You and Everything After(5)By: Ginger Scott
The fatigue hit next. Again, easily summed up with too much soccer practice, which, of course, led to truly uncomfortable fights between my parents—my mom wanting me to quit completely, my father saying I just “need more conditioning.” It was because of these fights that I hid the tingling from them. That went on for months, until it was summer. Then one day, I couldn’t walk.
I could stand from my bed, get to my feet, but that was it. The second I attempted to move toward my door or drag my feet toward my closet to get dressed I wobbled and fell. I felt like the town drunk without the benefit of the booze in a paper bag. I screamed for Paige and my parents, and I knew by the look on their faces that my life as I knew it was done.
After my first steroid IV treatment, I was able to walk again—all of my symptoms gone, like the round ball the magician waves in front of your eyes until it isn’t there. Only, just like that magician who secretly tucks the ball behind his hand, my MS isn’t really gone either. It’s…hiding.
The fights continued, and my parents separated for a while. After the MS diagnosis, my mom insisted I quit soccer. I got depressed. My dad supported my wishes to play again—of course, under strict circumstances, and with limited workouts. Everything pretty much sucked for the next year.
It was a series of med trials, seeing how certain drugs affected me, then finding out what side effects I could handle. I also got really good at giving myself a shot—three times a week, for three years, until they came out with the pill version last year. I didn’t mind the shots, though. What I minded were the constant questions and lectures from my parents: “How are you feeling? Are you fatigued? You should rest; stop working so hard.”
Paige never lectured. Through it all, she just stayed the same. True, she’s terribly self-absorbed—there were moments that she resented the attention I got because of my disease—but it was more about the attention and the fact that it wasn’t on her. And I liked that.
We made a deal with my parents, coming here as a package. We fought for it for months—my mom really wanted to keep me at home. But that’s the thing about MS. It never goes away; it’s always with me. The shots, drug trials, therapies—they can’t cure the disease; they can only slow it down. Like the front line of the Pittsburgh Steelers—except nowhere near as effective. Maybe more like the front line of the Miami Dolphins. So in the end, I got my way. Now that I’m here, I’m not going to let MS be a part of any conversation. I’m just Cass Owens, and my story ends there.
“Hungry. Now,” Paige says, snapping her fingers at me. I smile out the window, not offended in the least. I’m free.
“Let’s go eat greasy fried crap,” I say, grabbing my purse. Blowing right past her, I ignore her eye-roll protest and impending whine about needing a salad with low-cal dressing. Freedom!
I’m two beers ahead of Nate by the time he walks into Sally’s, and I can already see the lecture building with every step, the closer he comes. He’s doing that thing, where he cracks his neck on one side and looks down, shaking his head at me in shame.
“Save it, bro,” I say, picking up my glass and finishing off the last of my second beer while he sits down and admires both empty mugs.
“You called Kelly, didn’t you?” It’s not really a question, so I don’t answer. “I don’t know why you torture yourself. It’s not like you can’t meet other women. Damn, Ty—that’s like your best skill. You meet women every five minutes, and they’re in love with you after ten minutes.”
“Yeah, but I don’t love them. No one is Kelly,” I say, feeling every bit of my self-loathing settle over my body.
“No, but maybe…just maybe, someone could be better, you know, like different better. If you’d just give it a damned chance,” Nate says, stretching his legs out from the booth, and pulling a menu out from the rack on the wall. I can’t help but watch his muscles stretch, and I hate him—just for the smallest second—for being whole. I don’t really hate him, but sometimes it’s hard to be so damned positive all of the time. “Order me a cheeseburger and chili fries. I’m hitting the head,” he says, pushing out from the booth, and walking to the restrooms in the back.