“You mentioned something that got me thinking. When you said you wondered if you could get a job. Anyway, I keep thinking that your parents might want to live here. Maybe keeping the bigger apartment available for them is a good idea.”
“Oh God, Luke. Don’t get carried away.”
“You love your folks. They love the baby. Them being here all the time might be helpful. We’ll still have Margaret and they loved her when I left for Germany.”
“They got here and took great care of Bridget with Margaret’s help. They never said a cross or a negative word. It was nice.”
“Well, if you don’t mind, can you and I adapt to living together with our kid before you invite my parents to stay with us? Remember, we still have a lot of getting to know one another to do.”
“Okay, you’re right. I don’t think there will be any problems, but that’s me: head in the clouds Luke.”
“Aw, you’re perfect for me because I’mDrama Queen Bridget.”
They laughed together and made small talk for a while longer before saying goodbye.
With her homecoming foremost in his mind, he worked at his jobs to finish up a few smaller ones and got ahead in another big attic conversion. Now that she was actually coming home, he would have time to be with her.
With the cousins’ help, Luke had made progress on the few projects he’d started in the apartment for Bridget’s comfort, including building a seat across the back of the shower for her and installing handrails so she could have independence in the bathroom.
He’d bought two small upholstered chairs, one for the nursery and one for the bedside so she’d have a place to sit other than the bed or the rocking chair in the nursery.
While Luke prepared for Bridget, for weeks she’d worked hard at physical therapy and occupational therapy. In OT, she did more with a doll about the size of Emily like picking it up from a squatting position, learning to balance on her prosthesis when she carried her.
Also, her depth perception was off slightly because of losing an eye, and in order for her to get her driver’s license renewed, she practiced techniques to compensate for the binocular disparity.
When her therapists heard the news that she was leaving early, they were thrilled for her, but they were also a little sad that she was going.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with you,” her physical therapist, Randy, said. “But this is the goal, seeing you get back to your life. I’m so proud of how hard you’ve worked to achieve this.”
Hugging him, Bridget had her first inkling of fear. It was safe at the center. The room reminded her of the barracks—no frills, spartan. Except for the obvious things, the pregnancy and her injuries, she had tried to live her life controlled, minimal, solitary. Now, she had to live within the confines of a relationship. Compromise, sharing, it was all too much.
“You’re shaking,” Randy said, holding her at arm’s length.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” she said. “I feel like I’m betraying Luke when I say it out loud. I’ve never lived with anyone before.”
He tried not to grin. “Bridget, you have been a team member since you graduated from nursing school. Think about it! You’re an operating room nurse who worked as part of an intimate team saving lives. I’m sure you will do so again before long. Going to war as part of a team shows incredible strength.
“I think sharing a home with your hot boyfriend—I know, unprofessional of me—and that cute baby will be easier than anything you’ve ever done in your life. Luke is going to be there for you every step of the way.”
Snickering, she took a step back from him, flicking a tear off her cheek. “I know I’m being weird. Maybe I’m afraid of having to take care of myself. I’ve had all of you watching over me and now I’m on my own.”
Therapist Natalie said, “Randy’s right, Bridget. You’ll have Luke. I’ve been doing this a long time and I have to tell you, I have never seen a guy so supportive and loving and willing to do whatever it takes. He’s amazing. He’s someone I would use as an example of what it takes to get through this process. And you are the most motivated patient. You achieved all your goals in eight weeks. Soon, you’ll be running like the wind.”
“I need to walk first.”
“Exactly. You know what you can do better than anyone else? Take one day at a time.”
“You’d think I’d be a pro at that by now,” she said, laughing. “I want to figure out how to be a mother to my daughter, too. I’m not exactly nurturing.”
“I’ve seen you with Emily, Bridget. You’re great! I thought I hated kids and I’m a pretty good mother, according to my son.”
Laughing together, it was exactly what Bridget needed, not to overthink everything or be too serious.
The morning of her discharge forced Bridget to conquer her biggest fear yet, her feelings about Luke. She’d gone along with the pretext that she loved him because he said he loved her. She’d had a child with him, and he’d proven himself to be a steadfast partner from the moment she told him she was pregnant until she delivered, left for Afghanistan, was wounded, and through the past months of recovery. He’d never given her a moment of doubt nor hesitated. He wanted to do more. He wanted to support her more, to take part in her rehabilitation more, to care for her more. What was she resisting?
Of course, she was overthinking again. Luckily, they hadn’t discussed getting married. If she discovered that living with Luke wasn’t an option, she’d leave.