I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor.
Thanks to the Arctic Monkeys for the loan of their song title.
Their First Night
Daniel was on the look out. It was a normal Saturday night in his favourite Club. He was there to meet women.
Although at his core he was a good guy he would be described by some as a ‘player’. The kind of man that would do, and say, pretty much anything if it resulted in a positive response from some pretty girl or other. Daniel played the ‘game’ well.
Rachel was having fun. It was unusual for her to be out this late on a Saturday night. She was enjoying spending time with her friends.
She would be described as amazing or inspirational, usually both. A beautiful girl who never let the immense challenges she’d had thrown at her get her down. Rachel was well aware that life was far from a game.
He’d seen her sitting with a few of her friends earlier in the evening. Since then, he’d found himself unable to stop looking over in her direction.
Occasionally one of them would get up to dance but she seemed happy just to sit and enjoy the atmosphere of the Club. She was smiling, he thought she was the most gorgeous woman he’d ever seen.
She’d noticed him looking over towards their table a few times. He was handsome in an unconventional way, dark hair with cool shoes.
She wondered if he was going to come over, to make his move. In another dimension perhaps she’d be the one to approach him. He was very much her type.
It was inevitable that their eyes would meet eventually. When it happened they both gave a half smile before quickly looking away and then looking back again. Their dance had begun.
“I bet you look good on the dance floor” were the first words Daniel spoke to Rachel.
Slightly tongue in cheek given The Arctic Monkeys song of the same title was playing in the background as he walked over to where she was still sitting.
“Very funny, did you wait for the song just so you could hit me with that line?”
“I’ve been using it for years, they stole it from me”
“So you’ve used it a lot then?”
Daniel considered his next line before answering, he could tell already that she was more than a match for him.
“Of course not, I’m usually very shy”
“And I’m a prima ballerina”
“Never mind, what’s your name?”
“I’m Rachel, pleased to meet you”
She reached out her hand and he shook it. As they were completing their social niceties he gave it a little squeeze and returned to his original question.
“So how about it?”
“How about what?”
“This dance, will you do me the honour?”
“That might be tricky”
“Why, is your boyfriend here?” he half joked.
“No, but my wheelchair is in the manager’s office”
“You heard me, I’m a wheelchair user. That’s why I haven’t run away yet”
“I’m just joking, the main reason I haven’t run away is because I like your shoes”
“Although if I’d have known the quality of the conversation you bring to the table, I’d have made a run for it anyway. Wheelchair or no wheelchair”
“Sorry, you just threw me for a second that’s all”
“Yes” Rachel smiled and squeezed the hand she was still holding.
“I’m sorry for putting that on you. People usually see me in the chair when we first meet. It makes a change to have to actually tell someone I’m a woman on wheels”
“Well, I’d better go and get it then”
“Your wheelchair. I could just pick you up and carry you round the dancefloor but I’m a gentleman so I never do things like that until at least the fourth date”
“You better not be feeling sorry for me”
“Not at all, when you see my dance moves you’ll probably be the one feeling sorry for me”
“I doubt it, I’ve got two left wheels when it comes to tripping the light fandango”
And so they danced.
Their First Date
Rachel was surprisingly nervous. She’d had a lovely time with Daniel that first night and they’d exchanged numerous texts and had a couple of phone calls since.
She was a little concerned about the strength of feeling she already felt for Daniel. It had taken her by surprise.
Daniel was excited. He’d been worried that he would feel self conscious at the idea of dating someone in a wheelchair but it just didn’t seem to be an issue for him at all.
He couldn’t wait to see Rachel again, the way he felt was new territory for Daniel. It had taken him by surprise.
They’d arranged to meet at a local restaurant. Daniel had chosen the venue then immediately had a minor crisis over whether it would have the necessary facilities for someone in a wheelchair.
The reassurance he’d received over the phone wasn’t enough to stop him carrying out an emergency reconnaissance mission a couple of days before they were due to meet. It was only when he felt fully confident there would be no issues with Rachel’s disability that he began to look forward to their date.
Of course he hadn’t factored in his own ability to put his foot firmly in his mouth before they’d even finished the French onion soup they’d both selected as a starter.
“I don’t want you to think this is an issue for me at all. I’ve thought about it a lot and it definitely isn’t”
“That’s good although, if I’m being totally honest, I can’t say I’m quite there yet as to whether this is an issue for me. The only reason I went for the soup was because I was convinced you’d go for the chicken wings and therefore would let me ‘borrow’ at least one from your portion”
“I wasn’t talking about our choice of starter”
“I know you weren’t. My response was my way of letting you know nicely that I couldn’t give a flying Scotsman’s two hoots whether you think this is an issue or not. I know you mean well but would you have said that if you were sitting opposite a black girl on a first date?”
“Point taken, I’m sorry. Can we start again?”
“Only if you promise to order a side order of chicken wings with your main course” said Rachel with a cheeky smile.
“Half roast chicken, with a portion of chicken wings on the side, it is then” replied Daniel with some relief.
And so they ate.
Their Wedding Day
Rachel married Daniel on the sixth anniversary of the evening they met. The service was held in the parish church, close to the small cottage her parents had lived in for more than forty years. A reception followed in a marquee set up for the occasion in the grounds of a nearby hotel.
Both venues had more than adequate provision for wheelchair users. Daniel had checked. Several times.
The bride looked stunning in an off the shoulder, understated, wedding dress. Her groom was handsome enough to pull off a purple pin striped suit. His shoes were cool, they always were.
There wasn’t a dry eye to be seen when he pushed her into position to begin their first dance. The song was ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’. They had both agreed that it was the only choice.
Later, when they were finally alone in the hotel honeymoon suite, they looked at each other and smiled. Words weren’t needed, they both knew how much they loved and were loved.
And so they made a baby.
Their Happiest Day
“It’s coming” said Rachel calmly.
“Oh, fuck” shouted Daniel as he rushed back into the their bedroom from the landing where he’d been checking Rachel’s packed suitcase for the eleventh time that day.
“Not likely, that’s the reason I’m in this predicament”
“What? oh, you’re making a joke. We don’t have time for that kind of thing”
Although it’s perfectly possible for someone with a disability to get pregnant and have a healthy baby, neither Rachel or Daniel had ever envisaged a future with a child in it. It was going to happen though. Sooner than they thought.
Daniel had the journey from their home to the hospital planned down to the finest detail. He’d made them carry out drill after drill to ensure they could pack all they needed quickly and efficiently. The route they would take was time of day dependent to account for rush hour traffic and Rachel’s case was packed based on hours of internet research. He’d even made them a packed lunch of food that wouldn’t go off in case of a long labour.
In the end the baby just didn’t fancy being born in a hospital. His parents bedroom would do just nicely thanks very much. Just like his mum and dad he was impatient to start living his life so he made sure he made his entrance quick smart with little fuss.
Once born he had a quick look around. His mum looked serene and blissfully happy. His Dad looked like he was going to be sick. Everything seemed present and correct so time to take a little nap. He would need all his energy for screaming the place down in an hour or so.
And so they were parents.
Their Hardest Day
They held hands as the doctor delivered the news. He spoke slowly, using language that was easy to understand but it was almost impossible to take in what he was telling them.
What had begun a few months ago with the sudden weight loss and bouts of heartburn had now led them to this darkest of moments.
The cancer that had begun in the stomach was so aggressive in its assault on other areas of the body that it was now past the treatment stage.
“Is there nothing that can be done?”
“I’m afraid not, the cancer is terminal”
And so they made plans.
Their Bucket List
It had been made clear from the moment the diagnosis was shared that time would be limited. Both Rachel and Daniel were determined to make the most of every second. It was also important to them that they made memories as a family for their four year old son.
In those final months they made the obligatory trip to Disneyland, had tea at the Ritz, visited the Blackpool illuminations, took the train to the top of Mount Snowdon (you can still do this as a wheelchair user) and swam with dolphins in Hawaii (also possible).
There was also a visit to a vineyard in France but neither Rachel or Daniel could remember much about that.
They also spent many evenings, just the three of them, curled up on their sofa working their way through a whole raft of Disney films. On one such night Daniel had remarked that he thought these times together were when he was probably at his happiest. Rachel just smiled in agreement. She knew that these were the times when she was at her happiest.
And so they lived life.
Their Last Day
There were moments of humour on this saddest of days. Crumbs that would provide the tiniest of comfort in the days, weeks and months to come when the pain of loss threatened to consume her.
He asked her to dance from their bed. It had taken him an age to get the words out and she could barely hear him but it had made her smile. There were no tears at this point, there would be time enough for those later.
“I bet you look good on the dancefloor”
His suggestion that they probably had time for a ‘quickie’ brought an affectionate rebuke and a gentle kiss. It would be their last kiss.
Rachel sat on the bed next to him, her wheelchair close by. She hated that she needed to have other people in the house to help her, help him. If there was ever a time when she wanted Daniel all to herself than this was it.
Everyone in the house loved him, everyone loved her, but she couldn’t help but resent the fact that she couldn’t do this without their help. In those few seconds she was angry at her disability more than she ever had been before. Of course, being in a wheelchair had nothing to do with it. Nobody could do something like this without help and nor should anyone ever have to.
Rachel promised him that their son would never forget how much love Daniel had shown him. She also committed to ensuring he always wore cool shoes and that she would teach him that finding the right person to spend his life with was better than just finding someone to spend the night with. She knew this was important to Daniel as he’d often spoken of his regret at not understanding this for himself until the evening he met her.
She made the same promises with regard to their unborn daughter. Daniel had also wanted Rachel to agree to not allowing her to have any contact with the males of the species until she was at least forty five. In the end they had reached a compromise whereby she would carry out an extensive vetting procedure, including a questionnaire and the requirement to provide references.
“I’ll be watching you know, always”
“I hope so, I really do”
When the moment came, just before it actually, she did feel an overwhelming sense of relief that his pain was over. Her own pain didn’t matter now although she knew he’d have disagreed with her about that passionately if she was to say it out loud.
She would go on loving him in this life until they danced together again in the next.
And so he died.
And so she cried.