Alex grunted as he tried to flip himself over in bed. He didn't want to see outside, unlike the nurses assumed he would. He didn't want company, unlike his friends and family assumed he would. He didn't want anything except to be left alone.
But he couldn't tell anyone that.
It had been a year now since he had come home from the desert, only to be trapped in hospital after hospital because of his injuries. The doctors had told his family that their son would more than likely never be able to communicate again, outside of grunting. There were even doubts that Alex was aware of anything. But Alex knew...he could hear every lengthening litany of injuries.
I just wish... Alex paused in his thought as he stared outside the tinted hospital windows.
The nurses were walking down the hallway again, giggling about some sort of party. Could it really be the holidays again? Mentally, Alex shrugged and returned to his darker thoughts. There wasn't much else for him to do.
A commotion filled the hallway, followed by a wheelchair slowly appearing in the doorway. It was his parents.
His mother spoke. "Hey sweetie, we're kidnapping you for a little bit, okay?"
Alex grunted in response and wordlessly, his father and brother, Jerry, lifted him into the chair. Gently, Mom covered him with a blanket and they left the room and eventually the hospital.
The drive through the busy streets was filled with idle chatter from his parents. And for once, Alex found himself actually paying attention. He was free—at least for a few brief hours from the hospital. His heart soared as they pulled onto a familiar street, down to a familiar house, and pulled to a stop.
He was home! Alex grunted again, hoping to convey his happiness and approval to his parents as they took him inside and straight into the kitchen.
Mom grinned at Alex as she draped an apron around his neck and winked. "We busted you out so that you could help me cook for the holidays."
Alex grunted and thought, just like always.
The one sided conversation continued, but Alex found himself increasingly grunting, desperately trying to communicate with his mom. With careful patience, his mom offered him small samples of food.
Alex swallowed and coughed. The explosion of favors made anything that the hospital had given him pale in comparison.
His mom frowned, "You okay, Alex?" She asked and he grunted.
She smiled, as if she could understand his grunts. "Okay, Alex. Let's get you into the dining room, I'll finish things up in here."
As if on cue, his brother emerged from outside of the kitchen and eased the apron off Alex's neck and then pushed the chair to his normal spot at the table. The smells became intoxicating and Alex found himself gazing at the feast, wishing that he could feed himself.
He closed his eyes and focused for a long moment. He knew that the physical therapists had all but given up on him moving ever again...but maybe if he tried one more time. The chatter around the table grew quiet and Alex opened his eyes to find his family staring at him.
The fork was in his hand.
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