Survivor - By Kaye Draper
The doors clattered open and I pushed my wheelchair over the threshold. A couple of people squeezed in before me. Everyone was always in a hurry to get where they were going. Busy, busy people with busy, busy lives. I was slow, a roadblock. It didn’t bother me anymore. I was used to it- for the most part.
After I got on the train, I pulled a lap throw from my backpack and spread it over my legs. Then I settled in to read. I took a minute to tilt the brim of my cap down to hide my face, ignoring the curious look I got from the businesswoman seated across from me. I wore the hat for just this reason. People always stared. Some were more obvious about it than others. The cap made me at least feel like they couldn’t see me. If they couldn’t see my face then they were just seeing a person in a wheelchair, not the person in the wheelchair. They weren’t staring at me.
There was a commotion on the platform, and I glanced up. A dark-haired man in a suit was making his way down the aisle. It took me a minute to realize that he was hurrying away from a group of men- running, but trying not to look like he was running. He dashed onto my car just as the doors rattled closed and the train began to move.
I don’t know why I did it. Maybe I just know how it feels to be the underdog. For whatever reason, I lifted up my blanket and took off my hat. The dark haired man glanced at me for a mere second before he grabbed them and sat down on the bench next to me. He shoved the cap on his head, squashing his shiny, dark brown hair, and tilted it down to hide his eyes. Then he threw the blanket over his wide shoulders. By the time the train passed the men still searching for him on the platform, he was also in possession of my walker, unfolded and braced in front of him.
He slumped a bit and I went back to reading my book. No one else seemed to notice. Everyone was busy. They didn’t care if he was crazy. We were probably both crazy. After all, we both looked disabled. I knew from experience that many of the people around us were thinking it like it was a dirty word. If they thought about it at all, which they probably didn’t.
After a few minutes, the man sat up and returned my things. His eyes were very green, and had a warm, honest look in them. He waited while I slowly folded up the blanket and put it in my backpack, then hooked the walker over the handles on the back of my wheelchair. Standing, he glanced outside and rocked onto his toes- not impatient with me, I thought. Just impatient to get off the train.
“Thank you,” he said softly. His voice was beautiful, musical.
I nodded, reminding myself not to stare. He had a good-natured face, with a square jaw and a couple of deep lines that bracketed his mouth when he smiled. “No problem.” I wanted to ask him why he was hiding, but I figured that was a rude question. I would hate to be accused of being socially inappropriate. My therapists would be so proud.
He cocked his head to the side, studying me. “Why did you help me?”
I glanced up at the lighted panel over the door as the unintelligible voice announced our next stop over the crackling loudspeaker. Glancing back at the man, I shrugged. “Sometimes I just do things without thinking… impulsivity, I’m told.” The medical world has so many terms for everything.
He chuckled softly. “Well, thank you…”
“Melody,” I said shyly. He was a very attractive man, lean and graceful with a smile that went right to my heart, warming me from the inside out. Attractive men don’t usually bother to waste time chatting me up.
He stuck out his hand. “Melody. It’s a very pretty name. Thank you for your help.”
I liked the way he said my name, with a little lilt to it. When he said it, it was a very pretty name. I shook his hand firmly. If I squeeze hard when I shake hands, it hides the tremors. He didn’t seem to mind. He just squeezed back and gave me a dazzling smile.
The train came to my stop and I frowned. I hadn’t talked