An accident was the start of my own writing career, so I can understand the initial feelings of helplessness in this short story. Save the last dance for me was released by The Drifters in 1960 and suggested by a friend for my song title series, but I thought it would be interesting to approach the lyrics from a different angle. 😀
We met in unusual circumstances but I fell in love the first time I saw her. Despite the pain from my broken leg, and the indignity of being pushed around in a wheelchair still wearing my muddy rugby gear, I couldn’t resist her smile when she sat down next to me.
‘I’d shake hands but it’s a bit difficult at the moment,’ she said waving the sling on her arm, ‘so you’ll have to make do with this.’ Leaning over she gave me a kiss on the cheek.
‘Raymond Williams?’ The nurse calling my name rolled me off to see the Doctor before I had a chance to find out hers.
That was the start of six frustrating weeks where “being plastered” took on a whole new meaning. I wasn’t used to being helpless, and despite having strong arms, they ached with the pressure of supporting my weight when I used crutches. Unable to cope on my own in my bachelor flat, Mum was delighted to have her baby boy back, all six feet and seventeen stone of me. The home cooked meals made a pleasant change from take-aways, and clean clothes magically appeared in my childhood bedroom wardrobe. Despite all the advantages, I was looking forward to having the plaster on my leg removed, and getting my normal life back.
‘Now take it easy, Ray. I don’t want to see you here again,’ the Doctor smiled as she showed me out of her examination room. ‘For a while you’ll need to watch from the side-lines. No rugby for you until that leg’s completely healed. You hear me?’
‘Sure, doc, and thanks,’ I said as I gingerly tested walking again without support.
‘Jackie Winters?’ Turning I saw my gorgeous girl blow me a kiss and give me a thumbs-up before being led into another doctor’s room. Presumably it was her turn to be un-plastered, and with no reason to rush off, I decided to wait for her. She emerged fifteen minutes later and I waved, then felt like a stalker as she noticed me and waved back, before taking out her phone to make a call. How stupid was I? She was obviously arranging for her boyfriend or husband to pick her up, and I’d been sitting here like a love-struck teenager, all because she had once smiled at me.
‘Hello, Ray,’ she said as she walked over. ‘I’m being presumptuous in cancelling my cab but I thought we could celebrate together. What do you think?’
That was the start of a wonderful relationship, and the more I got to know her, the more I knew she was the girl for me. A year to the day from when we first met, I took her out for a surprise lunch, and watched her face as I led her into the hospital café and proposed.
‘You’re a nut,’ she said, ‘but obviously the answer is yes. Perhaps we could spend our honeymoon here?’
‘No way!’ I laughed, ‘only the best for my girl. I don’t care if I never see this place again.’
Little did I know those words would come back to haunt me. We started house hunting, set the date for the wedding, and most of the time I managed to escape when every meeting with her girlfriends revolved around invitations and flowers and favourite hymns. All I wanted was for her to be my wife, and wake up next to me every morning as we grew old together. My penguin suit had been ordered and fitted, the boys had been warned to behave at the reception, and I had made sure my stag do would be early enough for me to recover before the wedding.
However much you feel you’re in control, fate has a way of throwing in the unexpected. The drunk driver probably never realised how much his last pint had cost me, when he crashed into my car a month before the wedding. I ended up back in hospital and the prognosis was not good. There was a strong possibility that this time I would be confined to a wheelchair for life. My first thought was to cancel the wedding. It wasn’t fair to submit Jackie to a life devoted to an invalid. That wasn’t what she had envisaged when she agreed to marry a healthy, able-bodied man.
We fought, we argued, we yelled, until eventually she wore me down. She told me to stop feeling so sorry for myself, and threatened if I didn’t turn up for our wedding, she would personally break both my arms. Pulling her onto my lap I realised with such a strong, determined woman, I had no option. Our wedding was everything I hoped it would be, even if I was sitting in a wheelchair as my bride walked up the aisle. Despite all the problems, it was the happiest day of my life as we exchanged our vows.
At the reception, I enjoyed watching Jackie socialising with our guests, but my heart broke when the DJ called for the last dance of the evening. This should have been when I took my beautiful bride in my arms, but how could I when I couldn’t even stand on my own two feet?
‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ Jackie’s voice rang out through the microphone. ‘My husband and I,’ her words were interrupted by hoots of laughter as she came up to stand beside me, ‘would like to thank you all for coming. Big as he is, he didn’t realise he never stood a chance against a 5’6 female. He might have thought he’d got away with it, but I wanted to make sure he would save the last dance for me. Ready boys?’
She sat on my lap as four of my rugby pals pushed the wheelchair onto the dance floor, and the band struck up ‘Save the last dance for me.’ Never underestimate a determined woman.
© Voinks May 2019
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