Life is Better with You

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Surprise

Levi’s POV

The next few days went by fast. Charlotte obliged, helping me with endless therapy throughout the day. She brought me to the pool, to the gym, lifting weights then walking with the ceiling harness. She knew I was tired and needed more rest, but I refused to stop.

My left side was still weak and uncooperative, jumping into spasms whenever I pushed too hard. I was getting angry with myself and I knew that if I took a break, even for a moment, that I would end up giving up.

Charlotte sensed my conflict and tried to reassure me, but it only made me take out my frustrations on her. I know I was being a dick, but she was there and that’s the only way I know how to deal.

Friday morning arrived and I impatiently waited for Charlotte to take me to the gym. I was sitting in my chair facing the door with my arms crossed when she walked in.

Not phased at all by my discourteous appearance, she says,” I see someone is in a foul mood this morning”.

“Can we just get to the gym”, I rudely ask.

I know I haven’t been the nicest all week, and she has put up with my sour behavior, but it’s my birthday and I haven’t even heard from my parents this morning. It’s like six hours ahead of Boston time, so there’s no excuse for them not calling.

“Actually, Nate is going to work with you this morning, I have a lot of things to catch up on”, she says.

“Great”, I slowly and sarcastically respond.

" I will see you this afternoon”, she says and walks out the door.

What was that all about? Maybe she’s finally had enough of my attitude this week. She didn’t even wish me a happy birthday! How does she not know, I thought she’s looked up everything about me? This is just like any other day here, it’s not like I can really go out and celebrate.

Nate takes Jake and I into the gym for strength training. The two of them act oddly strange the entire time. I’ve probably made them angry this week too. I better figure out how to lighten up before everyone hates me.

Rolling out of the gym after my workout, I’m startled by someone grabbing my wheelchair handles and pushing me.

“Hey, how was your workout?“, Charlotte asks.

I shift my body and head around to look at her. She looks happy... that’s a relief from our earlier encounter.

“Umm, it was good”, I answer her.

She starts to push me faster and turns me into the door of the lounge.

“SURPRISE! Happy Birthday!“, I hear everyone shout.

I catch my mouth in my palm before it drops to the floor. Nate, Sarah, and all the other patients are there as well as my parents, Mark and three of my mates from back home. I’m speechless!

“How...What... are you all doing here?“, I stutter.

“We’re here to celebrate! You wanker!“, my mate Andy teases.

My other mate Landon chimes in, ” You may be avoiding all of our phone calls, but you can’t avoid your birthday”, he laughs.

“It’s really good to see you”, Josh says to me, punching my shoulder.

" Charlotte told us that if we didn’t get our asses here, she was going to come to London and beat some sense into us”, Andy confesses, everyone laughing now.

I turn around to look at Charlotte. She’s leaning against the wall, arms crossed, smiling.

“You did this for me?” I ask, my voice filled with gratitude.

Charlotte smiles at me and shrugs her shoulders like it is no big deal.

We all chat for a while and enjoy some pizza and cake. My mum smothering me with too many hugs and telling me how proud she is of the progress I’ve made.

My mates tell me about everything going on back at home. Andy has been living at my flat, taking care of everything there. I didn’t know how they would act around me now that I’m in a wheelchair, I didn’t want them to pity me. I can see now that they are the same lads I knew and loved before my accident. It’s me who is different. It’s me who can’t be back home hanging out and doing what we used to together, I’m afraid of not being the same person anymore so I tried to push them away.

" Get ready mate! We’re taking you out for drinks tonight”, Mark states.

" What? No! I can’t “, I protest.

“Oh yes you can! We didn’t come all this way to watch you sit here... We’re going out to celebrate”, Landon adds in.

“Charlotte has given us permission, so go get your ass ready”, Andy jokes.

I wheel over to Charlotte, ” Do you mind helping me”, I ask her.

She follows me to my room, and I stop near my bed, staying silent for a few seconds.

" I can’t believe you got them all here”, I say softly.

“They wanted to be here Levi, they missed you!”

I stay quiet, looking down towards the floor, trying to hide my fears about going to the pubs tonight.

Charlotte sits on the edge of the bed, close to me and puts her hand on my knee.

" You need your friends Levi, and they need you”, she says.

Her face is so pure, I can’t help but stare back at her, mesmerized by her solicitous multi- colored eyes.

“How am I going to get around stairs and such?“, I nervously ask.

“There’s five of you, I’m sure you’ll all figure it out, and none of them will let anything happen to you”, she assures me.

“It’s your birthday, now go have some fun”, she reminds me, and pushes my chair towards everyone waiting for me.

Josh claimed a low table at the first semi-crowded pub we went to and Mark bought a few rounds of shots. Apparently the first pub was too boring for them, so after we swallowed down our last shot, they maneuvered my chair along the cobblestone walkway to the next pub.

Charlotte was right, my mates had no problem pushing, pulling, and lifting me over any steps. It felt like old times, the only difference was that I’m not standing and walking, I’m being pushed around.

The next pub was much more entertaining. A live band, people were dancing and drinking.

“This is the place! ” Landon is pleased to announce.

I don’t remember much after the fourth drink I was handed. I remember being coerced onto the dance floor, people spinning my chair around to make it look like I was dancing.

It was extremely late when they strolled me back through the doors of the rehab center.

I hear Charlotte say something that sounded like, ” What did you guys do to him?“.

Then one of the lads jokingly says, ” We only promised to get him back here in one piece”.

I must have passed out shortly after because I woke up at 10:00am the next day with a splitting headache. I looked over towards my nightstand to see someone left me orange juice and aspirin.

Charlotte knocked on my door a few minutes later, “How are you feeling?“, she chuckles.

“Hahaha”, I smirk back.

“Time to get up”, she demands.

“Everyone’s waiting to have breakfast with you, and apparently they all want to participate in the gym workout”, chuckling again.

“Fuck No!“, I blurt out.

“They are here for a few days and they insist on torturing you they said”.

Everyone enjoyed mocking me at breakfast, except my parents, they were just pleased to be enjoying a meal with me.

The lads acted like fools in the gym, playing wheelchair bumper cars and swinging on the parallel bars while I was trying to walk with the ceiling harness. Jake and Nate were in hysterics following along with them of course.

I’m glad they came now. I was thoroughly amused by their behavior in the gym. All was right until Landon picked up a pile of tabloids from the table in the hall and shouts, “Oh shit! Did you guys see this?”

Multiple pictures of me on the cover from the pubs last night. A random girl wearing a half shirt and mini skirt sitting across my lap and kissing my neck. Ridiculous headings flash across the top of the page... ” Levi breaks out of rehab”… ” Levi finds new love interest”.

“What the hell!... Throw that shit away”, I demand.

I look over towards Nate, “Did Charlotte see these?“, I nervously ask him.

“Yes, I think so, as she’s the one who took them from the delivery guy”, his voice shaky when he answers me.

Oh no! I didn’t want her to see these pictures. I don’t even know who that girl is. I don’t even remember her on my lap. I know I’m not with Charlotte, but I can’t shake this guilty feeling I have inside, I need to apologize to her or something.

"Where is she?“, I ask Nate.

When he tells me she’s in the lounge I head straight there. I’m not sure what to say. I just need to know if she is upset with me or not.

Charlotte is sitting on a chair in the corner of the room. She’s reading one of those stupid magazines with my picture all over it and has a blank look on her face which worries me even more.

“Charlotte?“, I speak softly as I slowly approach her.

She quickly looks up, places the magazine on the table, her expression still unreadable, but her voice light and simply says, ” Oh hi Levi”. She then gets up and turns like she’s headed for the door, and I grab her arm to stop her.

" Charlotte, please don’t believe any of that garbage those people write in there, they will say and do anything to make headlines from a picture of me... I don’t even remember most of last night”, I try to assure her...or myself, I don’t know.

“I know Levi, no worries, you were having a good time”, she blankly states. Then before she leaves the room, she tells me that Nate will be doing the rest of my therapy today and she’ll see me at dinner.

Crap! I knew having a good time this weekend would be short lived. Nothing ever goes right.

The lads sensed my troubled mood, so continued to banter with me during the rest of my therapy, hoping I’ll snap back to my usual self.

Charlotte showed up to dinner and sat with all of us. I was so relieved to see her and glanced at her every few minutes wishing to catch her glancing at me.

“So, we’re leaving tomorrow but we will see you again in two weeks in London for the gala”, Mark says.

“No, I’m not going”, I protest, my body tensing up.

“Yes, you are going, even if I have to drag you on that damn plane”, Mark argues.

“Charlotte can come with you”, he points out.

Charlotte accidentally drops her fork, surprised by Marks suggestion.

“What? Me go to the gala in London... with all the other movie stars?“, she nervously shrieks.

" Well why not? It’s no different than hanging out with Levi or with me”, Mark tries convincing her.

“Except for the fact that it is different… everyone else can walk”, I angrily remind him.

“You’re going Levi, end of story”, Mark orders.

Everyone had to leave after dinner. Their flight was early in the morning and no one got much sleep this weekend. We said our goodbyes and thanked everyone for coming to visit me. I promised Landon that I would answer my phone when any of them call me from now on, and they seemed happy with that.

Charlotte was waiting in my room after I was done my shower. She didn’t say anything, she just walked over to me and helped me get onto the bed. I kept looking at her trying to figure out what she was thinking.

“So, do you want to talk about your reason for not wanting to go to England for the gala?“, she asks with a serious tone.

“No, I don’t want to talk about it”, I firmly answer her.

“She looks defeated and starts to walk towards my door saying, “Ok, I guess I’ll see you in the morning then?”

“Wait!... I’m sorry... Don’t leave please”, I’m feeling frantic now.

I scoot over in the bed and pat the space next to me.

“Can you please stay a little while? We can watch the tele?“, I anxiously plead with her.

Feeling I could have a panic attack if she decides to go, she surprises me instead, slowly making her way over, climbs up and sits next to me on the bed.

" Thank you for this weekend Charlotte”, I whisper while clicking the remote, searching for any good show we could watch.

I’m surprised again when she reaches over to hold my hand, gently linking her soft fingers with mine, sending a shiver through my body. I don’t know what it is about the way she takes my hand in hers, but it always makes me comfortable enough to unveil my thoughts and say things I normally wouldn’t.

“I’ll go to the gala if you come with me”, I quietly say to her.

“I can’t, why would you want me to go to that type of important event with you?” she curiously asks me.

I take a deep breath before pouring all my emotions into what I say next.

" I need you there with me, I’m terrified of what might happen there... I can’t be there without you Charlotte”.

My heart feels like its pounding out of my chest at a rapid speed. This momentary pause is too long. She probably thinks I’m crazy or desperate. I’m definitely feeling like a little bit of both, and the way I’m staring at her waiting for her response proves it.

“Ok I will go”, she grins, squeezing my hand with hers again.

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