This is a quick visit with a past couple. Want to meet them first? Check them out in Sweet Turtleberry Jam – Volume Two.
I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling. I had just woken up from the same dream I had been having off and on for a few weeks. In the dream, Gary and I were slow dancing. I rolled to my side when Gary’s alarm went off. He turned it off, stretched out his arms, and then sat up. My first instinct was to get up and help him but I had been working hard to not do that. Gary scooted himself to the edge of the bed and pulled his wheelchair close. Then he was able to lift his body up and into the wheelchair. He spent just as much time working on his upper body strength as he did working on being able to walk again. I couldn’t help but smile. I was so proud of how far he had come. My dreams simply kept trying to tell me that he would get even further.
I debated laying there for a bit longer, and did for a few minutes, but hearing my child crying out let me know that I would be getting up. After a deep breath, I got up and headed across the hall to find Ella standing up in her crib. We named her after my grandmother. She looked at me and stopped crying. Ella had my big round eyes but hers were grey like her father’s eyes.
“Good morning Ella.”
“Mama.” Ella let go of the side of the crib and held her arms up for me. When I didn’t immediately come over, she grabbed the side and lifted her leg like she was going to climb out.
“Don’t you dare.” I walked over to the crib and picked her up. She hadn’t yet been able to lift herself but we knew that it would be coming soon.
“Wet.” She frowned at me.
“Okay. Let me change your diaper.” I took her over to the changing table.
“Morning.” Gary wheeled into Ella’s room.
I smiled at him. “Good morning.”
“Daddy.” Ella started wiggling on the changing table.
“Keep still lil’ bit.” He came over to us. “You go get ready. I’ve got her.”
“Okay.” I moved out of the way so he could get close up to her.
I stopped walking out of the room, turned back, and kissed him quickly on the lips.
“Just a peck?”
“I need to brush my teeth.”
“Excuses. Excuses.” Gary smiled at me and then turned his attention to Ella.
I left Ella’s room confident that Gary was good to go. He had spent a lot of time with the physical therapist to ensure that he could help me with Ella and be independent with her. He would fuss if I tried to help him without him asking for help. I felt good that he would call for me if he needed me.
When I came out of the bedroom from getting ready, Gary and Ella were in the kitchen attempting to get breakfast together.
“Can you put my little helper in the high chair?” Gary asked when I came into the room. Ella was sitting in his lap trying to touch everything he had on the counter.
“Come on, baby girl.” I took Ella off his lap. As usual, she protested. Legs started kicking all over the place and she started to yell.
“Hey lil’ bit, we’re not doing that.” Gary stopped what he was doing and watched as I fought with Ella to get her in the high chair. “Do you want breakfast?”
“Eat.” She said quietly once she stopped yelling.
“I’m getting it together.” Gary went back to preparing her breakfast.
“Daddy.” Ella reached for him.
“She wants to be in your lap.”
“And I’d rather have you in my lap. Should I start screaming and crying about it?” He glanced at me and smiled.
I felt my cheeks flush. I swatted him with a nearby dish towel. “Behave yourself. I have an early appointment and Jamie will be here soon.”
“Later then.” He winked at me and then loaded a small plate with the fruit he cut up for Ella.
“Do you want a bagel?”
“Is there still leftover bacon?”
Gary nodded while he brought Ella’s plate over to her. He was somehow able to pinch me on the ass when he passed me.
“I know. I know. Later.”
I smiled to myself while getting the bagels. Gary helped Ella eat while I prepared our breakfast. I had just taken our bagels out of the toaster and the bacon out of the microwave when the doorbell rang. “That’s probably Jamie. I’ll get it.”
Jamie smiled at me when I opened the door. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
I sighed. “I did.”
“I brought cupcakes.” Jamie held up a pastry box as she walked inside the house.
“Ella is going to be your best friend today.” I led the way back to the kitchen.
“Hey, Gary. Hello Ms. Ella.” Jamie sat her box on the counter. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“Same to you.” Gary tried to get Ella to eat another piece of banana but she pushed his hand away.
“Let me finish with her so you two can eat.” Jamie washed her hands in the sink and then went over and sat on the other side of Ella.
Gary wiped his hand and moved over to the table. I sat his plate down in front of him and then sat next to him with mine.
“You two have plans for later?” Jamie asked.
“No.” I responded.
“Yes.” Gary said at the same time.
I looked at him while I took a bite of my bagel.
He smiled. “What time is your last appointment?”
“I have a two o’clock and then I’m done.” I replied.
“So we have plans when you get home.”
“Oh. Okay.” I paused. “Do I need to…”
“Don’t worry about anything. I’ve got everything under control.”
“Okay.” I nodded and went back to eating my breakfast. I was curious about what he had planned but decided to let it be a surprise.
We finished breakfast and Gary followed me out of the kitchen. “Hey, cutie.”
I stopped and turned to him.
“May I have my real kiss now before I go into my office?”
I leaned down and kissed him, letting his tongue slip into my mouth shortly after our lips touched. We kissed for a few moments before his hand moved across my ass and I pulled back. “I have an early appointment.”
“Okay. Have a good day. I’ll see you when you get home.” He reached out and pinched my bottom again before heading to his office.
Instead of fussing, I smiled when he glanced back at me and then went to get ready to leave.
The shop that my best friend Sabrina and I opened was only ten minutes from our house. Six months after Gary’s accident, Sabrina helped me sell my grandmother’s house and then she moved up to Connecticut where I was. She found a booth in a shop and helped keep me sane while I was very pregnant. So much of my life was taking care of Gary. Then Ella came and I was taking care of both of them. We had a full-time nurse for a while to help with Gary. Then she switched to part-time. Once that happened, Gary and Sabrina started nudging me to open a shop. After plenty of coaxing, I finally agreed to do it. Sabrina had already found the perfect location, a storefront that had previously been a salon. Gary and Manny helped us through the process. It only took us a couple of weeks to get up and running.
We started with just the two of us. Now we had four other stylists who worked in the shop with us. With six women in the shop, the florist delivery person was in and out all morning since it was Valentine’s Day. I hadn’t been paying much attention until Sabrina called my name the fourth time a delivery guy came in.
“This beauty is for you.”
I looked up from my client’s head and was in awe at the huge bouquet of multicolored lilies. “Mine?”
Sabrina nodded. “Yup.”
“It’s so big.”
“They smell wonderful. I think we’ll leave this one up front.” She moved them to the display counter next to our reception desk. Then she brought me the card and a box that came with the flowers. “Gary is showing off.”
I didn’t read the card or look in the box until I was done with my client. At that point, a delivery guy came in with a surprise lunch for me. It was from my favorite ramen restaurant, perfect for the cold and dreary day it was. I took a picture of my flowers before going to the back with my lunch, card, and mystery box. After a few spoonfuls of my soup, I looked at the card.
I love you more than flowers and candy can express. I hope these bring a smile to your beautiful face.
My phone vibrated with an incoming message from Gary, seeing if I was busy. I put the card back in the envelope and replied with a picture of the bouquet.
He called me a few moments later. “Hey, beautiful.”
“Lunch, flowers, and candy?”
“I know. I don’t send you enough flowers. I need to do better.”
“Very good. Perfect for today.”
“I thought so.”
“What are you having?”
“Soup and a sandwich. I have a conference call in a bit that might run long.”
“Are you going to tell me what you have planned for later?”
He chuckled. “Because it’s a surprise.”
“You don’t usually surprise me.”
“I know. I need to do it more often. Keep you on your toes.”
I smiled. “You know I’m happy the way things are.”
“I know.” He paused. “I just want you happier.”
One of the girls poked their head in the back room. “Destiny, your next appointment is here early.”
“Okay.” I groaned.
“You aren’t gonna make them wait. That’s not in your nature.” Gary laughed.
“They are lucky I’ve finished my soup.”
“Okay. You go back to work and I’ll see you when you get home.”
“Might be earlier since they are here early.”
“Perfectly fine by me. I’ll see you later. Love you.”
“Love you too.” I hung up, finished the last bit of my ramen, and then headed back out front.
We got a walk-in just as I was finishing up with my last client. I was the only stylist available, and the girl was desperate, so I agreed to take her. I shot off a quick text to Gary letting him know that I would be a little bit later than I had said. When he didn’t respond right away, I figured he was on his conference call. I went ahead and got started on the girl’s hair. She didn’t want anything super complicated, just trying to get dolled up for a date that night. It took me less than two hours to get her taken care of.
“What does Gary have planned for tonight?” Sabrina asked while I was cleaning up. Her client was under the dryer.
“He won’t tell me.”
“Oh. Okay.” She smiled. “Well be sure to tell me what the surprise is when you get in here tomorrow.”
“I will.” I finished up and went into the back to get my things. Gary sent me a picture of a smaller version of the flowers he had delivered. He told me to leave the big one at the salon because there was already one waiting for me at home. That had me leaving the salon with a smile on my face.
I stopped at the liquor store on the way home. Gary’s favorite cognac was hard to get. I ordered two bottles the last time I was in getting wine. It just so happened that the order had arrived. It was expensive but two bottles would last him a little while. They also had a rare whiskey that I remembered him talking about. I decided to go ahead and get that too. The cashier put my purchases in special red gift bags.
When I got home Gary was already in the kitchen. “Whatcha got?”
“They’re for your bar.” I shut the door to the garage behind me and turned to him. “What are you doing?”
He smiled as he came over from the stove. “Cooking.”
I was curious but I didn’t say anything. Gary didn’t usually like to cook because getting his wheelchair up to the stove wasn’t the easiest. He preferred to help out at the counters we had specially designed for his ease of access. We talked about switching the stove out but he kept saying it was fine and I didn’t mind doing most of the cooking. Gary would also help out by using the toaster oven, air-fryer, crock pot, and other small appliances he had a habit of buying.
I looked around. “Where is Ella?”
“My mom came and got her for the night.” He took the bags from me. “I got a bath full of hot water waiting for you in the bathroom.”
I smiled. “Thank you.”
“Go relax and I’ll let you know when dinner is ready.”
“Okay.” I bent down and kissed him. Then I headed back to the bedroom. It didn’t take me long to put my things down, strip out of my clothes, and relax in my soaker tub.
Ali, Gary’s mother, found us the house while Gary was in the rehabilitation hospital and I was staying with her. It was one story and a contractor she hired said it would be the easiest to modify to make it accessible for Gary in his wheelchair. At the time, I didn’t have an opinion. I was so focused on helping Gary get better and being pregnant. She did have Gary and I make all the decisions on the remodel. One thing I was willing to let go of was having a bathtub in our bathroom. I knew there would be one in the second bath and didn’t want to crowd the master bath. Gary, having learned how much I enjoyed taking a bath from Sabrina, insisted that I get a soaker tub just for me. The contractor and designer were able to make it happen and still give Gary plenty of room to move around in his chair, which was my main concern. Once we moved in, I was back to taking a bath almost every day.
The bath Gary ran for me was wonderful. He used my favorite oil and bath bomb. He also lit a few candles and had a glass of wine in there waiting for me as well. He had music playing over the sound system he had installed in the house. Every so often he would use the intercom feature, but mostly he used it to have music flowing through the entire house. I was relaxing, with my eyes closed, listening to the eighties and nineties R&B he had playing. Then I heard him coming into the bathroom.
I slowly opened my eyes and smiled at him. “Hey.”
“You look so peaceful. I almost don’t want to interrupt you.” He got as close to the tub as he could.
I reached out and held his hand. “Is it time for dinner?”
“I put something on the bed for you to put on.” He squeezed my hand one more time before letting it go. “I’m going to finish up dinner. Meet you in the dining room.”
“Meet you there in a few minutes.”
Gary left the bathroom. I sat for a few more minutes before getting up out of the tub. After drying off, I rubbed on my body cream and headed into the bedroom to see what Gary picked out. I couldn’t help but giggle when I saw a red cotton sleeveless nightgown on the bed. It was my favorite style of nightgown next to button-up, oversized sleep shirts. I also noticed that he didn’t set out any panties to go with it. Gary would have me walking around the house naked if he could have his way. I needed to have something on to be comfortable outside of my bedroom.
I slipped on the nightgown and my slippers then headed to the dining room. When I walked past the kitchen, I saw Gary’s wheelchair sitting empty by the kitchen island.
“Gary?” I went into the kitchen and found Gary standing at the stove with the aid of a walker. I was in shock that he could stand up for as long as he had to have been standing up. I hadn’t thought he would be able to do it for more than a few minutes and there he was using one hand to hold himself up and another to scoop food out of the pot he was cooking in.
“I’m getting better at this. I’ve been practicing in PT.” He smiled at me and then went back to what he was doing.
I was still speechless and trying not to cry.
“Go sit down. I’m gonna bring dinner out in just a minute. The wine is already on the table.”
I nodded, watched him for a few more moments, and then headed into the dining room. The wine was on the table and open so I poured myself a glass and took a sip. Gary was back in his chair when he came into the room with two plates of food. He sat them down on the table and went back into the kitchen to get a basket of bread to go with the pasta he made. Then he went back to bring his walker into the dining room. I got to watch him get up from his chair and walk over to the dining room table with his walker. He sat down and smiled at me.
“How long have you been using the walker?” I asked.
“Today was the first day I’ve used it at home. We’ve been practicing for months in PT.”
“That is so amazing. I know you said that you guys had been working on walking but I didn’t know you had gotten so far with it.”
“I got goals. I want to be able to dance with my wife again.”
I smiled, thinking about my dream. “You will.”
He winked at me. “Let’s eat before it gets cold.”
We ate dinner and told each other about our days. It was our habit and I enjoyed it a lot. I learned a lot listening to Gary talk about his consultations and conference calls. He liked to hear me talk about my clients and all the salon gossip. We spent every evening that way. The only difference was that Ella wasn’t at the table with us.
When I finished my food, he pointed to the chair next to me. “There is something in the chair for you.”
I pulled the chair out a bit and saw there was a gift box on the seat of the chair. “Gary, what did you buy? I didn’t get you a gift.”
“You got me some cognac I’m going to enjoy with our dessert. I’ll have some of that whiskey when Manny comes over on Saturday.” He smiled at me. “Open it.”
I picked up the box and sat it on the empty spot on the table next to me. Then I slowly opened it. Inside was a jewelry box. My heart began to race a little. It always did that when Gary got me jewelry, which was fairly often. He loved to surprise me with jewelry for no reason other than he liked to see me wearing it. When I opened the box, my smile grew. It was a rose gold necklace with a heart-shaped pendant. I picked it up out of the box and noticed that Ella’s name was etched on the heart. As I ran my fingers over it, I realized it was a locket.
“Open the locket.”
I held my breath and opened the locket. On one side was a picture of our daughter. On the other side was a picture of my grandmother. There was no way for me to stop the tears from flowing from my eyes. I looked up at him and wiped my eyes. “Gary…”
“You like it?”
“I love it. I’m never gonna take it off.”
“Come here and I’ll put it on you.”
I got up, walked over, and sat in the empty chair next to him. He took the necklace and put it on me. I looked down at the locket hanging just above the top of my breasts. Then I looked up at him. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” We both leaned forward so that our lips met in a soft kiss. He leaned back. “There’s dessert.”
“I’d rather clean up and head to the bedroom.”
Gary smiled. “I like your plan.”
We got up and began to clean up from dinner. Gary used his walker to get to his chair and then put the walker off to the side in the kitchen. He was much faster in his chair. I put the food away while Gary rinsed the dishes and loaded the dishwasher. I was about to start wiping the counters down when he pinched my ass.
“Leave it. I’ll do it in the morning.”
I put the rag back on the sink and turned to him. “Okay.”
I led the way to the bedroom, with Gary close behind me. When I got in the room I looked at his favorite chair that was in the corner of the room. It was armless and the perfect height for him to easily transition from his wheelchair. At first, I didn’t get why he was so in love with the chair. Then he talked me into straddling his lap while he was sitting in it. Then I realized how perfect the chair was. The memory of that experience gave me an idea for a great way to end the day. I turned to Gary.
“Let’s use your chair.”
“Yes.” I nodded. It had been a while since we used it, which was a shame because we both loved it.
Gary wheeled over, parked his wheelchair, and got into our favorite chair. He smiled at me as I walked over. “Be gentle.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “You don’t mean that.”
“I don’t.” He chuckled and patted his lap. “Get over here.”
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