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“I don’t know why the hell I’m here.”
I balled up my hands into fists, feeling the muscles of my arms bunch. My eyes were riveted on the faded pink rose woven into the rug on the floor. I wasn’t going to look up and meet the eyes of the chick across from me, the one who looked like she didn’t weigh ninety pounds soaking wet. How anyone could think someone like her could make a difference for someone like me was ludicrous.
“Well.” Her voice was soft, too, like the rest of her, and she spoke in a measured tone, like most fucking doctors did. I was damned sick of them all. “I can’t give you the existentialist answer to that question, but from where I sit, you’re here because you have a group of friends who care about you, maybe more than you deserve, and who don’t want to see you get pushed out of the Army on a medical discharge. Because of that, they’ve taken it upon themselves to make sure you get to these appointments with me.”
“They’re fucking interfering morons. If I want to sit in my house until I die, it’s none of their fucking business. There’s such a thing as freedom, you know.” I flickered my gaze up to her for a nanosecond. “Which means that I’m free to sit here and ignore you until that asshole Kincaid comes back to pick me up.”
“Hey, it also means you’re free to get your ass up out of my office and leave at any time you like.” She leaned down, moving into my line of vision until I didn’t have any choice but to see her. The bright red hair was cut short, and as I watched, she ran her hand through it. “Keep in mind that I’m getting paid whether or not you cooperate. But if you don’t, you’re only hurting yourself.”
My left leg throbbed, and I told myself that was the only reason I didn’t do as she’d suggested and get the hell out of here. Instead, I crossed my arms over my chest and glowered at her.
“Oh, please.” She waved one small hand in the air, laughing. “Do you seriously think you scare me, Captain McTavis? I’ve been stared down by better men than you, I can promise. You don’t frighten me, you don’t intimidate me, and I’m not going to back down from what I said earlier. You need me. If I don’t sign off that you’re showing up for these appointments, your battalion commander is going to start the process for your discharge.”
I dropped my eyes again and set my jaw. “Maybe she should. Maybe Colonel Debbings should have drummed my ass out months ago. I’m only taking up space. I’m not of any use to anyone. It would have been better if I’d died that day in Kentucky. Would have saved everyone a shit load of trouble.”
She was quiet for a few minutes, so much so that I finally looked up again, just to see if she’d fallen asleep or slipped out or gone comatose. But she was still there, those enormous green eyes staring at me, her rosebud lips pursed.
“Is this where I’m supposed to feel sorry for you or something? Because I’m not. Whether you want to know it or not, Captain McTavis, you’re a damn lucky guy. You’ve got a successful career, friends who care about you, and a body that can recover if you let it happen. And what’s more, you’ve been given a second chance. Do you know how rare that is? Do you know how often it doesn’t happen? But you got it. You can heal and grow strong again. You can reclaim your job and your relationships.”
She stood up suddenly, startling me with the rapid movement, and walked over to stand next to my chair, pointing at me with one small finger.
“But you have to choose to take that second chance. You have to decide to do the work and make it happen. Your friends can drive you here, they can cheer you on, but they can’t do it for you. I’m here to help you get your body back, to be able to go on with less pain—but I can’t do it for you, either.
“You have to choose to live again.”