With a loud drawn-out yawn and a bone-crackling stretch, I hauled myself out of bed on a bright and sunny Saturday to get ready for my flight to Rudy’s medical complex in Mountains Springs, Tennessee, where Steve was convalescing following a horrific car crash that killed his mother.
He underwent a strict routine of physical therapy for nearly three months to regain his strength and balance; although the therapists were able to mend and rehabilitate the body, the shattered soul continued to bleed effusively.
Rudy had called on eminent psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Russell to consult on Steve’s condition. The clinician had won high kudos for his revolutionary methods in dealing with neurotic depression, but never expected to encounter the first stumbling block of his career with a guilt-ridden Steve Austin. His approach had failed to meet the anticipated results, having the complete opposite effect: Steve withdrew more within himself, idling his time away by lounging in a chair and staring blankly out the window, only to crawl back into bed when dusk was mantling over in the sky.
Rudy was dreading the worse. He sensed that Steve was letting himself go downhill and hadn’t clue on how to slow the descent and prevent his total mental collapse. Steve had lost fifteen pounds in the last two weeks alone and hadn’t been able to gain the weight back.
So I decided to intervene. I wasn’t sure Steve would listen to me but I was willing to do the impossible to lure him away from the edge.
I arrived at the compound in early afternoon where I met with Dr. Russell. The poor man was disheartened at his failure to bring encouraging results, but assured him that Steve Austin was no ordinary patient. I had known him for a little over a year and knew that a terse approach was indicated in this case.
As I walked down to Steve’s room, my steps faltered as I dithered whether I should follow through with my harsh treatment to whip Steve into shape. I took a cleansing breath and ushered my way in to find Steve sitting in a chair by the window. He looked pitiful: deathly pale and sickly thin, like a zombie awaiting the Grim Reaper.
“Hey there, gorgeous!” I greeted with an ebullient smile and waited for an answer that I knew would never come.” What? No good afternoon, Cassie?” I said with an affected offense.
“Hi,” Steve mumbled faintly without looking at me.
“That’s better. I thought you were mad at me or something.”
He blinked and sighed heavily, leading me to believe my comment somewhat irritated him. I shrugged it off and made my way to the closet where I yanked his shirt and trousers off the hangers and tossed them on the bed.
“Come on! Get your duds on! We’re going for a walk,” I said airily.
Steve shook his head. “I don’t want to.”
“That may be but I feel like exploring the outside grounds of this wonderful complex and I was told you’re the best tour guide around.”
“Ask Rudy,” he sighed with annoyance.
“He’s busy and you’re obviously not,” I remarked on a crushing tone. “Come on! It’ll be good for you to get out of this gloomy room. You look like a zombie.”
“I told you, I don’t want to go out.” Steve fumed with a voice tinged with menace, one that washed off me like droplets of water onto a feather.
“Now do you think you can dress by yourself or do you want me to do it for you? And don’t believe I won’t do it either,” I challenged him with a fierce glare and a defiant stance with fists thrust on hips.
“Can’t you take no for an answer?” Steve sighed in frustration.
“Nop! Now come on! Get you butt off that chair and get dressed.” I threw the shirt onto his lap. “I’ll give you five minutes then I’m coming back, decent or not decent.”
“You’re definitely a thirty-five,” Steve grumbled.
“Thirty-five. Dr. Russell has a scale from one to thirty-five on stubbornness. You rank way up there.”
“So I do,” I boasted proudly. “But you my friend are a notch below, a thirty-four. Now get dressed! Day’s wastin’.”
I left the room to allow Steve his intimacy, then walked back in exactly five minutes later and found him tucking the edge of his shirt in his trousers.
“Good, let’s go,” I ordered him, brushing off his sulkiness.
“You’re a martyr.”
“You like me that way, admit it,” I teased with a Cheshire-cat grin.
“Can I truthfully answer that question?”
I dared him with a malicious glee.
“I didn’t think so,” he sighed in despair.
I draped my arm over his and we ambled down to the Nurses station to leave word with Rudy that we intended to trek up on the ridge. The nurses all stared at me, amazed by my feat of having shaken the grumpy patient out of his stupor.
“Help, I’m being kidnapped,” Steve lamented to the tittering nurses.
“And it’s about time! Come on, Slowpoke.” I tugged at his arm and steered him down the corridor.