeked into her purse and gestured her in. Trish hadn’t been out too much lately and felt odd. The place was crowded already, people were laughing, chatting and drinking. She found her friends quickly in the back of the bar.
Everyone was happy to see her, they hugged and laughed. She congratulated her friend Monica for her birthday with a hug and handed her a small gift. The evening was going to be good. Trish didn’t drink, she had to stay sober to be able to drive back to Shawn’s house and maybe if she had to pick him up from his uncles.
Around midnight a text message came in.
It came from Shawn, “I’m staying at my uncle’s house tonight. I’ll be home sometime tomorrow.”
Trish was a bit surprised but it was his decision after all.
She texted the reply, “O.K. I’m out with some of my friends. I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“O.K. have fun!”
The message went off and she was somehow disappointed because she really wanted to be with him. She couldn’t get Shawn out of her head. Instead they were going separate ways now. More and more she felt they needed to be together and she wondered why he didn’t feel it. She enjoyed the company of her friends, everyone was happy to see her but she couldn’t help wishing Shawn would be there with her.
It was around three a.m. in the morning when she pulled into the dimly lit driveway of the old rambler. It surely wasn’t the greatest place to live but she felt oddly drawn to it, maybe because it was where she met Shawn for the first time and it was the place the guys had inhabited for a long time and it housed the loss and tragedy of their life in it. The rambler seemed to be waiting for better times ahead. It wasn’t ready to die yet, but it was up to the guys to bring life into it again.
When she parked she could swear she saw a raccoon hide around the shed. Once she turned her headlights off she focused on the light over the front door. She thought about that she should have stayed in town in her apartment and didn’t know why she had come back out to the house. She got out, locked her car quickly, rushed up the stairs to the door and went into the house really quick. She locked the door from the inside, turned on the light and set her purse down. Rocky the cat came out from somewhere and meowed around her legs.
She fed Rocky and then walked back toward Shawn’s room. Somehow she felt she still needed to check to see if he was really not there. His room was dark and she turned on the light. His sheets were still strewn over the bed, left the way they were when he had gotten up in the morning. She saw his two other pairs of sneakers neatly next to each other by the closet. She walked over to his closet and opened it slowly. T-Shirts were stacked in a shelf on the left, jeans hung on a low bar in the middle of the closet, reachable for Shawn in his chair. There were some hoodies and warmer jackets hanging on a top bar. The shelf on the top had boxes and other items on it. On the bottom right there were three packages of adult briefs and a box filled with catheters and supplies. She closed the door catching a distant scent of Shawn’s cologne.
On the other side of his room was his dresser and she opened the top drawer. There was a dented box with no indication on what was in it. She thought for a moment how it wasn’t right for her to go through Shawn’s things but then she couldn’t resist and opened the box slowly. It contained photos and quickly Trish realized they were all connected to Shawn’s accident. She came across some photos of a very damaged dark green Silverado pick-up truck. It looked like it sat in a car lot somewhere, there were other damaged vehicles visible in some of the photos. The pick-ups front end and part of the roof were totally smashed in, pieces of metal hanging everywhere. The driver’s side door was detached, badly damaged, leaning on the side of the truck. Trish knew this had to have been Shawn’s truck.
She slid down onto the carpet and put the truck pictures to the side, then skimming through the other photos and was shaky when she eventually held pictures of Shawn in her hands. Pictures of him in the hospital, obviously the ICU. He was attached to different kinds of IV tubing and monitors, his head held in a neck brace, his legs covered up with the sheets. His expression was serious and almost surprised.
There was a picture with him in the bed and Jesse leaning down next to him, smiling weakly into the camera but giving a thumbs up. A few pictures showed Shawn in the hospital with nurses and one with a doctor. When she turned the pictures around to see if there was a description of some sort, there was nothing.
She then came across some photos of Shawn in a wheelchair, wearing lounge pants, only socks and a plain T-Shirt. It looked like he was either in the hospital or in a rehab center. He didn’t smile, his hair was somewhat long. There were other pictures seemingly in the same building with therapists or nurses. In one picture Shawn was actually in leg braces standing between some parallel bars, holding on with his hands and a therapist standing behind him smiling into the camera. Shawn didn’t smile in any of the photos, he didn’t even look into the camera for most of the pictures.
One more picture showed Shawn, fully dressed in his own blue TiLite wheelchair and Jesse standing next to him outside a building, possibly the rehab center Shawn had been in. It seemed like a “last day” sort of picture, Jesse smiling, Shawn looking seriously into the camera.
Trish’s vision had become blurry from the tears that had formed while looking through the pictures. She could almost feel the pain Shawn must have been through and she knew these pictures had been in the box and the dresser for a while.
How could she be so drawn to him in the wheelchair and paraplegic when the situation was so difficult for him? She felt wrong for being attracted to him in that way. She put all the pictures back in the box. For a moment she thought about putting them back in the order she remembered she had found them in but then she didn’t think Shawn would open the box anytime soon. He wouldn’t know. She put the box back in the drawer and closed it.
Her teary eyes turned to the crutches and the braces in the corner of his room. She looked at the braces a bit closer and felt the familiar tingle thinking about Shawn wearing them. She would really love to see him in them sometime. She sighed and walked out of the room, turning off the light.