Promises of Mercy

By: Vella Day

With her chin held high, she returned to Chris’s room. His head was turning right and left, panic crisscrossing his face.

“I can’t move.” He gasped for breath, and she rushed to his side.

Be strong for him. “It’ll be okay.” She hated lying. “Shrug your shoulders. You can do it. It’s going to take time to regain strength.” That much was true.

A few minutes later, the doctor came in. He didn’t look much older than she did. He introduced himself, and then told Chris about his limitations and what he was in for.

“This is bullshit,” Chris said. He pounded the back of head into the mattress, the only part of his body he could really move. Her heart broke.

The doctor asked Chris to move his fingers, his shoulders, and his arms. It hurt her to see him struggle so. The doctor then stepped to the end of the bed and ran a closed pen up and down his feet. When Chris didn’t react, Amber had to force herself to appear calm.

After he checked Chris’s breathing, the doctor placed a hand on Chris’s shoulder. “I’ll be back tomorrow to go over your prognosis. I know this is a lot to take in.” He nodded to her then left.

She drew in a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “Sweetie, I know this is hard, but with therapy you’ll be able to do some things.”

“I can’t live like this, Amber.” He turned his head again. Tears shimmered. God help him. Her baby brother never cried.

She wanted nothing more than to hug him, but he’d think she pitied him. The sad fact was that a part of her did.

After another hour of trying to convince him that his life would get better, a knock sounded, and Jamie peeked her head in. “Hey, Chris.”

Amber welcomed the interruption. Jamie and her boyfriend, Ben, had come by the house nearly every weekend after Chris moved in with her.

“Go away, Jamie.”

Amber’s patience snapped. “Chris, that’s no way to speak to one of our friends.” Now she sounded like their mom, but it couldn’t be helped. The last thing he needed was to push people away, especially when he’d need help the rest of his life.

Amber stood, and keeping her back to her brother, she walked toward Jamie. “He’s having a hard time coming to grips with the paralysis.” She made sure to keep her voice too low for Chris to hear.

“Wouldn’t you?” Jamie whispered back.

Amber had to be honest. “Yes.”

Jamie moved to the side, looked at Chris, and slightly shook her head. Chris was a proud man. Having his friends see him this way would only add to his pain, but at some point he had to accept help.

Someone lightly tapped the door and a nurse came in. “I need to turn him and check his vitals.”

“I can’t do this,” Chris said to no one in particular. “I can’t live like this.”

Amber strode over to him. “Don’t say that, Chris. Please. You need to have patience.”

“Fuck patience. What am I supposed to do now? I’ll never be able to walk, never be able to ride my bike.” A tear dripped down his face. “Never have a family.” He looked up at her. “I know you always thought I was this irresponsible kid, but I didn’t want to end up like Dad—always working, never having time for any of us.”

His words cut. He spoke the truth and sympathy choked her. He clearly wasn’t in the mood to listen to her rant about being strong, but she would have that talk with him at some point. “I know it’s going to be hard. Let the nurse do her job. I’ll step outside for a bit.” She should call their mom again.

When Chris turned his head away from her, her heart finally cracked, and Amber had to work hard to keep from breaking down. Part of her wanted to shake him, and the other part wanted to hug him.

You have to stay strong.

She bet that would be her motto for the next few years.

* * *

From what Stone had heard from a few of the nurses, Amber would probably be by her brother’s side. Since he’d been the first one to bandage Chris’s legs and bring him in, he hoped the young man would remember him—at least the part before Stone medically paralyzed him in order to get him to stop twisting and flailing. Being unable to breathe, even for a few seconds, could emotionally scar anyone for life.