After he was booked and arraigned, Michael was sent to the Sandford medical centre for tests and evaluation. Local residents that knew him were surprised when he complained of head pain. Michael, for as long as anyone could remember, could only speak one word.
A CAT scan revealed newly increased blood flow to the speech and cognitive area of the brain. A stent was inserted into to improve flow and clot-busting drugs were administered to prevent further blockages. Once healed from the procedures, Michael was sent to a rehab centre for speech and occupational therapy. By the time he arrived for his first session - much of his hair started growing back and he even had a short beard. His eyes were also bright and inquisitive - his therapist, Diana was impressed,
" Michael, you probably don't remember, but I interviewed you briefly after your arrest."
He shook his head, "Nope."
"I must say, even your physical transformation is impressive. Do you like the change?"
“Ya- yes, I like hair. I do not look scary now." There was a sadness in his eyes that tugged at Diana's heart.
"The look suits you," She smiled at him. After his evaluation, Diana sat in her office to make out recommendations for Michael’s therapy program. Speech therapy was paramount, cognitive skills and reasoning came in at a close second. His gross motor skills were very good, his fine motor skills needed work. Diana was certain that when coupled with his psychotherapy, Michael would be a productive member of society. After the approval of the program by the team. It was decided that Michael would work with Diana for three times a week to work on the areas she recommended. Diana found herself looking forward to her upcoming time with him.
The first day focused on speech therapy. Diana had simple poems to recite and some word games to start. Michael became frustrated quickly and started to shut down. Diana put both hands on his, “Let's pause. Perhaps we can just have a simple conversation." Michael was relieved, he told Diana about what he had for dinner the night before and his plans for dinner that evening. He also read off his grocery list of items that he needed. That is when it dawned on Diana, his life revolved around the supermarket. He needed outings, not silly rhymes. After their session, she contacted the team and discussed her plan. They thought it was a great idea and Diana excitedly thought of ideas for their next session.
Two days later, Diana told Michael that they were going on an outing.
"Where?" he asked.
"To the supermarket," Diana answered with a smile. "I wrote down a list of what you wanted the other day."
Michael smiled then, a bright smile that reached his eyes. His reaction warmed Diana's heart. Later, at the supermarket, they pushed the trolley down the aisles. In the fresh produce area, Diana had him find the best pieces, weigh them and bag them. He read nutritional information and compared the prices of packaged goods. They discussed favourite items and meals. As they approached the frozen section, however, Michael slowed down and his smile disappeared.
Diana put her hand on his arm, "Michael, what's wrong?"
" Ya...Ya…” he started to stammer.
Diana placed herself in front of him, “Michael, look at me. It's okay," she said soothingly.
His brown eyes were wide and he swallowed, "I was hurt. They found me in a freezer."
Diana put her hands over Michael’s, "I will not let you be hurt again. We can work together to make your life better."
He blinked a few times, "Both of us?”
"Both of us," she kept her hands on his. He had his eyes down and stared at her hands.
After few moments, he lifted his head and their eyes met. He smiled again, “Okay."
They resumed walking, though a bit slower. Michael looked at the list and started toward a case. She heard him take a deep breath. Diana started slightly when she felt Michael reach for her hand. She gave the large hand engulfing hers a reassuring squeeze. He gave a return squeeze and she was surprised when she felt a little flutter in her chest. As they were loading the bags into the boot of Diana's car, Michael gave her a slight nudge, "Thank you, Diana.”
For several months Diana and Michael met for 3 days a week. Though there were some missteps, Michael thrived. All blockages were clear and the stents helped tremendously. His speech was clear and he could hold an animated conversation for nearly the whole session. He started working at a large retail centre as a floor associate and even rang up customers for time to time. He began climbing during his free time. He convinced Diana to go with him as an outing. She recalled that day vividly as she watched him climb the indoor wall. He wore shorts and she could see the muscles moving in sync as he made his way upwards. By the time he was helping her with her harness, the fluttering in her chest nearly made her light-headed. She thought it was because she was nervous about climbing the wall. But when the fluttering continued beyond that, it dawned Diana that she was reacting to him.
Before they knew it, Michael had a hearing. The judge was duly impressed with the poised, well spoken, and perfectly groomed man in front of the bench. He was a far cry from the broken man from months before. The doctors and therapists each reported on his progress and next steps. This included a transfer to an independent living apartment. After a brief recess, the judge returned. All charges against Michael were dropped and all court-ordered interventions were ended. A social worker was to check in every 3 months, but that was for Michael's peace of mind over anything else. Diana was so proud, but as the ruling came down, she began to feel sad. She liked Michael. She looked forward to seeing him and missed him when she didn't. The flutters continued even when he wasn't around, now all it took was a thought. As she was walking to her car her eyes stung unexpectedly. She sighed as she dug through her purse for her keys. A shadow fell over her as she was rifling and she looked up into smiling brown eyes.
“You are no longer my therapist?”
“Correct, you are no longer my patient.”
“So, it's okay to do this?” Arms went around her then as he held her to him. Her cheek was pressed to his chest. Her heart was racing as she lifted her arms and returned the embrace. After a few moments, she felt him plant to kiss on the top of her head. She sighed and closed her eyes.
“Come over for dinner. Can you? I want to cook for you,” he asked.
Her tummy flipped and she looked up, still in his arms, “I can, and I would like to.”
He smiled and looked down, “Good.” His eyes quickly flicked to her mouth. Diana noticed and she tilted her chin up more, not looking away. He dipped his head and for the briefest of moments, his lips brushed hers. The tingle shot through her arms to her fingertips.
“Dinner is tonight, right?” She teased.
“We need to shop first!” He laughed.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and pushed up on her toes to kiss him back, let's go shopping.”