Life is Better with You

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Open Up

Charlotte’s POV

I fixed my gaze on Levi, holding his hips steady while his body was shaking. He didn’t try to move or say anything, he just looked back at me. The expression on his face was like staring at a blank slate, only peering into his blue-green eyes could I feel his despair.

Instinctively, I let go of his hips and folded my arms around his back, embracing him. Slowly I felt his body stop shaking, and I feel him let go of a little bit of uncertainty when he nestles his head into my neck and releases a sigh. I’m certain I let out a sigh too. Hugging him felt right, like something we both needed.

This week has been hell for me, and for Levi too from what Nate and Sarah have told me. After hearing that he hasn’t slept all week and that he’s had terrible nightmares every night, I knew I had to get back here. So, after my father was released from the hospital and settled back at home, I jumped on the next available flight to Boston.

I wanted to get to the root of these nightmares he was having. He probably won’t easily divulge about what’s going on with him, but I must try.

I decide to be the first to break our hold and speak first, “Levi, I heard that you...”

“Wait! Charlotte...“, he interrupts.

" I’m so sorry about your father and I’m happy that he is ok”, he says concerned.

Scrambling for the right words I respond, “Thank you, I think he will be fine as long as he follows the doctor’s orders”.

I’m not going to succeed with getting him to talk any further, so I may as well try to lighten up the mood.

“Shall we walk a little?” I ask, gripping onto his hips again.

“Sure”, he agrees, placing his hands back on my shoulders.

We carefully make our way across the room, guided by the ceiling track. After about 10 feet, his pace begins to slow, and I catch him wincing with each step he makes with his left.

“Levi, what is it?” I ask him.

“I keep getting a shooting pain up my leg when I shift my weight”, he confirms.

“Alright, time to get out of this harness and take a rest”, I tell him.

“Are you going to tell me about these dreams you’ve been having every night?“, I nudge while pushing his wheelchair down the hall.

“No”, he flatly states.

“Levi, you can talk to me if something is bothering you “, I push further.

“It’s nothing... I’m fine now”, he insists.

" Can we just go and eat? I’m starving”, he adds, trying to divert our conversation.

After we make our way into the dining room, he tells me he’s going over to eat with Jake.

I’m glad he’s made friends with Jake. Jake is a great guy, always positive and works ridiculously hard. Jake is a good influence for Levi and Levi needs a friend here, someone who’s in a similar situation.

I use this time to talk with the rest of the patients here. Marlo and Kenny, both in their 50′s, both with low spinal cord injuries. Sometimes I feel like I don’t spend enough time on their personal therapy treatments, but I have another therapist who solely works with them. Plus, their wives and children are here every day helping with therapy too. I just oversee everything.

Abby is our newest patient. She just turned 16 and is our first patient with quadriplegia. Kelly has agreed to be her main therapist and Abby’s parents have been here around the clock.

That leaves Nate, Sarah, and I to focus on Jake and Levi. Although, I’ve put most of my focus on working with Levi lately, and Nate has taken over working with Jake.

My staff is wonderful, I couldn’t ask for any better. I’m so grateful for all the work they did while I was gone this week, I’m going to surprise them by taking everyone out tomorrow.

Levi avoided me the rest of the afternoon and asked Sarah to help him with an early shower.

I’m worried about him. He’s hugging me telling me he has missed me one minute then ignoring me the next, and I need to figure out the reason for it soon.

While Levi was in the shower, I told everyone else that we are having popcorn and movie night in the lounge tonight. No one protested and Abby squealed with excitement.

" Great! I will meet you all in there with the popcorn, someone get in there and pick out a movie”, I demand.

Everyone has a seat, waiting for me when I enter with all the popcorn and drinks. I hand everyone a bowl of popcorn, a beer for the guys and soda for Abby. Sarah takes Abby’s to help her with it.

Levi is sitting at the end of the couch, his feet up on the ottoman when I hand him his popcorn.

He looks at me and smiles then pats the empty cushion next to him.

" Do you want to sit with me?“, he asks.

I tilt my head giving him a confused look and reply, ” Your mood swings are giving me whiplash”.

“I’m sorry”, he says patting the cushion again.

I take a seat next to him. We stay silent like everyone else, engaged in the movie. After about an hour into the film, Levi gently puts his hand on my thigh and leans over to my ear. Speaking so softly so no one else can hear.

” I’m sorry”, he says.

" You have nothing to apologize for”, I whisper back.

“Yes, I do!... the whole time you were gone I was angry with you when I shouldn’t have been”, he solemnly states.

I look at him anxious for his reasons, “Why?”

He puts his forehead down onto my shoulder to hide his features and slowly confesses, ” I was mad you left, and I was afraid you wouldn’t come back... that you’d finally given up on me”.

His words crush me, and I wait just a moment before putting my fingers under his chin, lifting his head to look at me and impulsively ask,” Why would you think that?”

I instantly see hurt and confusion flash through his eyes. Of course, he would think that! I say to myself. While everyone else around him here has their family, wife or girlfriend by their side, Levi has no one.

He has his parents and manager who visit once a month, but that’s not enough. He’s been avoiding most of his friends who are back in London because he doesn’t want them to treat him differently, and the girl he was going to marry... the girl who he thought loved him, left him here alone.

The only person he truly has here is me. He needs me and I just left last weekend without saying anything! I’m to blame for his recent nightmares.

“Levi, I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have left last Sunday without telling you why first”.

" I’m just happy you finally told me what’s been bothering you”, I softly say.

He puts his head back on my shoulder and I speak to him in the most convincing tone...

“Please don’t ever think I’m going to give up on you... not for any reason”.

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