Accessible Excerpts: Familiar Struggles
This is an excerpt from my novel, By Wingéd Chair, one in a series of posts in which I try to show how I use disabilities in my writing. Click here for my intro to the series. Merry and her rescuers are a day away from her home.
Lans came and sat on his heels beside me while I finished tying back my hair.
“Merry,” he said, his eyes serious. “I have to ask you a question you're not going to like.”
I wrinkled my nose. “That's not a very nice way to say good morning.”
“No, but it's necessary. Merry, is everything all right at home?”
I raised an eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I mean, does your father…does he hurt you?”
My jaw dropped, and I snapped it shut as soon as I realized I must look like the catfish Papa brought home on summer days. I started to answer, but Lans went on.
“Because if he does, you don't have to go back to him. You could come to the Refuge, and the abbot would protect you.”
I shook my head. “That’s not- Why would you think that?”
He looked at me out of the corner of his eye, and I was struck with the thought that I’d never seen him uncomfortable before. He was uncomfortable now. “We were worried you didn't want to go home. You've cried yourself to sleep every night you've been with us.”
Heat flooded my cheeks and my teeth clenched. Damn. I hadn't been expecting that. What was wrong with him? Why would he even bring something like that up? I gathered my anger around me like armor.
“I don't see how that's any of your business,” I said.
Lans shrugged. “Maybe it's not, but I wanted to make sure I wasn't bringing you back to someone who might have hurt you.”
My shoulders relaxed, and I let the defensiveness slip from my face. “Papa would never hurt me,” I said. “We're all each other has. I've missed him this past year.”
Lans finally smiled. “Sounds like I was dead wrong then. I'm all right with that. So you’re looking forward to returning home?”
“Of course. I worry about him when I'm gone. He's a bit of a genius, and sometimes he gets so carried away he forgets to take care of himself.”
“You said he studies the Vachryn. Is he a mage then?”
“Mage, engineer. He even dabbles in invention. He built my chair.”
“After my accident, the doctors said I would never be able to leave my bed again. Papa didn't think that was acceptable so he came up with ways to help me move around by myself. He put wheels on Mama's favorite chair and took all the rugs out of the house. He built ramps over short flights of stairs and a magical box that carries me up to the second floor. He was my only reason to keep living, and he made living possible.”
“Obviously he loves you very much. So why do you cry?”
My eyes narrowed, but he didn’t look away, seeing through every wall and barrier I tried to put up. I’d hoped I had distracted him, but he wasn't going to let this go. And I'd thought Whyn was insufferable.
I crossed my arms over my chest and looked away. “I don't like change,” I said. “I don't like not knowing what the day is going to bring, how I'm going to get around.”
“Look around. Does this look like Benevere? Or like a baronet's manor? Those are the only two places I've ever been. I know how life works there. Not here. This,” I gestured to the trees and the wilderness surrounding us. “This is scary.”
It was really only one of the reasons I cried myself to sleep every night, but I didn’t have to tell him everything.
“So you like to know what's coming,” Lans said. “That's easy enough to understand, and it's easy enough to work with. Here’s what's going to happen over the next two days. Today we'll ride. If we're attacked again, we'll protect you. If you need help, we'll provide it, no questions asked. Tomorrow, we'll reach your home, and you'll be back where you feel comfortable. How's that sound?”
I blinked. “That sounds...uh...fine.”
He patted my hand and left just as Vira-we came back into camp.
Was it really that easy? No, but it certainly made it easier to think of things that way. I had an escort. I had help if I needed it. And I'd be home tomorrow.
I believe I've mentioned I'm a worrier. I could be out on a nice date with my husband, and instead of thinking about the food or the company, I'm worrying about how I'll stand up or how I'll navigate the crowded room to get to the bathroom. New places and experiences are stressful until I've worked through every possible difficulty or outcome in my head. Having someone there who knows how I operate and who knows exactly how to offer the help I'm so loath to accept makes the anxiety more manageable. Josh (and select friends and family) provide this function for me. Lans provides it for Merry.
Merry has a hard time putting it into words since this is the first time she's had to admit it to anyone, but she isn't just afraid of change. She's afraid of the unknown, she's afraid of losing her hard won control. Merry's reasons are unique, but who hasn't been afraid of these things at one point or another. At every turn I'm surprised by just how familiar her struggles are despite her differences.
As always, comments and criticisms are appreciated. What did you think? What did you like, what did you dislike? Did I accomplish what I set out to do?