He was sitting inside on the cold rainy day in October staring at the blank computer screen. He tried to look at web sites. He attempted to read the paper online. He failed at communicating with everyone who instant messaged him. He knew that he should do something to occupy his mind, but all he could think about was when he had proposed to his best friend since high school, Theoni.
Theoni was the flawless beauty that possessed his heart. She was tall and skinny, with long pin-straight auburn hair, and a freckled face. She was the perfect image of everything that was right in his world. He loved to stare into her bluish gray eyes.
He proposed to Theoni three days ago. He had been struggling to ask her for the past 5 year. They had been lovers on and off through high school, and though apart during college, they still remained lovers on vacations and on the weekends that they visited each other. They had dated other people, and they told each other everything. He told her that he dated a few girls, but he exaggerated the number to free Theoni from having any feelings of guilt. She dated, she flirted, and she successfully possessed the hearts and minds of many men, but none as strongly as his. Still, she had never told him that she loved him back.
He looked at the rain creating patterns on his window. He hated the Seattle weather. He wished Theoni were there to keep him warm on a day when the world felt cold. Theoni was leaving for Ireland that morning on a business trip. She was helping a computer company to check their profits from their plants in Dublin. She had been anticipating this trip because she had only traveled to Ireland once in her life before, and she longed to return. But he was dreading her departure. He feared that once she left she would never return.
Theoni’s response to his proposal had been maybe. He was glad that she left him hope, but still, he wished that she had said yes. He hoped that by proposing she wouldn’t leave for Ireland, and she would stay with him. If only they could be sitting together, discussing the plans for the wedding and the reception. Her presence would brighten up the dreariness of the weather and how morose he was feeling.
He signed off line and turned the television on. He stared aimlessly at the cartoons. There was a message scrolling across the bottom of the screen. He assumed it was a flash flood warning from the television station, and ignored it. He looked over at his cell phone on the counter and remembered that Theoni promised that she would call him once she safely arrived in Ireland. He walked over to the phone, and turned it on.
1 missed call. Voicemail received. DAMN! He had missed her call. He hit *86 and typed in his password. He waited patiently to hear the voice that he could be mesmerized by forever.
“JOE! It’s me! The plane has hit some turbulence and I have a really bad feeling about this.” Her voice seemed panicked and urgent. “Joe! I should have stayed with you. I realize that now. I just thought of what I would do if I could never hear your voice again. Joe! I love you! Do you hear me? I love you! I ignored that until today, but I love you! Joe, I want to marry…” The angelic frightened voice cut out. All he could hear was static.
His mind tried to process what he just heard. She had said she loved him. She said that she wanted to marry him, at just about the time that the phone cut out. But she seemed in danger. He stared into space, though his eyes were still on the television. After a minute or two, he focused on the words that were scrolling along the bottom of the screen.
“Aer Lingus Flight 347 hit turbulence at 4:18 PM today. The pilot lost control, and hit some trees in the Appalachian Mountain Range. The pilot somehow righted the plane enough to land in a field in South New Jersey. Every single passenger sustained injuries. Some are in critical condition and some have minor bruises and cuts. All passengers have been brought to Cooper Hospital in Camden, New Jersey.”
He needed to see her. She had told him that she loved him. He packed a change of clothes in a duffle bag, grabbed his keys, and drove at a life-threatening speed to the airport. He consulted his map and realized that Philadelphia was the closest airport to the crash site. He arrived at the airport, hastily parked his car, and then ran into the airport.
“I need a ticket to Philadelphia,” he told the ticketing agent when he caught his breath.
“You’re in luck,” she told him. “There is one seat on a flight to Philadelphia leaving in 10 minutes.
“I’ll buy it.”
He grabbed his ticket and his duffle bag and darted toward the terminal. He boarded the plane, and barely thought of anything until he touched down in Philadelphia. He ran out and found a taxicab.
“I need to be driven to Camden, NJ.”
“Sir that will cost a considerable amount of money.”
“I don’t care. Just get me there as fast as possible.”
As he reached the hospital, he realized that he didn’t know what he would see once he walked into the building. He walked as calmly as his shaking legs could carry him to the front desk. He was too afraid to think of the possibilities.
“I need to know where Theoni Knollwood is.”
“What is your relation to Ms. Knollwood?”
He breathed deeply. “I’m her fiancé.”
“Ok. She’s in Room 937.” He boarded the elevator, becoming more and more petrified of what he would see when he reached her room. He finally found the room after a few minutes of searching. He stood outside; thinking of what he would say when he walked into the room. A doctor interrupted his train of thought. “Hi. I’m Ms. Knollwood’s doctor, Doctor Edstan. How do you know Ms. Knollwood?” The doctor had a smiling face and cheerful disposition.
“I’m her fiancé.”
“Well, I should warn you. She’s in a bad state. She’s badly bruised all over her body. She suffered irrevocable damage to her eyes and is now permanently blind. She also broke her hip bone. It will require a lot of painful physical therapy for her to regain the ability to walk again. Although her face is badly cut, plastic surgery will be able to repair her face for a considerable amount of money. Her neck is in a cast. The damage will repair itself in three weeks, and she won’t be paralyzed due to trauma.”
Joe was speechless. He opened the door, and saw the most incomprehensible image of his life. Theoni was laying there, her face cut badly. The freckles that he used to adore were non-existent. Large bloody patches were on her obviously deeply wounded face. Her eyes were swollen shut. He couldn’t believe that she would never be able to see him again. Her arms and legs were badly bruised. Her lower body was in a temporary cast. He assumed that the cast was to prevent her from trying to move her hips and thereby causing more damage to her already injured body.
“Dr. Edstan, is that you?”
Dr. Edstan responded from behind Joe, “Yes it is. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Call Joe. Tell him that I love him and that I’m alive. Tell him I want to marry him as soon as I leave this hospital.”
Joe was disgusted. Her voice sent a cold chill down his spine. He thought that what he felt was true love, only to be disgusted by her faded and flawed face. He had believed that he loved her, and that their love would be unconditional. He knew instinctively that everything had changed. Their life together would not be the one that he imagined. He always saw their life together as being active. He wanted her to love him, but he also wanted her to bear his children, and be his wife. He always pictured them teaching their children to ski, and spending days watching them play little league baseball. They would take trips to a lake in upstate New York and spend days water-skiing and enjoying the beauty of the lake. Theoni would never be able to ski, or water-ski again. She would never be able to watch her children play little league or enjoy the scenic beauty of the lake.
He realized that for the rest of his life he would need to spend aiding Theoni. He would need to drive her to physical therapy. He wasn’t sure that he could handle watching the one he was so sure of loving suffer incredible amounts of pain, just to regain the ability to walk. He would need to help her pay for her expensive reconstruction surgery for her face to recreate the beauty that she once was. He would have to live knowing that she would never be able to see him and kiss him fervently because he looked handsome in the moonlight. He would have to give her play by plays of their children’s baseball games. He would have to teach his children how to ski. He knew that he was incapable of supporting another human being. He didn’t want to spend his life with someone who was a burden to him. He remained silent, turned around and walked out the door, and out of her life, forever.