Meeting her chair
Today was the day. After weeks of being confined to this infernal bed, Rachael would be able to move around. At least as much as a wheel chair allowed her to move around. She had worked with Charles on the design of the chair. Current designs seemed to emphasize ones disability with high sides and backs and were little more than chairs with wheels. She and Charles lowered the back and nearly removed side rails. What were left of the side rails were easily removed . The wheels were angled slightly making it easier for her to propel the chair. The front wheels were very small and rotated 360 degrees allowing the chair to rotate on its axis. Simone, John and Eleanor had built the chair in the machine shop. Simone providing the materials while John and Eleanor providing the expertise in the machining and assembly. Charles had made further suggestions to enhance it and Rachael wondered what manner of features this rolling chair would have.
Millicent pushed the chair into the medical bay. She was accompanied by John, Simone and Eleanor. The chair looked compact and low to the ground.
Charles asked, “Are you ready?”
Rachael replied testily to the ceiling, “I’ve been bloody well ready for two weeks.”
Millicent smirked as she replied, “Perhaps, but your body wasn’t. You’ve only been able to sit up firmly these last few days.”
Rachael snapped, “Only because you had me strapped down.”
Simone piped up, “Well, we couldn’t have had the chair ready for you a week ago. It’s time for you to try it out now.”
Charles said smoothly, “Quite right. Maybe some assistance the first time in and you can work on getting in and out of it in the workout room.”
Rachael sat up and stretched her arm and looked around. “Can’t I even try to in it on my own?”
Charles sounded firmer, “The bed is high. The floors are hard. You can barely sit and you don’t know what it feels like.” Everyone waited for a response, but Rachael looked around scowling saying nothing.
Charles continued, “Shall I take your silence as acquiescence?”
Rachael shouted, “Yes, dammit. I can’t do it on my own. Feel better?” There was an awkward silence in the room. Rachael composed herself and said as calmly as she could with her voice shaking said, “My apologies. John and Millicent, could you please help me into the chair?”
Millicent and John quietly nodded. They got on either side of her and maneuvered her into the chair. As they sat her down, Millicent whispered, “I did say you were going to have to be brave.”
Rachael hissed back, “I’ve never needed help.”
Millicent whispered back, “That is why you’re going to need to be brave enough to ask…and not be a frigging idiot.”
Rachael snorted but laughed. John put the low arm rest in on his side. Millicent handed Rachael the second arm rest and it slid in smoothly into place.
Millicent said, “Move around the room to get a feel for it.”
Rachael used the circular inner wheels to push herself forward and back. She found she could easily turn right or left, holding or braking one side or the other. Once she backed over toes and she apologized a bit.
Eleanor commented, “We’ve added a suspension system to reduce bounce when you are outside the warehouse.”
Simone added, “If you feel the back of the chair, you’ll have some items that will help in a scrap.” Rachael stopped and felt the back and pulled out a long thin and very well balanced stiletto. Simone added, “There are 5 more of those hidden in chair. I don’t expect you’ll need that many.”
Rachael smiled thinly, “I used to only carry three and those were always enough. Suppose a couple extra will be helpful now.” She slipped it back in place and asked, “Do I get a proper meal and drink now?”
Millicent answered, “Training first. You need to learn how to get in and out of that on you own. If you do well, I’ll buy the drinks. Now to the residential zone and workout area.”
Navigating to the gym
John moved behind her, but Rachael cut him off and said, “I’ll drive.”
John stiffened but bowed and said, “Of course, I’ll see you up there,” and headed out the door. Rachael maneuvered towards the door but everyone to seemed be in the way of the door which was getting annoying. John seemed to be particularly slow as he left the door. In frustration she shouted at the mob that seemed to be blocking the door, “Will you people get out of my way.” At that, John moved into the hallway removing her last obstacle. As she rolled out into the hall way, she saw everyone lining the hallway clapping and cheering. Jason and Liam were in the far end whooping it. John, Simone and Eleanor were closer to the open door and they were clapping just as hard despite Rachael’s temper tantrum moments before. Michael and Felicity were in the middle cheering as well. Felicity’s face was still covered with bandages.
At the very end of the line of was her father who was clapping and miraculously had a bouquet of flowers in the middle of winter. Rachael lost the last of her control of emotions and frustrations as tears filled her eyes. She sniffed and coughed and took a proffered handkerchief from Simone and blew her nose. She then said with warmth, “Damn idiots made me cry. You’ll pay for that. I’ll…I’ll run over your toes each and every one of you.” There was laughter and hugs which she endured until she finally said, “I thought I had training to go to.”
People milled about shifting towards the stairway at the rear of the ship. Her father remained and moved to the back of her chair. She explained again, “I need to learn to work this thing. If I need help, I promise I will ask.” She heard a disappointed sigh, but there was no push. She moved the chair to the rear of the ship and got to the base of the stairs. She whispered, “Damn,” and then louder, “Charles, now what?”
By now Mordechai was accustomed to the strange disembodied voice and its smooth accent. Charles answered, “There is a lift further back…follow the lights.” And a set of lights blinked helpfully. She headed further back and entered what might have been a very large empty closet. By the entry way was a set of buttons and a handle. Charles added helpfully, “Press three and pull the handle toward anticlockwise.”
Rachael looked at the panel of buttons which were just out of her reach in her low slung chair. She looked at her father and sighed and said, “Could you please press three and pull the handle?”
Mordechai hid a smirk, but said nothing and did as he was asked. Charles spoke as the lift began its slow ascent. “I am sorry Rachael. Adjustments are going to take a while. We fixed your room and sections of the workout area. The galley is next, but a lot of this is going to require discovery on your part unfortunately. I will get one of those layabouts to handle this quickly.”
Rachael looked around and said, “I’ll need a broom stick in here until it’s fixed.” The ride was slow and tedious. By the time they arrived at the 3rd level, everyone had found other places to go. Rachael wheeled herself out and down the hall leaving her startled father. When she reached the gym, she turned left and into the room. In the section of the room commonly reserved for sparing, Millicent stood with a chair which was surrounded by additional padding.
A first workout session
Millicent pointed to the chair and said, “You will learn how to get in out of that chair today and how to get into your wheel chair.” The cushioned floor was soft and difficult to push on and she asked her father to move her to the center where the work began. Her father, Liam, and Millicent watched and provided advice as she moved herself from one chair to the others. She missed on occasion and fell to the floor. After her comments in the medical lab, no one moved to assist until she asked. She learned to lock the wheels and remove arm rails and slide into position and repeated the process back to the chair several times. After the exercise she was sweating heavily and panting but feeling better. She would not need people to load her like a sack of potatoes.
Millicent smiled and said, “Good start. Here is some water and a towel. Take a short break and we’ll move to getting in and out of bed.”
Rachael groaned and said, “I’m tired!”
Millicent leaned against a wall and looked at her. Liam and her father suddenly found the weights fascinating. Millicent said, “I’m sure you are. You’ve been nearly immobile for close to three weeks and you probably never used your arms and upper body that much ever before.” She found her own bench to sit on as she faced Rachael and continued, “Do you want me or someone else to get you out of bed tomorrow?”
Rachael took a drink of water and toweled her face. She scowled as she said, “Everything is going to be harder in this, isn’t it?”
Millicent said, “I wouldn’t know for sure. Your planet’s cities are poorly designed for non-ambulatory species. “ Rachael laughed at the phrasing and what she guessed was a gross understatement. Millicent continued, “However on a smooth stretch, I expect you’ll find us walking types rather slow. But you are going to tire quickly early on until you build those muscles.” Millicent looked around the room and then said, “Ask for help if you need it. I was serious about that earlier. Ask even if it seems easy to you. Jason not waiting for help nearly got him killed. There are a lot of tasks I can’t even think of that you are going to need help with. At least at first.”
Rachael drank more water and sighed, “I can go one more round on the chairs. If you or Eleanor or Simone can help me getting in and out of bed, I would appreciate the assistance right now?”
Millicent raised her eyebrow, “And Miss Rand?”
Rachael stretched her arm and said, “She is a dear and she has her own recovery. We can do workouts together. But I won’t add to her burden.” Mordechai smiled a bit as he heard this. Liam and Mordechai joined and once more Rachael was lifted out of her chair and worked her way onto the stool or her wheel chair. Rachael was becoming more comfortable shifting her weight from one chair to another. Millicent noted, “I expect most of the time you’ll find your wheel chair more convenient, but it can’t go everywhere.”
Rachael plopped in her wheel chair, once again covered in sweat. “I imagine not. At least outside the warehouse.”
Millicent said, “We are fixing the ship and we are working as quickly as we can on that matter. But you are right, outside the warehouse will be a whole new set of obstacles neither of us can predict.”
New Quarters for a New Reality
Rachael could no longer lift her arms, let herself be placed back in the wheelchair. She drank some more water and wiped down. She was so tired she let her father push her to her quarters. She had barely seen the old version, but she could see some immediate differences. Counters were all lower – she could roll up and be able to comfortably use them. Gone were all the extra chairs save for one tucked away in a corner. The bed was up on the side of the room with a night table next to it. The wall next to the bed had a handrail. A beautiful low cabinet of inlaid wood was close to the bed. It was tall enough that shirt and blouses could hang but trousers and dresses would drag. The opening was a roll away style like some office desks so she did not have to worry about swinging doors. On top of the cabinet was an inlay of different woods that created a most amazing cuckoo clock. She could see this room would feel comfortable with her new reality. Liam and Millicent pointed out features that let her access one thing or another. Her father sat next to her and held her hand. She could feel her eyes start to water again. Rachael asked, “Millicent all the water is making me aware of one more way I will need some help.”
Millicent nodded and said, “Yes. Right. Gentleman if you excuse us. Natures needs must be met.” Millicent pushed her into the now larger and far more open bathroom. Hand rails seemed to be everywhere. Millicent said, “For now, just let me help you and we’ll work on this task soon. “
Rachael looked around, felt suddenly helpless and said with a quaver, “Yes please help me.”
Millicent began to remove her breaches and Rachael tried to relax, but she felt tension with each tug. She looked at the ceiling as Millicent lowered her onto the raised commode, but her eyes started filling. Rachael held onto the rails on either side and finished her business as Millicent busied herself at the sink. The frustrations of the day, of the weeks, finally burst through and Rachael whispered, “Dammit, I’m going to be like this forever. Helpless.” Millicent straightened items on the counter as Rachael quietly cried. Rachael felt fear come on. Up until now, she was merely confined to her bed by Charles and Millicent. She wasn’t confined now and everything seemed to be an obstacle. She moaned, “I can’t do this. It’s too hard.” Millicent came over and touched Rachael’s head with her own wet face.
Millicent said, holding her, “I am so sorry child. I can’t make this any easier.”
The floodgates opened, Rachael’s voice shook as she said, “I can’t do anything. I can’t get in and out of the chair. I can’t dress myself. I can’t go shopping or tea without someone to open doors or lift me over stairs. I can’t shower or take a bath by myself. I can’t even take a shit without someone to wipe my bum.” She pulled in a deep ragged breath, “Millicent, I can’t do this.”
Millicent held her and was quiet for a bit and finally said, “You’ll learn, dear. It’s just the first day.”
“I’m scared. I don’t even know what I need to know.”
Millicent said, “Truthfully, I don’t know what you need to know either. Charles might know more, but this is your own path…God forgive me… your own path to wheel down.”
Rachael laughed and cried at the same time. “I’ve never had to ask for help. Never had to. And now I can’t do anything for myself.”
Millicent said gently, “You’ll learn. I expect you’ll yell at us when we do things for you that you can do on your own and you will be supremely frustrated with us all when we forget you can’t do some things.” Millicent took a handkerchief from her sleeve and dried Rachael’s face, “You will dress yourself. You will handle this matter on your own – at least here. You’ll shower on your own although you may find assistance in that has its own thrills.”
Rachael cried and laughed some more saying, “You’re scandalous.” Millicent handed her the handkerchief and Rachael dried her eyes and blew her nose. She sighed and said, “After this and the gym, I need to clean.”
Millicent said smartly, “Then it is time to learn how to shower. Take off your top. I’ll go tell Liam and your father you’re done for a while and we can all see you at dinner.”
Rachael eyes got long and she said, “My father?”
Millicent said gently, “I will make sure he stays for dinner. I may let him sneak in while you are resting. But you need some rest after everything today. Charles can call one of us if you need something more. Now finish getting undressed and I will shoo the men away.”
Millicent slipped out the door and Rachael removed her top and camisole. She shivered naked in the chair. Her legs were already starting to look small. She asked, “Charles, what will happen to my legs?”
Charles replied, “You will need to work and stretch them several times a day or they will become a problem.”
Rachael looked at the ceiling and said in a low, despairing voice, “something else to need help with.”
Charles said, “In this, no. There are things you can do without help. You need to learn swim. You will find a lot of freedom in water.”
She said, “I’m scared.”
There was a pause and Charles asked, “Of what?”
Rachael said, “That I will always need help. That I won’t be able to function. That it will all become too hard.”
Charles said, “That…is a lot to be afraid of. If you want, I could tell you that it will all be alright.” But he said nothing.
Rachael sounding a little annoyed, “But you aren’t going to?”
Charles replied, “I am told my utter honesty is one my most annoying qualities.”
Rachael laughed, “So what do I do?”
Charles asked, “When you worked in the shop, were you ever not able to fix a clock?”
Rachael snorted saying, “One can always grind new parts to replace the broken ones.”
Charles said, “Think about that while you take your shower. You never gave up on a machine that mattered to someone. You always found a way to make it work.”
Millicent returned to the washroom and asked, “Charles?”
Rachael still shivering a bit said, “He was just suggesting some exercises that will help. He is probably right.”
Millicent looked at her with her head cocked in question but asked nothing more. She opened the shower with its chair and explained its features and where the towel would be. She then levered Rachael onto the stool in the shower. The automatic machine began its cycle of washing and rinsing her. At the end, warm air blew her mostly dry. She was able to reach the towel from her stool. She looked at her wheel chair. It was positioned next to the shower. She pulled it a bit over and then levered herself into the wheel chair just as she had done so many times before in the gym. She moved herself to the counter where there was a brush and a comb. She combed and brushed her hair. She draped the towel over her front and said, “I guess if you can call Millicent, rest would be good.”
Charles said, “She will be here in a moment.”
Millicent got her in night clothes and helped her into bed. Millicent left the chair close by as she left the room. Rachael looked at the ceiling and said, “Charles, lights?” Rachael took a deep breath and tried to calm her mind as sleep over took her.