I walked through the room with some discomfort. I had thought that I was well now. I had thought that I had fully recovered from my illness. It was with some chagrin that I realized this was not the case. I looked at my 'to do' list with some dread. As I sat down with a glass of juice and looked at my pile of papers, I found myself weary and angry. I was tired from being sick and all the energy it has taken. I was tired simply because I was still sick. And I was angry because I had plans to do many things and a deadline that was fast closing. As I glared at the page before me, a hand settled on my shoulder.
"Must you be a perfectionist?" he asked me with a tone of gentle reproach and mild exasperation. I scoffed and was about to make a droll comment back when a wave of nausea rolled over me. Instead, I closed my eyes and tried to breath through my nose. Discovering that having my eyes closed made the sense of disorientation worse, I opened my eyes and sighed with disappointment. "Did you not learn that you have limitations, dear girl?" he said.
"I don't like them," I answered sullenly. "I have stuff I need to do. Things to get done..." I started when he interrupted me.
"Things that other people can do for you. Things that are not critical and that were not part of your original plans even. Things that you should not add on. You should not pile on more work when you are just now well enough to be out of sickbed. You'll put yourself back in it with this attitude," he said firmly. My shoulders slumped and I sighed.
"It is not shameful to be sick or to ask for help, you know," he said as he began to massage my knotted shoulders, "I have been sick and in need of help. I even tried to avoid seeking it out. It made me surly and unpleasant. Father was quite ... concerned." I looked at my pile of work, feeling defeated. "Is it victory you seek? Do you seek it for yourself?" he said, noting how I tensed again and my attitudes towards my work. "I think it is not victory you are looking for. All this frantic work, it is flight. You are trying to run away from yourself again. What have we said about this habit of yours?"
"I shouldn't do it," I muttered. He shook his head and sighed. "Why do you put up with me? I'm so .. so fucked up and broken," I said bitterly. Hands that had been tender turned hard. His grip on my shoulders was suddenly like iron and painful. I gasped with surprise. He took hold of my hair and pulled my head back so that I was look up at him rather than where I had my work arrayed before me.
"One thing you are most definitely not is fucked up. Nor are you broken. I have told you you are not allowed this statement about yourself. This is not to continue," he said sternly looking down at me. Something inside me quailed before that hard expression in his face. For reasons I could not place, I suddenly found tears beginning to well up at the corners of my eyes. A desperate need to argue that he was wrong came to my lips. Before the words could spill out, he tugged harder at my hair, stilling them at the source.
"Those are lies that they told you. It is filth that will not cross your lips e'er again if I have any say in it," he said in an implacable tone, "Do you understand?" I blinked the tears rising out of my eyes and gave a small nod in what limited motion I had available to me. His expression softened as the anger that arose was set aside. In its place, came a look that was somewhere between pity, disappointment, and sorrow, but never quite fully reaching it. He let go of my hair and stepped around before me. As I moved to drop my head and attempt to hide my face out of the horrid sense of shame that came from being the cause of this look, he knelt before me.
His hands cradled my cheeks as he brushed his thumbs over where the tears had fallen. "There is no shame here," he said, "Not for you. Not here. You are wounded. It is unreasonable to expect someone with a broken leg to run a race when they can not even stand. You did not wound yourself, not even by misadventure or folly. They hurt you. They lied to you and then fed you yet more lies, claiming it was medicine."
I swallowed past a lump in my throat that had nothing to do with the minor rebellion happening in my guts. "Look at me," he commanded me softly, his tone tender. I looked from the point somewhere around the middle of his chest up to his eyes. He gave me a small smile. "Hey, there you are, pretty girl," he continued in that soothing, kind tone, "It is alright. You are going to be ok. You have to let yourself rest and recover." I closed my eyes as the urge to sob slammed into my chest. He smoothed the hair away from my eyes. "Be easy, dear heart," he soothed, "You have nothing to prove here. You are worthy of love. And care. And rest."
Tears escaped down my cheek. "But I have so much to do," I whimpered, "If I don't do it ..." He set his fingertips on my lips. It was a queer sensation to have them trembling against his still hand. I took a shuddering breath.
"You have done enough. Rest," he said. I opened my eyes and looked at him, caught up in a wave of utter misery. "Why do you punish yourself? Do you even know why?" he asked. I shook my head and started to look away. His hand against my right cheek stopped me from turning my face away. "Stop. No one is going to punish you for any of this. You are sick. You are not playing or trying to get away with fooling around and fobbing work off," he said.
"But I am going to be in trouble," I said in a voice that was childishly small and fearful.
"From who?" he asked.
"I don't know," I said, struggling not to wail in fear, "I just will be."
"Then I will protect you. Stop and rest. You need it. No harm will draw here nigh you," he answered. His solemn expression turned to a small, rueful smile filled with self depreciating humor, "I'm sure you can forgive me if I haven't a sword. My bare hands may have to do, or I'll pick up one of yours. You have plenty to spare."
I swallowed uncomfortably, somewhere between anxious tears and pure misery. And I realized that had been there lurking beneath the surface all day. "Do you trust me?" he asked. I nodded, not trusting myself to speak with out starting to cry. "Then go sleep and let all this work sit," he said, "I'll mind this and then come join you." I closed my eyes and shivered with this sense of terror. "I'll not leave you alone. You will never be alone," he said, rising up to press a kiss against my brow. With his lips pressed against a childhood scar that I never really liked, he said, "It will be alright. Just go sleep. You need it. Fight again tomorrow. It is another day." He wrapped his arms around me and I did my best to breathe through the tears that threatened.
[Not entirely in keeping with the original intent of the blog, but it remains. I have a feeling things are going to shift here going forward.]