Antonio left the room, and I just sat there. I absorbed each word he said. Inside, I was happy that Arturo wanted to see me, but I was worried. Mom told me I was beautiful, no matter what. Antonio told me he no longer saw the scar. At the restaurant, after I fell, he fixed my hair to cover the scar. I was sure he did it for me. He knew I was self conscious. Can Arturo see me the way they do?
I stopped thinking about it. I decided to focus on the goals I wanted to accomplish. First, I wanted to walk without a cane. Second, I wanted to regain use of my left hand. Last, I wanted to write again. On my next therapy session, I spoke to my therapist, and we went over the goals I wanted to accomplish. He set up a chart for each of the goals. I took a look at the chart and smiled. I was determined, and more optimistic than ever, that I could accomplish them all.
The first goal set was to walk without a cane. Although I would work on the others, this one had priority. Walking without a cane, would give me a sense of independence, a sense of balance, a sense of triumph. The cane was an indicator of my disability, of my weakness, of my dependence. The next few weeks, I would walk with the cane, but tried not to lean on it. I would walk slowly and tried to keep pressure on the left foot. Although it was weak and it hurt, I did it anyway. At therapy, I was inside the pool working on strengthening the leg. I kicked, swayed, walked, swam, and lifted. I sat on the weight machine. The therapist had placed small 5 pound weights on the ankle. I had to slide the leg from left to right, then right to left, front and back, back and front.
It had been three weeks, each session had increased strength and intensity. I could stand and briefly walk without a cane; I had regained full balance. The intensity of the workouts had helped. I could not walk rapidly, but could slowly get from point A to point B. It was a struggle, but I was determined. At the end of two full months, I walked on my own. I had completed my first goal.
Antonio continued to drive me to therapy. He had asked me a few more times if I had thought about seeing Arturo. My answer was still the same. This time he asked if I would speak to him on the phone. Hmm. I did not see any harm. So, I agreed.
That night, he called. I, hesitantly, answered.
“Genevieve” I heard his voice.
It had been a while since I heard his voice. Just by hearing it, I felt chills run down my spine.
“Hello” I let out in shyness.
“It is so good to hear your voice.” He said.
“Is good to hear you, too.” I said.
“Antonio has kept me updated with your progress. I am grateful to him.” He exclaimed and continued, “I hope you know how deeply sorry I am for what you have been through.”
“Thank you.” I answered.
‘I understand you are progressing well. Antonio says you are walking without a cane. That is a remarkable accomplishment. How do you feel?” He asked.
“I feel good about that. It is good to walk without help.” I said.
I could tell that he was nervous. I know I was.
“I am glad that you accepted my phone call, but I would love to come over and visit with you. There are so many things I wish to converse with you. However, I respect your decision.” He added.
“Arturo, thank you for your call. I am not ready to see you. Please, understand. If you like, we can continue to speak on the phone.” I said, in a gently firm tone.
“I understand, and I will respect your choice. I will continue to call you. OK?” he asked.
“Yes, thank you for understanding.” I stated.
“May I call you at 7 PM tomorrow?” he asked.
“That is a good time. So, tomorrow it is.” I said.
“Good night.” he said.
“Good night, Arturo” I said, as I hung up the phone.
That night was the first of many conversations between the two of us. He called each night. Then he called each morning and each night . He never missed a call. We spoke about our day. He would tell me what he did, and I told him what I did. He had respected my choice to not meet in person. He understood.
As the conversations progressed, he explained everything. He was upset about Maritza’s deception. He was very sad about Lilly. He thought he was her father. He was there the day she was born, and loved her so much. His heart was torn. The day he found out Lilly was not his daughter, was hard on him. He had grown close to the baby. He loved her. Letting her go, he explained, felt like someone had ripped his heart from him.
The day that he had told Maritza that he was leaving her for me, she used her pregnancy to get him to stay with her. She had known, all along, that the child was not his. I heard Arturo explain it all. He filled in all the details.
As I listened, day by day, I understood the heartbreak he had been through. Not because he loved Maritza, but because he loved Lilly, because he loved me. He had lost both.
Arturo continued to tell me his ordeal.
I listened to him. He listened to me. I looked forward to our daily conversations. It had now been three months.