What Doesn't Kill You

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Chapter 26

Scout was standing in the bedroom looking into the full length mirror. She held up her t-shirt to just under her boobs and surveyed her middle. She was looking a little softer than usual. No surprise, she had been eating everything in sight lately. Jim said it was probably due to the stress of everything after she handed him back a packet of custard creams that had been halved thanks to her munchies.

Jim apologised profusely over telling Lucky about the job. She wasn’t angry at him for it and she was grateful he apologised but there was a weird tension between them right now.

Either way, if Scout wasn’t careful she wasn’t going to fit in any of her clothes. She peered at her reflection a little longer, looking at her face, arms and legs. What made this all worse was that she only seemed to have gained weight around her middle. She didn’t need a spare tyre at 24.

That was it. She made a pact with herself that she would stop snacking and try to get back to the pool. Lucky could manage and hour or so without her. Even as she thought it the worry started to rise. Scout hadn’t left him alone much since his cancer battle started but she needed to try and ease up.

She dropped her shirt, letting it cover her stomach again before picking up her phone to see that Ava had messaged her.

Fancy helping me pick out some baby things tomorrow? Michael and Lucky can spend the day together.

Ava was so excited about the new addition to the family. She and Michael had pushed back the date of the wedding so that she would be able to use the original dress she chose. Lucky told Scout he was happy she’d postponed because hopefully he’d be in a better place by then. They all had that same hope.

Sounds like a plan.

Scout felt like she’d seen a lot less of everyone lately so maybe it’d be good to get out of the flat and see friendly faces. She needed to meet up with Chrissy soon. He messaged the other day, mentioning that a transfer might be on the cards and if that happened he’d be out of Swansea and wherever his new club took him.

She jumped out of her skin as she heard the sound of smashing coming from the bathroom. Scout ran towards the door and saw that Lucky was standing there, chest heaving and toiletries all over the floor. Some of the bottles were smashed and the room was a mixture of strong scents that made her want to heave a little.

“Babe,” Scout said. “What happened?”

“Look! Look!” Lucky was pointing at the sink and Scout stepped into the bathroom properly to look into it. She could see exactly what he was on about. There, stark against the bright white of the sink, was a clump of dark hair.

“Luck…”

As Scout turned around, he was pulling at his hair and when he brought his hands out in front of him, Scout’s heart broke because they weren’t empty. Chemotherapy was making him lose his hair.

“Fuck!” He screamed the word so it echoed in the small space of their bathroom. He went to pull at his hair again but Scout lunged forward and grabbed his wrists.

“Stop. Luck, stop! Please!”

It happened all too quickly. Lucky began to cry and Scout pulled him into her so she could hug him. Life was a rollercoaster. They had good days and bad days. They could go a while with Lucky feeling like he could do everything and then days like today came along and demolished all that positivity.

Scout pulled a chair into the bathroom and Lucy sat down on it, facing the mirror. His eyes were bloodshot and Scout stood behind him, burying her face into the top of his head and hair.

“Are you sure about this?” she muttered quietly but he heard her and nodded his head.

“It’s going to go anyway,” he replied.

He was right about that. Lucky was half way through his set of chemotherapy cycles and if it’d started falling out it wasn’t going to stop. He held up the clippers to her and Scout took them from his hand. They felt heavy and she took in a shaky breath before turning them on.

The steady electric hum filled the bathroom and she pressed them to his scalp and followed the smooth curve of his skull, watching as soft tufts came loose from his head. She could feel the lump in her throat as they fell and Lucky started to cry again, tears streaming down his face.

She couldn’t imagine how he felt. Lucky, the guy who got his nickname from how easy he could get girls into bed had slowly lost a part of that identity. His looks, which had served him well for years had changed until he saw something he was no longer familiar with in the mirror.

“What are we going to do when you finish chemo?” she asked him.

“What?” Lucky looked at her as she attempted to steady her hand and moved it along her scalp again.

“What do you want to do when you get the all clear?”

If I get the all clear.”

When you get the all clear, what do you want to do.” She said the when in the most aggressive manner and Lucky wiped the tears away from his face with the palm of his hand.

“Let’s eat at Pad,” he said.

“The fancy place at the Celtic Manor Resort?”

“That’s the one.”

“Wow, Mr James, you want the finer things in life.”

“I think I will have bloody deserved it. And I want us to buy a house.”

“A house?” she asked shocked.

“I’m fed up of the flat. I want us to have a house. We can buy something dirt cheap and do it up together.”

Scout liked the idea a lot. She currently lived in Lucky’s flat. It would be nice to have a place together that was theirs. A fixer upper that they could work on and make the way they wanted. “Fabulous plan. I’ll have more wardrobe space.”

“How much more damn space do you need, woman?”

“The dream is a walk in wardrobe.”

“No bloody way! You’re not having a room for your clothes. You don’t even need clothes.”

“You’re such a pervert.”

Lucky laughed and she continued to work on his hair. “We should go on holiday,” he told her.

“Didn’t you just come back from travelling not long ago?”

“I have itchy feet.”

“Where was your favourite place?”

Lucky talked her through Mauritius and Italy and New Zealand. He was definitely better travelled than Scout was but maybe they could tick some places off the list together.

Scout took the last bit of hair off his head and they both looked into the mirror in front of them. Hair was just hair, right? It didn’t cooperate most of the time and they threatened to get rid of it but it made up a huge part of our personalities. Scout could see Lucky’s eyes, the way he was trying to find himself in his reflection.

As Scout turned off the clippers, he took a hand and ran it over his scalp, back and forth not taking his eyes off himself in the mirror. Without the buzzing sound, the room was deathly quiet until Lucky suddenly broke it. “People are going to stare, aren’t they?”

“I doubt they’ll even notice.”

He let out a laugh but there was not joy in the sound. His hand dropped from his scalp and Lucky closed his eyes. She watched her boyfriend in the mirror as he swallowed and his bottom lip trembled a bit.

“I know it’s just hair.” His voice quivered. “It’ll grow back.”

“Of course, it will.” Reassurance was all she could give him.

“I’m going to wear a hat.” Scout tried to laugh but it came out as more of a sob. Lucky opened his eyes and looked at her in the mirror. “You get to be the better looking one in the relationship for once.” Scout kissed the back of his head. “People are honestly going to ask what the hell someone like you is doing with me.”

“Forget people, Lucky.”

“Kind of difficult. You know they’re going to talk and stare. I bet you wish you chose Chrissy now.”

“No, because I don’t love Chrissy. I love you.”

“I love you too. I just know you could have done better. The least you deserve is an Instagram worthy husband.”

Scout knew Lucky was trying to joke about it but he heart hurt hearing how he saw himself. Her thumb hovered over the switch on the clippers in her hand and switched it back on so that the hum filled the room again.

“Did you miss a spot?” Lucky asked the question, running his hand over his scalp again.

“Something like that.”

Scout took a deep breath and raised the clippers before putting them to her head and it was like everything happened in slow motion. She watched Lucky’s eyes grow wide with shock as he realised what she was doing.

He got up from the chair. “Scout! No!” But it was too late. He caught her wrist and pulled her hand away from her head, knocking the chair as he did so and it landed on the floor. “What the fuck are you doing?!”

“I’m going to need to finish now.” There was a slight chill on her scalp from where some of her hair was missing.

“Scout…”

“Look, I can’t have people just looking at you. Even sick you need all the attention.”

They were a couple that enjoyed a laugh. They were a couple who made fun of each other with thinly veiled insults. They were a couple who got dealt a shit hand in life and so she was trying to make the best of a situation.

“What have you done?”

Scout turned off the clippers again and looked up at him. “I just want you to be happy, Luck. I want you to know I’m not going anywhere and I’ll do this with you if it makes you stop worrying about what people think of you.”

He rested his forehead against hers. “You are meant to be auditioning. Aren’t you meant to have a certain look?”

“It’ll grow back.”

Lucky leaned in and kissed her and Scout’s heart beat against her chest wildly as she returned it. She didn’t think there would be anything that stopped her loving Lucky. He’d pushed his way into her heart and she didn’t want to let him go. When they broke apart he took the clippers from her and picked up the chair. Scout moved to take the seat and he kissed the top of her head.

“Next time,” he said. “Can we try talking about things before making major decisions like this?” Lucky gestured at her head before turning on the clippers and working them over her scalp.

Scout’s eyes stung with tears as she watched her blonde bob disappear but she swallowed the lump in her throat and said, “So, I should cancel my face tattoo?”

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