She couldn't believe she was sitting here in a support group. Support groups were for drug addicts or alcoholics or... people that just weren't her.
"Arizona, do you have anything you want to say?" the short, slightly chubby woman with curly brown hair looked at her with a soft smile on her face. Prompting her. Encouraging her. "An introduction, maybe?"
She simply returned the smile, and looked around the group of people all sitting in a circle. Everyone here had a prosthetic, some an arm, some a leg. Some two arms, or two legs. It was a group meeting that she'd had recommended to her months ago, before she'd even gone back to work, but she had refused. And yet, here she was, over a year after the place crash, sitting in on a group meeting for people with prosthetic limbs. She never would have fathomed that this would be her life.
Then again, she never would have believed the last two months – no, the entire last year – would be a part of her life, either. But sitting here, with these people, who were all so… open about their experiences with losing a limb – or two – made her want to just get up and leave. She didn't need to be here, didn't need a support group.
Except, she did. She needed this, because she needed something to try, in an attempt to fix her life. Her life that she'd been leading for the last two months as if she was a shell of her former self. Maybe even living as a shell for the last year. Ever since she lost her leg.
The only reason she was only at this group was because of her therapist's, Dr. Walker's, instruction. This had been her assigned "homework" for the next week, before their next appointment, to go to the first support group meeting for people who have lost a limb.
That was their main activity that they'd developed since she'd started seeing her a month and a half ago. Dr. Walker practiced what she called self-directed therapy, wherein Arizona would make up her own goals to accomplish every week. Or Walker would make suggestions and she would pick and choose or tweak them as she so chose. As long as she did something different, made some progress for their next scheduled weekly session, then she completed the goal.
Their appointment was tomorrow, so she had put this off until literally the last minute. But she thought – no, she knew, that it was time now.
The last session she had had was six days ago. She had taken to going to see Dr. Walker once a week, every Thursday evening unless an emergency surgery came in and couldn't be rescheduled.
When she had first started her therapy sessions, she had trouble saying anything to Walker. While the older, petite woman stared at her with a shrewd gaze she had stared back, teeth clenched, and answered most questions with very short answers, until Walker had eventually told her, "You know, Arizona… you do not have to stay here if you don't want to. You are here of your own will, and you are free to walk out the door any time you want."
"I don't want to," the words had bubbled out of her quickly, and she found that she was annoyed that her therapist was suggesting that she leave the office. "I came here for a reason."
That seemed to spark Dr. Walker's interest, and she had leaned back in her chair, hands folded, "Then why don't you tell me what that reason is?"
Her mouth had opened and all that could come out was a shattered breath, because how could she explain the crap show her life was in just one statement? But as those laser sharp eyes stared at her, she found that it was easier to say than she would have thought, "I – I was in a plane crash. My leg… it had to… my wife made the decision to cut it off. And the father of my daughter died, and I cheated on my wife. God, I cheated on my wife. And now I don't have her and my daughter doesn't live with me anymore, because they left a week ago, and our apartment is so – quiet. So quiet. And… I came here because… it's so quiet," she finished in a whisper, her throat feeling weirdly tight.
Walker had lifted her eyebrows, looking at her with appreciation. For once, since word of her adultery and how she'd treated Callie, someone wasn't looking at her with any judgment or anger. There was a simple acceptance to her words that relieved her. Karev, he hadn't judged her. But he had, the week after everything had happened, after he found out about what she had said to Callie about her leg, yelled at her, too.
She deserved it.
But no matter how much she knew she deserved the judgment, it didn't make it easier to deal with. So seeing this woman nod her head and just respond with, "It sounds like you've been through quite a bit," made her feel better. "Why don't we start with the beginning of what you said. You were in a plane crash…"
So that was how they started. They had had six sessions together so far, and they had talked through every aspect of the crash that she could think of. Talking about things that she couldn't say to anyone, not since it happened. But once the lid had been taken off, everything came out. It helped her a lot more than she'd thought it would, just saying... everything about how everyone's cries had circled in her ears. The way she'd seen Mark's eyes close and she knew that it was going to be so bad. It was about her experiences in the crash, and it actually felt so much better than she would have thought to just talk about what she had been through. Seen. Heard. Felt. Without having to worry about anyone else's reactions.
It wasn't until this past session, that sixth one, that Dr. Walker had finally brought up Callie as a main topic.
"You told me last time that you yelled at Callie after she found out about you and Dr. Boswell, because she cut off your leg," Walker had started her off, waiting for her to continue where they had left off.
Thinking about that night, that awful night with the storm when everything had exploded between them, still made her feel nauseous, two months later, "I… yes." Her eyebrows furrowed, and she looked down at her lap, remembering what she had said to Callie and how the truth and the resentment of actually saying the words out loud felt like it had burned her, and she shook her head, "I don't… I don't think I'm ready to talk about the why, yet. I don't think I can."
Dr. Walker nodded and left it at that, "All right, we'll talk about the reasons why when you're ready. What did Callie say, after that first fight you two had?"
She closed her eyes, thinking back. After those words had been ripped raw from Callie's mouth, "Apparently, I lost you," the Latina had left the room, leaving her words to bounce off the walls. And Arizona hadn't known what to do or say in response to those words. Of course Callie had lost her, because she had lost herself. But, she didn't want Callie to leave her behind, to lose her. She'd been spending the last year trying her hardest to make it so she and Callie could find her.
Clearing her throat, she focused her eyes on the desk in front of her, "The next time I saw her, she was packing her suitcase. Not her overnight one, but her big one." She didn't know why she felt it necessary to add in that detail, but she just felt like it had to be said because that huge black suitcase, open on the bed, filled with clothes was burned into her memory. "It was the day after she found out… the day after it happened. We finally were able to go home. We usually went home together."
But not that day. That day, she'd gone home alone after checking in to the daycare and seeing that Callie had already picked up Sofia. She had then felt this utter sense of dread. In the back of her mind… well, she didn't really know what she was thinking or feeling, if she was being honest with herself.
As she'd gone down the hallway to their apartment, that dread grew heavier. Sofia was sitting, still dressed in her jacket, with a sippy cup, on the couch, watching television. As quickly as she could go, her hands shaking, she'd entered their bedroom. And there was that suitcase, that was rapidly being filled.
Callie had looked up, her eyes red rimmed and shining in tears, but her expression so… angry and hurt, "You trusted me to make sure you kept your leg, Arizona, but I had to trust myself to keep you alive. That was my priority. My priority was to make sure that my daughter still had her mother at the end of the day. Do you think Sofia cares about having a mother with one leg? No, she cares that she has her mama. Or – or does that not matter to you anymore?"
As she'd spoken, her hands moved, filling the suitcase with as many items as she could get her hands on, and Arizona could see from the already packed stuff that there were brightly colored, small clothes – Sofia's clothes, and her heart seemed to kick start into panic, "I – of course. Sofia is…" she was sometimes all that mattered. During the times where she hated Callie, hated herself, Sofia was what made her get out of bed in the morning. Her eyes latched onto those clothes, "You can't take her away."
She didn't have legal rights, the thought ran through her head. No legal rights to her daughter, because after Mark had died, neither of them had been in the right mind set to think about that. Callie flipped the suitcase closed and her hands rested on the top, tightly closed, "I am. For the night. I lost you," her voice dropped to barely above a breath, "But she's not going to."
Stepping closer into the room, her breath erratic, she shook her head, "No. You didn't lose me," they were words she didn't even know if she believed, but all of the sudden, the world narrowed to right now, right in this bedroom and there was no hospital, no surgeries, no amputated limbs, no Lauren Boswell. It was only Callie, and seeing her so resolutely zippering that bag closed was terrifying, "Don't. Don't go. You… lost. We're lost, but we can work on it."
Could they? Callie seemed to think the same, as she stood up straight, gripping the suitcase and pulling it off the bed, "What is there to work on? You look at me and all you see is a woman who cut off your leg. Y-you aren't happy with me. I don't make you happy, so why should we work on it? You've been trying for a year to forgive me and you obviously can't."
What she was saying was true; Arizona did have times where she looked at Callie and didn't feel anything except for contempt, but then there were times where she looked at her and all she felt was love. She didn't know how those emotions could tie together in such a tangled mess, but they did.
Sometimes she didn't know which feeling was stronger, but now that the impending threat of Callie leaving, seeing Callie packing her bag, she knew. And she suddenly couldn't stand to watch her leave. Heart in throat, she shook her head, "But I – we can work on it. Couples therapy or –"
Callie's choked laugh cut her off, "You want to try couples therapy, now? I tried to get you to go for months. And now…" she hiccuped, using her palms to wipe down her face, trying to dry the tears that were falling, "Maybe it hasn't occurred to you, Arizona, but even though I'm not allowed to have feelings about the plane crash, I definitely have feelings about you sleeping with another woman. I don't know if I can get over that. You weren't George. And you weren't Erica. You were so much more, and I don't think…" she just shook her head, "I just have to go."
"And so… she went," she recounted, drawing in a deep breath and closing her eyes for just a few seconds.
She had thought she was at her unhappiest a year before that, when she had to live with knowing that her wife was the one who had cut off her leg. But the resounding silence she was left with as the door to their apartment closed, knowing that she was all alone now… her daughter wasn't playing in her room. There were no giggling sounds or playing sounds. And there was certainly no Callie sounds. And the complete, and utter aloneness that she felt was the worst feeling she'd ever had. That was why she'd started coming to therapy, because she just couldn't handle that solitude, that isolation.
There was something in her tone that made Dr. Walker take everything in and nod, asking, "And what about the divorce papers?"
She thought of the legal file that sat in the top drawer of her dresser, and sat up just a little straighter as she played with the fabric of her pants, "What about them?"
Walker folded her hands on her desk and simply shrugged, "Have you made any decisions? Have you signed them? Have you talked to Callie about them?"
Drawing in a deep breath, her posture crumpled, and she answered with one word, "No."
They were all neatly drawn up, and Callie had given them to her a month ago, which was also a month after she'd left. Callie's signature wasn't on them, either. She had said that she wanted both of them to think about it and that they would revisit the decision… sometime. Though that time hadn't happened yet.
For which she was grateful, because she didn't know what she wanted to do about them, "I don't know. Sometimes I miss Callie so much I can't breathe. Sometimes I just… don't know."
"And that's okay, Arizona. Life is messy. Emotions are complicated. Everything doesn't fit into a nice little box," Dr. Walker reminded her. It was something they'd talked about several times before in their sessions.
She was coming to accept it, but she didn't like it. At the very least, she wanted to be able to control her emotions. Then again, wasn't that was had gotten her into this whole mess in the first place? Her eyes drifted to her leg, which she was tapping her fingers against. No, this was what had gotten her into this mess in the first place. This fucking leg. In her time with Dr. Walker, she'd made a lot of headway with this leg and in coming to accept it. But there were still times…
Their time was coming to a close, and she knew it because Walker sat back in her chair, and had proposed some options for what her goal should be for this week. She'd offered out talking to Callie, an actual conversation which the two of them really hadn't had in… so long, or going to a support group meeting to help her farther come to terms with her leg.
The idea of sitting down and looking into brown eyes that she hadn't really looked in to in two months both scared and thrilled her. The idea of trying to actually talk about their very real problems made her feel the same way. And the sheer strength of those emotions were overwhelming, so she leaned forward to take the pamphlet off of Walker's desk, "I'll go to the meeting."
And that was how she ended up here, at her first meeting for this group for people with prosthetic limbs, which met at Seattle Presbyterian. When the group had first been offered to her, it was right after she'd gotten back from the crash. Right after the amputation. And when she'd received pamphlets, she had immediately thrown them away, because in her mind, support groups were for weak people. That was the mentality she had been raised to have. The mentality on the military bases on which she had grown up on was not to show weakness.
And Arizona was not weak. Even with only one leg, she was not weak.
Yet, she had cheated on her wife. She had cheated on Callie and then had not fought for her to stay in their home, together, even though she hadn't wanted Callie to leave. Inside she had been begging her to stay, but on the outside, she just watched the door close behind her.
She cheated on her wife because of an overwhelming bitterness she she'd tried to repress so much that she didn't even realize she'd been harboring it. Then she turned around and yelled at Callie, practically blaming her for her own adultery. That was weak. That was not Arizona Robbins. She was not Arizona Robbins.
The very first assignment she had completed after her first session with Dr. Walker was to create a metaphor as to why she had decided to start coming to therapy. She had resisted against doing a stupid "homework" assignment; she wasn't in high school. And because of her resistance, she put it off for almost the whole week and then struggled to come up with one. She was there because of… her life. What was metaphoric about that?
But she'd come up with one eventually, thinking about her life. About bones, and Callie, and losing control: When bones are fractured, the healing process has to go through stages before things go back to normal. They have to react, repair, and then remodel, and if any one of those steps goes awry, then there's a high chance of infection or contamination. And if that happens, the bones won't knit back together and work correctly. And then the only way to fix that bone that didn't heal properly, is to re-break and start over.
In the last two months, Arizona had been re-broken and started over. Fractures can heal improperly, but be hidden until, one day, you realize that it's not healed correctly. It can be set on by an event or just out of nowhere. And her event, her out of nowhere, came from Dr. Lauren Boswell. The plane crash had broken her, and then she'd been so mad at Callie… she'd thought months ago that if she just kept telling herself that she was the same Arizona, that nothing was different, then things would go back to the way they were before.
It took until a year later for her to realize that she hadn't healed properly.
And it took another two months after that for the big glowing sign in the form of her toddler daughter to show her that she needed to make changes in her life and start to heal again. She didn't know if she would get back to being the same Arizona Robbins she was before the crash, because she was sure that that woman was gone. But she knew for damn sure that she didn't want to be this woman, this Arizona Robbins who didn't know what she wanted, to be the role model for her daughter.
But she didn't say that to her group. Instead, she looked at all of their faces, all of them softly smiling at her, and she felt… different. She felt like the odd one out, because she was. And no matter what might have changed in her life, she still didn't feel like she wanted to be so forthcoming about all of her failures, not right away. Regardless of whether or not these people could understand.
Never before in her life had she felt nervous simply speaking on front of people, yet, here she was. In her mid-thirties and she was still discovering that there was a first time for everything.
"My name is Arizona. I'm a pediatric surgeon at Sloan-Grey Memorial Hospital. The head of Pediatric surgery, actually, and…" she trailed off, unsure of where to go from there. The woman leading the group not-so-subtly looked down at her leg in a hint, and Arizona nodded, interlocking her fingers together in her lap, "Right. I lost my leg last year, just over a year ago, in a plane crash."
Sherry, Arizona finally remembered her name was, gave her a smile that she felt like she gave Sofia after she sang the alphabet correctly, and she didn't particularly care for it, "Thank you for letting us know that, Arizona. Does anyone have anything they would like to say to our new group member?"
Blue eye scanned around the circle, relieved to see no sympathetic faces. Then again, why would she be getting them, when these people had gone through the loss of a limb and possibly some moments of crisis in their lives the way that she had?
She paused on one man, who had a prosthetic arm, who raised his non-prosthetic hand to speak, before lowering it. He cleared his throat, "I have a question. If you lost your leg a year ago why are you just coming here now?"
"I, um…" she trailed off, looking at her lap. Sofia's face flashed in front of her mind's eye, then Callie's face. Her leg. Flashes of her life before the crash, and then from afterwards, and from two months ago.
Instinctively, she wanted to bury that truth. Instinctively, she wanted to simply say that she was here because her therapist recommended it to her, and that was it. However, it was that therapy and the changes it had already made in her life that she forced herself to look back up, "I was raised to be a good man in a storm, and I've lost that. I want to go back."
And she hoped this would be a way to help her do that, to go back to that. For a few seconds, everyone was quiet, before a girl – a teenage girl, she thought, or someone who looked extremely young – spoke, "Does it bother you that the phrase that everyone uses is "lost your leg"? Like, doesn't that imply that you can find it somewhere? Oh, you lost your leg? Have you looked under the bed yet?"
A laugh bubbled up from inside her before she thought about stopping it. No one joked about her only having one leg – no one in her real life, anyway – and for some reason it made her feel lighter.
So, she couldn't believe she was here in a support group, but in the series of firsts that had happened recently, this was one that was for the best. She'd thought therapy with Dr. Walker would be pointless, but it wasn't. Maybe this would be the same.
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