Authors: Angelina Rose
A Dream Song Romance
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
TRAGICALLY WOUNDED: A Dream Song Romance
Copyright © 2013
The concept for this particular story has been brewing in my mind for some time. I was particularly interested in the hero’s story – how he might overcome the terrible effects of his leg amputation following injuries he received during his deployment to
Sergeant Sean McKenzie and three military companions were traveling in a Humvee and were hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. All three of Sean’s companions were killed. A piece of shrapnel was lodged in Sean’s calf and he was pinned for many hours under what was left of the Humvee. This is what saved his life.
I believe we would all feel the same sadness, grief and anger as Sean. I was interested in exploring how this might impact his life… including his intimate relationships. He had been dumped by his ex-girlfriend once she knew he was going to be deployed to
. And then, when he returned home and contacted her and mentioned his injuries, she made it very clear she wanted no contact with him. Very few people are heartless, or all good or all bad, which is true for the characters in this story and this is what I found made them so fascinating to work with.
Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.
I didn't know why I was so nervous. I'd performed in front of much larger crowds than this. Maybe my nerves stemmed from the fact I was staring at a small room full of veterans, a room full of men and women who'd risked their lives so I could have the freedom to pursue what I loved most in the world: my music. It was sobering to be in the presence of such bravery.
Ten or fifteen years ago, I would've expected to see the room filled with men my father and grandfather’s age; veterans of Vietnam or even World War II. But that's not what I saw. I saw men and women my age, mid-twenties or early thirties, and every one of them had been injured in the line of duty in Afghanistan. My nerves resurfaced with a vengeance. These people probably wanted to hear a rock band, or see a comedy act, or at least be back in their rooms playing the latest video game. Instead, the VA had lined up my classical quintet. I was grateful for the opportunity, but what had they been thinking?
I took a deep breath and put on a brave smile even though bravery was the last emotion I felt. But, I was a professional, and would give my best as I always did. I licked my dry lips and began the Mozart sonata I'd been practicing. It felt good to sing. It helped calm my nerves and lifted my spirits. I allowed myself to scan the room, like I always did during a performance and as I'd suspected, most of the people had plastered on a smile of polite tolerance. Others didn't even bother. It was evident they were bored out of their minds. I felt bad they were bored but there was nothing I could do about it.
As my voice rose and fell with the bouncing melody, I continued to scan the room, hoping that maybe there was at least one person out there enjoying the show. And that's when I saw him. I focused all of my attention on the pair of warm, brown eyes that were staring intently at me. I was sure that if I hadn't been singing, the sight of those eyes would've stolen my breath.
They were the most gorgeous, honest pair of eyes I'd ever seen and they belonged to a very handsome solider sitting in a wheelchair. He had wavy brown hair that matched his eyes and a dimple in his left cheek. A strong, square jaw supported a pair of the most luscious lips she'd ever seen on a man. He had broad shoulders, a muscular chest, and wide thighs.
I averted my gaze back to his and was spell bound by the intensity of his gaze. It was as if he were seeing clear through to my soul, seeing every one of my fears and desires. My voice wavered and I felt myself blush. I broke eye contact and concentrated on my music – on finishing the show without making another blunder. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't completely take my eyes off him. Keeping him in my peripheral vision, I noticed that the group of soldier's he sat with were teasing him. The handsome soldier – God, I wish I knew his name – appeared annoyed and hushed them just as my set came to an end.
To my surprise, the audience broke into applause. I anticipated some polite clapping. I didn't expect the loud, raucous applause we received. Then I noticed the group in the corner – the group with the handsome brown-eyed soldier – was clapping far more enthusiastically than the rest of the room. I took that as an opportunity to smile at the soldier. He smiled back at me, unleashing the full potential of his bright white teeth and dimple. No man had ever affected me in such a deep way before. It was unsettling.
The people in the room began to leave as I, and the rest of the quintet, packed up our instruments. We talked quietly among ourselves, commenting on how we thought the performance went and the crowd's reaction to it. I heard a few voices behind me but I didn't turn around to see who was left in the room. I didn't have to. I could feel his eyes on me and knew it was my brown-eyed soldier. Good grief! Did I really just refer to him as mine? What was wrong with me?
"Oh, what a great performance, truly spectacular, thanks so much for coming," said Steve Boyd. He was the program director for the VA; a nice man, if not a little dramatic at times.
"Thank you," I said with a smile. "And thanks for inviting us to play here."
"Actually, about that, do you have a few minutes to spare?"
I looked at the rest of the quintet. They were shaking their heads in agreement. "Sure," I said. "What can we do for you?"
"Well," Steve rubbed the back of his neck, "we have a soldier here, a Sergeant who was seriously wounded. He has no family around here, but we've learned he's a classically trained musician. Part of his therapy is to get him interested in music again and we were hoping to find some other musicians who'd be willing to play with him here at the center."
"And you want us to be those musicians?" I asked with a hint of disbelief. Sure, I knew music. I knew how healing it could be but I didn't know anything about the complexities of war injuries or the mental stability of these soldiers. Would I really be of any help?
"Yeah, I was hoping so. It would only be a few hours a week. You'd really be helping us out. The staff and the Sergeant would be extremely grateful," Steve said.
I was ready to politely decline when my best friend, Antonia, stepped up and agreed for the both of us. I refrained from giving her a dirty look right then and there, but she would definitely get a piece of my mind after.
"Really?" Steve raised his eyebrows with a clear look of shock on his face. "Thank you, thank you so much," he said, shaking Antonia's hand then mine.
"No problem," I said with a smile. If Antonia was going to do this with me, it might not be so bad. She always had a way with people and I truly enjoyed her company.
"So, when would you like us to come back?" Antonia asked.
"Hey, we're heading out," said Sarah, another member of my quintet.
I nodded and waved as she and the other two members left. Then I turned my attention back to Steve and Antonia.
"We'd like to have sessions twice a week for an hour each day, preferably Monday and Wednesday afternoons. Does that work for you?" Steve looked back and forth between Antonia and myself.
We both nodded, and then I said, "What time?" Actually, now that I had thought about it, Mondays and Wednesdays were perfect. They were the two days during the week I wasn't busy with other things. Typically, by noon, I'd be so bored I would look for things to clean. My apartment was the cleanest it had ever been. The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. And of course, I wasn't oblivious to the fact that coming back here meant I got to see that sexy soldier again.
"The Sergeant's therapy sessions usually start at one," Steve said.
"Great! We'll be here," Antonia said with a beaming smile.
I couldn't stop from smiling, too. Antonia's excitement was contagious; then again, everything about Antonia was contagious. I pulled a book of sheet music from my bag and handed it to Steve. "Here is some music for the Sergeant. We'll work on that when we come back on Monday," I said.
"I'll be sure to give it to him. Again, thank you so much," Steve said, shaking my hand first this time, and then Antonia's. Once Steve left, I turned to Antonia.
"Okay, before you say anything, I knew you were going to say no and I knew that would've been a mistake," she said.
I shook my head and tried to hide my smile. Antonia was always doing stuff like that, agreeing on my behalf to do things I wouldn't normally do. But, I couldn't stay angry with her because usually, the stuff she made me do turned out to be pretty fun. I'm sure this experience would be no different. "Are you ready?" I asked her.
"Yup, let's go." Antonia looped her arm through mine and we headed toward the door. On my way out, I caught sight of the soldier who'd been staring at me during the performance. Seeing him again made my heart race and my palms sweat. I gave him a small smile and he responded with a wink. My face flushed with warmth, and I quickly looked away. As I did, the metallic gleam of something caught my eye. I turned to look at it and that's when I realized it was a prosthetic limb. I also realized for the first time the handsome soldier's left leg had been amputated just below the knee.
My gaze traveled from his prosthetic limb, up his torso, and to his eyes. His smile had faded. He looked angry that I'd noticed his injury. I smiled again, hoping to convey that his missing leg didn't bother me. His expression remained stoic and cold. My whole demeanor changed in that moment. Had I messed things up before I even had a chance to learn his name? Surely he wouldn't want to talk to a woman who so rudely gawked at an injury that was beyond his control. I could be such an idiot sometimes.
"Hey," Antonia nudged me, "Did you hear anything I just said?"
"Huh? What?" I shook the thoughts and the image of the soldier from my mind. "I'm sorry."
Antonia grinned in her typical fashion when she'd caught me doing something she'd be proud of – and staring at a hot guy was at the top of her good-things-to-do list. I was busted.
She craned her neck to catch a glimpse of the guy I'd been looking at. She whistled low enough so that only I could hear her. "Oh, he's cute, Nikki."
I rolled my eyes. "Forget it, Toni." I could already see her mind spinning with ideas on how to set me up with the soldier. Yes, he was cute. And yes, I enjoyed looking at him. But I was not looking for a boyfriend. Antonia knew that I would not let her push me into a relationship with that guy. I was holding my ground on this.