General Fiction posted September 3, 2016

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It started with a crush...

Broken Wings

by Maria Jose Garcia

When I first met Don, my heart did a somersault. He was the handsomest guy I had ever seen. He had electric green eyes and a disarming smile. But he was also out of bounds.

It was back in the nineties and I was a timid thirteen-year-old. Don was my best friend's elder brother.

Susan knew me so well, she noticed almost immediately.

'Seriously, my brother?' she asked jokingly when we were alone. 'He's a geek and, besides, he's ancient.'

Back then, somebody who had already started university seemed really old and mature to us.

I didn't see Don very often because he didn't live at home any more, so I was able to survive my crush without much discomfort.

When we saw each other, he was always kind to me, but slightly condescending. As he towered over me, he used to tousle my hair and say, 'So how's my little Pat today?' Oh, how I hated it! Why couldn't he realize I wanted to feel like a grown-up?

Time went by and my list of crushes grew till, eventually, I forgot Don.

When I was sixteen, I went out with a guy called Julian who was two years older than me. I still remember him as if no time had passed. He was handsome in a sedate kind of way. My parents adored him, he could do no wrong in their eyes.

After six months, he dropped a bomb on me. He was gay, but didn't know how to tell his family. He had only used me as a desperate last attempt to convince himself he didn't like girls. Oh, well...

'I'm so sorry, Pat,' he said, looking contrite. 'I didn't mean to hurt you.'

'Well, you did,' I retorted. Just then, I hated his guts.

After Julian, it took me a while to trust guys again. I decided it was safer to just go out with my girlfriends and enjoy my freedom.

More time passed and I finished school. I decided to study Medicine, which made my parents extremely happy. They are both doctors and till I was seventeen I had never expressed any interest in their profession. But it meant moving to Liverpool and that made me sad. Well, not sad. I had mixed feelings. I was looking forward to being independent, but I knew I was going to miss my parents and my little sister, Lola, who had just turned three.

My years at University were some of the happiest of my life. Susan and I kept on being friends, even though we didn't see each other all the time now that I was studying. She decided not to do a degree herself. Instead, she studied hairdressing and opened her own salon back home in Bourton. It was called Rainbow and it was the most modern establishment of its kind the village had ever seen.

One day, I got a call from her.

'You're not going to believe my news, Pat.'

'Come on, tell me already.'

'Josh has proposed to me.'

'Wow! That's quite a surprise. I'm really happy for you.'

It was quite unexpected news. I hadn't known they were so serious. After all, they had only been going out for five months.

'So when are you getting married?'

'We're not sure yet. Some time next summer.'

Since that day, most of my conversations with Susan revolved around wedding cakes, churches, wedding venues and so on.

I was looking forward to the wedding, but mostly because I wanted to see Don again. I wondered what he looked like after all these years. Even though I visited home whenever I could, he had been living in the States for four years now and I hadn't seen him since he left.

The day of the wedding, I was as nervous as the bride herself. I felt beautiful in my pale green bridesmaid dress. Luckily, Susan had been more tasteful than the majority of brides when choosing the bridesmaids robes.

'Wow! You look gorgeous!' I told her, when she came out of her room. And indeed she did.

Once at the church, I looked around discreetly, trying to locate Don. He was nowhere to be seen. The ceremony started and he still hadn't arrived.

I tried not to show it, but I was feeling horribly let down. Just when the priest was about to tell us the Mass was ended, I saw him walk in. But I wasn't as happy as I had expected, because he wasn't alone. A beautiful blonde was walking next to him, holding on to his arm.

I couldn't believe how sad I felt. It didn't make any sense. I hadn't seen the guy for four years. Why was I so extremely jealous?

At the reception, I tried to avoid him, but taking advantage of a lull in the music he approached my table.

'So how's my little Pat?' he asked.

'Not so little anymore,' I answered, trying not to sound bitter.

'I wanted to introduce you to Luna. She's my fiancee.'

'Pleased to meet you,' I said, because I knew those were the words society expected from me. Deep down, I was wishing she would go up in smoke. Vanish, disappear for ever. She wasn't just a fling, they were engaged!

Back in Liverpool, I tried to forget Don by concentrating on my studies. It didn't work at first, but once again time proved to be my best ally. Time and space.

I heard from Susan her brother had gone back to the States. He was planning to get married in a couple of years. His life seemed to be perfect. Unlike mine, I thought.

I finished my degree and I got a job at St Matthews, a small London hospital. I didn't love living in such a big city, but I had to make do. When I had more experience, I would try to find a hospital near Bourton.

One day at work, I got an urgent call. I rushed to the phone, thinking something had happened to my parents or to Lola.


At first I could only hear hysterical sobbing.

'Susan?' What's wrong?'

'Don has been in a skiing accident. We don't know if he'll make it.'

'Oh, sweetie, I'm so sorry.'

We kept on talking for a while. I tried to calm her down and she cried and cried.

'Do call me when you have more news, will you?'

Two days later, Susan called me to say that Don had come out of the coma. I was so relieved, I started crying myself.

Susan told me her parents wanted to fly Don back home. They were going to wait till he was a bit better and then they would bring him to England. Luna had opposed them initially, but they seemed to have persuaded her it would be better for him.

Two weeks later, Don was transferred to a big London hospital, where a lot of tests were conducted. The initial diagnosis was confirmed. Don wouldn't be able to walk ever again.

For a few days, I wondered whether I should visit him or not. After all, I wasn't family and Susan had told me he was so depressed he didn't want to talk. I didn't blame him. I would have felt the same way.

Finally, one Friday, I worked up the courage to go to see him. When I walked into the room, he was asleep. Luna was sitting on a chair looking at the wall.

Don looked the same as usual, only much thinner. It was so sad to see him like that.

Luna got up and came to shake my hand.

'I'm glad to see you again.'

'Likewise, but I'd have preferred to see you somewhere else.'


Even though we were speaking in a low voice, Don woke up.

'Oh, hello! It's little Pat. Come to see a broken man? Do I pique your professional interest?'

I was taken aback, I had expected him to be sad but not bitter. This wasn't the Don I knew.

I didn't stay very long. I talked to Don for a while, but it was evident he wasn't interested.

After that day, I decided I'd never go back to see him, but I quickly changed my mind. I used to visit him every day when I finished work.

One Friday, he was alone when I got there.

'Where's Luna?' I asked.

'She left.'

'Has she gone back to the hotel?'

'No, back to the States.'


'She said she couldn't put up with this anymore.'

'I'm so sorry.'

'Don't be. I understand. I probably would have done the same.'

'No, you wouldn't,' I told him.

I kept on visiting Don every day. Now that Luna wasn't there, I felt more comfortable and stayed longer. I even managed to make him laugh sometimes.

After two months, Don was sent home. He was going to live with his parents till he could find his own bungalow and do the necessary adaptations to it.

I missed him desperately, I missed our talks and even his frown whenever I said something silly, so on the first weekend after he left, I decided to go to Bourton to see him. It became a pattern. Every Friday after work, I would drive back to see him and I would stay at my parents' till Sunday night.

'I bet you have much better things to do with your life, little Pat,' he said to me one day while we ate fish and chips by the river. 'Why are you here? Do you feel sorry for me?'

'No, I don't.'


'How can you be so thick? Don't you know I've had a crush on you all my life?'

'I kind of suspected it... but I always saw you as a little girl.'

'I'm not a little girl anymore.'

'I've noticed that.'

'So do you think you'll be able to love me back one day?'

'I already love you. But I wouldn't impose my life on you. Nobody should be made to live with a cripple like me.'

'You're not a cripple.'

I tried to convince him I was ready to commit, but he was adamant. After a while, we changed the subject.

When his bungalow was ready, Don moved into it. The change made him more upbeat and optimistic, he felt in charge. Being able to live an independent life meant a lot to him.

Every weekend, we went on outings together. Sometimes Susan and her husband came with us.

One evening while we were eating an early dinner at The Rover, Susan said 'So when are you going to propose, brother?'

Don gave her such a killing look that she didn't speak for the rest of the evening. That made me think. Maybe our relationship had no future.

I stopped coming to Bourton altogether and didn't call Don. Maybe that way he would realized we were meant to be.

Two weeks later, as I was leaving the hospital on a Friday, I saw Don waiting outside the door. He was sitting in his chair and holding a bunch of roses.

'What are you doing here? How did you come?

'Susan drove me. Can we talk?'

'I'm not sure I want to talk to you,' I told him.



We went to a nearby park. The sun was setting, but it was still warm.

'I want you to marry me. But there is something I need to know first.'

'What is it?'

'Are you sure you don't feel sorry for me?'

'No, I don't. I love you. And it's not the first time you've asked me that.'

We married a year later, as soon as I got a job near Bourton. Don works at home, he has his own graphic design business and even though he uses his wheelchair most of the time, he can also move around on crutches.

I'll never regret having married him. He's the gentlest man ever. We lead a very happy life, and I think we'll be even happier in around nine months... but he still doesn't know that.

Romance Story contest entry
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Artwork by bd shutterspeed at

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