CHAPTER 19 | burden of guilt

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📎A/N. Hello my lovelies and welcome to the weekend! For those of you doing nanno during November, good luck... You are over the worst of it now and on the home straight...

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As they reached the doors that led to the gym, Sydney began to have second thoughts about what she was about to do. Once she walked through to the other side, there would be no turning back. No amount of wishing would make things that much less real. Sydney steeled herself. This was something she needed to do.

The automatic doors swished open effortlessly and before she knew it, she was passed the point of no return. The first thing she noticed was the place smelt like a typical gym, sweat combined with deodorant. The second was the range of exercise equipment. Some she recognised, many she didn't. She scanned the room and noticed the place already half-full. Physiotherapists were working with patients, encouraging and cajoling them on. Unlike the standard gym configuration she was used to, this one had ample room between the equipment to allow for wheelchair access.

Sydney perused the sea of faces and was struck by the determined expressions on many of the patients as they were pushed and encouraged to take one more step, lift one more time, or push again. This was followed quickly by luminous glows of happiness as they achieved their once impossible target.

Burnie interrupted her observation. "Ah, there he is now," he said as he left her side.

She swung her head in the direction he was heading. Her breath caught as an obviously once virile man was wheeled into the gym through a second entrance. Beneath the gaunt face and fragile body, there was no doubt this was Ethan MacMaster's brother. His grey eyes, while not as steely, were a replica of the ones she found hard to evict from her mind. Their similar features were also a dead giveaway as to their connection. Again, due to his traumatic past, Walter was a shadow compared to Ethan. But if you looked beyond the exterior to the one that existed before the accident, the elder MacMaster was just as striking, if not more.

Bernie thanked the orderly and crouched down beside Walter's wheelchair. "So how's things going today Buddy?"

At the question, Walter's face broke into a broad grin. "G-g-g-good, we pl-pl-played ball."

"And did your team win?"

If possible, Walter's grin erupted into a delighted glow and was even wider as he nodded profusely.

"Good on ya!" Bernie exclaimed as he held up a hand in front of Walter.

Walter completed the high five and slapped his hand against Bernie's outstretched one.

"Are you ready for our workout?" Bernie asked.

Walter nodded.

Bernie's expression then turned serious as he reached out and held onto the padded arm of the wheelchair. "We're going to have someone join us today if that's okay with you. Her name is Sydney," he said catching Walters gaze. "And she is going to be sitting in on some of your treatment for a little while."

Up until this point, Sydney had been rooted to the spot. Half in shock at his condition, the other half still not able to get over the similarities between the brothers. He looked like an adult but sounded like a child. An innocent one at that, from the trusting expression on his face.

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