Caroline & Lost Love
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-- It wasn't that he didn't love her anymore, it was just that his love for her evolved into something… else. At least, that's what she told herself.
He was good to her, he didn't yell at her or hit her. He always had a quick kiss 'hello' and 'goodbye' for her… he always asked how her day was. Under the circumstances, she should've just been grateful he stayed with her. She told herself that, too. A lot.
She tried to convince herself that they had just gotten 'comfortable', but in the back of her mind… nagging doubt.
It was seven years ago… seven years since the day her world changed forever. Seven years since he'd looked at her 'that way'. It seemed longer ago than that… to her.
--She had gone down to the deli to pick up sandwiches for her and Richard, her assistant and boyfriend. It all happened so quickly… one second, she's paying for her take-out, the next… gunshots.
She had wanted to hit the floor. Her brain told her to hit the floor, so when she did, she assumed it was of her own volition. Everything was in such chaos, the fact of the reality never entered her mind… till they were gone.
There were six men in all, and she silently wondered as she watched through parted fingers why there were so many of them. It wasn't like it was Fort Knox… or something else heavily guarded. When they had their money, they left, and everyone sighed with relief, just happy to have survived one of New York's many armed robberies. Everyone began to stand and collect themselves, straightening their clothes and looking around at one-another in shock.
"Is everyone alright?" a voice called out…
That's when she had noticed it. She couldn't move. Well, she could move her arms, but not her legs. Confused as to why, she willed herself to move, like she just wasn't concentrating hard enough… not that she'd ever had to concentrate to perform such simple movements before. It was just because of the shock of the ordeal… she told herself.
"Hey, lady, are you alright?" a fellow victim asked her, holding his arm as blood trickled down… the result of flying glass.
"I don't know…" was all she could think of to say. She didn't know if she was alright or not.
"You're-- You're bleeding…" the man told her, still shaken…
"Where?" she looked at her arms and saw no blood…
"On your back."
That's when she started to feel dizzy, and her shaky appearance caused the man to yell… "This lady needs an ambulance! I think she's really hurt!"
--The last thing she remembered before waking up in the hospital was the sound of sirens and a crowd of people around her. When she woke up, Richard was by her hospital bedside, looking worried and disheveled…
"Richard?" Her voice sounded strange in her own ears…
"Caroline! Sweetie… I'm here." He held her hand tighter, squeezing it…
"You don't remember?"
"I was at the deli…" she recalled… "Six men… guns… I passed out."
"You lost a fair amount of blood, but, they gave you some, so…" he trailed off…
"I was shot?"
He winced. She didn't remember… "Yes."
She looked down at herself briefly, trying to mentally decide where she must've been shot… "Where?"
"In your back."
"My back?" She wrinkled her brow as she tried to feel the pain… "It doesn't hurt."
A tear trickled down Richard's cheek… "They removed the bullet… which is good."
Her eyes grew wider, and he knew she was piecing it all together…
"Sweetie, the bullet did a lot of damage…" he choked out, forcing himself to remain calm… "You're-- You're paralyzed…"
--And that was that. Everything was very different after that. She was in a wheelchair, so they had to install a wheelchair lift in her loft at the stairs so she could get into her bedroom. Her friends started treating her like she was made of porcelain and would break at any second. And then there was Richard. Outwardly, he didn't treat her much different, but she could sense a change in him. Nothing she could put her finger on, but the subtle change was noticeable… to her. She told herself it would take time for everyone, including herself, to get comfortable with the person she had become. Maybe that was why she didn't see things deteriorating, slowly as the years went on.
--Caroline was surprised when Richard had proposed marriage. Her smile and tears of joy faltered before saying yes, and she actually found herself asking him: 'Are you sure?' To which he said:
"Of course I'm sure, Caroline. I love you so much… I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
--She accepted, but deep down wondered if he was proposing out of pity. She forced those thoughts out of her head, determined to try and have 'happily ever after' with the man she loved with all her heart by her side.
--The wedding was beautiful. Annie was her maid of honor, Del was Richard's best man… her father gave her away. There were candles and roses everywhere. Then there was the wedding night. The honeymoon. That was the first real indication that something was wrong.
--The weeks and months following the shooting were stressful… emotionally and physically. She had a lengthy recovery time… she had physical therapy… she was struggling to cope mentally with what had happened to her. Mostly because of those reasons, her and Richard hadn't been intimate since that fateful day. When the wedding night was upon them, both were understandably nervous. Things had been much different the last time they'd made love… before her injury. Richard was worried about hurting her… and Caroline was worried that her crippled body and newfound limitations would turn him off.
As they consummated their marriage, one thing became obvious to Caroline… sex didn't feel the same. She had silently wondered about that… now, she knew. Richard, as he always did, waited for her to climax before allowing his own release, but she knew that wasn't going to happen. She'd told him to finish, and not to worry about her… the surprised look on his face made her wince. He had always been able to bring her to orgasm, and now, he wasn't able to.
When he recovered from his climax, he rolled over on his side and held her… and apologized…
"It's not your fault Richard…" she told him… "It's me. I'm… broken… I guess…"
He kissed her temple and held her tighter… "We have the rest of our lives to fix this Caroline…" he whispered, wiping a stray tear from her face… "Don't be sad. This is our wedding night."
She just nodded. This was just another 'thing' that proved that her life would never be anything like it was… and it frustrated her.
--That was when it first began. Sure, it didn't happen overnight, but as the years stacked one on the other, it did happen. Richard withdrew from her.
He was sweet and kind and always had quick kisses and an interest in her day, but other than that, there was almost no physical contact. She blamed herself. She felt unattractive, her legs suffering atrophy, looking thin and stick-like… her legs were her best feature before the shooting… she thought.
--At first, Richard did try… he tried to bring her pleasure when they made love, but failure after failure made him feel horrible… and like less of a man. After a while, they went from making love twice a week to twice a month. As the months passed, that changed from 2 times a month to once every 2 to 3 months. Within the first few years of marriage, they'd dropped to twice a year.
Caroline, even though she couldn't experience any sexual satisfaction, liked the closeness making love to her husband brought her, but he often turned her down, saying that he just simply wasn't in the mood. Or he didn't feel well… or was stressed about one thing or another. Excuse after excuse.
She finally decided his lack of interest was because he didn't find her desirable any longer. He still cared about her, but, he wasn't 'in love' with her. He stayed out of duty… she thought.
He always gave her a quick kiss and an apology when he would deny her… like that would soften the blow. It didn't. When asking failed repeatedly, she began to beg… he still offered thin reasons and excuses.
Ok, so, she couldn't feel him inside her… she couldn't orgasm… but she still wanted that connection with him. Couldn't he understand that?
But then, she felt guilty… like she needed to stop 'complaining' and just be grateful. A lot of significant others or spouses leave if their love becomes disabled… Richard didn't. Richard stayed… married her… and would help her daily. So, he didn't have sex with her… Caroline could think of a lot worse things.
--She kept it all inside, not feeling as though she had anyone she could talk to about it. Eventually, as their 7th anniversary approached, she confided in Annie…
TO BE CONTINUED…
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