A/N: Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer:)
This was written for The Mystics Best Non-Lemony Story Dare. For more info, visit The Mystic Awards website. There is a link on my profile:)
Thanks Gleena and Justine Lark for being my lovely beta readers:) They've got excellent stories; go read them!
Wiggle Your Toes
"Thanks for choosing Wiggle Your Toes Therapy! This is Alice, how can I help you? I'd be delighted to schedule an appointment for you. Perfect! Can you just hold for a moment, please?"
Alice's voice was too chipper for 7:45 Monday morning. Edward cringed at his boss' perma-perk and slammed the rest of his orange juice down before shoving the last of his whole wheat bagel into his mouth. He'd had to eat on the run this morning since Alice had called him and asked him if he could reschedule one of his regular clients to an earlier time-slot. Mornings- especially those of the Monday variety- weren't typically Edward's favorite time of day. He was much more of a night owl.
"We're really picking up a lot of clients, Edward! I'm so glad that your dad was interested in referring us!" Alice Whitlock whispered as she pulled up the scheduling program on the computer. Jessica, their usual receptionist, wouldn't be in until ten. Alice co-owned and operated the recently opened Wiggle Your Toes Therapy along with her husband Jasper. They had a perfect set-up. She was an occupational therapist and Jasper was a physical therapist as well as a grief counselor; Wiggle Your Toes specialized in accident rehabilitation. Their unique approach to concurrent physical and emotional therapy was what attracted Edward to seek a position with them as a physical therapist five months previous.
"I had a cancellation just this morning, eleven AM, would that work? Perfect! We'll see you then, Ms. Swan!"
Edward began organizing the Thera-band rolls and exercise balls while he listened to Alice set up for the day. His first client, Lauren Mallory, would arrive within a few minutes. Edward had been frustrated when Alice had told him who exactly had needed to be rescheduled this morning. Lauren was a spoiled daddy's girl; she was also milking her injury for all it was worth. Edward had a suspicion that she was drawing out her treatment for as long as possible in the hopes that her constant come-ons and obvious ploys for his attention would amount to something.
Before he could really say he was ready, the door chime jingled, and torture walked in.
"Eddie! I think I need one of your special massages today! My shoulder was just so, so, so painful last night, I could hardly sleep a wink!"
And so it began.
"Lauren, have you been doing your exercises?" Edward asked, but he knew the answer already.
"Oh, Eddie, they just hurt so bad! I think the red pully thingy is just too tough for a tiny little thing like me, can't I just go back to the yellow one?"
"No, Lauren. You'll never get fully better that way. The red Thera-band is only medium strength, a level three- and your size has nothing to do with it- Alice over there regularly exercises with the gold bands, and they are a level eight, the strongest ones available."
Edward fought to keep from rolling his eyes when Lauren pouted and pulled on his scrubs top.
"I promise to be a good girl, Eddie. Please can I do the yellow band?"
"No. I'm going to help you graduate PT if it's the last thing I do," Edward promised. Unfortunately, Lauren missed the exasperation in his tone, and clapped her hands and bounced as if Edward had just proposed. He caught Alice's eye over Lauren's head and shot her a glare when Alice had the audacity to laugh at his plight.
Forty-five minutes later, Edward was relieved to see Lauren finally walk out the door. He followed a safe distance behind her over to the front desk to drop Lauren's chart off with Jessica to be re-filed until Lauren's next appointment. Alice stood over Jessica's shoulder, attempting to teach her the appointment calendar software yet again. When Edward caught Alice's eye, he quirked his eyebrow at her as if to say, "What goes around, comes around."
He chuckled when Alice stuck her tongue out at him and slapped a new file against his chest.
"This was just faxed in from your dad's office. He referred this young woman to us, namely to you, for extensive rehabilitation."
Edward raised his eyebrow again, this time out of curiosity. He put a hand over the file as Alice pulled hers away so that the folder wouldn't fall to the floor. Looking down at the name on the file, he realized that this was the client Alice had scheduled into Lauren's usual timeslot.
Swan, Isabella (Bella) Patient ID #3263827
Female, age 18 involved in pedestrian/vehicle accident six weeks previous. Patient's pelvis was broken in three places, in addition to bilateral hip dysplasia. Right femur was broken cleanly and repaired with rod and screws.
Edward shook his head, trying to shake away the memories that threatened to surface. It was never easy to see someone with such injuries, especially as they hit so close to home. Even more so when it involved an eighteen-year-old who, before their accident, had likely been poised to start college and embark on their first taste of independence. Edward walked slowly through the therapy room, a phantom pain lingering as he lay the file down on the desk in the back corner. He shook the memories from his mind and began disinfecting his equipment in preparation for his new client.
In what seemed like no time at all, the front door chime jingled again, and a young brunette in a wheelchair was maneuvered through the entry by a similarly-featured frazzled-looking woman.
"Wiggle Your Toes?" the woman asked, looking as though any answer other than yes, can I help you, would be unacceptable.
"Yes! Can I help you?" Alice trilled, taking over greeting duties from Jessica, who looked a bit wary of the new pair. Edward smirked. Alice always did know what to do and say. The harried woman blew a sigh of relief and pushed the wheelchair further into the lobby. The young woman pulled some paperwork from her lap as they approached the receptionist desk.
"I'm Bella Swan; this is my mother Renee. We're here for an eleven AM appointment?"
"Of course! You'll be working with Edward; he's an excellent therapist. He should be ready for you…and here he is," Alice said as Edward moved to meet his newest client.
"I'm Edward, and I'll be your physical therapist," he introduced himself. "Come on back."
"I'm Bella," the young woman replied, extending her hand. Edward smiled as he met her deep brown eyes and grasped her hand in greeting. He was lost for a moment, before the woman accompanying her cleared her throat.
"You're her physical therapist?"
Edward bristled at the incredulity in the woman's tone. He took a moment to collect himself and subdue his infamous temper so that he could respond politely. "Yes, actually. I have been working as a therapist for two years now. I just joined Wiggle Your Toes about five months ago."
"How old are you? You don't look any older than Bella here, and she's eighteen!" Edward took a deep breath and caught Alice's eye. His boss was red-faced trying to keep from laughing aloud. She and Jasper had teased him more than once for his baby-face.
"I'm actually twenty-six. I graduated two years ago with my doctorate in physical therapy. Shall we?" Edward gestured back towards the therapy room, giving Bella a broad smile as she rolled her eyes at her mother.
"Bella, I'm just going to stay here and fill out the paperwork. You'll be ok on your own?" Edward didn't miss the brief look Bella's mother tossed in his direction. Meaning, will you be ok alone with him. Did I grow fangs in the last five minutes? Edward mused.
"I'll be fine, Mom." Bella said it with a tired sigh, and Edward got the feeling that Bella was not accustomed to being so dependent on others. From the looks of Mrs. Swan, she wasn't used to being so depended upon.
"Let's just see what you're capable of today. Nice and easy, no real work. Don't expect that next time though," Edward grinned at Bella, moving forward to help her from her chair.
"Please, I can do it," Bella said. Edward stepped back, unsurprised. He was generally excellent at reading people, and it seemed that he had read the relationship between mother and daughter correctly. Bella reached behind her into a bag strapped to her chair and pulled out a pair of foldable forearm crutches. Edward was surprised by the strength of the urge he felt to help Bella. He prided himself on being objective and able to back off when a client asked, to let them overcome their trials themselves, but he felt inexplicably protective of this slip of a girl who had been injured so horrifically.
It took her more than a couple minutes of painstakingly slow and obviously painful maneuvering, but Bella finally succeeded in lifting herself out of her chair and to her feet, leaning against her crutches.
"Excellent. You are determined. That will only help you during therapy. I will not lie; this will hurt. You may want to quit, you might hate me in the end, but it's my job to get you back to your beautiful self." Edward caught himself. Did he really just call her beautiful, aloud? That would have to stop; she was just a client. Bella's face was red, and Edward was certain that it was from his verbal gaffe. He quickly pushed forward, trying to save them from the awkwardness. "Can you take a few steps for me?"
Bella nodded, and took a deep breath. She watched her feet, taking three slow, shuffling steps forward without looking up. Then she carefully positioned herself on the crutches and looked triumphantly into Edward's face. Her smile was infectious; Edward found himself smiling as well.
"Very good. Can you make it back to the chair?" Edward wanted to watch her maneuver as she turned around. Bella's face fell visibly.
"I'm not so good at the turning around," she muttered, almost to herself. Edward took a step forward, unwilling to see her stumble and fall. Sure enough, as she was turning around her right foot got caught behind her left, and with her injury, she wasn't able to pick her foot up to pull it around without causing intense pain. Edward recalled the white-hot pain all too well.
"It's ok to ask for help," he murmured after Bella struggled in silence for a few moments. She exhaled in defeat and let her head hang.
"Help me please," she asked quietly. Edward stepped forward and knelt down beside her. Grasping her knee, Edward tried not to think about the warmth of her skin as he bore the weight of her body and gently lifted her foot, allowing her to shift on her own and keep going. Beneath the fabric of her jeans, he could feel the atrophy present in her leg muscles after weeks in a cast. "Thank you…" Bella murmured. Edward was taken aback by the surprise in her voice.
"It's my job," he said with a shrug.
"No- well, yes, thank you for helping, but I meant thank you for allowing me to finish on my own. Ren- Mom would have brought the chair and just made me sit. Makes me feel like I've failed somehow."
She didn't say it, and she obviously wasn't alone, but Edward could hear the loneliness in her tone. He smiled to hide the sudden swell of sadness he felt for Bella and decided to lighten the mood.
"Well, not in PT. You won't fail, because I won't let you. I'm going to help you graduate PT if it's the last thing I do." Edward couldn't help but realize that he had said the same thing to Lauren not two hours before, but he had meant it completely differently. Bella was something more. Something about her just reached out to Edward and made him want to pull her into a hug, and never let go. "We've got a small therapy pool on-site; we'll do some work in the water. That should help with the pain and your mobility."
"Ok…" Bella's face turned red.
"You'll be fine, the pool isn't deep. It's just six foot at the deepest, and we won't be going in any higher than your chest." Bella only nodded, and Edward didn't push it any further. Bella was finally back to her chair, and Edward held it steady as she carefully lowered herself into it.
Then Edward had Bella do a few stretches and movements while seated, and he watched as she maneuvered around the room in the chair.
"Until next time then," he said softly, hardly believing that a full hour had passed. Renee came over to them as soon as they moved towards the lobby and she began pushing Bella towards the front door.
"Next time." Edward just barely caught the murmured salutation as Bella was wheeled from the therapy room. For the first time ever, he was glad to have to see a client three times a week. He couldn't say why he felt so giddy, but he couldn't wait for Bella's next appointment.
Two weeks later, Edward found himself anxiously waiting on a Wednesday morning for the clock to read eleven. Bella's appointments had all been incredibly good so far. She had an excellent attitude and determined drive that Edward had never seen before. He found himself notably happier on the days he saw Bella. Alice had raised her eyebrow at his nervous energy this morning as he drank his usual orange juice, but she smiled knowingly at him when she had handed him his patient files for the day. Alice had caught him whistling merrily Monday afternoon, something that he had never done before. Jasper had noticed Edward's bright outlook as well and even commented that "Mr. All-work-and-no-play" was conspicuously on vacation.
Finally the door jingled, and Edward hurried to meet Bella in the lobby. Alice snorted quietly at him while she assisted her client with a soft book with various different clothing fasteners throughout its pages. Edward ignored her.
"Bella, it's good to see you," he greeted her. Bella's mother sat in one of the lobby chairs and pulled out a thick sheaf of papers.
"Bella, hon? I'm just going to work on some grading while you work with Edward, ok?"
"Sure, Mom." Bella slowly stood from her chair, leaning heavily on her crutches; Edward remembered not to hover over her, though the urge was there. Instead he gestured towards the therapy room behind them.
"Let's just come over here to the mats, and I'll help you work your legs before we get in the pool."
Bella's face was still red whenever Edward helped ease her to the thick exercise mat that lay on an elevated platform. It stood twenty inches tall, and was nearly square at six by eight feet. It was perfect for Bella's condition; she could lie comfortably on the mat, and Edward could kneel on it with her and help her exercise all without actually getting on the floor. Edward made sure she was comfortable with a pillow under her head, positioned flat on her back before he began to massage and work her legs.
"This is nice. It's just like laying in bed. Except you're here, and you generally don't massage me in bed…" Bella trailed off as she realized what she had said and her face glowed a bright crimson. Edward was certain that his face wasn't far behind, but he wasn't about to look in a mirror. Alice would never let him live it down.
They chatted while Edward helped her move her legs and gently stretch them while providing gentle resistance. Bella was quiet, not really saying much, so Edward took it upon himself to keep her distracted from the inevitable pain from the exercises that he was working her through. By the time they finished their routine, Edward knew Bella's favorite color was green, that she preferred the classics and that she had once owned a cat named Edwin. A fact which caused Edward to wrinkle his nose, and Bella to smirk.
"Ready for the pool? I promise you it will be a relief after this," Edward said. Bella nodded, determined not to open her mouth and reveal just how much she hurt. Edward could see it in the set of her jaw and in the glistening sheen of unshed tears in her eyes. The thought of Bella in pain tugged at his heart more than he had ever experienced with any other client, but he couldn't deny that he was immensely impressed by her strength and courage.
Lauren had cried in loud, unending sobs throughout and after her first few therapy sessions, and her torn rotator cuff was nothing compared to the injuries that Bella suffered from. Not for the first time, Edward found himself curious about the details of the accident that had brought Bella to Wiggle Your Toes.
"I'm ready," Bella breathed out.
"Let's just get changed then. Would you like Alice, or your mother to help you to change?" Bella shook her head.
"I've got my suit on under my clothes. I figured it would be easier than changing here," she explained.
"Great. Let's get to the pool then!" Edward did offer Bella a hand up; he refused to let her struggle after the effort she had just put forth. Edward led her on her crutches to the back of the room. The therapy room had windows occupying the top half of the wall. There, Bella finally saw the pool.
"I wondered where you were hiding a pool here." Edward chuckled.
"It's not exactly sized to Olympic regulations, but it gets the job done," he joked. The pool was only about ten feet wide and fifteen feet long, but it was large enough for its purpose. One end had a handicap rail and a gradual slope, enabling wheelchair-bound patients to be brought fully into the water in a special chair.
"No belly flops then?" Bella asked sardonically, taking in the handicapped access. Edward laughed out loud.
"No, though I have to tell you that my brother Emmett tried it once, and didn't care for the results."
Edward led her to the seats along the wall and turned away to allow Bella some privacy. He made quick work of his scrubs. He too had worn his suit under his clothes. He wore a sleeveless, knee-length body suit. It was easier to work with clients in the water when he felt more comfortable with them, and being shirtless was never something he felt comfortable about around female patients. When he turned around, he nearly laughed aloud. Bella was bright red, having seen him strip down, but Edward was more amused by the fact that Bella was wearing the women's design of his same suit.
"We match," he said, allowing a brief chuckle to escape. Bella blushed all the more.
After Bella had agreed (not without some convincing) to allow Edward to wheel her into the water in the chair the first time in, Edward gripped her elbows as she held his forearms for support and helped her to stand. The entire length of their lower arms was pressed together, and Edward couldn't deny the current exchanged between them; nor that he was thoroughly entranced by the sensation.
"Don't look down, look into my eyes. Just let the water support you," Edward murmured. The rest of his instruction was caught in his throat as Bella's deep brown eyes met his and held his gaze. It was several moments later when Edward realized they hadn't moved an inch.
"Now what?" Bella asked.
"Uh….sorry." Edward gave himself a mental shake and scolded himself for getting so caught up. He needed to be professional. "Let's walk the width of the pool here and see how you feel." Edward walked slowly backwards, allowing Bella to set their pace. "Would you like to talk about it?" he asked after a moment of complete quiet.
"The accident. It does help to talk sometimes."
"I wouldn't want to bother you with my boring life," Bella mumbled.
"I'm not doing anything else at the moment," Edward joked with his best smile. Bella was truly something else. Lauren hadn't even waited for him to ask, but gave every last detail of her skiing accident like it was a spellbinding story instead of the inane drivel that it actually was.
"Oh. I was at school."
"You were in an accident at school?" Edward asked, trying to keep his tone neutral like Jasper's.
"Yeah. In the parking lot."
Edward figured as much, since her charts had mentioned a vehicle-pedestrian incident, but he waited for Bella to continue.
"It was icy, I was standing next to my truck and a classmate of mine lost control of his van on the ice. Pinned me between our vehicles. I was lucky. Lots of people lose their legs in that kind of accident."
Edward tried to use his best poker face. Bella had continually surprised him. Not only had he not pegged her for a truck kind of girl, she seemed to always see the glass half-full. Edward was shamefully reminded of his own accident and the very glass half-empty attitude that he'd had. Edward was surprised then to feel his back meet the wall of the pool. Talking had helped Bella to keep moving; even Edward hadn't realized how far they had gone.
"You're doing great. Think you can make it back to the other side?"
"Yes." Her answer was firm and determined. Edward smiled at her.
"You've got a great attitude, Bella," he said.
"What else would I have?"
"Some people come in here with a chip on their shoulder the size of Alaska," Edward explained ruefully. He didn't mention that he had been one of those people once upon a time.
"Well, it was an accident. There wouldn't be much point to holding a grudge. Aaah!" Bella suddenly froze and tensed up. Edward knew immediately that she was cramping up. Quickly, he turned her in his arms and held her to his chest in order to tow her back across the pool.
"Just relax into me. Let the water hold you, concentrate on letting each part of your body to relax and let go." Edward kept his tone soft and soothing as he continually moved backwards towards the chair. Eventually, her toes bobbed to the surface as Bella fully relaxed. It felt so right to have her in his arms like this. Her hair was damp from the warm pool water; it only enhanced the fragrant scent that permeated her brown mane. He almost didn't want to release her. That's when Edward remembered that she was a client. He couldn't allow himself to become involved with her, and for that matter, she was eight years younger than him. Edward was sure that the frazzled woman in the lobby would not be thrilled with a twenty-six year-old man developing a crush on her barely-legal daughter. "Here's the chair. Would you like to sit in it?"
"Can you just support me for a moment longer? With the exception of the cramp, I haven't felt so pain-free in weeks. Thank you, Edward."
The sincerity in her voice made Edward feel like the best therapist in the world. It didn't hurt that it meant he had a valid reason to hold her a little bit longer.
"You seem happier now."
Edward startled and looked up, realizing for the first time that he was humming a little tune and smiling. He had thought that he was alone in the back office while he completed some paperwork for his client reports. At this moment, he happened to be working on Bella Swan's file. It had been a little over a week since he had first had Bella in the physio-pool, and she was making excellent progress. Her determined spirit and can-do attitude really made a difference. In under four weeks, she had significantly increased her range of motion and flexibility.
Today happened to be a Thursday, a day on which he didn't see Bella. His attitude at lunch had been noticeably more aggravated than it had been on the previous day.
"Yeah, I guess I am," he offered another small smile for Jasper's benefit and quickly ducked his head back to the file he was notating. Jasper moved closer to the desk that Edward was sitting at.
"Ahh…I see," Jasper drawled teasingly.
"See what, Jazz?"
"Edward, how often do you hum to yourself and smile like a fool doing paperwork?" Put that way, Edward had to concede that Jasper had a point. "Bella seems good for you, Edward. I've never known you to be so content. So happy. Just be careful."
"What do you mean?" Edward said defensively.
"She's a client. You're toeing a fine line; it really wouldn't be appropriate to get involved with her. Not to mention that there's the age difference. If you think it'll be a problem, I can take over her care, and there wouldn't be an issue of dating a client."
"That won't be necessary. I have no intention of acting on anything. I'm going to keep it professional. And besides, I'm not that much older than her. You make me sound ancient, and I haven't even hit twenty-seven."
Jasper laughed, pulling Edward out of his funk.
"Whatever you say, man. Whatever you say."
"Your eleven o'clock rescheduled again."
Edward looked up at Jessica where she was sitting at the receptionist's desk. He had been on his way out to take a break before said appointment.
"Ok, what time did they take? Or did they take a different day?" He held out hope that it was cancelled all together, as he knew exactly who his eleven o'clock appointment was.
"Um…" Jessica looked at the computer screen, then back at the phone, then again at the screen. "I don't remember…"
"Apparently, Lauren is scheduled right now," Edward groused, putting a fake smile on his face before he turned and directed Lauren into the therapy room. Jasper was working with a client at the Thera-band station, selecting a length and strength appropriate for the man's knee injury.
"Those things are terrible. I think I re-injured my shoulder using that nasty red one."
"Lauren, you have to use it properly and consistently. User error is the only reason for a Thera-band to cause injury." Lauren looked confused for a moment, but then she shrugged it off.
"Maybe we should try the therapy pool. I think it would help me immensely."
"Lauren, the pool is for those who have suffered back and lower-limb injuries. It would be overkill for your shoulder injury."
"Are you sure? Because I just got the cutest little suit; it's hot pink and has—"
"I'm sure that you won't need the physio-pool. Let's use that awful red thingy, huh?" Edward rolled his eyes as soon as Lauren turned around with a pout. Jasper was having an extraordinarily hard time keeping his face passive as he had heard Edward's conversation with Lauren. Edward kept shooting glances at Jasper, narrowing his eyes every time he heard Jasper lose it and laugh under his breath.
Lauren was working on her exercises with Edward's supervision, though she kept stopping and asking for redirection, so that Edward would have to touch her. Just as he had reached his wit's end, Lauren stretched particularly far and hard and suddenly released the Thera-band, crying hysterically.
However, as Edward had been standing at the other end, it snapped back and caught him, raising a large red welt on the back of his hand. Edward grunted and backed away, shaking off the sting in his knuckles as well as the temptation to swear at Lauren.
"Oh Eddie, I think I tore it again! I need your magic massage! Oh look at what that stupid thing did to your hand! You should really do away with such a dangerous product! Do you need me to kiss it better?"
"No, Lauren, I don't," Edward insisted. "Let's call it a day, shall we? I'll get you an ice pack for your shoulder." Edward went to the mini-fridge in the next room that they kept stocked with soft gel ice packs.
"Lauren still giving you trouble?" Alice asked, eyeing Edward's red hand. Edward merely gave her an exasperated glance before opening the fridge.
"I'm thinking of asking Jasper to take over her case," Edward said half-seriously. He mostly just wanted to rile Alice up.
"No. Sorry, no dice. I know you are just trying to get a reaction out of me, Edward. Jasper told me all about your conversation about not giving her case to him because Lauren has no qualms about feeling up married men."
"Or single ones, either," Edward grumbled. "My only hope is that Daddy Mallory will get tired of arguing with his insurance company for coverage and yank her out of therapy."
"You are so bad, Edward."
"I try," he tossed back with an eye roll. Then he squared his shoulders and went to face the music.
Lauren was in the lobby, speaking with Jessica.
"That's so terrible! Well, you've seen her nails; she just doesn't appreciate a good nail job. Oh, Eddie, thank you. Are you sure we can't have a little massage session before I go?"
"Yes. You need to ice and rest. Twenty minutes on, twenty minutes off."
"Ok," Lauren said dejectedly. "See you next time, Jessica! Get me the number of your nail lady!" That was when Edward looked at Jessica more closely.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm typing," Jessica said.
"With pencils?" Edward asked incredulously. Jessica huffed.
"Yes! Can you believe this?! I tried to tell Alice that I had just had my nails done! I mean, my acrylics are just too long to type! Then she just handed me these pencils and told me to use the erasers on the keys. I mean that's abuse, isn't it?!"
Edward just shook his head and walked away, eager for the break that he didn't get when Lauren had shown up early.
Before he even turned around, he could feel his face forming a broad grin. No one had ever made him smile like that. Bella's appointments were surely the highlights of his week. They would talk through the whole of her sessions about anything and everything. Conversation with Bella was never dull or forced. Even their silences were comfortable; her presence was soothing to Edward, especially after he'd had to endure a session with a difficult client. Edward enjoyed his time with Bella so much; he almost didn't want to adjust her schedule to twice a week. Her therapy was progressing nicely though, and he couldn't justify keeping her at that level of treatment. Bella was able to move more readily around on the crutches; the wheelchair was now a thing of the past.
"Look at you, Bella!" Alice trilled from her work table. Bella was moving on one crutch this morning. "Edward must be a really good therapist," she teased with a wink towards Bella. "I may have to give him a raise!" Alice made a face at Bella, and they laughed together. Edward felt compelled to give Bella her due. He hadn't done anything extraordinary. It was his job; Bella was the one doing all the hard work.
"I think Bella's just a great patient. She deserves all the credit," Edward said softly. Bella smiled shyly and blushed as she looked down at her feet.
"Shall we get started today?" Edward smiled and led Bella over to the elevated mats to help her stretch before they tackled the two-sided staircase. Moving up and down steps remained difficult for Bella. The placement of the breaks in her pelvis made it difficult for her to readily raise her right foot. Her strength and stamina had been steadily increasing, but getting the necessary height for climbing stairs was still beyond her.
Bella positioned herself supine on the mat and used her hands to help lift her left leg. Edward knelt in front of her and helped ease her leg towards her chest before he allowed her to plant her foot into his hand and push against him. After a few sets, they switched legs and Bella finally broke their easy silence.
"You really are a great therapist, Edward."
The murmured admission warmed Edward more than he would have thought. It wasn't the first time he had been complimented on his work, and he hoped it wouldn't be the last, but somehow, having Bella's approval made him feel validated in a way that he never had before.
"Did you always want to be a therapist?" Bella asked in the same quiet murmur. Edward looked up from where his hands were positioned on her legs and met her brown eyes.
"No, actually. I was a music major in college." This was skating close to territory that Edward didn't enjoy talking about. Strangely enough, though, he didn't feel the same tightening in his chest nor the burning behind his eyes.
"What made you decide that PT was your calling?" Bella's tone was curious.
"I was in an accident…" Edward murmured.
"You were?!" Bella exclaimed. "Would you like to talk about it? It does help to talk sometimes," she said after a moment.
"Huh…" It wasn't lost on Edward that she was using his exact words against him. What the hell. "I was nineteen. It was the summer after my sophomore year at the University of Washington. I didn't have a car; I rode my bike everywhere. I was no Lance Armstrong, but it kept me in shape, you know?"
Edward paused there, and gave Bella a hand up and gave her her crutch before leading her over to the two-sided stairs. Their routine was so ingrained that neither of them said anything as Bella began to work her way up the stairs, with Edward following her to keep her from falling backwards. As soon as Bella got to the platform, she leaned against the rail and allowed Edward to switch positions so that he could precede her down the stairs on the other side, going backwards so that he could monitor Bella's progress.
Just as he was about to step backwards, Bella spoke. "You were riding your bike?" Her gentle prod made Edward look up from where his eyes were fixed upon Bella's feet.
"Yeah. I was coming down a hill, in the bike lane, and I came to an intersection. I was going pretty quick and my light was green, so I just kept moving through the light. Unfortunately, there was a car wanting to turn left, and they misjudged my speed, and tried to turn before I made it to the intersection. If the road were level, I probably could have stopped in time, but on the hill, I couldn't. I ran right into the side of their car as they turned, and it launched me over their car. I landed in a ditch on the other side of the road. I broke both my legs and my pelvis. It was a miracle I didn't break my neck. I was never more grateful to have an emergency room physician for a father who always made me wear a helmet."
"I'm sorry," Bella said sincerely. Edward shook his head.
"It wasn't your fault."
"All the same, I'm sad that happened to you," Bella said. Edward merely nodded, unable to say anything more. "Why didn't you stay in music? Could you not play anymore?"
"No, I could, and I still do. I still love music, but I found that I love helping people heal more."
"Music is healing, too," Bella said, the unspoken question in her tone.
"Yes, yes it is. Where do you think Alice gets the music she plays on the sound system?" Bella paused and listened to the soft music that was always present in the background at Wiggle Your Toes. Suddenly Edward could see that something had clicked in her brain.
"What instrument did you play?" she asked, though Edward was sure that she already knew what the answer was.
"Piano," he confirmed.
"This is you?" she asked, her eyebrows nearly meeting her hairline.
"Yes," Edward confirmed.
"So you must have had a really good therapist, to make you want to do PT instead."
"I did. Garrett was excellent. He knew just what to say to get me to stop feeling sorry for myself and get my rear out of my chair and moving. It made me want to do the same for someone else. Being injured was an experience I wouldn't wish on anyone, especially not you," Edward admitted softly.
"I'm not," Bella said quickly. "What if this never happened? I would never have met you. Some things happen for a reason, Edward."
Bella's words stayed with Edward for weeks. It had been with a great sense of pride and, he was ashamed to admit, more than a little disappointment, that Edward made the final notation in Bella's file.
Last Thursday had been their final session. Bella was now walking independently, with a single forearm crutch when she was particularly tired. She still had a very slight limp, and it was likely that she always would, though it was hardly noticeable. Bella had become friends with everyone in the practice, and had even attended Jessica's farewell party the week previous. Apparently, computers and Jessica didn't mix.
So Edward was feeling quite subdued Monday morning when he came in to work with his juice and bagel. Alice had mentioned something about meeting their new receptionist this morning, and Edward hoped that it was someone a bit more competent than Jessica had been.
The lobby was empty when Edward passed through it; he quickly went to put his things down and prep for the day. Edward could hear Alice as she entered the lobby from her office, speaking to somebody about their job description.
"Edward? Could you please come here? I'd like for you to meet our newest member of the team!" Alice's perma-perk was still readily apparent. Taking a deep breath, Edward began thumbing through his waiting client files as he went to the reception area, ready to meet his newest co-worker. Just as he made it to the lobby, the phone rang, and the most glorious sound he had ever heard greeted his ears.
"Thanks for choosing Wiggle Your Toes Therapy, this is Bella. Can I schedule you an appointment?"
Alice winked at him as Bella smoothly navigated the scheduling software and scheduled the client.
"I know there is a clause in your contract prohibiting romantic contact with your clients, but there's nothing in there about co-workers," she said quietly, smiling as she danced towards her office with a laugh.
Edward stood there, shocked, until Bella replaced the phone in its cradle and stood to greet him with a smile. He couldn't help but appreciate her new uniform of "Wiggle Your Toes Therapy" scrubs.
"Bella? Why didn't you tell me that you were going to be working here?" he finally managed.
"You never asked," Bella said simply. Edward nodded. It was true.
"There's something else I've never asked—" Edward was cut off before his question even made it from his mouth. Instead, Bella fisted her hands into his hair and pulled him down to her face before claiming his lips with hers. He eagerly responded, fulfilling his most earnest desire from the last couple of months. Then she repeated her question from weeks before.
"What if this never happened, Edward? Is it terrible of me to say that I'm glad you had your accident? That you decided to become a therapist? That I was caught in an unfortunate situation? I must be crazy, because it was the best thing that ever happened to me."
Edward answered her with another kiss, interrupted only when the phone rang again. He had to laugh at her breathless greeting.
"Thank you for calling! This is Bella; can I Wiggle Your Toes today?"
A/N: Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out The Mystics website!
Anyone catch the Star Wars reference?