Yet another entry into Friday Flash Fiction. Kinda rushed this week, so this is a first draft of a story and also my shortest entry to date. It's a little melancholy, but I blame that on reading some more Hemingway.
He had been told crawling would get him nowhere. A man had to stand on his own two feet. The admonitions of Nick's father echoed in his head as he lay on the floor of his bedroom.
Nick gritted his teeth and planted his hands firmly on the wooden floor. He grunted as he pushed the floor away. Nick grabbed the edge of his bed and pulled himself up into it.
"Let me help you." Doris took a few steps in from the doorway.
"No. I can do it myself." He strained from the bed as the crutch had fallen out of his reach. A sharp pain shot through his back, reminding Nick the bullet he had taken in Bremen was still there.
"Is the pain bad?" Doris had seen him wince.
"The pain is what keeps me alive." He caught the end of his crutch with numb fingers and dragged it closer. The doctors said he'd never be able to use his left leg again and he was losing more feeling in his left hand every day.
"It doesn't have to be that way, Nicky. I was talking to Eric the other day..."
"He's Judy's husband. He works downtown."
"No more doctors."
Doris slumped her shoulders and looked at her hands. "They can help you, Nicky. I have some money now. They gave me a raise at the factory. I'm making close to $30 a week now."
"A man has to be able to stand on his own two feet."
Doris fixed her teary eyes on him. "There's no shame in letting me help you. Women proved that we can work every bit as hard as a man. We don't need to be secretaries and teachers any more. The world changed while you were away."
"And who says this change is for the better?" Nick hoisted himself up on his crutches and hobbled over to the small table in the corner. He poured himself a glass of whiskey and knocked it back in one gulp. He poured another glass.
"It's not fun any more, Nicky."
Nick finished the second glass and poured a third.
"You said we'd be married after the war, but you changed too. I don't even know if I'd say yes any more."
"Who's asking you?" Nick threw his half-full glass at the door behind Doris. The brown liquid scattered as the glass broke in two and fell to the hard wood floor.
They stood there without talking, and listened to the taxi cab bleat its horn outside.
"Do you think things will ever be the way they were between us?" Doris asked.
"I don't know." He was afraid to look at Doris. Then he looked at her. She stood there staring at him. Nick hobbled over and sat on his bed.
"Do you still love me, Nicky?"
"I don't know."
Doris lowered her head and a single tear fell and splattered on her shoe. She reached into her purse and pulled out his key and put it on his dresser.