I wished I paid more attention to every last detail of our time together that last night. Wednesday night. The last night we made love before everything changed. The last night we both had a little bit of hope for the future. The same night I stared at my mother’s engagement ring while Evangeline slept in my bed. I knew I was going to give it to her and wondered how soon after everything went down she would allow herself to accept it. The feeling of elation was still overshadowed by an inexplicable uneasiness in my gut.
Thursday afternoon, the source of my dread revealed itself.
Everything changed in an instant.
They say when a traumatic event occurs, you always remember where you were and what you were doing. I happened to be at Sutton Provisions slowly cleaning out my desk area in the event that Lance didn’t allow me access back into the building once I broke off my engagement to Elle.
One of the beef processing managers walked in. “Sevin, something’s happened. Lance just got called home and rushed out. You’d better leave. I think something went down at the ranch with one of his daughters. I don’t have any other information.”
Flying out the door, I ran to the truck and drove home as fast as I could, praying that everything was okay.
Several emergency vehicles were parked outside the property when I pulled in. Flashbacks of my father’s death tormented me as I ran toward the flashing lights.
Evangeline ran to me, her eyes were swollen and red. She was sobbing and unable to speak clearly.
My heart was pounding out of control. “What happened?”
“It’s Elle. They’re taking her to the hospital.”
“She was out riding one of the horses. Emily says the horse went ballistic and threw Elle to the ground. She was unconscious for a while. I don’t know what’s happening now.”
The scene was chaotic. Olga stepped into the back of the ambulance. The door shut, and it took off.
Lance was pacing before he spotted me. “Sevin, take Evangeline and Emily and follow me to the hospital in your truck.”
The ride to the hospital seemed to take forever. The sisters were huddled together in the backseat. Evangeline was comforting Emily who’d apparently witnessed Elle getting thrown from the horse.
I looked in the rearview mirror. “Emily, tell me what you can.”
Emily wiped her eyes. Several seconds went by before she would answer me. “After Elle got home from work, she went out riding like she normally does. I was watching her on Magdalene. She was mounted, doing her usual jumps. Things were fine. Then, I went inside for a second to get a drink. When I came out, the horse was going crazy. Elle got tossed off. I ran to her, and she wouldn’t wake up.” Emily’s sobs grew louder. “Everything changed…just like that.”
Evangeline held her tighter. “It’s okay, baby.”
Despite the silence for the remainder of the ride, the fear among the three of us was loud and tangible.
The long wait at the hospital for information was excruciating. Even Olga was told to stay outside in the waiting room.
A doctor finally came out after about an hour. “Elle is awake.”
We all seemed to let out sighs of relief in unison.
“Is she going to be okay?” Olga asked, tears falling from her eyes.
“There is something you need to know.” He paused. “As of right now, Elle is experiencing a total loss of feeling in her lower extremities. We are running some tests to determine the extent of the paralysis and whether it’s temporary.”
“She’s paralyzed?” Lance cried.
“We don’t know that it’s permanent,” the doctor said.
It wasn’t setting in. This seemed unreal. As the doctor babbled on, all I kept thinking about was the actor Christopher Reeve and hoping that whatever happened to Elle wasn’t anything like that. The doctor didn’t seem to know yet.
“So, the good news is, she’s alert and able to recall what happened. There doesn’t seem to be any permanent brain damage, but we are still assessing the level of spinal cord injury.”
“Can we see her?”
“She asked for a Sevin. Is that her husband?”
“That’s her fiancé,” Olga said.
Out of everyone, she wanted to see me.
Crushing guilt consumed me, knowing that tomorrow was supposed to be the day I broke her heart. Today was so much worse than tomorrow could have ever been.
“Go on, Sevin,” Evangeline said.
Walking down the hall to her room, selfish worries were instinctually clamoring at me. I needed to push away all thoughts of what this predicament was going to mean for Evangeline and me. Elle needed to come first right now.
The door slowly creaked as I opened it. Elle was lying on the bed with her eyes closed.
She opened her eyes and turned to me, reaching out her hand. “Sevin.”
“You’re gonna be okay.”
She was shivering. “I can’t feel my legs.”
Gently rubbing my hands down her thighs, I asked, “You can’t feel this?”
“No. I’m so scared.”
“Listen to me, Elle. We’ll get through this. The whole family is here. The doctor is gonna figure out how to help you. They’re running some tests.”
She started to cry. “I don’t know what happened to Magdalene. One second, I was riding her like normal, the next she just lost her mind. I got thrown.”