by Susan E. Hughes
It was Saturday. The day was crisp and cold. Colette Faith Carson was glad that she had been on the bus when the brief, but heavy, snowstorm fell. The bus slowed to a stop to pick up more passengers. She had removed the large book bag that had been resting on the seat next to her to make room for a lady who had just boarded. She noticed the splash stains on the woman’s coat and gave her a look of quiet empathy. Colette looked out of the window and let out a half-hearted sigh. The day before had brought unseasonably warm weather with rain melting most of the remaining snow, but today was another story. The quick dip in temperature had caused some of the puddles to freeze over into thin patches of ice, and the new snow covering them was going to make detection difficult, if not downright impossible. She could have kicked herself because she had neglected to check the weather before leaving the house and had put on a pair of athletic shoes instead of boots, thinking they would be sufficient. “Oh well, I guess Ohio wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have these unpredictable winters,” she shrugged to herself. Spring wasn’t far away, but Mother Nature seemed to be keeping her own time schedule.
Colette or Coco, as closest friends called her, settled back in the seat and smiled to herself about the upcoming weeks. Her dream of having a dance troupe had finally come to fruition. It was during her stint with the troupe Abyss that she met and became fast friends with Pamela. Their friendship quickly turned into a partnership, and together they formed the group Genesis.
Coco was proud of the group. In just two short years, the troupe had been well received, and was invited to perform three pieces for the city wide Spring Festival on the main stage in the downtown area. She was both excited and nervous at the prospect of the group performing her new piece before such a large and diverse audience. She continued to view the scenery as her thoughts rambled, when suddenly, the bus stopped, lurching her forward; her purse and bag tumbling to the floor. The lady seated next to her helped her retrieve her things.
“Thanks,” Coco said.
“No problem. I don’t think anything spilled from your purse, but maybe you’d better check just to be sure.”
“Everything appears to be here,” quickly scanning her things while zipping her purse and wedging it firmly between her body and the book bag on her lap. “I have a really bad habit of leaving my purse wide open. That driver really needs to slow down. I sure will be glad to see spring; winters are such a bummer.”
“Oh, on the contrary, said the lady, it’s a beautiful day.”
“I guess you’re right, but life is sure a whole lot easier when you have some of the things you desire.”
The lady signaled the driver to stop. “Well, this is where I get off. Everything you desire and more will come in due time, believe that. You have a beautiful day.”
Coco watched the woman descend from the bus, wondering what she meant by that statement and as the bus pulled away. She motioned with her shoulders and returned to her thoughts. Twelve weeks seemed like a lot of time, but she knew that in the artistic world, it was nothing. She was relieved that she had finally found music for her piece. Vivaldi’s “Spring” suited the piece perfectly. Her only problem was costuming. She gave her mentor a call, and set up an appointment to meet with her at the college to brainstorm. It was cutting things a little close, but she felt that her team would get the job done. Coco glanced down at her watch, 10:20 am. She had exactly ten minutes to make it to her appointment. She didn’t like being late.
Coco rang the bell to signal the driver to let her off at the next stop. “If I take the stairs two at a time and walk briskly to the theatre building, I should get there on time,” she thought as she slung her purse and book bag over her right shoulder. She ascended the stairs two at a time. When her right foot hit the landing, she slid and was catapulted into the air, and came crashing down on the concrete pavement a split second later. She knew that she was hurt as soon as she had fallen, because she heard the deafening crunch; like someone snapping a large twig.
A young man approached as Coco was trying to raise her hip and free her leg. Kneeling beside her, he helped her untangle her leg from under her body.
“Oh my god, your ankle is broken!”
Coco rose up on her elbows to survey the ankle. Her foot was lying parallel to the ground and her ankle was beginning to swell. She lay back on the ground and started to laugh. The young man eyed her with concern.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m okay. You’d think a dancer would be able to maintain their balance without breaking bones,” laughing again at the irony of the situation.
Minutes later, the paramedics arrived. They immediately set to work checking her vital signs, and the broken ankle. The medic cut the shoestrings and the front of the shoe into two pieces to slide the shoe off the foot. The young man that had come to her aid, offered to get word to her mentor as she was transported away.
Coco stared at the ceiling, counting the acoustic tiles to take her mind off of the pounding ankle. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion, and she couldn’t figure out how much time had actually elapsed.
“Ms. Carson… Colette Carson”, she faintly heard someone say. A rather tall, medium-built man was standing at the end of the examination table. “I’m Dr. Shahad, the orthopedic surgeon on duty. I understand you took quite a spill.”
“Yeah, my ankle is throbbing to beat the band, but otherwise; I’m fine.”
“Then allow me to check your vital signs again and you’ll be on your way to X-ray so we can see what’s going on with your ankle.”
The x-rays were quick and not as painful as she had anticipated. Back in the examination room, Coco waited for the doctor’s diagnosis.
“Ms. Carson, here’s the deal. The fall caused your ankle to snap right where the ball joint fits into the socket. I’ll fit you with a walking half cast to stabilize it. The cast will stay on for approximately four weeks to see if it will heal on its own. You’ll come back to see me at that time and I’ll see how it’s faring.”
“Four weeks,” she lamented. “I have a major project coming up. I can’t afford to lose four weeks.”
Coco heard, but didn’t hear his next words because she was too busy calculating in her head how she was going to maneuver rehearsal with a bum ankle along with everything else to be ready for the festival. For the next four weeks, Pam had volunteered to do all of Coco’s errands; however, Coco took a firm stance and insisted on overseeing the rehearsals herself. One night, after rehearsal, Pam pulled Coco aside to speak with her.
“You really need to take it easy. I know the finale is your baby, but it can’t be doing you any good hobbling around on that foot.”
“My foot feels just fine. In fact, I have an appointment in a few days, so stop worrying; I’ll be outta this cast and back on the dance floor before you know it. You’ll see.”
Coco sat in the waiting area of Dr. Shahad’s office that following Monday. While she waited, she found a recipe for a spiced fruit punch, which she tore from the magazine and stashed in her purse. “Ms. Carson, Dr. Shahad will see you now.” Coco returned the magazine to the table, thanked the receptionist and entered the office.
“Well, Ms. Carson, how have these past four weeks been for you? I know you ‘re anxious to get that cast off”.
“I feel fine, doctor. The pain has been minimal, as though it was never broken”.
“That could be a good thing… a sign that it’s healing. If that’s the case, you’ll need to stay in a cast for another four to six weeks so that it will heal completely. ”
“A few more weeks; shucks, that’s a piece of cake,” she laughed.
“Okay, let’s have my nurse take a couple of x-rays to see where we’re at.”
Coco sat on the examination table, swinging her right leg back and forth with nervous anticipation as she waited for the doctor to look over her x-rays.
“Ms. Carson, closing the door behind him, he continued. I’m sorry, but the news isn’t good. The ankle is not healing. I took a look at the images and don’t understand why you aren’t in excruciating pain. Surgery is the only other option we have to repair it.”
The room filled with silence as she took in the information and composed her thoughts. “What will the surgery entail?”
“I will have to put a plate and pins in the ankle to stabilize it”.
Coco sat silently, staring at her ankle and foot. “Dr. Shahad, I’m a dancer. That’s all I’ve known all my life; it’s my livelihood. Will I still be able to dance?”
“I don’t see why you can’t. Of course, you may have some limitations with that foot and perhaps some balance issues, but nothing you can’t overcome. I want to get you in as soon as possible, so I’m scheduling your pre-op testing for the day after tomorrow and you should be going into surgery by next Thursday. The nurse will give you all the details on your way out. I’ll see you soon.”
Coco stared out of the car window as Pam drove her home from the doctor’s office. Pam regarded her friend on the quiet ride. She felt as though she should say something regarding what she’d been told. “Look, doctors don’t always have the answers. That’s why they say they’re practicing medicine.”
“But what if have issues with my foot, even after the surgery? I can’t dance like that and you know it.”
“So teach. You’ve done a wonderful job with the company.”
“Oh, so it’s like that old adage huh, those who can do; those who can’t teach, right?”
“No. More like the saying, if someone throws you a lemon, make lemonade. I’ve never heard this defeatist thinking coming from you before and frankly, my dear; it’s not attractive”.
The reminder of the ride to her house was hushed and strained. Coco felt bad for lashing out at her best friend, but not for what she had said. There was no way that Pam could possibly understand how she felt about dancing. She had worked hard, and not being able to realize all her hopes and dreams regarding dance was like taking the very air that she breathed.
Pam pulled the car into Coco’s driveway and slowed to a halt. “Coco, I know this news was not what you wanted to hear, but look at it this way; what is a possibility, is not necessarily a probability. You have to think positive.”
Coco laid in the dark quietness of her bedroom that night, contemplating her impending operation. Pam had told her to think positive thoughts, but she felt as though she needed more than optimistic affirmations; she needed definitive action. The weariness of the day weighed heavily on her and soon she drifted off to sleep.
The following Thursday morning, Pam had picked her up and stayed with her while she was in pre-op. The two of them chatted about the company, reminisced about good times, and made future plans for the troupe until the orderlies came to take Coco to the operating room.
“Pam. I’m scare as hell, but no matter what the outcome, I’ll face it as bravely as I can.”
“I know you will, Pam stated. You have more tenacity than anyone I know. That’s what drew me to you in the first place.”
Coco smiled giving Pam a quick jab in the arm. “You’ve got quite a bit of chutzpah yourself, kiddo. Pray for me.”
Pam leaned over and gave her a quick hug. “It’s already done. I know everything will turn out fine.”
The orderlies wheeled her down the hall, and the conversation between the three of them quelled her anxiety. Dr. Shahad and his team were making final preparations for surgery.
“I’m glad to see you in good spirits Ms. Carson. The whole procedure should take less than two hours. Once you’re out of recovery and settled in a room, I’ll come by to re-cast your leg sometime tomorrow.”
“How long will I be in my new cast?”
“For eight weeks. Physical Therapy will work with you and show you how to get around on crutches.” He smiled down at his patient while lightly patting her arm and nodded for the anesthetist to begin the anesthesia. He instructed Coco to count backwards from one-hundred. “I’ll see you in a couple of hours”, she heard him say as she drifted into a twilight sleep.
Coco’s eyes fluttered briefly before fully opening. She was conscious of her ankle aching, which caused her to make a low growling moan. Hearing her groan, the nurse came to her bedside, checked her vitals and adjusted the pillows on which her leg rested.
“Hi Ms. Carson, I’m Angela, your recovery nurse.“ The surgery went well. Dr. Shahad said that he’ll see you sometime tomorrow to fit your cast. You’ll be discharged Monday at the latest.”
“As soon as that?”
“Yes indeed. No lying around for you, young lady. We want you on your feet as soon as possible. By the way, there’s a lady whose been waiting for you to come out of the anesthesia in the waiting area. Would you like to see her?”
“The nurse said I should be out of here by Monday. That’s kind of fast, don’t you think,” as Pam pulled a chair next to the bed.
“Well, the doctor mended the break and there are no complications, so I can’t see any reason why you shouldn’t go home on Monday, if not sooner. Remember, you can handle anything.”
Coco limited her activities to staying close to home. At first, she was tentative about using the crutches, but she soon became adept at using them. Most of her days were spent reflecting on where her life was going and what she wanted to do with it. Her thoughts centered around the “what ifs”, and each new day left her more confused than the day before. All her life, she had dedicated to dance. She could not remember a single moment when she wasn’t on a stage or in a dance class. Dance was all she had ever known. Coco purposely stayed away from rehearsals, because secretly she was afraid of the news from the doctor, and that the company, in fact, could manage well without her; but she was most afraid of the little faith she had that things would work out for the good.
One morning, to take her mind off her thoughts, Coco decided to clean out a closet in the spare bedroom that she used for storage. Overhead, on a shelf, was a box marked “Mom’s Things”. Steadying herself on the left side with both crutches, she pulled the box from the shelf, turned and placed it immediately on the bed. Coco sat next to the box and opened it. She smiled as she looked at some of the pictures of her and her mom, laughed as she read some of the silly birthday cards she had sent her, and relished the ribbons and pins her mother had kept from her dance recitals and contests. She continued to rummage through the remains when she spied, underneath all the pictures, cards, and ribbons, a small book in the New Testament.
She had been in that box at least a dozen times or more after her mother’s death, and had never seen the book before. She noticed that some of the passages had been hi-lighted with words or names in the margins next to them. It was in the book of Matthew where she saw the name Colette written neatly in the margin next to a verse. She propped her leg up and started to read. “If ye have faith… nothing shall be impossible unto you.” She could hear her mother speeaking, whenever Coco was discouraged or anxious. “Coco, all you need is a mustard seed’s worth of faith and there’s nothing you can’t have.” Those were the same words the lady on the bus had said, “You will have all you desire and more; believe it.” Coco closed her eyes and silently prayed.
Pam called Coco right after the performance to inform her of how the event went. Coco was pleased to hear that the group had been well received and that the crowd had went wild over the finale.
“I was kind of scared at first, Coco. I mean, the crowd was so quiet at the end of the finale. I didn’t know what to think, and then all of a sudden; they burst into cheers and applause. I almost forgot. There was a guy at the festival by the name of Hunter Richards. He went nuts over the finale, and wants you to get in touch with him about a commercial for one of his clients. It’s the Hunter Richards Agency. Here’s his number.
As she hung up, a wave of gratefulness washed over her. She closed her eyes and uttered, “Just a mustard seed of faith,” before whispering a word of thanks.
Susan E. Hughes was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. She wrote her first haiku in fifth grade, was published in the school’s chapbook, and has been writing ever since. With a long background in theater, she went on to utilize her writing skills by writing for Karamu Theater’s educational outreach program called T.O.P.S. A recent retiree from the field of Early Childhood Education, she is a mother of two who enjoys jazz, walking barefoot and wildflowers. Cooking and sharing meals with family and friends is a one of her many passions. She has been published in Agape Review.