Arkady has dedicated his life to the world of ballet. He is known as the bad boy of the dance world, and is an ever rising star.
Then he gets injured in what is at first thought to be a tragic accident but turns out to be so much worse. He's lost ballet, and his life feels unbalanced.
A friendship with his no-nonsense physical therapist starts him on a new path. He has her friendship, a more honest relationship with his parents, his beloved dog Lou and, for the first time, maybe love in the form of an artist with a disability of his own.
But the past isn't done with him yet.
Waking up happens slowly, like a heavy fog lifting. That's when the pain hits him, wave after wave, and he doesn't know why, what happened. He searches his memory and remembers a party and a fight. He wonders if the pain is from that? Then Arkady opens his eyes, and the room he's in is much brighter than his bedroom, and he can't feel the weight of Lou on his feet. His body is screaming, and it takes a long time to realize he's in a hospital room. There's a buzzer placed near his hand, and he's surprised by how hard it is to focus through the pain to make his arm move so he can pick up the buzzer, and there isn't even a mark on his hand.
Arkady buzzes, and after only a moment, a nurse appears. She's older, plump, and pretty, perfect makeup, the kind of girl his mother Veronika would have liked him to bring home, maybe still would. They don't talk about his sexuality much, or her hopes for his future beyond his job, but then, his job had always come first with his parents. Born to be a star, was what they always said.
"Oh goodness. You're awake. I thought maybe the buzzer went off by mistake. You've been asleep quite a while, young man." She smiles and comes over and starts checking things.
"What happened?" Arkady asks. His head feels heavy and really painful, worse than a hangover, and when he raises his hand to his head, instead of feeling his messy black hair he feels bandages.
"You don't remember?" she asks, looking concerned.
"No," Arkady frowns, trying to focus. He gets an image of being thrown out of the party by a group of guys, and he wonders if they did this to him? Did he get beaten up badly enough to put him in the hospital?
"Let me just go get a doctor for you, sweetheart. I think it's best she checks you out." The nurse leaves, and Arkady looks around. There are flowers and get well soon cards on the bedside cabinet. So he's been here long enough for people to find out.
Arkady goes to move closer to the cards so he can see who they are from, and his upper body moves pretty easily, with a few aches, but then he moves his leg and the pain is so sudden and so severe he screams. He holds his body still, afraid to move even an inch, his stomach rolling, making him feel nauseous. Once he's sure he's not going to be sick, he moves again, just his arms, pulling the blankets back.
His left knee is all wrapped up. It looks ten times the size of Arkady's other knee, and the leg below has been shaved, and an arrow is drawn on his leg, pointing to his knee. Arkady thinks that means he's had surgery. How can he not remember having surgery? It seems like he hit his head, or did someone hit him in the head? He doesn't know. He knows his head is throbbing, as is his leg. He's never felt pain like it.
A doctor comes in a few moments later. She's tall, with short black hair, her features suggest Native American. Arkady thought Native women kept their hair long, but he guesses he doesn't know much.
"Hello, I'm Doctor Ali. Do you mind if I call your Arkady? Mr. Alkaev?" The doctor asks.
"Call me whatever the hell you like. Just tell me what happened. How long have I been here? What's wrong with my leg? Why can't I remember how I got here?" Arkady says, getting more distressed as he talks. The pain isn't fading. It feels like someone is pushing needles into the bone of his knee.
"You had an accident at work. I was told they think it was an accident. You fell from a height. You've been here about a week," Doctor Ali replies. "The reason you're having memory issues is that you hit your head badly. You fractured your skull. You're lucky to only have slight amnesia. We did a number of scans while you were asleep. There was swelling, but it went down. We don't think there's any permanent brain damage."
"And my leg?" Arkady doesn't like how she hadn't answered that question.
"You sustained multiple injuries on impact. You dislocated your knee cap, sustained a meniscus tear, which is a rupture of the cartilage, and torn ligaments and tendons. We did surgery to repair what we could."
"What does that mean? I'm a dancer." Arkady feels sick again. He's had sprains before. They didn't feel like this. They didn't need surgery. He just iced them and rested a little. The pain of those injuries was never like this one. It's like there is a constant burning ache in his knee.
"You crushed everything in your knee. There isn't a part that didn't sustain some level of damage. Due to that, you'll need intense physical therapy. You will be able to walk, but you'll need an aid, like a cane," Dr. Ali says softly.
Arkady hadn't even thought not being able to walk was a possibility, and his heart gives a horrible lurch at that. His brain is fuzzy from pain, from smashing it on the ground apparently, and it's taking him longer to process her words than he'd like. She's saying he'll need help walking. A man that needs help walking is not a man who can dance.