We spent the next day at Levi’s flat so we could kill some time before our evening flight back to Boston.
His friends Andy and Landon hung out with us. Andy’s been living there taking care of the place while Levi’s been away, and I could tell by the way he slowly wheeled himself around through each room, that Levi now felt out of place in his own home.
I sat next to Levi on his couch listening to him talk and joke around with his friends, but he was not acting like himself. He held my hand the whole time and sometimes he would stare off into the distance while Landon and Andy bickered about who knows what. When I would nudge him back from wherever his mind wondered off to, he would squeeze my hand and give me a little smile.
I caught Andy glaring at our locked hands with disapproval more than once, but I could not figure out what he didn’t like about it. Am I not good enough for his best friend, or does he just think this is an odd relationship for us to start... like I am sure most people will think?
Things will be different when we get back to Boston. I will have to figure out how to balance professional with personal. Just because Levi and I might seem strange or different to Andy and whoever else, does not mean it is a bad thing.
“Can you help me into my chair?“, Levi whispers in my ear.
“Sure”, I gladly say, I then bring his chair close to him and guide his left arm, making him do most of the transfer on his own. He thanks me then rolls himself out onto his balcony and closes the glass door behind him.
Andy gets up and follows him out there, leaving Landon and I in the living room. We both look out towards Andy and Levi arguing about something then we look back at each other, both awkwardly trying to avert our eyes elsewhere.
“So, you and Levi huh?“, Landon breaks the discomfort in the room.
“I was waiting for you two to finally realize how you feel about each other”, he smirks.
“Is that a good thing or a bad one? Because Andy seems to disapprove”, I point over at the two arguing outside.
“You seem like you really care about Levi, and lately Levi only seems happy when he is with you, so that’s good enough for me. Andy is just worried that’s all. When Emma left Levi it nearly destroyed him, then he didn’t talk to Andy and me for almost 4 months!“, Landon reminds me.
He continues on... “Andy always hated Emma and how she only cared about herself. Andy told Levi she was only with him for status, but Levi did not listen to him. And when Levi ignored our calls after, Andy was really upset”.
I clear my throat thinking of how to defend Levi before responding to all that information.
“Levi was hurt when Emma left, he thought he was worthless because he was confined to a chair and needed everyone to help him with normal everyday things. He didn’t want his best friends to see him that way and he was afraid you would treat him differently, so he tried pushing you away before you had the chance to give up on him first”, I confess to Landon.
Landon sits back against the couch and crosses his arms. I can see that he is thinking about what I said. I look back at Levi and Andy and I am relieved to see Andy sitting on a patio chair, that their arguing has stopped.
I turn to Landon again, who is still sitting there quiet and I continue to tell him, ” Levi felt like he didn’t deserve anyone, I think he still feels that way, and I will do whatever it takes so he doesn’t feel like that anymore”.
“And that’s why I think you two will be perfect together”, Landon chirps, then taps my knee as he gets up to join Andy and Levi on the balcony.
The sounds of laughter coming from the three of them makes me less anxious, so I let them be and make my way to the kitchen to get a glass of water. As I go to grab some ice from the freezer, I notice the fridge door has a picture of Levi and his friends toasting together at some party. Looking at them all together happy like that makes me smile, until I go to close the freezer door and notice a picture of Levi with Emma. They are standing together, Levi’s arm around her shoulders while he is kissing her on the cheek. I must have been staring at that picture a little too long because the three guys startled me by strolling into the kitchen laughing and I frantically try to hide my face while I catch the lone tear rolling down my cheek.
“What’s wrong?” Levi asks me.
“Nothing… I... I had something in my eye”, I stuttered.
“Well, let us go then! I’ve got to get you two to the airport before you miss your flight”, Landon blurts out.
Thank goodness it is Landon taking us and not Andy! I think to myself. Knowing that Andy is not too keen about all of this makes me feel a little weird around him now.
As we head out to the car, me following behind Landon, I look back to catch Andy stop Levi.
“This isn’t going to end well”, I hear Andy say slightly louder than a whisper so that I can hear him.
I just keep walking, pretending I don’t know what they are talking about when Levi surprises me by responding, ” Well I think you’re wrong”.
Levi stays unexpectedly quiet the entire ride to the airport, throughout the humiliating security search, and all the way to our gate. Only when I left him sitting in the waiting area so I could check in his chair and come back, did he simply say, “Thank you”.
Once again, we were the first ones onto the plane. The flight attendant gave us enough time to walk down the ramp so we could sit in the front row before the other passengers made their way down. Right after I helped him into the aisle seat, he grabbed the arm rest and his body stiffened, “Ow! Dammit!“, he yells out, trying to reach for his left leg now in full spasm. I quickly unlock his leg brace and apply pressure to his thigh and knee with my hands, massaging his muscles until the spasm stops. I look up at him, his expression a mix of pain and anxiety. His breathing picks up, he is about to panic, and I know it is because he is afraid the other passengers will start to board and witness this ordeal. I press my hand down firmer onto his leg with one hand, step my leg over him so I am standing in front of him and lean towards his face, planting my lips onto his. He tries to speak, but I stop him, kissing him again.
I pull away just as passengers start to enter the plane and he keeps his gaze on me. His lips slightly parted, his eyes wide, he is calmer now so I carefully move his left leg to where it should be and climb over him to the window seat.
Levi keeps his gaze on me, trying to ignore all the passengers walking by us. His breathing has slowed but not back to the normal rhythm it should be.
“Are you okay?“, I softly ask him.
“Um, yes I think so, I don’t know “, he says back.
“Do you want to talk about what you and Andy were arguing about earlier today”, I nervously ask him.
Levi’s been way too quiet this evening and after the leg spasm he just had, I know it is because something is really bothering him, probably something Andy said to him.
“I don’t want to talk about it”, he groans.
I try a few more times to persuade him into talking, but he shut me down every time. He was content just holding my hand while I leaned my head on his shoulder.
Three hours into the flight, he finally speaks, ” Thank you for coming on this trip with me, I wouldn’t have gotten through it without you”, he softly says, then leans his head on mine and falls asleep.
Everyone at rehab was happy to see us when we got back. Nate informed me that I looked like crap and probably needed some sleep. He told me he would cover the rest of the day and instructed me to go home and come back tomorrow. I thanked him for running things while I was gone, then followed Levi to his room to drop off his luggage.
As soon as we entered Levi’s room, he shut the door and locked it behind me. Before I could ask him what he was doing, he grabbed my waist and pulled me onto his lap. He then brushed his finger softly down my cheek and his thumb across my bottom lip, triggering a fluttery feeling in my stomach.
“You’re so beautiful”, he says to me before tucking a strand of my hair behind my ear and pulling me towards his heavenly lips.
“Come rest in bed with me for a while”, he says.
“Levi, we can’t do this here, believe me, I want to.... but not here, I must be professional here”, I grudgingly say.
“Bring me with you to your place then, just for today?“, he shyly asks.
“You haven’t had any therapy in the last 24 hours”, I remind him.
“We can do some at your place, then you can take a nap because Nate says you look like crap”, Levi giggles.
“Fine, you can come”, I tell him.
His moods change so quickly so seeing him happy and joking around with me makes it hard to deny him.
" I don’t want to take my wheelchair”, he sternly says.
" I want to walk with you”.
“Okay”, I say, a little confused.
We get to my place and I am thankful now that I picked to live in the apartment building with an elevator. Levi asks me to walk him around on a tour of my apartment. It isn’t too fancy, but I have plenty of room for myself, a big kitchen, living room area with a huge couch and flat screen TV, hardwood floors throughout and two bedrooms... one I use as my office.
" I like your place”, he says to me while I walk him over to sit on the couch.
“Glad you like it”, I tell him.
" Will you be alright here for a bit while I take a quick shower and change?”
“Yes sure, hurry back”, he smiles.
I hurry into the shower and let the hot water pour over my tired muscles. I feel like my stomach is doing flips and my heart races every time I think about the way he touches my skin. I want to be close to him all the time. I have never felt this urge with anyone else before. I could stay enjoying the hot shower for another hour, but I just want to get back to Levi.
I put on a light pair of sweats and a t-shirt then make my way back to the living room. Levi is lying on his side, fast asleep on the couch. I grab a blanket and start to cover him with it when I feel him tug on my pants and pull me down to him. He shifts himself closer to the back of the couch so I can lay down. He wraps his arm around my stomach and squishes me into his chest and rests his face in my neck. I feel his lips gently brush the base of my neck and it sends a shiver down my spine.
“The things you do to me Charlie”, he breathes into my neck then gently kisses me.
Our bodies were aching for more, but our minds were exhausted from the complete lack of sleep in the last two days, and jet lag on top of it. So, we just snuggled together on the couch, his arm and leg nestled tightly around me, holding me close against his chest until we happily fell asleep.