What Doesn't Kill You

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Chapter 22

By the time Scout was back in Swansea it was 6:32 PM. Lucky’s surgery was slightly delayed but she still missed seeing him before he went in. Currently, Ava, Michael, Chris and Scout were sitting in the waiting room.

“He’ll be okay, love,” Chris said. He hadn’t let go of her hand since she arrived.

“If it’s okay with you, I think I might kill your son when he gets out of surgery.’

Ava snorted a laugh and shook her head. “There’s going to be a queue.”

“And I’m at the front of it.”

Time crawled by whilst they waited and eventually Dr Thomas came out. Scout wasn’t sure the woman ever stopped smiling.

“Hello! Hello!” she greeted them.

Chris stood up. “How’s my son?”

“He’s fine. We’ve taken him through to recovery now and he’ll be coming around from the anaesthetic.”

“How was surgery?” Ava asked her.

“It went smoothly. We’ve resected some of the bowel as we spoke about and everything looks as good as we could have hoped. A little ahead of schedule but for the best.”

“Can we see him?” Scout asked quietly.

“Of course. He’ll be a little groggy from the anaesthesia.”

They all thanked the consultant before heading up to the ward. Lucky was lying in the bed and a nurse left his side. He turned his head to look at them and Scout heart swelled. He looked fine although more than a little tired. Everyone crowded around and checked on him.

It was only when the rest of Lucky’s family was gone and it was just the two of them that the couple spoke properly.

“You’re mad at me,” Lucky said, looking at Scout.

“I’m stupidly mad at you.”

“I didn’t mean to ruin your audition.”

“I’m not mad about the audition, you idiot. I’m mad about the fact that you lied about your symptoms,” Scout told him. He gave her a lazy half smile and her heart fluttered. “No. You cannot use your good looks to get out of this one, Lucky James.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m being serious, Lachlan.”

Lucky sighed and reached a hand out to her. She was so mad at him and didn’t want to take it but she also loved him and Scout’s hand landed in his.

“I didn’t want to worry you,” Lucky explained.

“And look what happened.”

“I’m fine.”

“You went into surgery, Lucky. From now on you don’t hide anything from me. I’m being serious about this.”

Lucky looked at her for a few moments and something passed over his features that she couldn’t quite catch. “Okay, Scout. I promise not to hide things anymore.”

He stayed in hospital a little longer than we expected. Adjusting to the fact that part of his digestive system was missing took more than anticipated. He struggled to eat and ended up having a nasogastric tube just to that he could take in nutrients. Eventually. Lucky didn’t need the aid of the tube anymore and he was released from the hospital to come back home. Abdominal surgery had left him a little weak and she was glad that she’d moved in beforehand.

“Easy, babe,” Scout said to him.

Lucky got into the bed with a slight groan. It was the first day back home with a stoma bag and Scout didn’t mention it but it was the first time Lucky was in bed with a shirt.

“Feels good to be back home,” Lucky said.

“I bet.”

Lucky shifted to get himself comfortable before finding a position and settling down.

“Get some rest, love. They said it would help with the healing,” Scout told him.

He nodded and closed his eyes. The past few weeks had been tough on Lucky. Scout wished that she could do more for him. She wanted to wrap him in a bubble and protect him from the world but all she was able to do was stand by him as he went through this. It just never felt enough.

In the early hours of the morning, Scout woke to hear Lucky swearing. She opened her eyes, still sticky with sleep to see him struggling to get up from the bed. “Lucky?” she asked.

“Fuck! Scout, don’t move.”

“What’s happened?” Scout turned over and switched on the bedside lamp before turning over to look at him again. The front of his shirt was stained and the markings were all over the bed as well. Scout’s brain tried to catch up as she sat up. “Lucky…”

“Don’t, Scout. Just don’t.” He was up out of bed and made his way out of the bathroom. The nurse had told them that his stoma bag would need to be emptied at some point in the night but it must have leaked before Lucky got up.

Scout could hear the way he was slamming things and her heart broke in her chest. They knew this wasn’t going to be easy to deal with. The shower turned on and Scout got up and stripped the bed. She could only imagine how Lucky was feeling right now. Embarrassed and ashamed were the emptions that topped the list.

She put the bedding into the washing machine, Lucky’s shirt was already in there, and put it on before going to the bathroom door.

She knocked. “Lucky.” There was no response. “Luck?” Still nothing. She pushed open the door, thankful that it wasn’t locked. Lucky was standing in the shower. “Baby, are you okay?”

“Leave me alone, Scout.”

“It’s fine. I’ve cleaned up the bed and—”

“I said leave me alone!”

In all the months she’d known Lucky, Scout had never known him to raise his voice to her properly. They didn’t really argue. When they did it was Scout that got mad and stormed about the place, not Lucky. Lucky was calm and collected. Lucky sat there and talking it out so to hear him shout now when she just wanted to help, stung.

“It happens, Luck. The nurse said—”

“The nurse said! The nurse said! I was there with the nurse, Scout. I know what she said!”

“Then you know it’s perfectly normal. You know we’re going to just need some time to adjust to the stoma.”

The shower shut off before Lucky stepped out of it, dripping all over the bathroom floor. His hair was lying flat on his head, not styled like it usually was, and there was a red angry scar across his stomach that led to the opening that had been made there.

“We?” he asked. “We? It’s not you having to go through this, Scout. It’s me!”

That felt like a slap in the face. “I… I know. I’m just saying –”

“Everyone keeps saying we like we’re all going through the same thing but we aren’t! You guys all get to sit there and take notes and nod at the nurses but it’s me who’d getting cut open!” Lucky was screaming at Scout. “My body malfunctioned! My body is the one that’s had pieces taken out of me! I’m the one who’s dealing with looking like some sort of science experiment reject with a bag hanging off him!”

“Don’t say that!”

“Why not?! It’s true. Look at me, Scout!” Lucky turned towards the mirror that hung over their sink in the bathroom. He was looking at himself. There were changes. He’d lost weight, looked less muscular than when they’d first met. He had his scar and there was a sadness that hung over him now but he was still Lucky. He was still the man Scout loved and adored. “I’m trying! I’m trying so hard to keep positive through all this but I’m so fucking tired. I’m tired of being in pain and I’m tired of the hospital. I’m just so fucking tired!”

At this point, Lucky started to cry and Scout moved towards him. He boyfriend who had always been strong and courageous collapsed against her and she held him close. Scout felt the warm wetness of tears on her face.

“I’m tired, Scout,” he cried. “I’m so tired of this.”

She stroked his hair gently as he buried his face in her shoulder. His body shook as he cried and she held him tight. “I’m so sorry, Lucky. I’m so sorry.”

She knew he was burying stuff. Lucky never wanted to talk about it. He came out of every appointment quiet but a few hours later he would be batting jokes. It became easier to believe that maybe Lucky was okay with everything. Maybe he was powering his way through it with some extreme positivity.

But Scout saw him now, in the way he collapsed in on himself. This accident had tipped him over the edge and Lucky could no longer hold himself together.

Perhaps it had been selfish of her to say we. What he said was the truth. It was not we. Lucky was going through all of this. It was his body and his fight and his recovery. Scout was not in the ring with him but she was standing at the ropes, urging him on.

Scout pressed her lips to his head as his body started to calm. “I’m sorry, baby.”

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“You’ve got nothing to apologise for.”

Lucky pulled back from her a little so he could look at her properly. His eyes were watery and red from crying. “I just feel like I have to keep being this happy person so nobody worries. I feel like I need to keep being me even though I don’t feel like me right now. I feel angry and upset and like this… this is unfair.”

Unfair was the best word to describe the situation. No one deserved cancer but Lucky truly didn’t deserve it. He was bubbly and helpful and looked after himself so why did he end up pulling the short straw?

“Lucky, sweetheart, we’re always going to worry because we care about you.”

“I know. I just don’t know how much longer I can keep trying to be me. Like the old me. I don’t know.”

“Lucky, listen to me.” He dropped his head towards the floor. “Listen to me.” Scout said it more assertively and this time he looked at her. She was damp from the hug and it was a little cold but she looked him in the eye. “You don’t have to try and be anything other than what you are right now.”

“Scout –”

“No, Lucky. You don’t want to be happy? You don’t want to be strong? That’s fine. You want to pick a fight and scream or cry? You can do that here with me. I’m going to be right beside you through it all.

Lucky looked at her, silence stretching between them. Scout had no idea if she’d said the right thing. Lucky pulled her into a hug and she wrapped her arms around his middle. “I’m sorry I yelled,” he said.

“It’s fine, baby. It’s fine.” Scout dotted a kiss on his chest. “But you need to stop using me as a towel and get yourself dressed.”

He did as she said. Scout put some new sheets onto the bed and they crawled back under the covers. The entire day was spend in bed together. Lucky apologised occasionally for his outburst and every time he did, Scout kissed him to get him to shut up.

Sometimes you had strength and sometimes you needed strength from others. Lucky was definitely someone who needed a little help right now and Scout would do everything in her power to help him be strong.

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