Sharon’s Note: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You don’t know other people’s pain. Don’t assume they aren’t hurting just because you can’t see it. More than that, though, don’t let your own pain effect how you treat other people. Projecting doesn’t actually help, I promise. Be kind. Warning: Author isn’t getting down off her soap box any time soon.
Frank’s admission stunned me. I almost stopped him to apologize but he was already gone, turned down another hallway. Wordlessly, Seth turned his chair around again and lead the way to the break room. I pushed away from the wall. For once was thankful that I couldn’t spare any thoughts for my shortcomings as a human being because as tired as my legs were, I had to focus on putting one foot in front of the other without tripping on my own toes or my knees giving out.
Neither Seth nor I spoke as we transversed the halls to the small kitchen that stood as the break room. I tossed the bag with my lunch into the refrigerator and fell into one of the metal folding chairs that were placed around the folding card table that was pushed against one wall. Sitting, I was shorter than Seth. There went my only advantage when dealing with my mentor. While I was totally expecting the chewing out I was about to receive, I was in no way ready for it.
“So, what was that?” Seth asked. Damn him, he was using the disappointed dad voice.
I helplessly threw up my hands. “I don’t know. He was running his mouth and I lost my temper.”
“Was he actually?” Seth quirked an eyebrow.
I drooped, putting my elbows on my knees while I put my head in my hands. This made me acutely aware of the different textures of my cheeks, the normal smooth texture of my right cheek and the wrinkled mass of my left. It didn’t do anything for my mood.
Wincing, I straightened up again. “He’s been cleared for duty, but he’s sitting there whining about his arm. Here. At Hearth. Half the people here are permanently disabled much worse than him. The other half are in recovery from injuries in the field before shipping out again. He should be in the latter category.”
Nose wrinkled in distaste, Seth said, “Working home base in not an exclusive club, Joy.”
“I know.” I grumbled. “Just the way he said it, it got to me.”
“Frank is annoying and he says things without thinking. So what? Apparently, so do you.” When I winced again and looked at the ground, Seth sighed. “Yeah, the doctors signed off that Frank is physically battle ready. That doesn’t mean he is battle ready. He needs more time to get his head straight. Eventually, he may be ready to go back out, or he may not. Everyone is different. Besides, you’ve been in the field. Would you want someone on your team who didn’t have their head in the game?”
“No.” I mumbled, sounding like a petulant child even to my own ears. I realized I had hunched in on myself, arms crossed. Taking a deep breath, I forced myself to straighten up and put my arms at my side. “I know. I get it. It was a stupid, mean thing to say and I didn’t mean it. It’s just . . . I thought he was leaving, and . . . I was jealous.”
Nodding in agreement and sympathy, Seth said, “It’s not that I don’t get it. I’d give near anything to have a working spine and knock twenty years off to be a young man again. If I was in Frank’s position, I would be out there in a heartbeat, leading a team. Frank isn’t me though, and I don’t expect him to be.”
I had to hide a smile. It would take more than twenty years off to make Seth a young man again, but no way would I say that out loud. I wanted to live. “You’re right. I know you’re right. I’ll apologize to Frank later, ok?”