“We’ll leave it another day and then send you down for another MRI and CT scan tomorrow, once the swelling has gone down some more. This is perfectly normal, Clay. Just be patient, I know it’s hard but it’s the only thing you can do right now,” the doctor patted him on the shoulder. He waited a few seconds, scribbling on his chart again before nodding. “I’ll let you two have some privacy, and I’ll come back later. Any problems press the buzzer.” He nodded to the little hand held button hanging on the wall.
When he walked out of the room Clay turned to look at me. The look on his face broke my heart a little more. He was so sad, sadder than I had ever seen him look, and if I could take his place I would do it in a heartbeat. He looked like he knew his fate already, he had already given up hope of being able to walk again.
“Everything’s fine, baby. We just need to wait a little while, those tests don’t mean anything, Clay. Just wait for the swelling to go down like he said, don’t get yourself upset about it, ok?” I begged, hearing my voice break a little even though I was trying to be strong.
Suddenly his eyes turned from sad and desperate, to angry, his eyes locked on mine and were hard and accusing, “I need you to leave, Riley,” he growled.
I looked at him shocked, what the hell does that mean? Oh God he’s blaming me for this, he thinks this is all my fault because if Blake wasn’t stalking me then he wouldn’t have gotten hurt. It was my fault, I knew that and I would never forgive myself, but the hard look on his face was actually like physical pain.
“What?” I whispered, looking at him like he was crazy. He didn’t really want me to leave, did he?
“You need to leave. Now,” he stated.
“Clay, baby please. I’m so sorry, I’m so so sorry,” I whispered. The tears that I had held at bay while I was in front of him, started to fall uncontrollably down my face.
He shook his head, “You don’t need to be sorry Riley, just leave,” he said sternly.
“I can’t,” I whispered.
How long did he want me to leave for, how long would it take him to forgive me for what Blake did to him because of me? An hour? A day? A week? I couldn’t make myself walk out of the door and leave him, I couldn’t. Is this why he’d been cold and distant with me all morning? Because he was angry with me about it, was he planning this all morning?
We both knew that this was my fault but I never thought in a million years that he’d ask me to leave him. If there was one thing that I would bet my life on it’s that Clay would never cut me out of his life, never. But that was exactly what he was doing now. I looked at him, my heart breaking, the pain was unbearable. I wasn’t going to live through this, this pain was going to kill me. To be apart from him would kill me. Surely he wasn’t this angry with me, surely he’d forgive me, wouldn’t he?
“Why? Please let me stay, I know this is my fault but please Clay, I love you. I’m so sorry this happened to you!” I cried bending and putting my face in the side of his neck being careful of tube sticking out of his chest.
His hands tangled in the back of my hair as he kissed the top of my head. “I don’t blame you, Riley. This wasn’t your fault, but I can’t love you, Riley. I’m sorry, but you need to go so I can concentrate on recovering without having to think about you all the time.”
I gripped the front of his hospital gown, holding onto it for dear life, if I let go I don’t know what I’d do. Could I live without Clay in my life, even for a second? Those few hours when I wasn’t sure if he’d make it, or the hours when he was in surgery, those were the worse of my life and I knew that if he’d died I would have wanted to die too.
I thought about what he said. He wanted to concentrate on recovering? What was that supposed to mean? He wasn’t making sense! If this wasn’t because he was blaming me then what was it about?
“Why?” I screamed against the skin of his neck, making his hand tighten in the back of my hair as I sobbed uncontrollably.
“I can’t have you here while I’m like this Riley, I can’t have you tied to someone like me,” he whispered.
Suddenly everything clicked into place, he did want me, he thought he was doing this for me. I pulled back to look at him. This was some kind of sick way of letting me go because he didn’t want me to have to be with him if he couldn’t walk. Is he seriously thinking I won’t want to be with him because of that? Does he not know me at all? All these years he’s known me and he thinks I would walk away because there’s a chance that he’ll be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life? I could feel my anger building up inside, there was no way this was happening, no way in hell he was sending me away from him for my own benefit.
“What the hell are you talking about, Clay? Are you kidding me right now? Tell me why you want me to go, tell me why you don’t want me anymore!” I cried, swallowing the lump in my throat.
There had to be something else, that couldn’t be the reason. Clay has always been selfless and put my happiness over the top of his, but he had to know that this would kill me. He wouldn’t make me leave because he thought he was doing the right thing for me, would he?
He sighed and turned his head away from me, “Just go Riley.”
“No,” I said fiercely.
“Just get the hell out! I don’t want you here! I don’t want you stuck with a f**king cripple just because you feel guilty or something stupid. I don’t want to take everything away from you, I don’t want to disappoint you because I can’t make love to you anymore! I don’t want to let this go on and then you leave me in a few years time for someone who can walk and give you children, someone who can give you everything you deserve out of life. It’s going to be easier for me to just get over you now, do it all in one go, rather than start to rely on you and then you leave me. Just get out and don’t ever come back!” he shouted, glaring at me angrily. He gripped hold of my arm and shoved me towards the door as one of the nurses came bursting in, obviously hearing his little outburst.
“What on earth is going on in here? Clay you need to calm down! You’ve just had surgery you need to relax and let your body recover!” the nurse cried angrily as she headed over to his side, pressing the button on the little heart monitor. The beeping was so fast that it actually scared the crap out of me. Clay was gasping for breath as she pushed on his shoulder, making him settle down, she put a little oxygen mask over his face, looking at him worriedly.
“What’s wrong? Is he ok?” I asked weakly. I had never been so scared in my life, Clay’s eyes flicked to me and I saw no indecision in his eyes. This was it, everything I thought would last forever, was over. He really wanted me to leave and the look on his face broke my heart into a million pieces.
“Get out, Riley,” he muttered weakly, pulling the mask off of his face.
“I love you, Clay,” I whispered, begging him with my eyes. I couldn’t leave him, not ever. He was my life, how could he not understand that? There was no way I would leave him for someone else in a couple of years, no chance of that happening at all. I loved him with all of my heart and it hurt me that he would doubt me like that, he should know me better.
He shook his head, “You don’t love me enough for this,” he said breathlessly. He turned to the nurse who was trying to get the mask back on his face, “Make her leave. Get security, get her out of here. I don’t want her here!” he shouted, making her flinch slightly from the anger in his voice.
She turned to me looking at me apologetically, “Please leave. He needs to relax and you being here is working him up. Just leave, come back in a couple of hours.” She put her hand on my arm and nodded towards the door.
“I don’t want her back in a couple of hours! Just get her the hell out!” Clay cried, gasping for breath as he tried to push himself up in the bed but by the looks of it he was too weak as he instantly slumped back down again, hissing in pain.
I looked from the nurse to Clay and back again. I had to leave, I was doing that to him, making him feel like that. I was making him worse, making him ill and he needed to relax, the doctor had said so.
“I’ll go. Look after him,” I whispered as I turned and ran out of the door as fast as my legs could carry me.
* * *
I watched her heart break before she turned and ran out of the door. I clenched my jaw tight so I didn’t beg her to come back. I couldn’t breathe, the pain in my heart was a hundred times worse than any physical pain I could ever feel. I’d just lost the one thing that I needed out of life, the one thing that mattered to me, hell she was the only thing that mattered to me in life. Not only had I lost her, but I’d actually pushed her away. I’d made her leave when she didn’t want to and that hurt even more. The fact that I was hurting her by setting her free. If I could take her heartbreak as well as my own I would. I would lay down my life for that girl in an instant and I always would. I would do anything to make her happy, even if it destroyed me in the process.
She would get over this and find someone else and he would give her everything I couldn’t anymore. The thought hurt like hell, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Riley deserved the best out of life, and a husband in a wheelchair wasn’t that.
The nurse tugged on the mask pulling it out of my hand and pressing it back over my mouth and nose again. “Try and calm down, if your heart rate gets any faster you’ll go into cardiac arrest,” she said sternly.
Cardiac arrest? A heart attack, hell that sounded awesome right about now, hopefully it would kill me and I wouldn’t have to live one day without my girl by my side. I closed my eyes trying to block out the pain of it but I couldn’t, all I could see was Riley telling me she loved me, flashes of our wedding and the day after when we woke up in the hotel and realized we were married, thoughts of making love to her for the first time. All these memories were flashing through my brain making it even more painful.