The Patient

The Patient
[March 2019, Challenge - Round 3]

"Just one more step, Joanna…” Sky’s encouragement was as much to keep her own spirits buoyed as to keep the teen focused on her rehabilitation.  In Joanna, Sky saw the reincarnation of her own daughter and hoped her patient’s fate would be different.

Joanna’s arms strained on the bars. Her concentration teetering as her arms began to buckle.  Joanna lost focus, dismayed at how her life had been shattered.  She had underestimated the response that some of her classmates would have to her transition from Joseph to Joanna.  Faith, Charity, and Hope had dragged her out of the women’s restroom.  In a fit of vigilante rage, the girls snatched her wig, exposing her as a crowd gathered around.  In the chaos, her mind was lost to the panic. All she could remember was the searing pain in her lower back, then everything going dark.

The teen crumpled to the padded floor, her arms had buckled under the stress.  Two months of therapy and she could only manage to put one foot forward and shift her weight.  She would walk again; the doctors had said as much.  'It just takes time.’ 

Day by day, Joanna labored, but her patience waned. Her struggles and self-doubt festered within her.  

Sky silently prayed that Joanna would work up enough resolve to reach for the bars.  The anemic teen stretched up her hand only for it to fall limp to her side.  Sky paused for a moment, watching to see whether Joanna would make another attempt. Her patient’s head turned toward the wheelchair in the corner of the room, then lowered in resignation.  

“Are these my choices?” Joanna lamented.  

Sky contemplated her patient's whimper.  She had precious few seconds to respond. She found her past expressions of encouragement and sympathy were growing far less potent.  Sky chose a different tact. “Yes, you could either give up and watch from there.” Sky pointed to the folded wheelchair. “Or you can work through the frustration and pain and once again stand on your own.”  

Joanna hung her head in defeat.  "Why?” 

It was the question Sky had heard from countless patients.  'Why?’ She knew there was no answer, just wisdom.  Wisdom that her distressed patient would not ponder.  How could she?  In the depths of the fledgling teen's despair and failures, no amount of advice could pierce the fog of her own doubts.  

Sky was reminded of her own daughter’s struggles, their paths almost identical.  The tormented boy; the daughter Sky only saw in repose, before burial.  Eyes closed and heartbroken, she whispered, “Because, they can’t win.”  Sky froze, regretting her own faux pas instantly.   She hoped that her outburst would be too inaudible for the teen to hear.  

The aged therapist heard a hollow high pitched clank.  Opening her eyes, she saw Johnna’s hand on the parallel bars straining, but grasping firmly.  “They can’t win.” Joanna echoed. The girl's determination restored, she reached up with her free hand to grasp the opposite bar and picked herself up.  

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This story is 516 words long.