After about three weeks after I started to stay in my room and a week before Aunt Jane’s wedding, Noel had had enough of my mourning.
She marched into our bedroom and looked me straight in the eye.
That’s when I knew Noel meant business.
She looked at me for a second. I could tell that she struggling to say something to me. She then said the most words I believe I’d ever heard her say up until that time.
“Nobody say you find heaven in accident away. You may no know till deathbed. But you loved. You family. You purpose,” Noel said.
I was shocked. I had no idea how Noel knew about me finding heaven everywhere. I didn’t think that Noel understood that I felt like I had no purpose. But somehow she understood and what she said changed my life.
It started to ran just then. To some people that wouldn’t seem like something to be happy about, but to Noel it was the best miracle ever.
“Come!” Noel shouted. She pointed to my wheelchair. I transferred from the bed to the wheelchair.
Noel pushed me out the door and down the hall.
“Slow down!” Yule shouted as Noel zipped past him.
Noel burst the front door open and pushed me out into the rain.
“Feel!” Noel shouted running around in the rain. She was laughing and dancing. It was amazing how happy she was about such a simple thing as rain.
“Pray!” Noel screamed.
I screamed. It wasn’t really a prayer, but I screamed. I screamed with everything inside of me. I let all my anger go out of me with one big, long scream.
“Are you girls crazy?” Yule asked running out of the house. “You’re going to get yourselves sick!”
I held out my hand and let the rain dribble into it. One of life’s greatest pleasures is to just sit and let the rain fall into your hand. To just sit and forget about all your worries and just think about how awesome the rain feels.
“Kids, what are you doing?”
I turned my head around to confirm my suspicion. Daddy stood there was an umbrella in his left hand and two under his left arm.
“I love you,” I said rolling up to him and hugging his abdomen.
“I love you too, honey bear,” Daddy smiled patting my head.
“Rain!” Noel shouted. She took an umbrella from under Daddy’s arm causing the second one to fall. Yule picked up the other one and handed it to me.
“Yule! Noel! Natalie! And Steve! Please be the parent!” Momma cried in disgust from the doorway. “You’re gonna get sick!”
Noel ran to Momma pulled her hand out in the rain. Momma smiled at her and Noel gave Momma’s belly a hug.
I rolled slowly back towards the house. I didn’t want to get out of the refreshing rain, but Yule was holding the door open waiting for me.
I’ll never forget the day I discovered rain’s mental medicinal purposes.
I did get a slight cold from playing in the rain, but I was right as rain by Aunt Jane’s wedding.
But at the reception, I had yet another blow.
I watched everybody (except my parents) dance on the floor. It was hard not to think about how almost a year ago I had been on that exact dance floor swaying in Darcy’s arms.
“You all right?” Darcy asked looking up from his third piece of cake.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” I asked.
“You look really mad about something,” Darcy said stuffing cake in his mouth.
“It’s just hard to watch all these people dance,” I shrugged. “It’s like thirty people eating peanut butter sandwiches in your face.”
Darcy laughed at my allergy joke. He picked me up out of my wheelchair.
“Put me down!” I giggled as Darcy carried me to the dance floor.
“You’ve gotten heavier,” Darcy said.
“Its never polite to talk about a woman’s weight,” I joked. Darcy blushed.
“You know there’s a wheelchair dance instructor in North Adams,” Darcy said. “Her name is Ms. Etta. She used to teach youth group at church before Ms. Erin took over. She was hit by a car when she was in college, but she never stopped dancing. She and her husband were really good. They won the Pittsfield Dancing Globe five years ago before her husband, Bill, died.”
“How do you know all of this?” I asked as I slowly slipped out of Darcy’s arms.
“Ms. Etta’s my grandmother,” Darcy sheepishly. I dropped to the ground and Darcy picked me up.
“You call your grandmother Ms. Etta?” I asked. Darcy shrugged.
“I’m sure she would teach you how to dance,” Darcy said. “She’s dying to meet you but she’s been in and out of the hospital lately. Nothing major really. She just keeps getting sick. Flus and that kind of stuff.”
“I don’t know,” I started, “who’s going to drive us? Your mother is busy. My mother gave up driving weeks ago. My dad can’t drive with his arm in his sling…”
“I’ll drive,” Jaci butted in. “Problem solved.”
“I don’t know…,” I started.
“How hard can it be?” Darcy asked.
Famous last words.
“You must be Natalie,” Ms. Etta said rolling up to Darcy and I. I nodded.
“You look even prettier in real life,” Ms. Etta said. “Did Darcy tell you I’m his grandmother?”
“Yes, Mrs. Chadwick,” I said. Ms. Etta waved her hand.
“Nobody calls me Mrs. Chadwick,” Ms. Etta said. “I’ve never liked the sound of married name nor did I like to sound of my maiden name so everybody has always called me, Ms. Etta, even my own children! People have been referring to me as Ms. Etta ever since I was seven years old. Nobodies hardly ever called me Mrs.”
“Now, I have to know what kind of paraplegic you are, Natalie,” Ms. Etta said. “That way I know what moves you can do and can’t do.”
“I’m a considered a complete L1 paraplegic, but I have a slight break in T12. I have feeling in my waist and a little bit of movement in it too,” I said.
“Ok,” Ms. Etta said. “You have a good range of mobility. You’re entire upper body is free and moving. I’m an incomplete T12 paraplegic. I used to be able to take tiny steps but in my old age I don’t even try anymore. I’ve gained a lot of sensory feeling though and I’m thankfully for that.”
There was a little bit of awkward silence. Sometimes its hard for an incomplete paraplegic and a complete paraplegic to talk about their injuries. For the incomplete there’s great hope for them to walk again. For complete there’s almost absolutely no hope. but strangely my family hasn’t given up hope that I will one day walk again. And if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s to always have hope.
“So your sister’s wedding is the first Saturday in June?” Ms. Etta asked after a couple of awkward seconds. I nodded.
“Let’s see, it’s the third week in March so that gives us about thirteen weeks,” Ms. Etta said. “Its cutting it real close, but I think we’ll have you dancing by then.”
“So before you love struck teens start, I would like to warn you,” Ms. Etta said. “I have been teaching dance for about thirty years now and have been competing for almost fifty years and most of those fifty years I’ve spent in a wheelchair. And in my lifetime, I have seen hundreds of couples break up because of dance! I’ve taught over five hundred engaged couples and have broken up over one hundred of them. Dancing is about getting to know your partner in ways you’ve never thought possible. In freestyle dancing, which is what I teach the most, it’s all about talking to your partner without talking. I know that may seem impossible but if you stick with this, you’ll soon get to know your partners body language in ways you probably wouldn’t have considered! But just about everyone of my students, including the ones I have broken up, have seen me some time or another and have thanked me. Whether it was because I saved them from a horrible marriage or because they feel like their marriage works better because they know each other so well. Now that I have warned the two of you are you ready to start wheelchair dancing?”
Nope, and I didn’t think I’d ever be, but Darcy and I said yes not knowing how much these lessons would change us.
Every single thing Ms. Etta said came true.
After the first lesson, there was a whole lot of tension between us. By the third lesson, we official hated each other. By the fifth lesson, I was wondering how in the world we had made it this far.
Ms. Etta clearly sensed the new found hatred Darcy and I had for each other. She was pretty tense during the lessons too. She kept calling us love struck teens though, but we felt more hate struck if you ask me.
Our real problem was trying to learn one of the easiest moves Ms. Etta was trying to teach us. She called it the Back Step. It was really simple. Darcy would walk backwards while I rolled towards him. We got that part down on the first lesson, but the Double Back Step…now that was a challenge. Darcy would walk back and I would rolled towards him, but then he was supposed to walk towards me and I was supposed to roll backwards. Now that was hard. I never knew when Darcy was going to start walking forward and just about every time I ran over his foot.
Now I know you’re probably like “That’s all? You hate each other because you keep rolling over his foot?” No, that was not all. Darcy had his dancing faults too.
We were trying to do the Glide and Spin. That was were Darcy would take one of my hands and glide me across the room and then spin me. Well the gliding was easy, but the spinning was not. Either he spun me way too fast or he let go of me too soon and I crashed into the wall. “You’re a rat!” soon became one of my favorite new phrases. You should see the look on his face when I call him a rat!
The Shimmy was pretty hard too. That was were Darcy would take both of my hands and pull me with enough force to zigzag me and the wheelchair across the room, but Darcy was pulling me with so much force that I was pulled out of my wheelchair, even though I had a protective strap on me that was supposed to keep me from falling. Obviously it wasn’t working.
I was tired, frustrated, and really angry from being pulled out of my wheelchair for the fifth time in less than a week. And when I was pulled out of my wheelchair for the sixth time, I had had enough.
“Ok, my little love struck teenagers,” Ms. Etta started, “let’s just take a break…”
“No! I can’t do this anymore!” I cried.
“Sure, you can, Natalie, I’ll tell you what let’s be finished for the day and we can finish our lesson on Monday,” Ms. Etta suggested.
“Natalie’s right, I don’t even know why I agreed to do this stupid thing,” Darcy mumbled.
“Now, Darcy,” Ms. Etta started.
“Excuse me! But I remember your the one that suggested this stupid thing!” I shouted.
“Well, sorry if I was just trying to help you,” Darcy said.
“Trying to help me? I have a bruise on my leg from it being hit so hard on the hardwood floor!” I shouted. “Wheelchair dancing isn’t the problem. You’re the problem!”
“I’m the problem?” Darcy yelled. “No, you’re the problem! You can’t control your wheelchair!”
“How am I supposed to control my wheelchair if I don’t know what you’re supposed to do?” I screamed.
“Love struck…,” Ms. Etta started.
“Well how am I supposed to know how hard to pull you?” Darcy shouted.
“Well you’re not supposed to pull me with all your might!” I screamed.
“I quit!” Darcy shouted storming out of the room.
“What just happened?” I asked after about a minute.
“Sweetie pie, I think he just broke up with you,” Ms. Etta said gravely.
Well that sent me into a fit of tears.