This is an excerpt from my novel, By Wingéd Chair, one in a series of posts in which I try to show how I use disabilities in my writing. Click here for my intro to the series.
After a run-in with some monsters, Merry has accepted help from Lans, Vira-we and Whyn. But she and Whyn have already gotten off on the wrong foot.
“Here, mushka, I’ll lift you.”
I looked up at Lans. He was holding out his arms. “Lift me where?”
“Onto a horse. The chair has to stay here.”
I felt my stomach crawl into a knot, and I swallowed. “What? No, I need it.”
“No wagon,” Whyn reminded me from the other side of his horse.
Panic crept up my numb legs and settled below my heart. I lost control over my face, and my icy protection fell away. I shook my head. “Then I’m not coming.”
“I don’t believe this,” Whyn said.
“You can’t take my chair away.” The words were torn out of me. “I can’t move without it. I can’t even crawl.”
I’d never admitted to anyone how I felt without the bulky contrivance my father had invented for me, and I realized how close the tears were to the surface. If I didn’t calm down and get the mask in place, I’d never be able to cover up the confession I’d just made. I took a shuddering breath.
“Here, lass.” Lans handed me a clean handkerchief. He didn’t tell me not to cry, or to calm down. He didn’t utter false reassurances. He just solved the most immediate problem. I used the square of linen to dab at my damp eyes and nose. Maybe it would look like I was wiping away the rain.
“We can bring it,” Vira-we said.
I looked at the quiet tribeswoman and hoped the gratitude leaking out from under the cold defensiveness wasn’t apparent in my expression.
“Nara can drag it behind her. We Adhahi do it with our tents, and she’s trained for it.”
“We’ll go slower,” Whyn said.
“We’d already be going slower,” Lans reminded him. “Will Nara be able to carry both of you and the chair?”
Vira-we was already pulling rope from her packs. “At the pace we’ll be going? Of course. And Ax has all he can handle with you and that greatsword, so don’t even volunteer.”
I noticed how they didn’t suggest putting me with Whyn.
Vira-we started tying ropes to the strange straps on her saddle, and Lans held out his arms again. He didn’t ask if I needed help; he was just there waiting to provide what I needed. For a moment, I didn’t know how to handle that. I hated having to ask for help, and I hated when people offered it to me when I didn’t need it. But to have my needs anticipated, without drawing attention to my handicap… somehow that was better. I let a smile peek through before I covered it with my usual hostility.
As I go through this series, I’ve noticed it’s harder and harder to separate scenes that deal with Merry’s disability and scenes that deal with the emotional baggage that comes with her disability. To me, they’re the same. You can’t have one without the other so they’re kind of a package deal. There are plenty of places like this one where I’m not trying to get across how Merry walks (or doesn’t walk) or the specific physical problems and limitations that she encounters. I’m trying to give you a glimpse inside her thoughts, showing how her limitations have affected and even warped her thinking.
Here, Merry is confronted with the possibility of losing her chair, and the thought terrifies her. So much so that she looses control of her carefully cultivated mask. I think her reaction is perfectly natural at this point. The chair is her anchor and her freedom all in one. It’s loss would be devastating. Hmm, perhaps this is something to explore a little more later. This is also the first glimpse we have of people who can help her without making her feel inferior. I’ll just go ahead and come out with it. Lans is one of my favorite characters.
As always, comments and criticisms are appreciated. What did you think? What did you like, what did you dislike? Did I accomplish what I set out to do?