Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Wedding Vow - Hetero Version

The Wedding Vow (Hetero Version)

By ParaCathy

It was eleven days before the wedding when Anthony got the call at work.  There had been an accident, the voice said, and he needed to get to the hospital right away.  There were no details, just that calm, detached voice saying that Juliet had been in an accident and that Anthony needed to get to the emergency room right away, and that was what bothered him the most.  The dread continued to build as Anthony rushed across town to the hospital and every nightmare scenario pushing it’s way into his mind was worse than the last.  He was in tears by the time he rushed his way to the nurses’ station, asking for his finace.  

“I got a call, Juliet Harris has been in an accident.” he panted, eyes pleading with the nurse behind the desk.  

“Are you family?” the nurse asked, clicking the mouse and staring at the computer screen.  

“I’m her finace and should be listed as her next of kin. Anthony Snow.” Anthony said.  His first nightmare was that he wouldn’t be considered ‘family’ enough to get information on his fiance.  All his muscles were tense as he watched the nurse tapping on the keyboard.  

“Ok, here you are - I’ll call Doctor Webber to come talk to you.” The nurse said.  Was that sadness in the look she gave Anthony, or was that just his imagination?   

“Can’t you just tell me what - “ Anthony started to say, but at the moment a middle aged doctor in a gleaming white labcoat came through the double doors.

“Mister Snow?” he said, walking over to Anthony.  He nodded.  “Please come with me and we can talk.”

“When can I see Juliet?” Anthony stammered, looking around the waiting area as if she would suddenly appear.  

“She is sedated right now.” the doctor replied.  “I will take you to her, but first we need to talk.”

Anthony followed Doctor Webber in a daze, the details of the hospital, the beeping sounds and rushing nurses and fluorescent lights all blending together into a kaleidoscope of fear.  Finally, Doctor Webber led Anthony into a quiet side office and offered him a seat and a glass of water.  Anthony’s hands were shaking.  

“Anthony, Juliet was was in an accident, her car was hit by a delivery truck who had run the light at an intersection.  We have her stabilized, but…  there’s no easy way to say this, Anthony.  Juliet has sustained a serious spinal cord injury at the C5 vertebrae - she has a broken neck.”  

“A broken neck - that’s... “ Anthony’s heart was racing.  His brain knew what that meant but his heart wasn’t ready to admit it.  “That’s paralysis, right?” he looked at Doctor Webber, eyes welling with tears.  

The doctor nodded and explained more about Juliet’s injuries.  There were more issues, but nothing as serious as the broken neck.  

“The positive thing to remember is that she is alive and she is stable, and she’s able to breathe on her own.” Doctor Webber said.  

“But she… can’t move.” Anthony said, starting to sob.  

After Anthony regained his composure, Doctor Webber took him to to see Juliet.  His hands were shaking as he walked into the room, seeing his fiance laying there in a rigid neck brace, ugly bruises across her face, one leg in a cast, IV dripping.  He sat there for a long time, holding Juliet’s hand, crying.  

“You look like crap.” came a soft, raspy voice.  Anthony jumped.  Juliet was awake, her eyes blinking in the harsh hospital light.  

“Hey beautiful.  Yeah, having kind of a stressful day.”  

“You and me both.” Juliet said.  There was fear in her eyes.  “How bad?”

“Oh don’t you worry- “ Anthony started to say.  

“I can’t feel anything below my neck, Anthony.” Juliet said.  “Can’t move.  Don’t bullshit me.”

“It’s pretty bad, yeah.” Anthony said, fresh tears streaming down his face.  “But we’ll get through it.”

“Will we?” Juliet asked, the emphasis ever so subtly on the ‘We’.    Anthony stared at her.  

“Of course we will.  I’m not going anywhere, don’t you even think about that.” Anthony said, his voice serious and shaking.  

“You didn’t sign up for this, Anthony - I don’t want you stuck with - “

“Would you shut up?” Anthony said, suddenly angry.  “In sickness and in Health is still applicable.  I didn’t fall in love with your body, I fell in love with you, and I’m not going anywhere, so shut up and just focus on getting through this.”

Juliet tried to speak but just started to cry.  Anthony held her hand, but there was no reaction at all.  

The following weeks were a blur.  Juliet went through two surgeries and spent a lot of time on her back.  There were a few complications but nothing too serious, and Juliet progressed quickly, Anthony at her side every day. The day of the wedding came and went without a mention, but the following week Juliet brought it up as Anthony was feeding her dinner.  

“So the wedding…”   

“Don’t worry about that.” Anthony said, feeding Juliet another bite of pasta.  

“I am worried about that.  I might be a quadriplegic but I can still read a calendar.  Did we get the deposits back at least?”

Anthony actually chuckled.  “That’s what you’re concerned about, the banquet hall deposits?”

“And the florist?  That was a big deposit, I wanted to make sure….”  

“Just relax.  We’re all set for that, Chris took care of most of it, and I made a few calls while you were in surgeries or otherwise occupied.  I’ve had my uncle talking to the delivery company too…”  

“Delivery company?  And what uncle?  George, the lawyer?”

“Yeah - the delivery company…. Oh god I don’t think I ever told you.  The truck that hit you, it was registered to a delivery company.”

“So I can literally say ‘did anyone get the license number of that truck…”  

“Cute…   yes, that’s the perfect icebreaker.  So yeah, Uncle George is talking to them, so don’t worry about any of that.  Just worry about getting out of here.”  

“And the wedding?” Juliet asked.  “What happens there.”

“Let’s get you - “

“No, I want to know.  What are your thoughts on the wedding?  I’m never going to walk down the aisle, right?”  her eyes flicked over to the hospital wheelchair that was always parked beside the bed now.

“I know, I just haven’t…” Anthony stammered.   

“Haven’t figured out how to call it off ‘gently’?” Juliet whispered, voice shaking.  “Why would you want to spend the rest of your life like this, feeding me, changing me, bathing me… “

“Well, I don’t mind feeding you.” Anthony said, voice shaking.  “And bathing and dressing you sounds kind of hot, truth be told...  and what I was trying to say is I just haven’t found a nice chapel that’s wheelchair accessible.  I’ve called about a dozen so far, and most of them have stairs.  There was one with a ramp, but I’ll be honest, they gave me a real ‘churchy’ vibe…”

“And you didn’t mention it wasn’t a particularly religious wedding…” Juliet said, a reproachful tone suddenly creeping into her voice.  

“Well, I was just doing some initial research…  The chapel we had planned on has those stairs…”

“Yeah, first thing I thought of when they put me in the wheelchair, those stupid steps.”  Juliet said.  “So…  you’re not planning on leaving me?  Even after all this?”  

“I told you on day one, I don’t care about any of this, I love you, period.”

“And does bathing and dressing me really sound hot?”

“What do you think?” Anthony said, and leaned in to kiss Juliet.  

Hospital life became the new normal, with Juliet making steady progress and Anthony splitting his time between the hospital, work, and other things needing his attention - things he didn’t want to bother Juliet with yet.  Juliet was doing very well, getting stronger every day, but after seven weeks it was clear her paralysis wasn’t improving and the day was fast approaching for her release to a rehabilitation center.  

“The the nurses said they saw my transfer paperwork for The Baxter Center.” Juliet said quietly.  She was strapped into a dark blue and chrome hospital wheelchair, hands in her lap, her neck still in a brace, but a less extreme version.  

“Hmmm?” Anthony said, looking up from his phone.  

“The Baxter Center.  It’s more than an hour from home, and there’s another rehab center that’s less than half that.  Want to talk about it?”

“The Baxter center is much better, it’s got better staff, better programs…”

“After seven weeks, I can’t even move my fingers.  I’ve already come to terms with that, with the fact that this is me now… “ she looked sad suddenly.  “I hope.. I hope you’re not looking for a miracle.”  

Anthony sighed and looked at Juliet.  “No, not a miracle.  I mean, I hope that things will get better, but no, I’ve talked to all the doctors and I’ve been to a few meetings at the Baxter Center already - the rehab plan is more for me than you.  Learning how to be your caregiver, doing what’s best for you…”  

“So why so far from home, then?” Juliet looked at Anthony, confused.  

“It’s only fifteen minutes from home, dear…   our new home.” Anthony looked deflated.  

“New…  home?” Juliet said, the truth dawning on her.  “Our house…”  

“We couldn’t make it wheelchair accessible - not to the level you need.”  Anthony said.  “I bought us a place in Rockport, just past Quinlans.”  

“Nice neighborhood.”  Juliet said, closing her eyes.  “Is it nice?  Our new place?”

“It is, yes.  Lots of sun.  I know you’ll love it.”  

“Is that why you didn’t tell me? Because you just knew how much I’d love it?” Juliet said, a hint of bitterness in her tone.  

“I just didn’t want - “

“You didn’t want to remind me how much I’ve lost - how much we’ve lost.  I’m a quadriplegic, I’ll need special care for the rest of my life, I need accessible housing…”

“Are you mad?” Anthony asked, holding Juliet’s hand.  

“Yes.” said Juliet, but she didn’t sound it.

“Will a kiss make it better?”

“I don’t know - I guess there’s only one way to find out…”  Juliet said.  Anthony moved in kissed Juliet gently, lips lingering against one another.  

“I know you can do better than that.” Juliet said when Anthony pulled back.  Anthony smiled and moved back in, kissing Juliet more passionately, his hands running through Juliet’s hair, feeling the rigid neck brace as he caressed the gentle slope behind Juliet’s ears and across her temples.  

“That’s more like it.” Juliet said, and Anthony realized he felt the same way.  

Rehab was both much better and much worse than either Anthony or Juliet imagined it would be.  It was better because Juliet got her wheelchair, a Permobil C350 power chair with a custom sip and puff drive system.  She was able to get around on her own and it definitely improved her attitude and confidence.  It was worse because it soon became clear just how dependent Juliet was going to be on Anthony and others.  As expected, there was no improvement in her hands or arms, so she was unable to do even the most basic tasks like feed herself.  Anthony was starting to feel overwhelmed as well, realizing just how much Juliet was going to rely on him.  From bathing to toilet routine to dressing - if Juliet even had a itch on her face, she needed help to scratch it.  

Over a month into rehab, and Juliet sneezed - such a simple thing, a sneeze - but Anthony had just left the room to refill Juliet’s water bottle and Juliet couldn’t wipe her nose.  She could feel mucus slowly dripping out of her nose, she could feel it starting to flow, could almost picture the viscous snot dripping from her nose onto her lap, and there was nothing she could do about it.  By the time Anthony returned to the room minutes later, Juliet was in full breakdown, crying uncontrollably, her whole body racked with sobs.  

“I can’t do this…” Juliet repeated over and over, Anthony unsuccessfully trying to console his lover.  It wasn’t the first time Juliet had broken down, but it was somehow worse than previous times, threatening to break Anthony as well.  

“Let’s get married.” Anthony said.  Juliet stopped sobbing, taken completely by surprise.  

“What?” she asked between sobs, Anthony drying her eyes.  

“Let’s get married.” Anthony repeated.  

“When? Where?” Juliet asked.  

“Here, now.” Anthony responded.  “There’s a chapel here, I can call a justice of the peace.  We already had all the other paperwork done.”

“I can’t even -” Juliet began to protest.  

“I know you can’t.  I can for both of us, and I want to, don’t take that away from me.” Anthony responded, kissing Juliet.  

“OK.” Juliet responded.  

“OK?” Anthony said, a smile starting to break on her face.  

“OK.” Juliet said firmly, nodding.  “Let’s get married.  But… not today.  Maybe this weekend?”

“Why the delay?”

“I want to wear my dress, and I want some friends here.  Just a couple.  Derek and Sabrina, and Chris and Carol…”

“Oh, and Lisa too!” Anthony responded.  “So, let me talk to folks here, I’ll get it sorted out…”  

“Are you sure?” Juliet asked.  “Last chance to back out…” She looked up into Anthony’s eyes.  

Anthony rolled his eyes and kissed her deeply, then skipped out of the room.

Wedding Day

Anthony stood by the altar of the small chapel,  his hands trembled as he smiled at the handful of friends gathered in the pews.  He had been so excited for so long for this day, even the dark cloud of Juliet’s injury couldn’t diminish his happiness.  The music began to play and Anthony suddenly couldn’t breathe.  

His eyes were moist as he watched Juliet wheel into the chapel and slowly down the aisle, her shimmering white dress looking perfect, her freshly manicured hands laying still in her lap, her hair freshly styled, her makeup immaculate - the rehab aides had done an amazing job getting her ready, and Anthony saw them sitting in the back, smiling and puffy-eyed.  The Permobil wheelchair was nearly silent as Juliet reached the altar, proudly driving herself with the thin sip and puff tube, and Anthony could see she was crying as well, tears of joy like his.

The ceremony wasn’t anything fancy, as weddings go, but emotions were very high and each of them had written their own vows.  Anthony promised to love and care for Juliet, to honor and appreciate his wife, to be with her forever…  Juliet got quiet for a moment, tears in her eyes as she looked up at Anthony, drew in a deep breath, and spoke.  

“I have given these vows much thought.  This is me now, for better and for worse, and I cannot promise to care for you, I cannot promise to walk hand in hand with you, I cannot promise to hold you tight - these things I’ll never be able to do again, and yet you are still willing to be my husband, something that makes me happier than I ever felt I could be, and something that makes me feel that, with you by my side, I can survive this.  So my vow to you is to always be by your side, to never give up hope, and to love you with every part of me.  Be patient with me, my love, and I will always give you all that I can.”  

There wasn’t a dry eye in the chapel, including the officiant, as Anthony leaned in and hugged and kissed Juliet.  It took several minutes to for everyone to regain enough composure to move on, and Anthony wiped away Juliet’s tears with a silk handkerchief.  

“And now the rings.” the officiant stated, her eyes still puffy, her cheeks rosy with a rich smile.  

“Right, the rings - Chris?” Anthony turned, looking to their friend.  He stood and presented them with a dark, rich wooden box, ornately carved.  He opened the box and there, sitting on black velvet, were two exquisite gold rings.

“Oh they’re amazing Chris!” Anthony exclaimed.  

“I knew you’d love them as soon as I saw them!” Chris said, beaming.  

Anthony gently slid one gold band onto Juliet’s motionless finger, then took Juliet’s other hand, put the other wedding band into it, and then helped Juliet slide the ring onto his own finger.  He kissed Juliet again and held her hands as the officiant completed the ceremony, and then everyone headed to the rehab common room, where an impromptu reception had been put together.  

“That was so beautiful.” Chris said as Juliet and Anthony sat together at the reception.  Anthony was feeding Juliet cake and both of them were beaming.  

“Thank you for all your help, Chris - I have to ask; where did you find these wedding bands?  They are exquisite!”

“I found them in this tiny little antiques shop - they were tucked in an old armoire, at least 200 years old.  The proprietor seemed surprised they were even in there.”

“They’re so intricately made - how did you get them sized?” Juliet asked. Anthony was holding her hand up so she could get a better look.  

“That’s just it… I didn’t have to.  They were both just the right size.  Talk about karma, right?”

Anthony hugged him.  “It was just meant to be, I guess.  After all this, we’re just meant to be.” She smiled at Juliet and kissed her hand.  

“And we have one more gift for the happy couple.” came a voice from behind them.  It was Doctor Ayera, one of the administrators of the rehab facility.  “With all the work you’ve put in, and a little extra convincing…”  He handed Anthony a piece of paper.  “Here is your discharge order.  You can go home tomorrow, Juliet.”  

The whole room cheered and Anthony hugged Juliet and kissed her again, both of them laughing and crying at the news.  They were finally going home….

Finally Home.  

Juliet wheeled out of the rehab into a warm summer day, driving her wheelchair confidently with the sip and puff straw, Anthony by her side.  She wore a long patterned dress that Anthony had dressed her in, plus stockings and slippers on her legs and feet. Her hands lay still in her lap, and her hair shimmered in the summer sun.  Anthony led her to a nice blue van parked in front of the building.  

“What, no convertible?” Juliet teased.  

“No, but this baby’s got some sweet options…”  He hit a button and a ramp lowered smoothly so that Juliet could load into the van.  Anthony helped load his wife into the van, locking down the wheelchair with rachet tiedowns and making sure Juliet was secure.  

They made the short drive home in silence - the first time they had truly been alone, on their own together, since Juliet’s accident.  There was a mixture of excitement and nervousness as they pulled into the driveway.

“Nice place.” said Juliet as she saw the house come into view, and she meant it.  The house was low, all one floor for accessibility, with large front doors at the end of a gently sloping ramp up.  There were lots of windows, as Anthony had promised, and the lawn was well manicured and dotted with decorative flower beds.  As they parked, Juliet could see the smooth paved path that wound through the yard, clearly adapted for a wheelchair.  Anthony had really thought of everything.  

Anthony unlocked Juliet’s wheelchair and began the process of lowering the ramp and unloading the chair.  Juliet looked around the yard briefly as Anthony raised the ramp and shut the doors to the van, and then both headed into the house.  

“The doors will open automatically for you.” Anthony said as they approached the entrance and, sure enough, the doors swung open and let Juliet wheel her way into the house.  Everything was so well arranged for Juliet’s wheelchair, Anthony was able to take her throughout the whole house, giving a thorough tour of each room.  As they reached the bedroom, Juliet sighed.  

“What’s wrong, wife?” Anthony asked, sitting on the bed so he was at eye level with Juliet.  

“Our marriage bed…” she sighed.  “I had hoped we could…”

“We still can, lover.” Anthony said softly, reaching out to caress Juliet’s face.  Juliet started to cry.

“I know physically we can, sort of…”  She said, clearly upset. “But I can’t hold you, I can’t touch you, I can’t feel your touch on my skin.  I’ve gone over it a hundred ways, our ‘wedding night’, and all I’ll ever be able to do is lay there.”

Anthony took Juliet's hands in his own.  “My love, if I could take this burden from you I would.  In a heartbeat.”  

“I know it’s terrible to admit it, Ang, but right now, I would give it to you freely…” Juliet said.  Anthony kissed her.  

“That’s odd.” Anthony said suddenly, looking at his wedding ring.  

“What’s that?” Juliet asked, concerned.  

“My ring, it’s…  it feels warm.  Yes, it feels like it’s warming up.” Anthony said.  “I feel so strange.”  He suddenly lay back on the bed.  

“Are you OK love?  Hold on…  My wedding ring feels warm too… but I don’t have any feeling… but… Oh my god!”   Juliet suddenly exclaimed as she rose her hand in front of her face, looking at her wedding band closely.  “Anthony, I can move…” she said, both arms able to move on their own.  

“Well…” Anthony said softly. “This is interesting.”

“Interesting?!?” Juliet said, undoing the waist strap that held her into her wheelchair.  “Anthony, look at me, I can move, I can stand!”  She practically leapt out of the wheelchair.  

“Well, it’s interesting.” Anthony said, still laying on the bed.  “Because I can’t move.  I can’t feel anything at all below my neck.  I’m a quadriplegic, dear.”  

The Wedding Rings

Juliet climbed onto the bed and looked at her husband, now lying unmoving on the large mattress.  “Are you serious?” she asked.  

“Very serious.” Anthony said.  “I can’t feel or move a thing…. It’s like we swapped bodies.”

“Well we’re both in our original bodies, we just swapped…”

“We swapped your disability.” Anthony said.  

“Right after we wished it to happen.” Juliet said. “After I said I would gladly let you take it from me,” Juliet said, starting to panic.  “Let’s try it again, let me take it back!  Oh god, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry Anthony!” Juliet was beginning to panic.  

“Shhhh.” Anthony said.  “Calm down.  We don’t know what’s going on here, but you have to admit, it’s a miracle of some sort, and to see you standing, walking, moving again, after the past months… I’m OK with this, whatever is going on.  Could you put me in your wheelchair, and we can talk about this more comfortably?”

“But Anthony, I didn’t know - I mean, who could have known!  It’s crazy, we have to try to switch back…  I didn’t mean for this to happen, I swear.”

Anthony started to laugh.  It was a quiet laugh, not his usual deep belly laugh, but it made Juliet stop talking and look at him.  

“What’s so funny?” Juliet asked.  

“You are.” Anthony said.  “You realize you’re way more freaked out about NOT being paralyzed than you were when you found out you were paralyzed?”

“But this is different, I said I was willing to trade with you….” Juliet said, stroking Anthony’s hair.  

“Right after I said I would gladly trade with you.  It was a mutual agreement, remember.  And I stand by that - yes, this is a bit scary, lying here unable to feel or move my body, but I know it’s what you’ve been dealing with since your accident, and just to see you like this, moving, healthy, happy…   It’s worth it, even if we can’t reverse it.  Now can you help me into your wheelchair?”

“I will in a couple minutes, but it looks like I need to fix a few things first.”  Juliet said.  

“Fix what?” Anthony asked, trying to turn his head to watch Juliet as she stood up.  

“Well, first of all, I’m wearing a catheter and leg bag, and that is suddenly VERY uncomfortable.” she said.  

“Oh.” Anthony said.  “Yeah, you’d probably want to take care of that.  Are you OK with it - I’ve been trained on it but…”  

“I know, you’re not much help right now.  I’ve watched it enough times, give me five minutes. I’m heading to the bathroom.”  

“Before you do that, love…” Anthony said.  “Could you move me onto the bed more?  I’m kind of half flopped off of it and I’m afraid to fall.”  

“Oh god, yes, of course.” Juliet said, carefully lifting Anthony’s now completely limp legs and gently moving them, sliding Anthony around until he was laying flat on the bed.  She slid him a few more inches away from the edge of the bed for safety.  

“How’s that?” she asked.  

“Much better, thanks.  I’ll wait here.” Anthony said with a wink.  

Juliet headed to the bathroom and, remembering all the times Anthony or an attendant changed out her catheter, she was able to carefully remove the long tube that had been inserted into her bladder.  She emptied the leg bag and tossed the whole thing into a lined wastebasket by the toilet. She washed herself with a cleansing wipe from the sink and then looked through a few cabinets until she found what she needed.  She headed back into the bedroom, thoroughly enjoying the feeling of the low carpet under her toes - something she realized she didn't ever expect to feel again.  

“Ok, now for you.” she said, sitting on the bed and beginning to remove Anthony’s clothing.  

“Hey now - maybe we should look into this a bit more before we go all ‘wedding night?” Anthony said, only half jokingly.  

“Relax, love.  Sadly, this isn’t foreplay - you’re paralyzed now, and it looks like as soon as this happened, you, um…. Soiled your pants.”  

“Oh, right… spinal cord injury thoracic level and above can lead to loss of bladder and bowel control - I remember that class now.  Oh and... ew.” Anthony said.  He lay there motionless as Juliet struggled to remove his soiled clothing, wash him with the cleansing wipes, and then proceeded to pull and overnight diaper onto him.  

“You scared?” Juliet asked as she slowly started dressing her now quadriplegic husband.  

“Yeah, if I'm being honest.  I feel selfish for that - you were a quadriplegic for months, I've only been like this for what - twenty minutes?” Anthony said.

“Trust me - twenty minutes or twenty years, I doubt that feeling goes away.” Juliet kissed him gently. “But let's see what we can do about that?”

Juliet used the hoyer lift in the bedroom to carefully lift Anthony from the bed and into the wheelchair.  “I really thought I was going to be the one to break this in.” Juliet said as she unbuckled the straps and strapped Anthony into the wheelchair.  “So what now?”  

“Well, I was thinking.” said Anthony.  “When this change happened, we both felt our wedding bands warm up, so I figure that’s the place to start looking - the box they came in.  Remember, it was so ornate, maybe there’s something on it.” Anthony said.  

“Where is it, I’ll get it.” Juliet said.  

“The gifts and wedding stuff were all placed in the study, by the laundry room.” Anthony said.  

“Great…. Where’s that?” Juliet said with a smirk.  “I’ve never been here before today, remember?”

“Oh right - I’ll show you the way…  Um, how do I drive this thing?”  Anthony asked, eying the mouth control and the small digital screen on the wheelchair.

“Drive my wheelchair?  That took me the better part of two weeks to learn in rehab, I’m not sure I can give you the ‘five minute crash course. It all has to do with blowing air into the that tube and sucking air out of it at different pressures to make the chair do what you need it to do.  For now how about I just push you.”  Juliet said, activating the attendant controls on the back of the chair.   

“Oh fine, but you’re going to teach me how to drive this thing.”

“I’m hoping you won’t need it.’ Juliet said under her breath, still fixated on reversing the process.  The longer Anthony was in that wheelchair, the more nervous Juliet became.  

“It’s the second door right there on the left.” Anthony said, guiding his wife through the house.  

Juliet wheeled Anthony into the study and then searched through the multiple piles of gifts friends and family had given them.

“Ooh, when can we try this?” Juliet teased as she opened a box containing an expensive vibrator.  

“Oh god - that has to be from Jasmine. That woman!  What did she think we were going to do with that?!” Anthony said, his cheeks turning pink.

“Well I've got a few ideas…” Juliet teased.

“I'm sure you do…” Anthony smirked “but could we focus on the task at hand?”

“Of course love, just teasing. Oh, here it is - black wooden box, right?”

“Right.” Anthony said, feebly trying to crane his neck to get a better view.  “Chris said it was in a really old armoire in an out of the way antique store.”

“Oh right. And, um - why did you have to buy new wedding bands? We picked bands out together, before my accident.”

“I know, but - this will sound dumb, but I kind of looked at everything related to our first wedding date as, well - cursed? Bad luck, at least.”  Anthony said as Juliet sat beside him with the ring box.  

“After all that happened, I guess I don't blame you” Juliet said. “Now let's look at this box. It's old, that's for sure.  Look at these carvings - really exquisite.”

“Is there anything inside?” Anthony asked, suddenly frustrated that he couldn't participate in the investigation.

“You mean like a users manual for your Acme Magic Rings? I don't see anything..,  wait a minute, what's this?” Juliet said. She got up and pulled the floor lamp closer to get more light.  

“Did you find something?” Anthony said, excited.  

“There's writing carved into the inside cover.  It's black on black, very faded.” Juliet replied, staring at the box intently.

“What's it say?” Anthony asked, trying to get a look.  

“I have no idea.” Juliet finally said with a sigh.  “I think it's Latin. I recognize ‘diem’ I think.  

“Oh, ok…  Use Google.” Anthony said.

“And google what? ‘Old magic disability swap rings?’” Juliet asked, confused.  

“No, no - Google Translate. It can give you a rough translation - they added Latin last year.”

“Oh, ok - I never used that. Let me get the laptop.” Juliet said.  

“Actually…” Anthony said.  “Since I'm the research editor, maybe…”

“We can try to swap back, and give you a better chance at figuring this out?” Juliet said.

“Yes. It doesn't have to be for…”

“No, it's a good idea.  Let me sit here in this chair and get more support and we can try it.”  

“Are you sure?” Anthony said, hesitant.

“No…  But if we’re going to figure this out I think that's the right play.  Now, we were holding hands, right?” Juliet said, taking Anthony’s limp hands in her own.  

“Yes, and then I said - “ Anthony began.

“Oh, but I have to say that part now.  Let's see…” She looked into her husband’s eyes.  “My love, if I could take this burden from you I would.”

“And I would give it to you freely.” Anthony replied.  They waited.  

“Oh, wait!” Juliet said, then leaned in and kissed Anthony.  

“Anything?” Anthony asked after a long minute.  

“Nothing here - no tingling, the ring isn't warm…” Juliet said sadly.

“It's ok, we’re just missing something. Let's try to figure this out together.” Anthony said.

“Ok - what's first?”

“Well, can you get another computer screen so we can both see easily?” he asked.

“I have no idea - first time home, remember?” Juliet said, looking around the new surroundings.

“Ah, right…   Oh wait! The living room. Take me and the laptop and the box to the living room.” Anthony said excitedly.  “I just remembered something.”  

“Nice TV.” Juliet said as she wheeled Anthony into the living room. There was plenty of space for the wheelchair right next to a nicely styled recliner. And Juliet parked him there.  

“Yes.” Anthony said. “It's a nice one, and I'm pretty sure there's a feature to project the laptop screen to the TV. I've never tried it though.”

“Oh, good thinking - let me see.” Juliet said, opening the laptop and turning on the TV.  After a few minutes, everything on the laptop screen was blown up on the fifty inch Samsung.  

“Perfect - now I need a better look at the inscription inside that box.” Anthony said.

“Where's your phone?” Juliet asked suddenly.

“My purse - kitchen counter I think.” Anthony said, and Juliet rushed out of the room, returning moments later with the smartphone.  She lifted Anthony's limp right hand and pressed his thumb to the phones home button, unlocking it with his thumbprint.

“Clever.” Anthony said, impressed, as Juliet took a close-in shot of the inside of the box with full flash, then mailed it to herself. Soon, they had a high definition blown-up version of the inscription.

“It's still really hard to see, but let's try to figure it out.” Anthony said.  But first - I'm really thirsty.”

“Oh me too - in all the excitement we kind of lost track of time.” Juliet replied, getting up and heading to the kitchen. Anthony heard her opening and closing just about every cabinet looking for glasses and finally returned with her own glass and one of the adapted cups with straw that Anthony had, ironically, bought for Juliet.  

“Water?” Anthony asked as Juliet moved the straw to his lips.  

“Electrolyte solution.” Juliet replied. “Just in case this is more…”

“Long term.  Understood.” Anthony said, sipping at the straw.  “It's actually pretty good.” he remarked, sipping more.  

“You get tired of it after a while. I wish there were more flavors.” Juliet said as she sipped her ice water and helped Anthony to drink.  

The pair sat and worked at understanding and translating the inscription for several hours. The challenge was that each word was faded and could translate to numerous meanings based on which letters they believed were there, and some were little more than guesswork.  

“I think this is as close as we’re going to get.” Juliet said, staring at the rough translation on the screen in front of them.  

“Agreed,” said Anthony. “And it's pretty clear, kinda..  Share the burden in the heart and with body, as the day is bright so too will you be…”

“I still think it's closer to ‘heart and then body’...  I mean, it makes sense, right - we both wished in our heart to transfer my paralysis to you, technically, and then it did.” Julie said.  

“But we’re not ‘sharing’ the burden are we?  That phrasing is still a bit confusing.” Anthony said, looking again at the screen.

“And I'm still not sure about the ‘day is bright’ part - it's some kind of metaphor but that doesn't seem right.”  Julie said, looking back at her notes.  

“I have a theory about that, actually.” Anthony said.  “I don't think it's a metaphor, exactly. I think it means this only works once a day, after sunrise.”

“Where do you get that?” Juliet said, looking at the screen again.  

“Call it a hunch added to hopeful wishing?” Anthony said.  “It would explain why it didn't work earlier when we wanted to swap back.”  

“I hope you're right.  Well I'm starving? How about you?” Juliet said.

“I'm not sure, actually.” Said Anthony, sitting in the wheelchair.  

“Oh that's right - I didn't often feel hungry in rehab, it was more about keeping on a schedule, a routine.  I’ll make some sandwiches for us.” Juliet said.  

“And you'll have to feed me.” Said Anthony.  “I never really understood the real impact of that.  I was always happy to feed you, even looked forward to it, but…”

“But you never understood what it did to me, to sit there, hands useless in my lap, wearing a bib as you spooned soup or pasta into my mouth.” Juliet said. “It was hard, every day it was a challenge, but seeing you there every day, seeing that it wasn't a chore for you, that you were ok with changing me and washing me and feeding me, even seeming to enjoy it. That kept me going, that kept me hopeful about my life, about our future.  I promise, no matter what happens, I'll be there for you, just like you were there for me.”

The couple ate in the dining room, Juliet happily feeding Anthony, both of them laughing and giggling. It was Anthony who finally said what both had been thinking.  

“So let's assume this switch works again, and we can actually do it every day.” he said slowly.  “What then?”

“I… Don't know yet.” Juliet said, putting down her drink.  “In my head I was thinking I'd swap back tomorrow and then just…  Stay paralyzed until I got really sick of it, and ask to switch out for a day.”

“That's…  Kind of dumb.” Anthony said flatly.  “Why would you do that to yourself? I say we swap every day.  Today I'm paralyzed, tomorrow you are, then swap again.  Share the burden, right?”  Anthony said earnestly.

“You would be willing to spend half your life paralyzed for me?” Juliet said, eyes wide.  

“I'd be willing to spend my whole life paralyzed for the woman I love. Share the burden, right?”  Anthony gazed into Juliet's’ eyes.  

“Right, share the…” Juliet stopped.  She suddenly ran out of the dining room, then came back with her notes.  “Share the burden - share, that's a key phrasing here but we really weren't 100% on it, right?” She asked.

“Right, but…  I'm not sure what else it would mean.”

“I might, actually…  but we need to wait for tomorrow to check.  And I need to make a phone call.” Juliet said, eyes alight with excitement.

“And what can we do until then?” Anthony asked.

“Well… It’s kind of our wedding night, right?” Juliet teased, then stood up slowly and started to kiss Anthony deeply and passionately.  

“I'm not sure I can…” Anthony started to protest, but suddenly Juliet was running her manicured nails through his hair, kissing him, caressing all the places he could still feel, setting his nerves on fire.  

“Oh god” he moaned. “I guess you're on top.”

The time it took Julie to get Anthony to the bedroom, get him undressed, then onto the hoyer lift and slowly and carefully out of his wheelchair and then lowered to the bed did nothing to diminish their passion.  Juliet kept kissing Anthony and touching his face, telling him how handsome and sexy he was, how excited she was to have such an amazing husband.  

“Tell me what you were planning for tonight.” Juliet said between kisses.  

“What do you mean?” Anthony said, distracted by his wife's caresses.  

“When we arrived home I was the quadriplegic, but it was still our wedding night, right? So what did you have planned for us?”

“I would have laid you in bed, comfortably.” Anthony said, closing his eyes to imagine the scene.  “I would have undressed you, but then put some pretty lingerie in you.  White stockings…. Sexy lacy bra and I would have done a sexy strip tease for you.” Anthony breathed, lying motionless on the bed, looking longingly at his wife.  

Juliet climbed onto the bed and did a slow, sensual strip tease over Anthony as he lay there, staring, wishing he could reach up and touch his wife, feel her hot skin pressed against his.   He watched Juliet slip out of her dress, tossing it aside, then wriggle seductively out of her bra, her nipples erect.

“I would have…” Anthony said, breathing heavy “helped you to touch me.  Taken your limp hands in mine…”

Juliet raised Anthony's completely paralyzed hands and arms and began to caress herself all over, caressing her breasts, her face, her stomach.  Anthony could not move anything, could not feel the caresses he was witnessing, but it was OK.  Seeing his beautiful wife - his beautiful wife who, until earlier that very day had been a quadriplegic, filled Anthony with a passion and desire he had a hard time even comprehending.  

They kissed and caressed and, in their own way, made love. Gently, slowly, talking to one another, Anthony sharing his desires verbally since he was unable to do so physically, and Juliet taking special care to make sure her quadriplegic husband was cared for in every way she could.

Anthony fell asleep in Juliet’s arms, content for the first time in months.  

A Struggle Shared

“It is so strange waking up like this.” Anthony said.  “I want to stretch and wipe the sleep from my eyes, but then I remember…”  he said to the ceiling.  

“Yeah, that took me a while to get used to. Especially when in all my dreams I was still walking.”  Juliet said, preparing things just out of Anthony's field of vision.  

“So do we try…” Anthony said, impatient.  

“We do not. Not until we’re both ready.” Julie replied.  

“Ready for what?” Anthony said.  Julie appeared in her field of view wearing an adaptive dress and, Anthony soon saw, a diaper.   

“Ready for anything, lover.  We have no idea if this will work or what's going to happen, so let's be prepared.  Besides, you need a change.”  Juliet began changing Anthony's overnight diaper and washing him thoroughly.  

“Ok, we’re ready.” Juliet finally said, sitting in her wheelchair.  “I want to try something a little different though.”

“Different how?” Anthony said, curious.

“Well I started thinking about the ‘share your struggle’ line again and I had a thought - what if we could literally share in the struggle? Instead of one of us always being a quadriplegic, maybe we could ‘share the burden’ equally?”

“And what would that mean?” Anthony asked, curious.  

“If I'm right, it could mean we might both be able to use our arms and hands at the same time.  That's what I'm hoping it means, anyway.  Willing to try?” Juliet looked eager.  

“Sure - let's try. What do I have to do?” Anthony asked, his head and eyes trying to keep Juliet in frame.

“Well, I'm going to offer to take half your burden, and you just need to accept that. Sound ok?”

“Sounds crazy, but the last time we tried this I lost the use of my body below the neck, so I'm willing to try anything.” he smiled.

They said the new incantation and kissed. Juliet felt her ring warm up, and then so did Anthony.  Anthony was first to move, waving his arms excitedly.  

“It worked! Well, it kinda did…” Anthony said as he tried to sit up, his lower half not cooperating. He propped himself up on his elbows and looked at his wife, who was sitting in her sip and puff wheelchair, unmoving.  Juliet smiled wide and waved at Anthony, her hands seemingly fine.   

“It worked pretty much as I expected - or at least as I'd hoped.” Juliet said.

“Your legs?” Anthony said, peering over the edge of the bed.  

“Completely paralyzed from about…” Juliet felt around her abdomen and drew a line about an inch above her belly button.  “Here.  Yup - paraplegic.  You?”

Anthony felt around and nodded.  “Same here, yeah.  So this is…  Better?” he asked Juliet quizzically.  

“Better than one of us completely paralyzed from our neck down, unable to do the simplest task?” Juliet said seriously.  “I… I think so. I mean, it seems it, to me.”   She looked seriously at Anthony.  “What do you think?”  

“I’m…  Not sure yet?” Anthony replied honestly.  “But I haven't had as much time, you know…”

“Totally paralyzed.” Juliet completed. “And all the time I was laying there in the hospital or sitting there in rehab with someone dressing me or feeding me, all I could think of was…”

“Was how much better life would be if you just had some use of your arms.” Anthony said, nodding.  “I wasn't paralyzed long, but I understand what you mean.”  he smiled weakly.  “So, two paraplegics wheel into a bar…”

Juliet laughed and leaned in to kiss her husband.  

“ I hate to point out the obvious flaw your plan, my love.” Anthony said as he worked his way to a sitting position.  “But-”

“But we only have one wheelchair.  Way ahead of you dear.  Oh, that reminds me - need to get ready. You wait here and don't make noise - too much to try to explain here.”  

Anthony was confused as Juliet strapped herself into her wheelchair with the chest belt, properly positioned her mouth control, placed her hands in her lap, and headed out of the bedroom.  A minute later she heard the shower start and heard Juliet head to the living room.  

Around ten minutes later Anthony heard the doorbell and heard Juliet welcome someone in.

“Oh don't worry - Anthony just jumped in the shower, but you can leave those here. Thanks so much for bringing them - it's amazing how much my friends in the LGBT community want to participate!”

There was a friendly male voice that was hard to make out, then the door closed again and Anthony heard Juliet slowly returning.   

“What the hell was…” Anthony started to say, until he saw Juliet wheel in pushing a manual wheelchair.  

“I got us two loaners from Baxter - they said we can use them for a month, no charge. I figure we can order our real chairs today and, in theory, they'll be ready in under a month.”  Juliet beamed.  

“And what was the reason a quadriplegic woman and her able-bodied wife would need to borrow two manual wheelchairs?” Anthony asked, amused.  

“Local community outreach for spinal cord injuries.” She said.  

“That's…. Actually really clever.  Well done wife.” he smiled.  “Now how do I get in this thing?”

“Carefully dear - they didn’t teach me transfers in rehab.” Juliet said.   “I’m going to get my chair now - I’ll be right back, in theory.”

Juliet wheeled back into the living room and clumsily transferred from her power chair into the sporty manual chair she had borrowed, shakily moving over to the lower seat and then pulling her now floppy legs into the legrests.  She straightened herself out and started heading back to the bedroom, but was met in the hallway by Anthony, also in her new wheelchair and wheeling her way happily long.  

“That wasn’t too bad, and this thing handles great.” Anthony smiled, turning left and right in the chair.  

“I have to admit, it’s already better than using a straw to drive around.” Juliet said, wheeling easily.  “Let’s have breakfast.”  

“Coffee!” Anthony said, wheeling steadily behind his wife.  

The pair sat together at the table and ate bagels and fruit cups, talking about generalities, trying to seem as normal as possible, normal like before Juliet’s accident.  

“We’re going to need to talk about this.” Juliet said, and both of them knew what she was talking about.  

“Life as a paraplegic, you mean?” Anthony said.  “At least most of it - I guess we could swap to full paralysis on each other’s birthdays…” he smiled weakly.  

“It’s asking a lot, I know.” Juliet said.  “It’s crazy, it’s…”  

“It’s OK.” Anthony said, holding Juliet’s hand.  “You’re right, it’s crazy, and life as a paraplegic can’t be an easy one, but…”  Anthony squeezed Juliet’s hand.  “If it’s a life with you, I think it will be a happy one…”

“But you’d be giving up so much…   I’m not sure I can ask that of you, to be honest.” Juliet said, and Anthony realized she was on the verge of tears.  

“Yes, I’d be giving up the use of my legs, that’s true, and I’ll admit, it’s a bit scary.” Anthony said, shifting nervously in his wheelchair.  “More than a bit scary, truth be told, now that I’m sitting here in a wheelchair and can’t feel a thing below my belly.  But look at what I’d be gaining.”  he held Juliet’s hands, kissed them, caressed her face with them.  “I’ll have a wife who can touch me, who can feed herself, dress herself…” he kissed Juliet.  

“But now instead of one handicapped spouse there would be two…” Juliet replied, seeming to get more agitated.  “Now we’ll both need extra help, extra care…  Paralysis is a lot more than just not being able to walk... “

“Yes, there will be two handicapped people in this house, and yes we’ll need help, but we’ll actually be able to help each other.  When I brought you home, as my quadriplegic wife, I was so happy to finally have you home, but I was also terrified.  I’m sure being paralyzed from your neck down was scary for you, but it was terrifying for me too, because I had this incredible responsibility to take care of your every need - the woman I love most in the world, and I’m responsible for everything from feeding you to wiping your bottom…” Anthony said in a rush, as if it was something he had been holding in for months.  “It was so scary - what if I made a mistake, what if I hurt you, what if I just needed to go out for an hour but I couldn’t because I couldn’t leave you?”  Anthony now had tears in his eyes.  “I would do anything for you, my love - I’ve known that since the day we met.  As a quadriplegic, I would take care of your every need and make sure you were the happiest I could possibly make you… I promise to take care of you always, but don’t think that life as an able-bodied man caring for his quadriplegic wife is any less scary than what we’re talking about now, with both of us paraplegics.  You’re right, it’s scary, and it’s definitely crazy….  But this way, we’re both in this together, 100%, as equals. “

Juliet looked at her with such love.  “I never realized…  I was so wrapped up in my own fears, my own situation, I never fully realized what this marriage meant for you.  And you married me anyway.”

“Of course I did, silly.  You’re my girl.” Anthony smiled.  

The couple leaned in and hugged and kissed one another deeply, each running fingers through the other’s hair, the kisses growing steadily more passionate.   It was Anthony who made the first move, sliding his hand up Juliet’s shirt and cupping her firm breast.  Juliet let out a low purr and bit Anthony’s lip.  

“I like this way more with working arms.” Anthony said, and Juliet agreed by running her hands across Anthony's sensitive nipples.  He moaned.  

“So…” Juliet breathed as the pair continued to kiss.  “How is this going to work?”  

“Do you remember the first time you had sex?”  Anthony asked, still caressing Juliet’s breast.  

“Mmm - Jason Moore.” Juliet teased, a warm smile on her face.  

“Very funny.” Anthony said, kissing Juliet again.  “We can take it slow, figure it out together. I mean, I've got nothing happening here…” He indicated his paralyzed lap. “But up here I'm… very happy.”  

“So…  Bedroom?” Juliet said, pulling her wheelchair away from the table and slowly wheeling towards the bedroom.  

“Just what I was thinking, wife.” Anthony said, wheeling his way behind Juliet, hands pushing eagerly on the wheelchair rims.

Juliet parked by the bed and locked her wheelchair, then stared at the gap between her wheelchair and the bed.  “Hmmm.  I've only ever done this with a lift or three nurses carrying me…”  

“Try this.” Anthony said, parking his wheelchair directly parallel to the bed and shoving himself physically with his arms.  He got his butt onto the bed, then fell over a bit, righted himself, and was able to drag his paralyzed legs up. Juliet watched how they flopped.  

“Showoff.” Juliet teased, then tried the same maneuver. Once she got onto the bed she fell to her side, but Anthony helped pull her legs up.  

“Teamwork.” Anthony smiled as he began undressing Juliet.  

“That's right, teamwork.” Juliet said, then leaned in to kiss Anthony and begin removing his shirt.  

The pair were soon topless and Juliet struggled to get closer to Anthony, press against him, feel his warm skin against her breasts, smell his shampoo, all the things she had longed for while laying in the hospital, unable to move or feel anything.  They kissed more, hands caressing each other's bodies, but both avoiding going below their paralysis until Anthony ventured a hand between Julie's legs, feeling the padded diaper there, a reminder that things were different. There was a pause.  

“You want me to take it off?” Juliet asked.  “We could take them off, get naked.” She ran a finger around Anthony's chest.  

“No, not yet…” Anthony replied, leaning back in for another kiss.  “We’ll take it slow, remember?”  

Juliet kissed him and then lowered her head to begin kissing one hot nipple.  “Whatever you say, husband.” She said in between kisses and nibbles, and Anthony ran his fingers seductively through Juliet’s hair.  

They remained that way, entwined lovingly in each other's arms, for the entire morning, then worked together to figure out a workable bathroom routine for two paraplegics.  Fortunately, since the large bathroom was specially equipped for care if a quadriplegic, Anthony and Juliet were able to handle their bathroom needs without much difficulty.  

“We should get a second shower chair.” Anthony remarked as Juliet finished in the shower.  

“I was thinking that too- plenty of room for two in there.” She smiled. “And I hate to admit this, but I kind of miss you washing my hair for me.”

“I'll wash your hair every day if that's what you like, my love.” Anthony laughed.  “And you can give me pedicures.”

“Ooh yes, I definitely want to give you pedicures!” Juliet practically squealed.  “What color wheelchair do you want?”

“Hmmm - I have no idea. I guess I'll need to see what's available. Maybe white.  Or just bare metal, like titanium?”

“Is that why my power chair is white?” Juliet asked. “Not very fashionable.”

“And not a lot of options there. I think white, black, and blue were all they had.” Anthony replied, brushing his hair in the large mirror.

“White was fine then, dear.” Juliet replied, drying her hair.  

“So is this it, then?” Anthony asked.  “Just us, putting on makeup and doing our hair and talking about our wheelchairs?”  He looked at Juliet, who was struggling to dry her limp legs.  

“I suppose so.”  Juliet said.  “Before we got married we'd do our makeup and talk about shoes…  Oh, and drool over Johnny Depp and ScarJo…  so…  Not that different.  You ok?” She looked at her husband, sitting in his wheelchair by the sink.

“Yeah…” Anthony said, starting to later his face before shaving.  “Yeah, I guess I'm ok.”  

The End

Epilogue - Vignettes

Doctors Visit

“Oh crap oh crap oh crap” Anthony was wheeling through the house in a panic.

“What's wrong?” Juliet said, rolling out of the kitchen.  

“It's Wednesday!”  Anthony said, pulling out his phone and pulling up the calendar.

“Oh crap. Doctor Waller.” Juliet said, her face going slightly pale.  

“Yes, your appointment with Doctor Waller, who knew you as a high level quadriplegic when you saw him last week.”

“And we already used the rings today… so then I'll get in the power chair, maybe he won't notice.” Juliet said, wheeling towards the bedroom.

“Juliet, do you really think a trained medical doctor is going to be fooled just because you're sitting in a different chair.  Do you have any idea how much you fidget? And besides - the van was for able bodied me to transport quadriplegic you - no hand controls.”  

“So what do we do - reschedule for tomorrow?” Juliet said, looking agitated.  “We can use the rings, I can go as a quad, you can…”

“No.” Anthony said, grabbing her phone again.  “I'm calling us a cab, I'll make sure it's accessible. We're both going to the appointment.”

“And then what?” Juliet asked, looking concerned.  

“And then, we’ll tell him the truth.”

Juliet stopped in her tracks, eyes wide.  

“The truth?”

“Yes, we tell him the truth.” Anthony said firmly.  “You might be better off now but I'm facing life with paralysis, I'd kind of like some medical advice, and it's not like we can pretend forever…”

“So…  The truth. We tell a man with two PHDs that I'm not a quadriplegic any more because we wished on magic rings.”  Juliet said, now searching for proper shoes.  “I'm gonna need a lot of wine…   Can we put in a wine cellar?”  

“Sure, just need one on this floor or it has to have elevator access.” Said Anthony, wheeling into the bedroom to look for socks.  “The cab will be here in 20 minutes.”

The pair barely turned heads as the entered the medical center; seeing people in wheelchairs was commonplace when you were in proximity of a large rehab center.   Doctor Waller’s receptionist was very polite and after a short wait, Juliet and Anthony wheeled into an exam room and a nurse began taking Juliet's vitals. Anthony noticed the double-take the nurse gave while reviewing Juliet's chart, but she didn't say anything, she just finished up and said the doctor would be with them shortly.

“Hi Doctor Waller.” Juliet smiled and waved vigorously as the elderly, bearded physician entered the room.  He smiled and then froze, the door closing slowly behind him.  He looked carefully at both Juliet and Anthony, then sat heavily in the desk chair by the wall.  He took a few calming breaths before he spoke.

“Did someone toss an Antique coin into an oddly glowing well?” He asked.

Both of them looked strangely at him, but neither spoke.  

“Did one of you inherit a middle eastern rug depicting three men dancing around a -”

“Um, no… no rugs.” Anthony responded, starting to understand the odd line of questioning.  “And no genie in the lamp either.” He added.

“Oh, I didn't suspect it was a Djinn - you're both still alive, after all.   Ah, I see - the rings!”

Juliet broke the stunned silence.  “Yes, yes it was these rings, our wedding bands!”

“Hold on - why are you not freaking out?” Anthony asked the doctor.  “And are saying that stuff like wishing wells and magic carpets are real?”

“Very real, actually.  I've had experience with the former, I've never encountered the latter, but these rings you are wearing, well….” The doctor got up and examined Juliet's wedding band.  “These are the stuff of legend.  The first mention of these bands is 225 ad, I believe. Let me guess - they require a reciprocated wish and a bond of love? Both participants must agree to the result?”

“Something like that.” Anthony said, now more fascinated than worried.  “The first time it happened we had no idea, and I ended up totally paralyzed.”

“Fascinating.” Doctor Waller said. “And you eventually figured out this partial transfer?”

“Juliet figured it out.” Anthony beamed.  “She figured out how to ‘share the burden’ as referenced in the box the rings came in.”  

“And this-” the doctor indicated Anthony's wheelchair.  “This is what you have chosen? To live as a paraplegic so that your wife is no longer completely paralyzed?”

“It's a decision we made together but, yes.  I would gladly live my live in a wheelchair if it allows her more freedom, more joy in life.”  He reached out and held Juliet’s hand.  Both of them smiled.

“That is a bond stronger than many I have seen.  I can help you, now that I know what I'm working with.”

“Help us how?” Juliet asked, curious.  

“Well, first we’ll need to modify both your medical records. Can't very well keep coming in here with ‘quadriplegic’ written all over your charts, can we?  And you, Anthony - we’ll need to modify yours to cover that skiing accident…”

“I hate the cold…” Anthony said with a smirk.

“I meant that terrible cycling accident that put you in that wheelchair.”  He continued, taking down notes as he spoke.  

“You can do that?” Juliet asked, surprised.  

“We aren't allowed to put ‘magic ring’ into our diagnosis, but we can make other arrangements as required. Helps with the insurance billing.” He nodded.

“Oh - wheelchairs!” Juliet practically shouted.  “Sorry… We need wheelchairs. These are just loaners.”  

“Of course - I have already modified your equipment prescription, Juliet, and will create one for Anthony as well.  You can get measured and choose your chairs this afternoon, they should be ready in a couple weeks.  I'm also prescribing at-home occupational therapy and rehab for both of you. I'd have it here at the center but Juliet made quite a lovely impression on all the staff during her stay, and I'm afraid there would be too many questions asked.”

“Wow, thank you doctor.” Anthony said, amazed at the bizarre turn of events.  

“I will also need to start seeing you regularly, Mr.Snow. You are now also my patient, along with your lovely wife.”

“I'm your patient…” He said, momentarily confused, then remembered the wheelchair. “Oh, of course. I look forward to it. Need to keep healthy, right?” He smiled.  

“Of course.” Doctor Waller said.  “One final caution.” He added, stroking his well manicured white beard.  “There are many magic rings in the word- none of them should be used lightly.”

With that, the doctor left and husband and wife headed to their wheelchair fitting appointment.  

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