Wendel “Navy” Sinclair blinked, trying to block a bright light shining from above. It stung his eyes, burning, making them as dry as sand. He tried to lift his hand to shield it so he could focus on his surroundings, but a sharp pain rippled across his shoulder.
He groaned, turning his head to the side.
It wasn’t the sun that beat down on his face. How he wanted to go back to his dream where he was sipping a fruity drink in a plastic cup on a beach somewhere south of the border, staring at a bunch of shirtless men playing volleyball on the beach.
Life didn’t get any better than what went on in his mind when he slept during this drug-induced state the hospital had provided.
The combination of antiseptic and death filled his nostrils. He exhaled, trying to expel the demons.
It never worked.
Every muscle in his body ached. He shifted, wishing he hadn’t as his back twisted in excruciating pain.
No. It felt more like someone had torn his legs from his body as if he were a wishbone on Thanksgiving Day.
And then tried to glue them back together.
“You’re awake,” a familiar voice said. “How are you feeling today?”
“Like I was ejected from a plane and landed in a tree with a faulty parachute.”
The memories flooded his brain like a wave crashing on shore during a summer storm. Every morning for the past two weeks, as soon as he oriented himself to the present, he relived the horrific moments before his world changed forever.
The bullets tearing through his plane.
The first engine cutting out.
Then the second, forcing the plane into the dreaded out-of-control flat spin.
He’d been lucky he’d had the ability to even pull the eject cord.
And then everything had gone black.
For nearly two weeks.
“A sense of humor is a good thing,” Doctor O’Leary said.
“I’m not sure sarcasm is considered humor but whatever.” Navy’s vision adjusted to the brightness of the sterile hospital room. Thanks to his long-time buddy and philanthropist, Casper Walgreen, Navy had himself a nice little private room in Germany with all the bells and whistles that went with being rich, even though he wasn’t.
And he had the best doctors money could buy that the military would allow him to work with.
This was one of those moments when it was nice to have friends in high places, and Navy would find a way to repay Casper if it was the last thing he did.
“I’ve got good news.” O’Leary took his stethoscope from his neck, put it in his ears, and took the round part and placed it on Navy’s chest.
How any doctor could talk to a patient while listening to their heart was beyond Navy. But he went with it.
“Yeah. What’s that?” Navy asked.
“You get to start occupational and physical therapy today.”
“You mean I get to be tortured.”
The doctor tossed his listening apparatus over his shoulder. “Pretty much. And your therapist will tell you that pain is weakness leaving the body, but we both know that’s bullshit. But like I told you yesterday, while your injuries are substantial, and right now your ability to move is limited, you will be walking out of this hospital; I have no doubt.”
“But my career as a Navy fighter pilot is over.” He hadn’t muttered the words himself, though he’d been mulling them over ever since the doctor told him he’d had a twenty-two-hour surgery to remove a piece of his plane that had nearly severed his spinal cord.
It had done enough damage that he currently couldn’t walk, O’Leary told him because he could still feel pain, wiggle his toes, and woke with a partial erection, he had no reason to believe Navy wouldn’t recover his mobility.
However, as of right now, from the waist down, he was fucking useless.
“I never said that.” The doctor lifted the clipboard off the edge of the bed and jotted something before hanging it back up.
“Be honest with me, Doc. What’s the likelihood that I will be back in the air?”
“I have no idea. It all depends on your body and how you recover.”
“Have you seen anyone with my injuries go back to being a fighter pilot? Or active duty in general.”
O’Leary put his hands in his white coat and let out a short breath.
Navy really didn’t need the doctor to say another word. His fate had been sealed. His career was over at twenty-six. He stared at the doctor and pretended to listen intently to his encouraging words.
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