Abbey woke the same way she had for the last five years, on her back and alone. She could see the palest of lights beginning, peeking in through the small crack between her filmy sheer curtains. Those curtains allowed her to watch the world awaken and move. She blinked her eyes rapidly, wishing for the millionth time that she could simply wipe away the tiny grains of sleep herself.
She heard the soft rap on the door and Ms. Beatty peeked her head in.
“Good morning Abbey,” she smiled warmly, as she did every morning, “It’s time to get up ok?” Her gentle manner made it seem like a question but it wasn’t. Every morning was the same. A knock good morning, followed by this plump woman in her 40s pulling her from her bed, bathing, dressing, and feeding her.
“Morning Ms. B. Did you sleep well?” Abbey asked as her bed was raised almost to sitting. The mechanical sounds were soft whirls and the mattress crinkled softly as it bent. With a quick strong hug, Abbey was lifted and placed into her wheelchair. Protective straps where secured and Ms. Beatty wheeled her into a large bathroom, designed with her special needs in mind.
“I did. I had the same dream again.” she laughed “One of these days I just know Ryan Reynolds will leave that Blake girl for me. I figure I wouldn’t dream it so often if it weren’t just meant you know?” She gave her a quick wink and locked the wheels next to a special bath chair.
The shower room had a nice chair with hydraulic lift to place Abbey either in a bath or into an open shower. Abbey loved the bath. Although she couldn’t exactly feel the water on her limbs, they looked like they moved and the heat rose right above her neck where her nerves began feeling again.
But today was not one of those days. Today was Wednesday and she had her painting class. So Ms. Beatty washed her carefully, dried and dressed her. Back safely into her chair, she wheeled Abbey out and they chatted as her sheets and blankets were changed. Her cheeks still flamed sometimes when she saw the thick pads laid over them. There was nothing to be done though. She was not in control of those faculties either.
Abbey wasn’t in control of much actually. She tried hard to make the best of it. Her wheelchair was operable by her mouth, her keyboard by her eyes and voice. She painted and wrote stories to fill her days, her very lonely days.
Ms. Beatty was one of three nurses charged with her care. She also had a cook and driver. Despite her handicap she knew to many she must seem lucky and when she was feeling lowest, she would breathe and try to remember this. It was of course, not always easy.
Lately in fact it was getting harder and harder to remember that she was, at least in part, lucky. She thought of her mother, the graceful, once ballerina residing now in Dubai. Her mother, Trina Arco, was a gorgeous Prussian tigress. Almost 50 now, she was a great beauty and her father Hans was still truly and madly in love with her.
Sure they loved her, but Abbey always knew she only ever had half her father’s love. Maybe this is why he’d left her there in Brussels, kept well and entertained by a small entourage of the most skilled and loyal servants. But she missed her father. He was a rotund man, tall and jolly, always full of optimism and wit.
“Where is your head today Ms. Abbey?” Ms. Beatty asked as she pushed her down the marbled hallway to the dining room. She sighed, not even sure herself why she felt a sudden heaviness though out her very soul.
“Oh, in the clouds I guess. Maybe today I should paint some sky to go with my mood.” She grinned wistfully up at her.
The smell was incredible wafting from the table. Before her were croissants, eggs, a homemade orange jam, and crisp bacon. Johnathan had outdone himself. Ms. Beatty sat and chatted about her daughter’s new boyfriend as she fed her small bites of everything. Thanks to her mother’s metabolism, she was unlikely to get fat and it was a good thing. Eating was one of the few sensations she had left to enjoy.
She closed her eyes and smiled. The jam was amazing. Although she enjoyed their talks, right now, all Abbey cared about was the next bit of that in her life.
Ms. Beatty noticed and smiled broadly.
“He is a genius.” Abbey nodded in agreement. She often wondered if there was anything between Johnathan and Ms. Beatty. They were both single now and spent quite a lot of time alone here at the estate. She wished there was. Someone should be happy and in love.
In her heart she knew she was just a bit bitter about missing love, children, the chance to share it all with someone that looked at her the way her father looked at her mother. She shook her head slightly to shake off the bleakness and indicate that she had eaten enough. The food had suddenly lost all flavor anyway.
Ms. Beatty wiped her mouth and gave her some tea and her medicines. They helped her muscles stay relaxed and not seize involuntarily. She couldn’t really feel it, but it could be dangerous. After a few minutes she returned from the kitchen and said merrily,
“Well, it’s time for painting my little Picasso!”
Abbey nodded and engaged her chair. She backed up slowly and began rolling down the hall to the garden. With Ms. Beatty by her side, the pair looked oddly happy. The garden was beautiful with smooth walks and lush green trees. Her father was not a fan of the more manicured and ornate flowered gardens. He liked things wild and natural. So did Abbey.
Duncan was there already laying out the easels and colors. He greeted her with a soft kiss on both her cheeks making her flush. He was a handsome man but she suspected he preferred the company of other men. He arranged her easel close to her head and placed a special brush between her teeth. Working on her control, she dipped her brush into paints and slowly, very slowly began to move her head, ever so lightly touching the canvas.
Duncan adjusted her brush and loosened her strap just a tad. This smallest movement allowed her to push harder against the canvas for more control and color. He laughed and chatted with both women, taking breaks to let Abbey rest her mouth and give her instruction.
The cool morning had given away to a gorgeous spring day. Her lessons were the best two hours of her week. She sighed heavily as Duncan packed away his things. She asked Ms. Beatty to place her under the largest tree as the sun was warming quickly. She heard the phone’s alarm.
“Do you want to come in or have Mary come out here?” Ms. Beatty cocked her head. It was time for her lunch and rest break.
“I’d like to stay here if that’s ok. I’m feeling a little tired and the shade is nice.” Abbey’s smile was a little wan and Ms. Beatty hesitated a moment before nodding.
“Okay dear. I’ll just go tell Mary where you are and she’ll be right out to join you.” Abbey nodded and closed her eyes. She heard Ms. Beatty’s shoes grow softer and softer down the path. She sighed and tried to concentrate on the warm wind against her cheeks.
After a few moments she heard someone crying. But she couldn’t see anything but light. Had she moved herself into the sun? Where was Mary? She began to panic as the light grew brighter and a sharp pain twisted itself from her eyes to her head, then down her neck.
She thought she heard a man’s frantic voice calling to her. Was that Johnathan? Suddenly, the pain that gripped her was gone and the light became fierce and blinding. And then… nothing.
“Abbey, Abbey!” Mary screamed as Johnathan shook her in her chair. But it was too late. The stiffness that had turned and twisted her limbs had gone, leaving a limp doll with eyes staring sightless at the sun.