Life is Better with You

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Elephant In The Room

Charlotte’s POV

“Charlie! Are you feeling alright? You look like you have not slept in days! I am concerned.”, Nate caringly points out.

“I haven’t been sleeping well”, I admit.

“My follow-up scans are today, and I’m worried about the results.”

“Do you want me to come with you for support? I know you would rather have Levi there, but since you have not told him or anyone else about what has been going on with you, I think maybe you need me!”, Nate professes his concern to me.

“I will have Sarah keep Levi occupied with some extra stair climbing while we sneak away for your appointment”, he tries to convince me.

I find myself nervously pacing around my office. “I don’t know”, I say to him.

“Charlie, you have gone through this alone long enough, I am coming!”, Nate says sternly. “And I am driving you, now let’s go”, he adds before taking my arm and leading me out the door, unnoticed by anyone else.

I’m happy I have Nate here with me, he has become my best friend and I don’t know what I would do without him around. My guilt is tearing up my heart though, it’s Levi who should really be here supporting me. My lack of energy doesn’t only come from the treatments I’ve been hiding, it’s more the bitter fatigue of self-reproach and the anticipation of the regret I will have when Levi finds out what I’ve been keeping from him.

Two weeks have passed since our day together at World’s End park. My emotions have been out of control all week, knowing that Levi’s graduation party is tomorrow and after the weekend, he will be flying back to London. Neither Levi or I want him to go, but we have talked about it in length over the last week, and we both have come to realize that he needs to go.

What concerns me the most is the amount of uncontrolled leg spasms Levi has been having during the last two weeks. They are not too intense or painful lately, but they are there. They happen mostly in his left lower leg, where his calf and ankle muscles have yet to return to normal. He has regained enough strength and muscle tone so that he can walk and climb stairs on his own, but when he is tired or anxious about something, that’s when the spasms return. I had a new brace made for him a few days ago. The brace reaches higher up his calf, but it seems to be helping with his gait and gives him more support when using the stairs without a crutch. Levi has done exceptionally well during this program, considering this brace is the only assist he needs after such a traumatic injury.

“We are ready for you Charlotte”, the nurse breaks my train of thought.

Nate and I have been silently sitting in the hospital waiting room.

“I will be right here waiting for you”, Nate says.

After my scans, I grabbed Nate and allowed him to accompany me into the doctor’s office to hear the results. Having a friend with me was comforting I must admit. The doctor explained that my treatments were working, but there has not been enough improvement for me to stop. Starting next week, my treatment increases to five days a week for the next four weeks, and then surgery. Nate squeezes my hand assuring me that he will help in whatever way he can. I thank him with a nod, and we head outside to his car. The drive back is so quiet, one can hear a pin drop. Nate is worried for me I can see it on his face. Neither of us want to speak about the obvious.

“Thank you for coming with me today”, I smile at him.

“I am here whenever you need me”, his smile wary.

“Thank goodness we have a busy night and day tomorrow planning the graduation party, I need a good distraction”, I say.

When we return to the rehab center, I found Levi working in the gym with Sarah. She was having Levi stretch on the mat. Levi turns towards me and instantly beams when he catches me staring at him. I can’t help staring, even now. He’s more handsome to me every day. His dotting bright eyes, beautiful face, and perfect body, I will never get enough of him. He doesn’t mind my gawking either, I think it boosts his manly ego. There is so little time left for me to be able to lay my eyes on him before he leaves.

Levi catches my frown from just thinking of him leaving and raises his hand out to me.

“Come here Love”, he says.

I walk over to the mat where Levi and Sarah are sitting. Levi grabs my hand and pulls me down to kiss me.

“Thank you for working with Levi”, I say to Sarah.

“No problem! I will catch up with you guys later”, Sarah replies.

Levi is still holding my hand as I move in front of him and sit on the mat with my legs crossed. I can see that he has been working hard this morning from the amount of sweat showing through his shirt. He’s been around me long enough for me to know when he is trying to hide his pain behind his smile. I know he’s tired and sore from his workout and the stairs take a toll on his muscles.

He has not had any spasms in the last two days and I suddenly have an overwhelming feeling of needing to protect him from having any at all. I reach for his lower left leg and grasp just under his knee and his heel, resting his leg on my lap. Levi quietly looks at me with appreciation for what I am doing. I remove his leg brace then start gently massaging his calf muscle. I notice his lips begin to curve upwards and his gaze on me sincere as a feeling of relief takes over him.

I massage his calf muscle a few minutes longer, pressing into and making circular strokes around his tight muscles before moving onto his ankle and then his foot.

“Does this help?”, I ask him.

“Yes Love, thank you!”, he softly confirms.

“Good! I have been really worried about you, I don’t like when you have those painful spasms, and I am worried about you having any more when you are back home”, my voice cracking with anxiety.

He reaches for both of my hands and holds them in his, tracing hearts with his thumb on my palms.

“The new brace is working, and you have helped me too, I will be fine, no need to worry about me”, his voice is soft and full of gratitude.

I know there is more he wants to say. There is more we both want to say, yet we are either afraid to say it or we are just trying to avoid talking about the inevitable. It consumes our every moment together, the elephant in the room that neither of us want to acknowledge. He is leaving to pursue his dreams and I do not want him to feel bad about it at all.

I look up and peer into his troubled blue-green eyes and can almost feel his trembling heart.

“I love you! You know I love you, right? I don’t want you to feel like I am forcing you to leave because you think I don’t love you”, I slowly and genuinely say to him.

“I know my love, I just don’t like knowing we will be apart, even if it is for a short time”, he quietly responds.

“How about we spend this weekend enjoying your party, hanging out with your friends and family, and spending our time together having fun!”, I smile.

“Brilliant!”, he smiles back at me.

I gently pull my hands away from his and attach his brace back onto his leg. He puts his sneakers back on and I stand up beside him, reaching my hand down to him so that he can grab it.

“Come on, we have a lot of work to do to make this party of yours a spectacular one”, I smirk.

“Plus, everyone is flying in tonight, so we have plenty to prepare for”, he adds.

Levi grips my hand as he stands himself up. He squints his eyes as soon as he shifts his weight onto his left foot, but whatever pain he felt quickly resolved.

“Levi, are you okay?”

He pulls me into his side and kisses my temple but doesn’t answer me, he only smiles and squeezes my hand while we walk together out of the gym. Levi looks relaxed now so I will not pressure him any further, he’s not going to admit anything even if I ask. We have just agreed to have fun this weekend. The conspicuous elephant will have to remain camouflaged for now.

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