This is called a snapshot short. It's a brief glimpse into the lives of a couple falling in love.
Her Wounded Warrior
Bittersweet was how Kelly defined today. Five years working for The Veterans Administration rehab department and she couldn’t recall any other day where she felt such conflicting emotions.
Today, Jeff was going home. She remembered the day he arrived, how easy conversation had been between them. How quick they were to become more than therapist and patient. How easy it was to become friends.
His six months of difficult rehabilitation had paid off, success achieved. It was time to start his life anew without the Navy. A life with a new arm and leg.
Throughout rehab, Jeff exhibited nothing but professionalism and determination; if he knew she was half in love with him, he could easily question her professionalism and ethics. Kelly could only imagine the embarrassment she would feel, the horror at his disappointment in her behavior.
Kelly sighed sadly; today would be her last time going to Jeff’s room. She’d promised to walk with him out the front doors, to see him off. She sought comfort knowing he was now able to complete all his dressing, grooming, and hygiene needs independently. He could cook, drive a car, and work with tools. Kelly had even taught him to dance again in preparation for his sister’s wedding in a few weeks.
She knocked lightly and waited for his invitation. When she entered, Jeff stood at the end of his bed, packing his suitcase.
“Are you ready?” she asked, smiling. Looking at him made her heart leap and flutter. She wasn’t sure when she fell for him. She just had.
“This is it. What all the hard work was for.” He stopped packing and smiled, “Have I said ‘thank you’ today?”
“No, but it’s early. You have time.” Together they laughed. Kelly wished for something more than gratitude in his eyes. “Where’s your brother?”
“He went to get coffee.” Jeff zipped his suitcase closed.
Kelly searched the empty room for any missed items, it was strange without his personal effects, and swallowed back her tears. “Have you been given your discharge papers?”
“Yep, just waiting on Shane to get back and we can walk out.” He shook his head slightly, “I never thought this day would come. It's been a long journey.”
She could only imagine, considering she'd been a part of the latter half only.
He took a step towards her, moving his prosthetic leg with ease and familiarity. “I'm so glad you were part of the ride. I wouldn't have wanted anyone else.”
Tears threatened to escape. She wanted to tell him she'd miss him. Miss their conversations and playful banter. Miss how easy it was being with him even on the hardest of days. She felt certain, if she said anything remotely close to how she felt, it would tarnish what they had.
“Let's do this,” Shane called as he entered the room. He handed Jeff a cup of coffee before grabbing Jeff’s bag, “Hey Kelly,” he said. “I'll go pull up the car. Mom wants pictures.” He smiled, pulled out a camera, snapped a few pictures and was gone.
Jeff sipped the hot brew then grimaced. “ I won’t miss this,” he said as he tossed the cup in the trash.
Kelly and Jeff walked into the hallway and towards the elevator. It was a long process with farewells stopping them along the way. Inside the elevator, Jeff extended his hand, “May I hold your hand for the last part?”
She answered by entwining her fingers with his.
The elevator doors opened and slowly, they walked towards the hospitals front sliding doors, now opening to his new life. Jeff turned to face her, “I'm excited to no longer live in a hospital. But I'm going to miss you. Best part about this whole experience? Meeting you.”
“I feel the same way,” she whispered. “Now go before I get all sappy.”
He pulled her into a hug and held her tight. Slowly, they came apart. Kelly sucked in a breath before looking up at him.
“I'll be back,” he said. He turned and walked out the door, his brother capturing every step on film. But Kelly knew it was unlikely he would come back to visit. His life was in front of him, not behind him at this hospital.
Kelly went through the motions of the day. Thankfully she had more paperwork than patient visits because her heart wasn't in it. When it was time to leave, she couldn't get out fast enough, afraid she might not make it to her car before the tears would overcome her.
She walked out the same doors Jeff did earlier and nearly started sobbing.
“Excuse me?” A voice said behind her.
Kelly turned and gave a start, surprised to see Jeff standing there.
“What-” She wiped at her eyes.
“My name’s Jeff; I use to be a patient here. I've seen you in the halls. I know this is awkward since we don't know each other.” He gave her a wink. “But I was wondering if you might go out with me? My sister’s wedding is coming and you look like you know how to dance.”
Kelly couldn't contain herself; she rushed to him and buried her face in his chest. She felt his arms come around her.
“I thought you'd never ask.”
Hope you enjoyed this snapshot short. I wrote it for a magazine a few years ago.