Excitement burst in my chest. “Riley!”
She jerked awake quickly, and jumped a mile, almost falling off the bed because I’d practically shouted in her ear. “What? What’s wrong?” she cried, looking at me with wide eyes.
I looked at her with her, her eyes all big, lines of sleep on her face, her clothes all wrinkled and I burst out laughing. She had never looked more beautiful. I don’t know how that worked though, because I had the same thought every time I woke up and saw her in the morning.
She looked at me confused, and then I suddenly remembered why I woke her up in the first place. I felt the smile stretch across my face, I grabbed her hand and pulled her closer to me again. “I can feel my legs a little,” I told her, watching as the words sunk in.
Her mouth dropped open, her eyes looked down towards my feet. Suddenly she let out and excited little squeal and clamped her hand over her mouth as she started giggling. She jumped out of the bed, bouncing on the spot like a little girl who just got a brand new bike.
“Holy crap, Clay! Really? Oh thank God! Really?” she asked, her hands hovering near my thighs as if she wanted to touch me but wasn’t sure if she should.
I laughed and nodded, I could feel relieved tears building in my eyes. It was a start, but it was a good start, wasn’t it? She squealed again and then burst into tears, pressing her face into my chest. I stroked the back of her head as I tried to move my legs. I couldn’t move them properly but I could move my toes a little. It was like when you’d been sitting in the same position for a long time and your legs went numb, you knew they were there and you could move them a little, but you just didn’t have much control over them.
I kissed the top of her head. Maybe it was all about waiting after all, maybe the longer we waited the better it would get, hopefully this wasn’t just it, a little feeling in my legs. Hopefully as the swelling went down even more I’d get more movement back.
She sniffed loudly and pushed herself up, wiping her eyes, a beautiful smile stretched across her face. “I’ll buzz for the doctors,” she said, her voice all husky and thick through sleep and crying.
I grabbed her hand to stop her as I suddenly realised something else I could feel too. “Err, Riley bear, just wait a minute, ok?” I asked. Shit this was embarrassing!
She sniffed again, wiping her face with the sleeve of her sweater. “Why baby?”
I laughed and pulled her a little closer to me again. “Because I woke up next to you, Riley,” I croaked, trying to hide my face in her hair.
She looked at me curiously, one eyebrow raised, her red eyes confused. “So…..?”
I laughed and nodded down towards my feet again. She followed my gaze and started to giggle uncontrollably. She climbed onto the bed next to me again, blushing and biting her lip.
“Hmm…. I do tend to have that effect on you in the mornings,” she breathed, her hand sliding down my chest, heading towards the tent I was making with the blankets. I laughed as she kissed my neck, making my body feel a little hot. I wanted her. Even through the pain in my back she was still managing to turn me on, stupid damn hormones! If I could, I would pull the covers up over our heads and make love to her until the sun came up, but I guess it was one step at a time. At least I knew that wouldn’t be a problem now……
I caught her hand, moving it away just as she got close enough to my crotch. “Not helping with the calming down thing there, Riley bear,” I laughed, trying to think of anything other than her, so I could calm my body down.
She smiled against my neck, “Ok baby, think of something un-sexy,” she teased, rolling away from me, propping herself up on her elbow, watching me with a huge smile on her face.After a few minutes of laying there with my eyes closed, thinking about football, I was finally ok and she could call the doctors in.
* * *
The doctors fussed over him for the longest time. I watched them avidly, they were prodding his legs and feet, I chewed on my lip when I watched Clay wiggle his toes. I felt like my insides were going to burst with happiness, it’s so crazy how something as small as a tiny movement can make everything seem right in the world. Another MRI scan was arranged, they wanted to leave it another hour or two so that the swelling would go down even more.
Clay had a happy smile on his face the whole time, he was clinging to my hand tightly as if he was afraid to let go. I had been on a rollercoaster ride today, my day went from bad - when I woke up and he couldn’t feel his legs, to unbearable for the couple of hours I was away from him. But right now, none of that mattered. All that mattered was the laugh that I heard come out of Clay’s mouth when the doctor nodded and told him that everything looked great.
He left to set up the scans and I pulled the chair over to the bed again, kissing the side of his beautiful face as I sat down. “I told you to stop worrying,” I teased.
“Yeah, yeah. No ‘I told you so’s’ ok,” he said, smirking at me. It was nice to see Clay coming back to normal a little, it broke my heart to see him so upset and sad. Clay hardly ever got sad about anything, he was always the strong one, so the look on his face for the last few hours had been slowly killing me inside.
After having the scans the doctor had given us the news that everything looked just as it should do. There was still some inflammation around the operation site which would fade over time, he was very hopeful that Clay would be able to walk again but he warned that it would be a lot of hard work for him.
Everything was working out perfectly, As the hours wore on he could raise his knee slightly, even though it hurt his back doing it. Apparently that was normal though, he’d just had major surgery so pain was to be expected.
They wouldn’t let me stay at the hospital with him that night because he wasn’t in critical condition like the last couple of nights. I didn’t want to go home to our apartment, it didn’t feel right staying there without Clay, so I went back to my parent’s house. My mom had gone and picked up a few days worth of clothes for me. It took me a long time to say goodbye to Clay. I felt like I left a piece of me behind when I walked out of the hospital, knowing I wouldn’t see him again for a few hours.
It felt weird walking into my parents house, it didn’t feel like home anymore. It was surprising just how quick I had gotten used to living with Clay, I had lived in this house for thirteen years but yet it felt strange to slip in-between the sheets of my bed. I hugged myself tight and cried, but not with sadness this time, with relief. It would be a lot of hard work but Clay was always a hard worker, I knew he would put 200 percent into it. Clay was always up for a challenge and he never failed.
He stayed in the hospital for a grand total of twelve days. The doctors were really pleased with him, he was out of bed and in a wheelchair. He could move his legs but it was a great effort for him, I could see the sweat form on his forehead when he tried really hard. I could tell he was getting frustrated about it, but the doctors had explained it was like a baby learning how to walk for the first time. The will to walk was there, the knowledge, he just needed to teach his body how to do it again. The trouble with Clay was that he never liked to rely on people. Clay was a giver, not a receiver so it was hard for him to let me or my parents or our friends, fuss over him and do things for him.
Another thing that pissed him off: he missed the big football game. Our school had to play in the final of the state championship without their captain and had just managed to scrape a win. He was seriously annoyed that he missed it, but the whole team, including the coach, had come to see him that night. They had all crammed in his room, shouting and dancing around, they were thrown out by an angry nurse within ten minutes but Clay enjoyed it while it lasted. They left him the trophy, which took pride of place on his side table next to his bed.
After the twelve days, Clay was moved to a rehabilitation centre. Apparently he would stay there for about six weeks and they would work with him extensively, training his muscles again. His brain needed to reconnect with the damaged nerves and learn the whole process of putting one foot in front of the other.
I was allowed to help him with his therapy, they taught me how to help him stretch his muscles but mostly I was just moral support. I was currently standing at the end of the exercise room, watching as Clay adjusted himself ready to get up to try again to walk. His therapist said he needed to do little bursts and then rest. He’d only been here for a week so far, he was up to seven steps at a time before he had to stop and rest.
“Hey Riley bear, I’ve got an idea,” he said quietly, looking around probably to make sure no one could hear what he was saying.
“What’s that then, baby?”
He adjusted the foot rests and put his feet on the floor, positioning himself in-between the two rails so he could hold on if he needed to when walking.
“How about for every step I take, you take off one item of clothing back in my room?” he suggested, smirking at me as his eyes raked down my body slowly.
I laughed, only Clay could think about sex while trying to do something so serious and important. I think he’d been getting a little frustrated that we hadn’t done anything more than kissing for the past three weeks. “An item of clothing, really?” I asked, raising one eyebrow. I looked down at myself and mentally counted what I was wearing, thankfully it was quite cold today so I had on jeans, a tank top, shirt and one of his hoodies over the top. Including, underwear and four items for shoes and socks, I was wearing a total of ten things today. “Hmm, maybe you could get me to my underwear,” I teased, pulling at the zip of the hoodie, looking at him through my eyelashes.
He smirked at me and shook his head slowly, “No way Riley bear, I’m getting you n**ed today. How many?” he asked.
He grinned, looking fairly excited about the challenge. “Easy,” he mused.
I stood at the end of the rails, giggling as a determined expression crossed his face, and damn that boy, he made the ten steps no problem. Hmm....maybe this was a good way to motivate him, I’d have to make sure to wear extra layers tomorrow!