As the clock struck 6 am Niko woke to the sound of Eddie Vedder blasting from his alarm clock. After slapping the snooze button he laid there without moving for a moment, listening to the rain. He hated walking to the subway in the rain, not for fear of getting wet but for fear of losing an eye. Short people should be banned from using umbrellas in New York he thought bitterly as he flung his feet to the floor.
Niko is 36, lives in a relatively affluent neighborhood in Queens, has a decent job in sales in Manhattan and is single. He chooses to be single, not because there is a shortage of women in New York, but because he would rather be alone. The last good woman he knew was his mother and she’s been dead since he was 15. The thought of ending up anything like his father sickens him. Going from one woman to the next, never establishing a meaningful connection, no thank you. Niko hated his dad, hated his womanizing ways, and hated everything he stood for. His father hadn’t had a job in years that he knew of, he let his women take care of him, the way his mother did when she was alive.
He never understood what his mother seen in him, he was mean, lazy and abusive and she was a sweet, soft spoken woman that worked hard. She had morals and goals and dreams but she let that man ruin them all. Niko couldn’t remember a time from his childhood involving his dad that he looked back on fondly, the only good days seemed to be the weekends when he wasn’t around. Come to think of it, he didn’t even know why his dad was always MIA Friday through Sunday and he never cared, as he got older he just assumed he was off with one of his flings.
Before Mom was gone the weekends were his favorite part of the week. He usually hung out with his friends on Saturday and on Sunday which was his mom’s only day off, they would go to her favorite Greek restaurant in Astoria for lunch. Thinking back he remembered that place so fondly, he could almost smell the food. The place was warm and inviting, not like his home at all. Sometimes long after they had finished their plates, Niko would sit listening to his mother tells stories of growing up in Greece before Papou moved the family to America.
As he got off of the subway he realized he had been daydreaming about days gone by all morning. Even though it was only 8:45, Niko had an insatiable craving for some tomatokeftedes, which were these amazing little fried tomato cakes. He and mom always split an order on those wonderful Sunday’s when dad was off doing whatever it was that he did.
Knowing already where he planned to head for lunch and with a smile on his face for the first time in what seemed like ever, Niko began to lower his umbrella as he crossed West 54th St. Before he reached the other side he felt what could only be described as a warm burning sensation…and then nothing, he felt nothing, saw or could hear nothing, absolutely nothing.
The next sensation Niko experienced was easy to describe…it was pain, horrible, horrible pain. Every inch of his body hurt so bad, like nothing he had ever felt before. His head felt as if it were going to explode, he tried to open his eyes but he couldn’t…the light that was coming through the thin skin of his eye lids was so bright, he wanted desperately to shield them but he couldn’t lift his hand . “Dear God! What is happening to me?” he thought. Panic began to run through him, nothing seemed familiar, the sounds were not what he was use to hearing, whatever he was laying on was not his bed, and that damn light in his eyes…and the pain…the unbearable gut wrenching pain.
As he struggled to move the aches shot through his body like an electric shock forcing a low moan to escape his lips. Just then he heard something vaguely familiar, it was a voice, a woman’s voice, “he’s starting to come to” she yelled. For some reason that soft voice eased his distress, not the pain of course but the panic that was running through him. With that voice came commotion around him, Niko Could hear more people, hurried footsteps, something on wheels, then slow footsteps approaching, paper shuffling and a deep voice addressing him. “Niko, can you hear me? My name is Dr. Martin, you have been in an accident and you are at St. Vincent Hospital”. “How in the hell could I have been in an accident Niko thought, I wasn’t even driving?” The doctor was answered by Niko’s veiled attempts at moving, the pain must have been evident on his face, he couldn’t even open his mouth to speak without the pain slapping him into submission. “You were hit by a car son; you have been unconscious now for about four days” the doctor with the deep voice said. “Try not to worry, you are a very lucky man, we’ll have you back on your feet in no time” he continued. Then, addressing someone else in the room the Doctor said something about morphine. Morphine, that’s a wonderful idea Niko thought.
The next time he woke he was greeted by that familiar soft voice. “Good morning” she said as a curtain was pulled back allowing light to flood the room. For the first time since this ordeal began he was able to force out a couple of word. “My eyes” Niko said. “Yes, your eyes” she began, “you must have so many questions Your face is very swollen which is why you can’t open your eyes, but don’t worry, you have had quite a bit of testing over the last few days and all of your brain functions are normal. After the swelling subsides you will be able to see the world again As for the rest of your injuries, you have a broken pelvis and tibia of the right leg, ohh and also your right collar bone and left humerus. These will take some time to heal, but you’re lucky” she continued “it could have been so much worse”.
Worse? He thought, Really? His bitter nature creeping in. “Do you have anyone you would like us to contact for you? A girlfriend, or a family member?” Niko thought for a moment and then slowly said no. He didn’t want to see his father on a good day. Slightly surprised at his answer she turned back to look at him. Even through the swelling she could tell he was a good looking man. The leather briefcase in the closet with his belongings told her that he must be somewhat successful as well. Strange that he has no one he wants to call. “OK then” she responded, “I’ll be back to check on you, and by the way, my name is Maggie”.
As she promised, Maggie came back to check on Niko throughout the day, and the next day, and the day after that. To him it was starting to feel like he had been there an eternity. The only bright spot in his days were when Maggie was in doing her rounds. There was something about her; she had a calming nature he thought. She always seemed to be in a good mood, and she was the only nurse that didn’t hurt his arm when changing the bed linens.
They had a few occasions where they were able to talk for more than a couple of minutes. She was a sweet woman, a bit chatty, but sweet. Niko learned that she was 32, was recently divorced, and she lived in Yonkers only blocks away from where she was raised. He hadn’t actually seen her yet but imagined her to be somewhat short and stocky, perhaps with dirty blonde hair and plain facial features. Gorgeous women weren’t as kind and giving as Maggie he thought.
The more he got to know her the more he realized how traditional she was, which was unusual in this day and age. Their upbringings were completely different, she had tradition and religion and family always around. Her mother was a very successful physician and her father ran a nonprofit organization involved with flying aid into disaster relief situations. Niko couldn’t imagine his father doing anything that didn’t directly benefit himself. Niko’s dad didn’t go to church either, at least he didn’t think he did, who knew, he was never around on the weekends. Maggie raved about her father, she was so proud of him and his charity work. Apparently he was usually away most of the week but when the weekends came the house was filled with family and the aroma of slow cooking food. Sunday’s were meant for worship which meant the whole family attended mass together in the morning. Her father was the head of the household, he was respected and loved. So different from Niko’s dad it almost made him jealous.
As the days passed Niko’s injuries began to heal and the swelling of his face subsided enough for him to pry his eyes open. The light seemed so bright it hurt, yet it was a good pain because he knew for sure he could see again. The first thing that came to his mind was Maggie; he couldn’t wait to see her for the first time. It was strange to him, knowing her so well by now but not having a clue as to what she looked like. For some reason it never came up in the conversations. He didn’t care what she looked like anyway. There was something about her, he felt like he had found his best friend.
As 7:00 A.M approached he heard those familiar footsteps coming down the hall. He was actually a little nervous like he was about to see a blind date for the first time. The nervous energy soon turned to shock as Maggie entered the room. She was stunning. She had long dark hair, light eyes and an amazing figure. At first he just stared at her unable to find words appropriate for the situation. It was Maggie who spoke first. “Niko!” She shouted, “Your eyes are open!” All he could muster was a nod in agreement as she leaned in to embrace him for the first time. Usually not one to judge a book by its cover, Niko who had already grown smitten with her personality was now in shock by her beauty.
As the days went by Niko’s bones healed and his muscles grew stronger. As did his affection for Maggie. He had never felt this way about someone before. He admired her and trusted her, which was a very new emotion for him. He felt a connection with her that he couldn’t explain. They had the same goals and desires. She seemed to understand him, and he understood her. It wasn’t long before they were finishing each others sentences and Maggie was staying after her shift was over to continue conversations that were interrupted during the day.
The two watched movies together, played Scrabble together and laughed together. Niko had been at St. Vincent’s now for about thirty days. Thirty wonderful days. His inability to get close to a woman often bothered him but now he was glad he was like that. If he hadn’t pushed them all away there may have been some other woman sitting at his bedside after the accident which would have kept Maggie from spending so much time with him. He actually felt happy, optimistic and he looked forward to life.
Maggie was feeling the same way. She was so devastated by her divorce she feared she would never find happiness again yet she was bursting with joy. She loved her job and she loved helping people but she never imagined she would find her soul mate laying swollen and broken in a hospital bed at the end of the west wing. They were in love and they both knew it. The pain from her divorce began to subside as she compared her feelings for Niko to what she once felt for her ex-husband. That marriage was doomed from the start she thought. She never felt for her ex the way she feels about Niko. She has never felt this way about anyone. It was like they were connected by their hearts. The only man she had ever loved close to this much was her dad.
By this time, the staff at the hospital knew of the budding romance between Maggie and Niko. Friends and coworkers of his that came to visit had met Maggie and thought that she was wonderful. Maggie’s coworkers found him to be perfect for her and even commented on how her smile was lighting up the 3rd floor at St. Vincent’s again. Everyone knew about their relationship except for Maggie’s parents and Niko’s dad.
Contacting his dad and telling him that he was in love wasn’t something Niko planned to do, he never shared anything about his life with his father and didn’t plan to start now. Maggie on the other hand wanted desperately to tell her family about Niko. It wasn’t her mother’s reaction she was worried about however, it was her father’s. He was so disappointed that she chose to divorce her husband. He had very strong ideas on marriage and family and felt that divorce was never an option. She knew he wouldn’t approve of her getting involved in a relationship so soon, and with a patient for that matter. She was also concerned about what he would think of Niko’s background. His parents were never married, and he’s not Catholic…or any religion. Dad would like that Niko is Greek she thought, they had that in common at least.
Spending over six weeks in a hospital after nearly dying allows for plenty of time to contemplate life. Before the accident Niko had no idea what he wanted for his future. He was bitter and angry regardless of his financial success and he didn’t even know why. Finding Maggie brought him clarity. He suddenly knew what he wanted, marriage, children, family, and maybe even church. He had found something he didn’t know he was looking for, his soul mate, his better half, his heart. That car running into him was the best thing that ever happened to him. For the first time in his life he felt complete. He was going to ask Maggie to marry him.
Niko knew he didn’t need a ring first; Maggie didn’t have a superficial bone in her body. At the moment the only thing he could focus on was asking her to be his wife, which he did the next time she entered the room. Maggie was shocked at first, she expected to go in his room and get his vital signs, not get a proposal, yet without a moment of thought she said “I thought you would never ask”. As they sat joyfully embracing each other on the end of Niko’s hospital bed they began to plan their future.
They wanted to be married as soon as possible. Niko was being released in a few days and suggested a civil ceremony followed by a trip to somewhere warm and relaxing; after all, he wasn’t quite up to skiing which they both loved. Normally Maggie’s first reaction would be to say no to a civil ceremony. She was married by a priest the first time in a very elaborate ceremony and had an expensive and over the top reception as well. All of that got her nothing but pain and heartache she thought, so she agreed. They were getting married at the courthouse the day after Niko’s release form St. Vincent’s!
The joy they were both feeling was immeasurable. Neither had a doubt that what they were doing was right. They were perfect for each other. Maggie was convinced God had a hand in bringing them together, it was a miracle. She was finally going to be happy. All of the pain she had endured over the last few years was all worth it. Niko was like a new man. The bitter resentment towards life was gone and replaced with an overwhelming sense of joy and optimism. This is what life was supposed to be like he thought…happy.
Niko was released from the hospital on Friday. They both went to get the marriage license and then went their separate ways until the next day. Neither had told their families about their plans, which didn’t bother Niko but weighed heavily on Maggie. Niko went straight to 47th street’s diamond district for an amazing ring and then home to pack and make reservations for their honeymoon. Maggie grabbed her best friend and headed for the dress shops and to get her hair done. She didn’t need anything fancy but she wanted to look perfect for Niko.
That evening after thinking more about how they had kept their families in the dark about everything, their relationship, their engagement and now the wedding, Maggie began to grow concerned and wondered if they were handling this the right way. She decided she needed to tell her family about her plans and planned to tell them by phone right before the ceremony began. This way, she thought, her father wouldn’t be able to find a way to stop the wedding. She called Niko and convinced him to get a hold of his dad and at least tell him of his plans. He agreed to make her happy but talking to his father was the last thing he wanted to do.
That night Niko called his dad and told him about the accident. He also told him that he had met the most amazing woman and planned to get married the next day. As he imagined, his father wasn’t really affected by the news, he never even asked him about his injuries or the name of his soon to be wife. The only fatherly advice he did offer was to suggest Niko have his fiancee sign a pre-nup. Instead of being angered by his cold hearted response to his sons impending nuptials it actually made Niko look forward to meeting his soon to be father in-law. He couldn’t wait to be part of a real family. He knew of Maggie’s concerns regarding her father’s reaction to all of this, but he felt certain that once the man got to know him and seen how happy he made Maggie everything would fall into place.
Saturday morning came quickly; the ceremony was scheduled for 11:00. Niko wasn’t close to a lot of people but he grabbed his best bud from work to stand up with him and headed to the courthouse. Maggie had barely slept. She was so excited she couldn’t sit still let alone lay down. Her dress was simple and beautiful, her long hair fell perfectly down her back and she had with her, her oldest and dearest friend. The ceremony was set to begin in under thirty minutes; she had one thing left to do, call her parents. It was Saturday morning and she knew her dad would be home, probably drinking coffee at the kitchen table right next to the phone. Just as she had thought he answered quickly. She took a deep breath and told him the whole story. How she had met Niko, about his accident, how they fell in love and that they planned to marry. Her father immediately began his protest, telling her harshly how she couldn’t marry this man. Maggie expected him to disapprove but not to this extent, it actually sounded as if he was panicking.
Maggie told her father that despite his protest, she was indeed going through with the marriage. She apologized for the civil ceremony and told her dad that in less than 30 minutes she would be happily married. She then hung up the phone and got ready to marry the man of her dreams.
Niko was standing at the front of the courthouse with his best man and the judge waiting for Maggie to appear. As the doors leading into the hallway opened and she came into view he couldn’t imagine a more beautiful site. She was breath taking in her dress; she almost looked like an angel. Maybe Maggie was right he thought at that moment. Perhaps God did have a hand in bringing them together.
As they stood together holding hands and exchanging vows they both knew this was meant to be. They were meant for each other. They were going to be happy together for the rest of their lives. As the ceremony came to a close and with a tear in his eye, Niko kissed his new wife. This was the beginning of a wonderful new life he thought.
Just as their lips parted they were distracted by the sound of the door opening. True to form, and like so many other times, they uttered the same word at the same time when the person who entered the courtroom came into sight. The one word that would change both of their lives forever…Dad.