Three years later
I had plans, goals and dreams like every human being. A twist of fate changed everything in the blink of an eye. After a rough patch, life has been good to me again. I met the woman of my dreams and if my plans and goals were put on hold for a while, I could still achieve what I started. It may not be the way I predicted my future, but I am blessed for how things turned out in the end. I even have a rewarding job in my field of predilection, and I think the league is satisfied with my way of coaching. Our results are good and I am going all out for the team. Our trips and transfers are perfectly organized and I am overcoming my fear of flying. I am just concentrating on my bladder control, in order to avoid the indwelling catheter. I decided to wear my braces on the plane for all flights lasting more than three hours. My friends know the drill and help me up and hand me my crutches when I need them; same for my wheelchair when we get on and off the chartered buses. They know how to disassemble and reassemble it and store it in a practical spot. As I obviously can’t get on buses on my own, I had a hard time accepting helping hands to carry me on board at the beginning. Now it became such a natural routine, I don’t even pay attention, when I am lifted out of my chair. I miss Cassie when I am away more than three days in a row, but we are so happy to see each other when I come back, it is worth the wait. She comes with me to many games across the country and surprises me from time to time, much to my delight. When we are apart we spend hours on the phone as soon as I arrive in my hotel room. It is a good way to make up for our lack of physical touch. The only problem is our short nights together and the tough early morning awakenings.
We know Cassie’s ex Jeffrey, still lives in Switzerland. We heard he has a new girlfriend and I truly hope he overcame his psychological issues, but as long as he never comes back in our lives I feel a bit ashamed to say I don’t care.
Cassie has the car of her dreams. She always wanted a mini Cooper to replace her old new Beetle and one day she found one in the parking garage wrapped in ribbons. It was her twenty sixth’s birthday and I knew it would be a useful present. Crying with emotion she nonetheless was hesitant to accept it as a gift, “Oh, Matt what did you do? It has all the options. I don’t know how I will be able to match this present.”
“You already did. You are my best gift and you are my wife. I want to spoil you the way you deserve. We only live once, so let’s enjoy what we have down here.”
One night we come home after a really bad game. I need some air to release the pressure and I go on the balcony with a drink making sure the window is closed behind me. I still am very upset and seething, when I hear the glass door slide. Cassie is sticking her head out focusing on me in order not to look at the void. I am baffled when she sets a foot outside, “Cass what are you doing here?”
“I don’t like to see you angry and maybe I can help to make you feel better.”
I extend my hand and ask her in a calm and reassuring voice, “Come here with me Baby. I already feel better seeing you here. Don’t be afraid, I’ll hold you. I’m right here.”
I see a great fear in her eyes but also a brave willpower. She extends her own hand toward mine and when our fingers touch, I gently pull her down on my lap. She grabs me shakily and she buries her face in my chest. I caress her hair planting little kisses on her temple. We stay like this for a long time, not wanting to let go. As I tighten my embrace a wave of emotion invades my heart. I feel hers pounding in harmony against mine as if we are one. I want to show her she is safe and protected in my arms, even on a 39th floor balcony. Nonetheless when I feel she is still trembling and not ready to open her eyes to the amazing views, I take her back in. My anger is forgotten, so glad I could make her come out on the balcony for the first time. She confronted her fright for me and that’s another proof of love. She only did it once though, but I found it encouraging.
I stayed in contact with Tim who luckily healed completely. He shouldn’t have any complications from the accident. As planned I offered him one of my stick and a Black Hawks jersey that I both autographed, and he constantly harasses his mother to take him to the games. She most of the times complies and I think she enjoys hockey too. I happily noticed she recently brought a male friend along. He is the retired soldier from the Rehab center and my hunch happened to be right. Something was going on between those two. I am really happy for them. I simply hope Tim will like the man the way he likes me. Maybe I should step back from his life for a while. Tim has to know him better to get close, and I don’t think me hanging out with him often is a good thing for their relationship. The time he is spending with me is less time with his mother’s new boyfriend. I don’t want him to do any comparison, or let him think he has a choice. In a word, I don’t want to mess up with his emotions. For that he needs time to adjust and I shouldn’t be in the picture any longer. At least for now.
After another stormy relationship, a disheartened Abby put her love life on the back burner for a few months until she met someone worthy of interest. She seems to have found her match. Her new date is also a nurse at the same hospital she is working at. He is a serious and sensible guy three years older than her, and he passed the Vincent family test. We like him, and as our opinion is important to her, she is beaming. And last but not least, from a football fan we managed to turn him into a hockey fan as well, undoubtedly another positive point to his credit. Most of the time he is with us for the week-end gatherings and we wiped his shyness off in no time.
Ted and Melissa got married two summers ago and I was my friend’s best man as promised. We see each other from time to time and go out together. If Cassie and Melissa are relatively getting along, I know they are not the best of friends though, and my guess is they will never be. Cassie can’t put aside the thought she was my school sweetheart and longtime girlfriend and I can’t do anything about a woman’s jealousy, especially if she is mine. To tell you the truth, it is kind of appealing to me. It proves I belong to her, body and soul and I find it more touching than troubling. I can only love her more for that. Melissa is still nervous around me and if she seems happy with Ted, I sense she persistently has second thoughts, feeling somewhat guilty of our past. Could also be she has some remaining feelings for me, but honestly on my part I don’t. Past is past. And I better leave it, otherwise my wife will see to it. Not long after I proposed to Cassie, we got married two months after Mel and Ted. It was an intimate and romantic ceremony on a yacht on Lake Michigan. I say intimate because it was just family and friends, but a large part of the NHL Chicago team are my friends. There were a hundred and fifty guests on the boat but the atmosphere was relaxed and unsophisticated. I know Cassie’s humble tastes and it was my choice too. Obviously her folks were here and the son-in-law/parents-in-law relationships have never been better. However I will still wonder if for them I am a good husband because I can provide for their daughter, or if they like me for my inner qualities. I expect it to be a bit of both.
My wedding surprise was mostly for the bride, but I made quite an impression on everyone else as well. They were all awestruck. I walked down the aisle standing up on my crutches and we could exchange our vows at eye level; more accurately, I was the one looking down at her for once. My utmost reward was to discover the satisfied and longing look on her loving face. When it came to putting the wedding band on her finger and kiss her it was a bit perilous, but I practiced before and I could stand without crutches just the time to do both. I suspected Abby and my parents to be right behind to watch over me. During the party I had to sit here and there frequently, but I only went back to my wheelchair twice. Once was to grant my wife the pleasure of the first dance, which I unfortunately could only do seated, and the second time was to get out of the boat. I never stayed up that long and I might have overestimated myself for that special occasion. I don’t regret it though, even if our wedding night began with a terrible spasm attack. Be reassured, it ended up in an ardent and tender passion after a soothing and skillful massage.
We still make love as if we met yesterday. You would think from my lack of motion and the fairly limited positions, that making love would be dull and boring in the end, but on the contrary, it is wild and sensual at the same time. My emotions and sensibility are enhanced since I am paralyzed. Maybe my mind is making up for my physical deficiencies. We don’t need the blue pill to fulfill our needs, but I sometimes take it to satisfy my male ego. Cassie never asks for this because she is anxious something bad could happen to me, but she doesn’t dissuade me either. So my guess is she finds some pleasure in this too. I still have spasms and cramps on a regular basis and I always will, but as long as they don’t bother Cassie they don’t annoy me anymore either. I got over it long ago and I have to live with that anyway. I have such an understanding and caring wife, it’s compensating for the health issues I am experiencing from time to time. She is always there for me but never in an overwhelming way. She knows what she is doing and I let her be in charge when it comes to my physical urgencies and intimate needs. I try to always be positive and make the best of it. When I have my down periods, she has her own way to reach out to me, lifts my spirits up and today those moments of depression seldom occur.
I know Ted and Melissa are trying hard to have a baby and paradoxically we are the ones who had a little girl three months ago. Yes, I’m a daddy! I think I never cried so much in my life when I held this fragile newborn in my arms for the first time. I had doubts I could ever father children. Medically speaking it was a long shot and not a done deal. Cassie had to put up with painful and tedious treatments before one in vitro fertilization process succeeded. At one point I was so desperate to be the cause of her distress, I wanted her to give up on the idea. I should have known she would never comply. She is not a quitter and she was the one to cheer me up and give me hopes. Her tenacity and persistence paid off. We have a beautiful Ava who has her mother’s mesmerizing looks and according to my wife: my laid-back temper. I am the happiest dad on earth. I know many people in our entourage call our child ‘the miracle baby’, but I don’t want to think that way. I feel so confident now that I will do anything to give her a brother or a sister. It worked once so why not again, why not another miracle? Maybe it will take some time or fail in the end, but we are both iron-willed, ready to give it another shot. Our parents and Abby are of course thrilled, but I assume also relieved because I know it was everyone’s concern.
I was there for the birth of my child. I wouldn’t have missed this precious moment for anything in the world. From now on, I stay home as much as I can, skipping the longest trips. My family will always come first. Cassie went back to work and I love when I can spend some time alone with my little girl. We have a nanny but when I happen to be home, I am the only one to look after my baby. Since we had her, I didn’t do a lot of standing and you can easily guess why. I want to be able to cuddle her in my arms and that’s what I do every occasion I have.
“Please Matt, she has been asleep for an hour already, put her back in her crib. She is going to get bad habits to always be in your arms.”
With this, I give my lovely wife my best charming smile, but it is the only wish I am totally unable to grant her. She knows it and I always find a way to make amends in the intimacy of our bedroom.