The grocery store was less than a mile from the condo. As I made a left hand turn on the green arrow...
The car spun around. My head hit the side window. The car hit the light pole. The airbags went off; it felt like I'd been punched in the face. I sat there stunned for a moment; I picked up my phone and called Marcus.
"Babe what did you forget?"
"Accident... hurt... love you... " My brain had trouble forming complete thoughts. I just wanted be sure Marcus knew how I felt.
I blacked out at that moment.
I was walking down the aisle in a tuxedo, Marcus standing next to me holding my hand. It was such a beautiful day. Marcus looked so handsome in his black tie and vest... I found myself back in the car, I could feel something trickling down my face, when I felt it with my left hand, I still had my phone. I thought to try and call Marcus, but then I heard sirens and I blacked out again.
I was at the altar holding Marcus's hand. I felt such joy. He was smiling at me, while I tried to recite my vows. The church faded out and I found myself in front of a house. Marcus was taking the for sale sign down with the biggest grin. Suddenly I was holding a child, thinking it was impossible to love someone as much as I loved the baby in my arms. Next, we were in the kitchen talking while Marcus cooked. A dark haired toddler sitting in a high chair giggled next to me. The images felt fleeting and yet completely finished. It was as though I was seeing quick images but living the whole scene.
A flash and then, the casket was being lowered into the ground as we said our final goodbyes. Marcus almost holding me up as the grief washed over me. I wasn't sure how to process the utter sadness. But then Marcus and I were holding hands walking a little boy to school. I was excited and scared all at the same time. Our son had Marcus's eyes. I didn't want to let go of that little hand. Marcus smiled at me and told me it would be okay. Strange how time seemed to fly so fast and yet each moment lasted so long on my heart.
Calling hours in front of a different casket, this was such a difficult day for my extended family. Marcus being so strong, I glanced at him, and noticed a little silver starting to show near his temples, making him even more handsome.
Another baby in my arms, screaming for all she was worth. I knew none of these things had happened yet, but everything felt so real. I was going to enjoy every moment I could. Marcus and I were standing at the altar again, this time I could hear Jon and James exchanging vows. I turned and joked with Marcus that I thought this day would never come. Slowly everything started to fade again. Complete sadness enveloped me. I wasn't sure how I could survive, but Marcus reassured me. I felt relief wash over me just as intensely.
A graduation, another wedding, another casket... suddenly the visions lost focus as they blurred past. I took a deep breath and found my grandmother sitting on a bench. That felt really odd to me. My grandmother had passed away years ago.
"Nana, what are you doing here? I thought you were dead?"
"I just came to pay a visit. To find out what your plans were?"
"What do you mean my plans? I was watching these amazing things. I'm not exactly sure what it all means, but it's so incredible. These moments, some so perfect, others so heart wrenching, what are they?"
"Well you can stay here and watch these things go by, or you can wake up and see what real life holds for you. You have to decide what you are going to do next."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, my little munchkin," I always felt so loved when she called me munchkin. "You need to decide if you are just going to watch these events or actually be a part of them."
"I'm not sure I completely understand, Nana. Where are we? Are these visions the future or just my imagination? Is this real or all in my head? Some of these moments were so amazing and others very heartbreaking. Is this all going to happen?"
"I can't tell you if that's the future or not, I can only tell you that you need to decide what's next."
"Do you mean I get to decide if I go back?"
"But Nana, I have so many questions you didn't answer... Can't we just talk? I really miss you; I have so much to tell you."
"Well munchkin, I've seen everything that's gone on. I'm always there with you. I'm so proud of the man you have become. But my time with you is almost over. You need to choose if you want to live the future, the good and the bad, or just watch what might be."
Marcus's face popped into my head, and Grandma vanished.
As I watched things just fade away, I wondered if I could bring those moments back in my dreams.
I woke sitting up in a bed. I knew it wasn't my bed because the mattress didn't feel right. I could hear a steady beep in the room. I could also hear talking in the background but I couldn't quite hone in on the words. Slowly things came into focus...
"I see Mr. Wallace was here just over two years ago for treatment. He had a concussion at that time; it makes this head trauma a lot more serious. What was the cause of the previous concussion?"
All I could think to say was, "Marcus... please don't ... "
"Oh my God, Tony, thank God you are awake. I was so scared. You had me so worried." He rushed to my side and grabbed my hand.
I glanced down and saw an IV stuck in my hand. The curtain was drawn over what might have been a window. Wires went from machines to my temples and other parts of my body. My head began to ache. I knew that pain all too well.
"What happened? I remember spinning around in the car after getting hit. And then..." I was just about to tell Marcus what I saw when someone started flashing a light in my eyes.
"I'm Doctor Phillips. Can you tell me your full name?"
"Anthony Michael Wallace... "
"Good. And do you know what year it is?"
"Two thousand and thirteen... Why are you asking me these stupid questions? Marcus, what's going on? I want to tell you about what I saw."
"Babe, you were hit by a drunk driver at the light outside the grocery store. You've been unconscious for three days now. I've been so worried. We've all been worried about you." He kissed my forehead.
"Oh, are my parents still here?"
"Anthony, are you kidding me? Do you really think we would go home with you lying unconscious in a hospital bed?" Dad's voice came from across the room.
I could feel Mom's hand clutch my fingers. I noticed my left arm was in a cast from thumb to bicep. "Baby, of course we didn't go home. You put quite the fright into us. Right now I think you need to listen to the doctor and stop giving him a hard time."
"Okay, Mom, I'm sorry."
"Okay, let's start again. I'm Doctor Phillips and I was just brought in to consult on this case. Anthony, do you remember getting treated for a concussion over two years ago?"
"Yes, but everything was fine. Marcus took care of me and the doctor said there would be no lasting effects. How it happened isn't important. How soon can I go home?"
"Well, we need to run some tests. I dare say you will be here for a few more days anyway. Now that you are awake, I'm going to give you a few minutes with your family while I set up the tests. I will be back in a little while to see how you are doing. Don't try to get up."
"Thank you, Doctor Phillips. We will make sure he behaves himself." Marcus grabbed my hand. "Okay, you heard the doctor... don't move out of that bed."
"Tony, what happened that you had a concussion? I don't think you ever told us about that."
"Mom, it's really not important. Let's just say Marcus was the most amazing friend and helped me get through it. I really don't want to talk about it. Tell me what happened after I left the house."
"Do you remember calling me?"
"Yeah, it was really important to tell you I loved you. That was the last thing I remember."
"You are unbelievable. How did you even call me? Your arm was broken and still you managed to call me."
"Well that explains this cast, but Marcus I needed you to know..." I started to cry. He just had to know how important he was to me. "I needed you to know that I love you, just in case. You need to know you are my whole world, the reason..." I couldn't finish saying the reason I came back. As it turns out, I never told Marcus about what I saw while I was unconscious. It's really the only secret I ever kept from him.
"You are the most amazing person. I love you so much." Marcus gave me a hug. "Please calm down. Besides your broken arm, you hit your head pretty hard on the side window. You also have some bruises from the seat belt and on your left knee. Relax, Babe, you are my whole world too.
"Look I'm going to let you visit with your parents. I need to call my family. The twins have been frantic asking about Uncle T every day. They will want to talk to you later to make sure you are okay. Everyone has been worried about you, Babe. I'll be back in a little while; I have a ton of calls to make. You have an awful lot of people who care about you." He smiled and gave me a kiss.
I closed my eyes briefly, Mom clutched at my hand.
"I'm just trying to catch my bearings, Mom. I'm sorry I put you through this."
"Baby, don't be sorry. I'm just so glad you are awake. Marcus has been a wreck. That man loves you to the end of the world and back. I think if they would have let him, he would have spent his nights sleeping in here with you. It was all we could do to get him to go home at night."
"How long are you guys staying?"
"We will see how things go. Your father never takes time off so he has plenty of days to use."
"I guess I screwed up the meals you guys were cooking."
"Anthony Michael Wallace, you listen to me. Right now that boyfriend of yours thinks this is his fault. The only person to blame in all of this is the drunk that hit you. Apparently, it wasn't the first time he has done this kind of thing. I hope he gets help, or gets locked up so he can't hurt anyone else."
Marcus returned to the room.
"Wow, I wasn't gone twenty minutes and your mother is already giving you a lecture."
"Well that same lecture goes for you too. The only person to blame for this is the drunk in the other car. I don't want to hear anymore apologies. You guys each have a job to do. Tony, you need to get better. And Marcus, you need to help your boyfriend get back to a hundred percent. End of story, no more guilt, do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, Mom." We replied in unison.
The week was frustrating for me. Dr. Phillips, the neurologist, had the hospital run so many tests on me I lost count. As it turned out, he was Jen's supervisor for her neurology rotation. When she visited me, she insisted he was a brilliant doctor. I found his bedside manner to be severely lacking. He deflected every question I asked. While he might have looked like a grandfather, he did not have the warmth one would expect. He seemed to constantly look down at me from just above his wire rimmed glasses. Each time he came in the room, he talked to Marcus and my parents, but never to me.
Finally I had enough. "Doctor Phillips, I'm the one who was in the accident. I'm the person who was unconscious for three days. You need to talk to me and answer my questions or I will find a doctor who will. While I appreciate you sharing information with my parents and my boyfriend, I'm the one who you need to talk to."
"I'm sorry Mr. Wallace. I'm not trying to exclude you. My concern has been that you are not really up to dealing with some of the information. Okay, let me explain what's going on.
"One of the most important things to remember is, even though you may feel fine, the possibility of symptoms reoccurring months from now is highly likely. Headaches, confusion, loss of coordination, and other symptoms will most likely affect you for some time to come."
"The last time Tony had a concussion, his symptoms all faded away within a week." Marcus asked, "Is it really likely his headaches and other symptoms will last for months. How will that affect his work? Or even his driving? Could his memory and his moods be affected too?"
"The brain is an incredible thing; there is so much we are still learning. There is no test I can run to tell me how this will affect you. I can only tell you what the norm is. I need you to be prepared for what could happen."
"I understand I need to be aware of worst case scenarios. I also understand because I've now had multiple concussions, the effects could be much more long lasting and even more intense. But isn't it just as likely I could be symptom free? I mean these concussions are years apart." I said.
"No, it's possible, but not likely. You will have symptoms, how severe they are can't be determined. I am encouraged by your recovery to this point. It appears as though you're progressing as quickly as I have seen. Honestly, I think the three days you spent unconscious was a huge help in the healing process.
"I expect you will experience depression and mood swings; along with headaches, these are the most common post concussion symptoms. You should be able to perform everyday functions including driving after a couple of weeks. However, when you are tired or stressed the symptoms tend to be exaggerated. A long stressful day at work could cause a major response from your brain. I also recommend limiting your driving at night until you see how the lights of other vehicles affect you.
"I am not trying to frighten you, just prepare you for what might occur. Again, there is no test I can run that will tell me what will happen to you. To this point all the tests we have run are very encouraging. The CT scan shows very minor injury, much less than I would expect from the accident you had. The MRI, again, shows lesser trauma than would be expected."
"Apparently, you have a very hard head Babe. But I could have told them that." Marcus smiled.
"Yeah, well maybe this will knock some sense into me... maybe some of the cluelessness will go away."
Marcus burst out laughing. "Funny, maybe some but I bet not all." Still he looked worried." Is there anything we can do to lessen the effects or eliminate them?"
"Nothing out of the ordinary... Avoid stress, get plenty of sleep, no caffeine or alcohol, and eat right. In other words, the things we all should do already."
"Oh boy, no caffeine, that could be the tough one for you." Marcus chuckled.
Dr. Phillips added, "Well let's just say a pot of coffee would be a bad plan. I single cup in the morning would probably be okay. I would avoid caffeinated sodas completely, too much sugar and caffeine.
"I recommend keeping a journal. Keep track of the foods you eat and events that happen in your life. It might help you determine triggers, in other words foods or other stimuli to avoid.
"I hope that answered a few of your questions. I need to see a couple of other patients. I think you will be able to go home tomorrow, but no driving or working for at least two more weeks."
Dr. Talbot, the orthopedic surgeon, walked into the room. "I can come back in a few minutes"
"Maurice, please don't worry. I was finishing up here. Tony, I will see you in the morning."
Dr. Talbot smiled as he walked towards the bed.
"Tony and Marcus, it's great to see you today. Mr. and Mrs. Wallace, I believe I have good news for all of you. The arm appears to be healing well. I think the emergency surgery was very successful. We didn't put any pins or screws in. The bones fit perfectly back together. Even though there were two sites where the bones broke, it seems you are a very fortunate young man. The cast will remain on for at least eight weeks. On the latest MRI, I noticed some slight scarring on the shoulder. Did you have something happen to that shoulder a couple of years ago? The scarring is very minor, but might cause some discomfort down the road. In a few years there is a chance we may need to operate to relieve some stiffness. But overall, I'm very pleased with the surgery we did."
"Thanks, Dr. Talbot. That's great news." Marcus shook his hand. Dr. Talbot stood about five foot two; he was completely bald and had a pencil thin mustache. I don't think he weighed a hundred pounds; a strong wind would blow him away. On the other hand, he was very personable and had an infectious laugh.
"I understand you should be released tomorrow. I want to see you in a couple of weeks. Until then I would refrain from playing football and stay away from roller coasters." He burst out laughing. "Seriously, I want your arm to remain in the sling until I see you again. No lifting with that arm at all. Find a cast protector, then showering is not a problem.
"So, Tony and Marcus, I will see you in a couple of weeks. Here is my card, please call the office to set up an appointment. Stay well."
"Thank you Doctor."
I was released from the hospital on Friday. I rode home with my parents. Dad had already missed a week of school, so they decided to stay until Sunday. Mom couldn't resist trying to take care of me for another day or two.
Marcus was already home waiting for us. His morning court date had been postponed to Monday.
"Now, there will be no arguments. You need to sleep in your own bed. Your father and I will sleep on the futon for the next two nights. I can do up a little laundry and make the beds. You, young man, are going to sit in the living room and relax." Mom insisted.
"Mom, I've been lying in bed for a week now. I need to get out and go for a walk or something. I promise to take it easy."
"Damn right you will. And just so you know, visitors will be limited until I'm sure you won't over do it. I need you back to normal, or as normal as you get." Marcus grinned at me. "Everyone knows to call first before stopping by. Jamie, Sarah and the twins have already scheduled time with Uncle T tomorrow. Tonight you are chilling with me and the 'rents. Understand?"
"Yes, Boss. Just promise you won't coddle me to death. I will be fine. I'm worried about my job, though. This three week vacation is not the best way to get a permanent position. I'm afraid I will be job hunting soon."
"Well to quote Dr. Hunter... 'You tell that young man I won't let another district try and poach him from us. He will have a job with us for as long as I can keep him. He needs to get well. His job isn't going anywhere.' He was very adamant I deliver that message. Don't worry about it."
"Can we go for a walk? I need some fresh air." I gave Marcus a pleading look.
"You boys go, I will change the beds. Don't argue, please."
Marcus and I walked around the park next to the condo. The cast and sling were a little uncomfortable and I got tired quickly. We took a moment on a park bench. I rested my head on his shoulder, while he put his arm around me.
"Babe, I'm so glad you're home. I have been so worried about you. Please let me take care of you for a couple of weeks. I know you don't want to be coddled. I just want to be sure you are following doctor's orders."
"I know. Just don't mother me. I have one of those already. We will be lucky if she lets either of us do anything while she is here.
"I love you, Marcus Lucas Taylor. Don't ever forget it."
"And don't ever doubt I love you more."
We made our way back up to the condo. I sat down on the recliner, the next thing I knew it was two hours later and Mom was waking me for lunch.
The twins called later that night. Stephen reminded me we could play war when he visited.
"You only need one hand Uncle T. I can mix up the cards and deal. You gots to take it easy."
"Okay buddy, but remember when you visit to bring your markers... I need you guys to draw on my cast. I'm already getting bored looking at this thing. I need some color added to it."
"Cool that will be fun. But what should we draw? Never mind, it will be a surprise, me and J gots to think about it."
Mom and Dad left Sunday. We knew we would see them in a couple weeks. Mom reminded us about the one job we each had.
We had visitors almost nightly. It was a godsend. Marcus finally went back to work on Wednesday, and I was bored to tears during the day.
Two weeks before Christmas break, I was cleared to return to work. My car had been totaled, so Marcus insisted on driving me to and from school. We decided to go car shopping after the first of the year. Danni had offered his car to me in the meantime, but Marcus figured we should just wait until we purchased a new car. Honestly, I loved the extra time we got to spend together in the car, but by end of two weeks I was starting to feel a little frustrated. I felt like a bit of a burden, and really just wanted to drive myself around. Marcus just wouldn't let go. I understood, but it was still frustrating.
Christmas was on a Wednesday. We would get two full weeks off from school due to the way the holidays fell. The plan was to spend the weekend before Christmas with my parents and Christmas Eve with Marcus's family. I learned that Christmas Eve with the Taylor family was an unmovable tradition. While they were growing up, the boys opened gifts from the family that night and Santa arrived in the morning. The Taylor men continued the tradition. Christmas Eve switched houses every year, but attendance was not optional. Christmas Day, Marcus and his brothers could make whatever plans they wanted. But Christmas Eve was non-negotiable.
The last day of school, Marcus picked me up and seemed a little on edge. I was a little over tired and hungry. I also had the beginning of a headache. I just wanted to get home and relax, before we drove to New Hampshire the next day.
"Babe, what do you want for supper? I forgot to take anything out this morning."
"I don't care. We could just do breakfast for supper if you want." I grimaced slightly as the headache started to intensify.
"Great idea. Why don't you take a shower while I get things ready? That way you can relax tonight. It's going to be a long drive tomorrow."
"Hon, what's going on? You seem a little tense tonight. Was it a bad day at work? Or is it something else?"
"We can talk after your shower and supper. It's nothing really. I promise to fill you in later. Go take a shower."
Supper was quiet. Marcus made breakfast crepes, and got them to taste just like Mom's. After cleaning up, we settled on the love seat together. The cast and sling made things tricky, but I loved settling into Marcus's arms.
"Okay, spill. I'm all ears. What's up Hon?"
"Well, Danni has been trying to convince me to take you down to New York City for the weekend after Christmas. Hunter and Danni are hoping we will go to a full dress rehearsal. I really want to go but I'm worried it's going to be too much for you. First the weekend with your parents, then we spend Christmas Eve with my family. Christmas Day with Jamie, Sarah and the twins at their house has us busy straight through to Thursday."
"Really Hon, 'straight' through... I don't think we can manage 'straight' very well." I smiled.
"Okay, smart ass... that doesn't make me any less worried. I know you don't want to be coddled. I understand that. I just can't help being concerned. You are having headaches when you get over tired. Don't deny it. I'm not blind. You had one starting tonight before the shower. I know they are minor so far, but I don't want things to get any worse."
"I'm sorry. I don't mean to be flip. I know you are worried, but I still need to try and live my life. If I have symptoms, I will deal with them at the time. Please, I don't want to not do something because I might have symptoms. That's not living life. Please understand."
Marcus pulled me closer. "I understand. That's why I'm so torn."
"Let's take the train down on Friday and come back on Monday. I don't think I'm up for New Year's Eve in New York City this year. We can catch the show while we are there and spend time with Danni and Hunter. Let's have an open house here on Tuesday for New Year's Eve and just invite a couple friends. Most everyone will have other plans so it will be quiet. I will still have four days before school starts again. We can go car shopping and just relax. Are you going to be able to take both those weeks off?"
"Actually, that's usually a slow time of year for us. I will need to check emails and phone messages. I have given the staff the choice of having the time off. A couple of paralegals are each working a few half days to answer phones. I think my father is sticking around this year instead of going away. Monday and Thursday of each week I might go into the office for a couple of hours but I don't really have to. Unless something unusual comes up, I think things will almost run themselves."
"So can we go to New York please? I really want to see Danni and Hunter and the show. We don't have to do much else, do a little walking maybe take in a sight or two, eat some great food, and make love in a hotel room. Although this cast will continue to get in the way, I can't wait to try out a Jacuzzi with you."
Marcus gave me a squeeze. "I just have one condition. If you feel a headache coming on, or any other symptom, you will let me know so we can work on it together. You need to promise me. I'm serious. We are a team and when you hurt I hurt. Do we have a deal?"
"I will promise you, if you promise you won't hover looking for things. If I feel out of sorts I will tell you, but don't go looking for it. Let me tell you what's going on. Deal?"
"Deal, Let me get on-line and make arrangements. Why don't you call Danni and tell them we are coming down, but just for the weekend."
Awkwardly, I twisted around and planted a kiss on Marcus.
"Okay, let me get on the computer and you make your phone call."
"Works for me," I grinned. "I think we need to call it an early night, Hon. Or at least go to bed soon..."
"Babe, you better make it a quick call. Or I might have to cut you off... I've been thinking about how we can place the pillows to protect that arm... I'm dying to see if my plan works."
"Hmmm... I can't wait to see what you have in mind."
Thank yous are always necessary after a chapter...
Thank you to all who continue to read this work of mine!
Thank you to the amazing people in my life
My hubby, Ray
My editor from heaven, David
And Fitz... this is all your fault