She had a stomach ache. The school called Stacy to pick her up because she threw up after lunch and she'd been complaining all morning that her belly hurt. She didn't have a fever, no other symptoms. A stupid upset stomach, hardly a blip on the radar compared to what I was going through.

I tried to get up and go to the bathroom while Stacy was gone. It wasn't far. The furniture was placed so I could hold on and hold myself up. But without her, of course without her there, I fell. It took half an hour to get my broken body back in the bed, and I never did make it to the toilet.

I was out of breath when the phone rang, and almost didn't answer it. "I'm taking her to the doctor. Will you be all right for a few hours?"

"No. I want you to come home." I shouldn't have answered. She would have rushed right home then.

She sighed, clicked her tongue, disappointed, distressed, dismissive. I imagine she probably rolled her eyes too. "What did you do? Did you try to get out of bed? Damn it, Greg. You know you can't…"

I smacked my forehead with my hand. I wondered if she could hear the slap through the phone. "Can't what? Can't take a god damn piss by myself? Thanks for reminding me."

"Greg…"

"Just come home." I hung up the phone. Probably not the nicest thing to do, and certainly not the best way to handle the situation, but a six year old with a tummy ache was hardly
life threatening.

Stacy would come home. Especially since I didn't answer when the phone rang again immediately, and then I took it off the hook so she'd only get a busy signal.

I knew she was really pissed when she came in. She didn't even say anything to me, but her steps were heavy on the stairs. I picked at the blanket and waited for her to come back down to my room. Five minutes, maybe seven.

"What the fuck is your problem?" Stacy stormed into my little room, which used to be my office, when I could freely walk up and down the stairs.

"My fucking leg hurts," I snapped back at her. She didn't deserve the attitude, and I hated myself for showing out to her, but I couldn't help it. She was there, and I knew I could hurt her. Maybe not as much as I hurt myself, but I'd take what I could get.

"Sit up. I'll help you go to the bathroom, then I'm taking her to the doctor."

"I am a doctor." I sat up, which shifted the muscles in my leg against my will. And damn, that hurt. Imagine a thousand knives digging in to the thigh. Not a pleasant feeling.

Stacy retrieved my crutches from their place against the wall. "You're in no condition to be diagnosing patients."

It took me a beat to catch my breath again. "I guarantee you it's the flu. It is flu season. All the kids have it. She told me last night her little friend Macy wasn't in school. I bet she has it too, and Emily got it from her."

"Then she needs antibiotics." She held the crutches out to me. Weakness. That's what they represent. I glared at her, then shifted my gaze to the wall beyond her shoulder.

"It needs to run its course." Forgive me for not wanting to be alone. I spend ninety percent of my time laying in bed or sitting up in a chair in front of the television. The other ten percent is spent struggling to get to the bathroom.

"Stop being such a baby, Greg, and use the god damn crutches."

I glanced at the crutches. Instruments of evil. I looked up at her and snatched them from her hands. A moment later, they clattered against the wall and each other. Still glaring at her, I pushed myself up to my feet.

My right leg buckled and spasmed. Fuck. I dropped back down to the bed, hands clutching my ruined thigh. I could literally feel the muscles clench, the dead nerves and tissue rubbing against each other. A steady rocket of pain streaked through my entire leg, up my spine, into my brain.

The whole world had gone black, as if nothing existed except my leg. And the never ending cycle of pain. I was only vaguely aware of Stacy. I could feel her hands on my leg, fingers digging in to the scarred flesh, trying to relax the muscles.

Then there was nothing.

/\\

"I called James and asked him to sit with you so I can take her to the doctor," Stacy announced. I was in the chair, watching Wheel Of Fortune. I shushed her with a wave of my hand. How dare she interrupt me while Vanna was turning letters.

She huffed and sat on the edge of my bed, rattling the bedrail. "Shhh!" I hissed. The puzzle was a place. OT RSOR. Once Vanna turned over the O's I knew it. Mount Rushmore. Why didn't the contestant who got $10,000 for each of the R's know it?

I was aware of Stacy sitting there for several minutes. She didn't speak or make a sound, and even though I stared at the television, I could see the irritation burning in her. She should try an hour in my place. Then she'd know true irritation.

"Can I talk to you now?" She asked, words dripping with sarcasm, as soon as a commercial came on. A new movie, looked good. Looked like something we'd go see, if I wasn't laid up. I tore my focus away from the flashing imagery.

"What?"

"I'm taking Emily to the doctor."

"I told you I'd look at her."

Stacy slid off the bed, stood between me and the television. Damn her. "I don't need you to get sick if she's contagious."

"It's the flu, and she's presented with symptoms. She's not contagious."

"I don't think it is the flu, Greg."

"Well, I wouldn't know. I haven't actually seen her."

"I have, and it's -"

I growled at her, effectively shutting her up. Whatever. I wasn't in the mood. I imagined myself getting up out of my fucking chair and walking right out the front door, but that wasn't going to happen any time soon.

"Why are you being such a prick about this?"

"I'm being a prick?" I repeated her insult. Incredulous. She had some nerve. She had no idea what I was going through, how my leg felt. "Now I'm being a prick."

"Not now, Greg. Always. What's happened to you is terrible, but it's not the end of the world."

"Maybe not your world," I snapped back. "You can still get up when you want, take a piss without help. Call me crazy, but I actually miss being able to walk."

"You're going to walk again, Greg. It's just going to take time."

Pat Sajak's voice filled the room, and I shifted slightly, as much as I could without jarring my leg too much, to try to see around her. She sighed and stepped aside. "You're a bastard, Greg. James will be here any minute. Not that you'll miss me now."

I glanced up to see her back. With a sigh, I settled back in my chair to watch Vanna do her thing. I focused on her dress, trying to count the sequins that glinted in the studio lights, because t was something to keep my mind occupied, something to keep me from replaying the conversation with Stacy over and over in my mind.

Then Stacy was screaming, and I sat up fully, instinct pushing me to my feet, except my right foot was attached to a dead leg and couldn't bear my weight, and I crumpled to the ground, hands groping wildly for the chair, the table, the bed, anything to keep from going down on my bad leg.

I'm not sure if I screamed. Probably. But it didn't matter. My leg felt like it snapped in two, and a thousand knives stabbed my thigh. Stacy was still screaming, I could hear her, though she sounded far away. Too far. I couldn't get to her. It felt like a mirage, like she was moving farther and farther away and I couldn't get to her.

The door bell rang. "James!" I yelled, hoping he'd hear me. Surely he could hear Stacy screaming. She sounded like a wounded animal. I didn't, couldn't, think about what that meant.

He had a key. Stacy gave it to him when I came home from the hospital, just in case. All he had to do was use it, let himself in.

"House?" he questioned, but his focus shifted to the stairs.

"Go," I told him. He took the stairs two at a time.

i I remember the first time I met her.

She was wearing a lacey pink dress, pale pink I think, and hiding behind her mother's leg looking at me with really big brown eyes. She was three, and the world was still so new and full of wonder and surprises.

I knelt, so I was on level with her. "Hey there. I'm Greg. I bet your mama already told you that."

"You Dr Greg," she said softly, shyly.

I laughed. "That's right. I'm Dr Greg. What's your name?"

She looked up at Stacy, I perceived Stacy's nod from the corner of my eye. I didn't look up at her, because I was watching Emily. She was such a little Stacy, it was almost scary.

"My name's Emily," she said proudly.

"Emily is a very nice name."

"Did mama tell you already?"

I nodded. "She did. But I wanted you to tell me too."

"Mama's name is Stacy." She stepped out, away from Stacy's legs. She had a stuffed bear tucked up under her arm, but held him out to me. "This is Sonny. Do you want to hold him?"

"I would love to hold him." She stepped closer, offering the bear to me. He looked like he must have been white when he was new. Three years of love had given him a dull grey tint. His nose was missing, and he had a frayed red ribbon around his neck. "Hello, Sonny," I greeted him playfully. Emily laughed.

"You's silly, Dr Greg," Emily announced. "Isn't hims silly, mama?"

"He sure is." Stacy knelt down behind Emily. I used Sonny to bop Emily's nose, she giggled uncontrollably. Stacy made eye contact with me over Emily's head. I smiled back at her. /i