Danny and Tammy learn to navigate life, not as they would like it, but as it unfolds before them. I just love these two!
Below is Chapter One of Moving to Forever.
DANNY TRIED TO BREATHE through the pain of his heart slamming into his chest. Trying to clear the fog in his head, he listened to the sounds around him, trying to remember where he was. His skin wore a fine sheen of sweat as he swallowed rapidly to moisten his throat. His leg hurt and the ringing in his ears made him nauseous.
Nothing but the damn ringing in his ears. Breathe, just breathe. A sharp slap on the face had his eyes flying open, looking into Lex’s face. Lex was yelling at him, but Danny couldn’t hear a word. His mouth was moving, the chords were standing out in his neck, his eyes were wild…something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Danny’s eyes darted behind Lex to see Coop and Dirks looking down at him. They wore blood and dirt and they looked scared shitless. Danny closed his eyes. Think, dammit, think. What the fuck happened?
As his heartbeat began to slow and the ringing subsided, a whirring sound caught his attention. His eyelids were heavy as though something weighed them down and he struggled to open them. Then he remembered, he was deaf and Lex couldn’t talk. Fuck! Did someone drug him? Danny’s heart rate picked up as he fought against the fog in his brain. Trying to sit up, he felt strong hands push at his shoulders.
“Easy, Sergeant, take it easy, we’ve got you now. It’ll be fine.”
Danny looked up into dark brown eyes peering through a full face helmet. The man looked to be about his age, maybe a little older.
“It’s going to be okay, Sergeant, we’re flying you to base in Kandahar and from there, you’ll be flown to Germany. Try and relax, we’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Danny looked to the man’s left and saw a pole holding several bags of liquids and tubes running down to his arm. Behind the pole, he saw the sky and felt the pitch and sway of the helicopter. He tried sitting up again, but the man gently held him in place. “You’ll need to lie down, Sergeant, we’re almost there.”
Finding his voice, Danny said. “My leg hurts. What happened? Where are my men?” He licked his lips and looked into those brown eyes, close to the color of his own. Pleading silently for information.
“Your unit hit an IED. One casualty, two injuries. You were hit in the leg, the rest of your men are back at camp. The other injury is flying right behind us.”
IED, that’s right. Pot or water was the usual question before going out on a mission. Pot was a primary crop in Afghanistan and the insurgents usually didn’t blow up their own crops. So they were most often safe if they walked through the pot. Water meant slopping through trenches where IEDs were seldom placed. But today, they had to walk into a camp and check out the residents living there. Fuckers lured them in by pretending to be in need of assistance. He remembered watching Reed and Janus walk up ahead. They’d been laughing at a joke one of them had told when the explosion blasted the camp.
Danny flew through the air and landed in a heap, the wind knocked out of him, his heart racing, ears ringing. Fuck.
“Am I gonna lose it?” He waited with his breath held while the medic’s eyes turned pitiful.
“Sorry, Sergeant, you already did.”
Danny closed his eyes. Don’t cry. You can do this. Don’t cry.
* * *
A slight beeping sound invaded his sleep. What the hell was that irritating noise? Slowly opening his eyes, Danny was assaulted with the smell of alcohol, not the drink, but the other kind. Across from him were a row of beds, each one holding a patient covered with bandages in various places, and lines running from IV bags into their arms. Moaning could be heard coming from some of the men. The low murmur of female voices was reaching his ears and growing louder. Danny turned his head in the direction of the voices and saw two nurses walk into the room, each carrying medical supplies.
The cute little blonde looked over at him and smiled, “Good morning, Sergeant. How are you feeling today?”
How the fuck do you answer that? Better to go with the usual, “Fine, ma’am. Thank you.”
The redhead with her smiled and walked over to a cabinet. She unlocked it with the key she was wearing on a band around her wrist and began laying her supplies in their proper places. The blonde set her supplies on top of the cabinet for the redhead to put away and made her way over to Danny. She was tiny, maybe five feet tall. Short blonde hair and cute little dimples. It made him feel inferior. No woman would ever want him now, he was damaged goods.
Danny watched as she pulled a thermometer from her scrubs’ pocket, slid the disposable end on it, and then pushed a couple buttons on the electronic unit attached to the thermometer. She looked up at him and smiled. “Need to take your temperature, Sergeant.”
Danny opened his mouth to allow her to slide the thermometer under his tongue. As soon as he closed his mouth, she grabbed his wrist and looked at her watch, taking his pulse. He watched her look up when another woman walked into the room. Her little dimples creased her cheeks and her full lips formed into a smile. “Good morning, Doctor Rae.”
“Good morning, Risa, how are you today?”
“Very well. The sergeant here has managed his fever and his pulse is normal. He’s looking good today.”
“Wonderful.” Dr. Rae walked over to the side of Danny’s bed. “We were worried about you, Sergeant, you’ve been out for a couple of days.”
Danny’s eyes registered surprise and Dr. Rae smiled. “Not uncommon after the trauma you’ve been through. I think you’re finally on the mend. We’ll remove the bandages in a little while and take a look at your injury. I won’t lie; you’re going to be in quite a bit of pain for some time now. You’ll need extensive therapy and in the end be fitted for a prosthetic, but there’s time for that.” Dr. Rae picked up Danny’s chart and reviewed it. She checked the IVs and looked him square in the eye for what seemed like minutes. Danny became uncomfortable with the doctor’s close scrutiny and fidgeted with his blanket. Dr. Rae smiled softly and set the chart down as she said, “Your color looks good. Your eyes are clear. I’m impressed.”
Danny had no response so he nodded slightly. As Dr. Rae walked away, Danny closed his eyes and sank back into the pillow. The pain was getting worse. He would need pain medication soon or he’d sound like the moaners across the room.
* * *
Winter turned to spring and spring turned to summer, and now fall crept in.
“Okay, so I’ve changed your linens, cleaned the house, and stocked the refrigerator. I have a casserole in the oven and more in the freezer, all you have to do is heat them up.” Janice Schaefer fussed with the pillows behind Danny on the sofa and then stood to her full height of five foot six. She wiped her hands on her hips and took a deep breath before slowly letting it out.
“Honey, please come home and stay with me for a while longer. I worry so much about you. I promise I won’t be in your space all the time.”
Danny’s lips formed a straight line across his pale face. His eyes held the pain and suffering of every soldier who’d dealt with losing a limb and dealing with the months of pain and rehab. He was tired. Tired of everything, worry, pain, guilt, and the feeling that his life was changed in a way he couldn’t begin to comprehend. When he left for the Army, he’d been dating Kathryn Keeting. A week after he got home, she broke up with him. She didn’t blame it on his leg, said she’d changed and the distance of the past year and a half had made her rethink their relationship. Danny knew that was bullshit. He saw the look on her face when she first walked into the house and saw him sitting in his chair. He tried to not blame her, but he’d been reduced to nothing with their break-up on top of everything else.
“Mom, please. Don’t.” Sucking in a deep breath at the worry on his mom’s face, he shook his head. “I’m sorry and I don’t want you to worry, but I’ll be fine. I just need this for myself. I need to move on with my life and I can’t do it at your house. You’ve been great, but…I need this.”
Janice wiped her face with her hands, trying to wipe away the worry. “I know you do, honey. I’m sorry I worry so much, it’s just…” At a loss for how to finish the sentence, she dropped her hand and shrugged.
Danny gripped his crutches and, using them for leverage, stood on his one leg. Janice walked the two steps toward him and he hugged her never letting go of his supports. “I don’t mean to make you worry. You and Paul can come over every day if you like. I’m not depressed. I just want to start my life on my own. I don’t want to put it off any longer. It’s been nine months of therapy, doctors, and rehab. I need to move forward.”
Releasing a deep breath, Janice said. “Okay, well I’m coming over tomorrow morning to plant flowers in your garden so when you sit on the front porch you can see them. You have a beautiful home and the gardens have been calling for something pretty. Call me early if you think of anything you need. I love you.”
“Love you too, Ma.”
Listening to the front door open and close, Danny took a deep breath and looked around the living room. Now what?