Life is Better with You

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Levi’s POV

I finally got some sleep last night. I knew Charlotte would be back in the morning because she told everyone she has a surprise day planned for all of us.

Nate did my morning therapy session which consisted of stretching and core exercises in the gym. Nate had Jake join too so he could get both of our sessions done at the same time.

“You ready for our afternoon out in the city?“, Jake asks me.

“Not really, but it will be good to get out”, I say to him.

He’s looking at me confused by my response.

“Why would you want to stay here all day every day?“, Jake asks with curiosity.

" Have you seen the reporters and photographers waiting for me outside?” I point out.

" We will be kind of hard for them to miss, all strolling around in our wheelchairs together”, I add trying not to offend him.

" Ya, I’m sorry, I didn’t think of that”, he apologizes to me.

Of course, he would never think of that first. He’s never had paparazzi following his every move. Jake is just excited to get out and enjoy someplace other than here. I know it’s been almost six months, but I don’t know if I’m ready for the whole world to see me as disabled. It’s going to happen sooner or later anyway, so may as well be today.

Charlotte meets all of us in the lounge by 11:00 am. When she walks in wearing jeans and a Boston Red Sox t-shirt, everyone but me figured out where we were going.

" Hell yeah!” Jake shouts.

“We have box seats for the game today, so let’s get going”, she says with a big smile.

Everyone excitedly makes their way towards her, thanking her before heading out the door.

She looks over towards me and sees that I’m still sitting by the couch after everyone has made their way out.

“Levi, if you’re not comfortable with this, we can stay here?“, she says while walking over to me.

“No, I’m going. I’m not comfortable with this, but I’m also not going to ruin everyone’s day”, I admit.

“You sure?“, she asks again.

“No, I’m not sure, but I’m still going”, I groan.

She holds her hand out to me and patiently waits for me to grab it.

“Come on then”, she says. “We will try to have some fun!“, she grins.

We get to the front door where the four other occupied wheelchairs and the staff are waiting for us. I immediately spot someone with a camera lurking around our small crowd and turn to Charlotte who’s now giving me a worried stare.

" Well let’s get this over with”, I tell her.

We join the rest of our group and head down the sidewalk. I hear the constant clicking sound of a camera going off as the intruder pretends to keep his distance from us. I’m about to turn around and cuss him out until I feel Charlotte squeeze my hand, turning my focus to her. She’s been holding my hand while walking by my side the whole way, helping me feel at ease, and I didn’t think anything of it until now. Maybe she thinks she’s helping me get around better, or maybe she’s trying to protect me, I don’t know. What I do know is that her hand in mine is comforting to me and I don’t want her to let go.

Everyone in our group is laughing and talking about Fenway Park and the green monster. I obviously haven’t the slightest idea of what that is, so I ask, “What’s a green monster?”

Everyone halts to turn to me, hands over their mouths giggling, “It’s the big green wall that surrounds the outfield”, Jake answers.

“Oh”, I say, embarrassed now.

“I thought you British knew everything about Boston?” Sarah chuckles.

“Ha...ha”, I sarcastically return.

Having box seats was a brilliant idea. There was room for all of us, endless ballpark franks and drinks, and the Red Sox won. A much-needed day for everyone.

We waited for most of the crowd to leave before making our way out, but there were still a lot of people hanging around trying to push their way through like they owned the place. After the twentieth asshole bumped into my chair, I got angry and started calling them every rude name I could think of. Frankly, I’m annoyed now that Charlotte was nowhere in sight. I can barely roll myself as it is, never mind through a crowd of morons with total disregard for the handicap.

My wheels stopped moving for a moment and I sat still, watching all the people walk by me. I was angry that they could easily move about... no one caring that I was down here, it made me feel worthless. Is this what all people in a wheelchair feel like? Is this what I’m going to feel like the rest of my life?

I felt someone grab onto the handles of my wheelchair, I was just about to scream at whoever it was until I felt Charlotte lean her face down next to my ear and ask, “Levi, are you alright?”

“I’m fine”, I grunt. “Let’s get out of here”.

Thankfully, Charlotte and Nate bring us a round-about way back to rehab. It’s shorter through the city, but it’s more crowded. And although Boston is a beautiful city, it’s also old and not easy for us wheelchair bound to get around.

Our group happily strolling along, still delighted about the game, laughing, and reminiscing about every great play.

I remain mute, letting Charlotte push my wheelchair, not even attempting to help her.

“Levi, you could at least help with the hills”, she tries to joke with me, but I ignore her.

We return to the rehab center and Charlotte brings me to my room.

“Ok, well if you want a shower, I’ll ask Sarah to come in”, Charlotte says to me.

I wheel myself over to the window and see her through the reflection. She looks cross but I don’t feel like explaining anything to her right now.

“I want to go to the pool”, I more or less demand.

“What?“, she asks, confused.

“I want to work on my balance and walking in the pool... without the leg braces”, I tell her.

“If that’s what you want, I’ll go change and have Nate get you in the pool”, she says then leaves my room.

Charlotte is already in the pool when I get there. Nate gets me onto the pool lift and lowers me into the water. I wrap my arms around Charlotte, and she wraps hers around me, gliding me from the lift. She keeps a tight grip on me, knowing my legs will probably buckle from not wearing my braces.

“It’s ok Charlotte, I need to try”, I let her know.

She releases her tight grasp and moves her hands to my hips. Sure enough, my left leg gives out making her tighten her hands around me again.

My right hand clutches her shoulder and I pull myself upright. This is easier in the pool; the water makes me much lighter for her and for me. I’m surprised how strong my right leg feels, it’s not giving out like my left.

“Hmm”, I hum a little louder than I thought, and Charlotte gives me a little smile.

“You can ease your grip a little Charlotte, I’ve got this”, I tell her, returning her smile.

She remains my crutch for the next hour, letting me almost fall over then pull myself back up, repeatedly, and she smiles at me when I manage to stand on both legs for more than five seconds.

" I’m proud of you”, she finally speaks.

“Why?” I ask her.

What is she proud of? I haven’t done anything to be proud of, I think to myself.

“You’ve gone at this for an hour, falling and getting back up every time, you haven’t given up”, she states.

“I don’t like being in the chair.... I want to walk again, whatever it takes!“, I tell her.

“I like this newfound determination”, she beams at me.

“Yeah, yeah... don’t make such a big deal of it”, I smirk.

Before I have a chance to say anything else, she pulls me close and wraps her arms around me, hugging me.

“Charlie! I said it’s not a big deal”, softly laughing into her hair, hugging her back.

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