Jason felt a lot better the next day. The night before he had taken the evening dose of Baclofen and the spasms had almost subsided during the night.
He still dealt with some spastic activity that morning but only light twitches threw his legs off a bit or travelled into his hips. The spasms were manageable now. Remembering the day before, he knew Ariana and his dad had stayed by his bedside for a long time. He looked around the room for a phone but didn’t see one. His cell phone was nowhere either and he wondered if his dad had all his stuff from the night he got admitted. For over four weeks Jason had been in the ICU now and he was more than ready to get out of there as soon as possible.
He really wanted to get his wheelchair back, not being able to get up frustrated him. He wanted to get into a regular room, he wanted to get the annoying naso-gastric feeding tube out; he was getting hungry for real food. He wanted to get detached from the catheter and get off the last IV line. He was told it would maybe be easier on his lungs to still use the oxygen mask but he had kept it off most of the morning since he woke up. He did have to take some gasping breaths on and off and his chest felt tight, his throat was still sore from the ventilator tubing but whatever he could be without, he wanted to be without.
Dr. Shumar came on his rounds with Nurse Cara, “Hey Jason, you are looking a lot better today. What was going on yesterday?”Jason shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know…”
“You had some severe spastic activity and it seems like you are building up a tolerance to Baclofen, which is kind of a problem since we were considering the Baclofen pump for you.”
Jason didn’t know what else to say about that, he knew living with the spasms was not fun and sometimes even painful. He had actually thrown his hip out before during a spastic episode which landed him in the ER and having to put his hip back into its socket. He didn’t want to experience that again.
Dr. Shumar added, “So we will have to rethink that! I think I will put in a new order for another oral medication you can try for the spasms. Other than that your vitals are stable, even though you were a bit off yesterday as to be expected. We are going to do some labs again today and take another urine sample to see where you are at but I think it is starting to look pretty good. How do you feel about moving out of ICU?”Jason almost jumped for joy to hear him say that and after a deep breath he said, “I can’t wait…”
“I bet, let’s aim for a transfer on Saturday to our Progressive Care unit. Tomorrow we will get that feeding tube out as well, o.k.?”
Jason nodded and was more than relieved to hear all the good news. He was ready to get better and move on to the life outside with Ariana. When the doctor was done with him, Cara adjusted the IV fluids and Jason asked, “Do you know where my cell phone is?”
Cara smiled, “No, but I would assume with your family members and you can’t have a cell phone in here anyways.”
Jason let his head fall back on the pillow.
The lab technician came soon after and took some vials of blood from him, a urine sample was also pulled and the results would go to Dr. Shumar. Jason fell asleep on and off, the day and night before was still eating on him somewhat with not enough sleep and exhaustion from the spasticity. He was wondering if Ariana or his dad would come soon and all he could do was wait.
Ariana actually drove out to two car sales places that morning. Her friend Cheryl was nice enough to give her a ride in her car. She also finally confided to Cheryl about her and Jason and how things were. Cheryl gave her the hardest time about it but in the end she said she had known all along that Ariana’s plan of having a sexual fling only would never have worked out. She was supportive yet skeptical about Ariana’s real agenda of being with Jason. Everyone was worried that somehow she was throwing her fun and free life away, a life of nice things in exchange of living with a disabled boyfriend, who had no job and nothing to show for.
Ariana’s plan of looking for a car for her and Jason was met with Cheryl breaking out into a chatter of how crazy she was and how a guy should be able to provide for himself and the woman he loved and it went on and on. Ariana ignored Cheryl’s assumptions and told her to just shut up and help her in looking at the vehicles she had pin pointed from some websites. Cheryl eventually supported Ariana in her quest to maybe find a car but couldn’t fully believe how Ariana’s point of view had changed so much over such a short period of time.
According to Darryl Jason had apparently always driven pickup trucks but Ariana really didn’t know how he would be able to get into a pickup truck anymore and if it was even possible at all. So she had picked out some used regular cars, among them a Mazda, a KIA, and a Prius, all cars large enough for transporting the wheelchair and other items and easy and low to get into for Jason. She had researched online about a company that could modify a regular car into a hand controlled car and she had found a place in Vegas outside of town that did these kinds of modifications. The cost was not exactly cheap but she had set her mind on getting a car for Jason and her. There were different types of hand controls and the costs varied but she thought about how the modification could also be done after she got the car and discuss it all with Jason. She wanted to surprise him with a car though.
At the car sales lot Ariana showed the sales man Dillon the cars she had picked out form the online list and Dillon showed her all the models of her choice with lots of enthusiasm. He was obviously happy to show cars on the lot to two very attractive women. Cheryl was a nice looking blonde; she didn’t work as an escort but as a waitress at the Bellagio. Cheryl had known Ariana for about two years. The two women had shared a taxi one night and realized they lived not far from each other and hit it off right away in the taxi that night, exchanging phone numbers and becoming friends quickly. Cheryl knew how difficult the break up with Trey had been for Ariana and knew that since then many guys had come and went in Ariana’s life. She had not let anyone get close to her and once they tried she ran. This was why Cheryl was now even more surprised that she was actually looking at cars for her so called boyfriend who didn’t fit the picture of her previous flings at all. He was disabled after all and Cheryl didn’t fully understand how Ariana had fallen for Jason so deeply and so quickly.
Ariana sat in the drivers seat of the Mazda, Dillon next to her and Cheryl in the backseat as they were getting ready to take the Mazda on a test drive. Ariana didn’t know a whole lot about cars and she pulled out of the car lot. She had not driven a car in a while and she started slowly.
Dillon smiled, “You will see, this is a great car, smooth driving and comfortable. Great gas mileage. You will love it!”Ariana kept her eyes on the road, “Well, it won’t always be me driving it anyways.”
Dillon was surprised, “Oh no, who else is going to drive the car then?”
“I am actually looking at cars for my boyfriend and I. It will be a surprise.”
Dillon seemed a bit disappointed at Ariana’s revelation of a boyfriend in her life but tried to stay professional, “I see, well, I think he would love it too. It is a good car.”
Ariana added like it was the most normal thing, “It will get modified if I decide to buy it.”
Dillon asked, “Modified, like how?”
Ariana glanced over at Dillon’s reaction when she said with a smirk, “I will have hand controls installed in it; my boyfriend is paraplegic.”
Dillon looked a bit thrown off, “Oh, I see….”
He seemed unsure what else to say about it and Ariana realized how much she had enjoyed saying what she had said, “Yeah, he is paralyzed from the chest down.”
With that she also glanced into the mirror at a head shaking Cheryl meeting her eyes. Dillon was quiet; he was definitely slightly thrown off now.After a moment though he found his voice again, “Well, I think it is a very good car and I am sure your boyfriend will agree. Mazda is a good quality car. Have you checked into the modification process though? I am not sure about all of that.”
”Yes, I did check and any car can be modified with hand controls.”
They drove around and Dillon seemed to be less enthusiastic about being around Ariana, still trying to sell the car though and Cheryl saw her opportunity to move in and flirt with Dillon, who went for her jokes and giggles.
They also ended up test driving the two other cars and in the end Ariana really liked the Mazda though. It was a used model, 3 years old. She got all the information from Dillon on the car because she planned to go by the company for the modifications and talk to them about the cost of having this car modified with hand controls.
On her way home Cheryl dropped Ariana off at the front entrance of the hospital. The two women hugged and Ariana stepped out into the heat.
At the ICU she got buzzed in and walked to Jason’s room. He sat up slightly in his bed and when she walked in his face lit up and she was happy to see he was so much better than the day before, “Hey Jason!”She walked up to him and right away planted a kiss on his cheek, “You seem to be much better than yesterday, baby.”
He smiled, “Yeah, I am. I have been waiting for you.”
“Oh, sorry, I was busy this morning, that is why I am a little late today. So how are things? Any more spasms torturing you?”
Jason shook his head, “Just a little, not at all like yesterday….”
He was still breathing with slight difficulties, catching his breath or taking a deep breath during talking. He started, “Ariana?”She smiled at him,”Hhm?”
He shifted in the bed, pushing himself up somewhat, “About yesterday….I….I haven’t had….spasms like that….in a long time. Those were really rough….I am sorry you had to…..see it.”
Ariana put her hand on his arm, “Baby, you don’t have to be sorry. It was perfectly o.k. with me.”
Jason looked down his body, “It’s pretty messed up when I….get spastic like that.”
Ariana tried to make him feel at ease, “It is o.k. Jason. I was glad to be here and help you through it somewhat.”
He took her hand in his and smiled, “Thanks.”
“So, how was today so far?”
Jason told her lowly what Dr. Shumar had said about moving out of ICU, getting the feeding tube out the next day and that everything looked really good. Ariana was happy to hear about Jason possibly moving out of ICU very soon.He sighed, “I am so freaking….ready to get…out of here.”
She nodded, “I know…me too.”
Darryl came to the hospital in the late afternoon and he looked tired and pale as he walked into the room, greeting Ariana and Jason, “Hey you two!”Ariana greeted Darryl and she could tell he wasn’t feeling that good. Jason saw it too and scanned his dad curiously with serious eyes, “Dad, you don’t look so good. What is going on?”
Darryl dodged the question without an answer, “How are you today? Looks like you are a lot better than yesterday.”
Jason nodded and kept his eyes on his dad, “I am o.k. dad….you didn’t answer my question!”
Jason’s voice was low but determined. Ariana sat by quietly.
She could feel the tension between the two men and said softly, “I think I will go to the cafeteria and have a cup of coffee. I will give you some time.”
Jason looked over at her but didn’t stop her and Ariana got up, touched his arm softly and on her way out looked right at Darryl, whose eyes looked tired. She nodded at him and walked out of the room.
Jason turned to look back at his dad and just waited. Darryl had his eyes on the floor not able to look at Jason.Jason asked lowly, “It’s not working, is it?”
Darryl looked up, he knew exactly what Jason was talking about and shook his head, still keeping his eyes down.
He answered softly, “Not yet, it has been six weeks now, no change yet. Metastasis has not receded any.”
Jason nodded and didn’t say anything else. Darryl didn’t know what to say either. He couldn’t look at Jason, who looked up at the ceiling and tried to keep his composure. The blood pressure monitor announced a slight change in pulse and he had to almost smile at how his body reacted right away and how no emotion could be hidden with all these machines attached.
Eventually Darryl looked up and started lowly, “Son, it will all work itself out somehow. Don’t worry.”Jason looked over at his dad and their eyes met, “You really think so dad? How can you always be so positive about stuff?”
Darryl sighed, “If I wouldn’t be I would have died inside a long time ago…your mother, then Brandon, then you….all those things….what do you think I should have done, given up?”
Jason didn’t have an argument because his dad was right.
Darryl continued, “Ariana….she is a good woman, Jay. It makes me happy that you guys were able to reconcile.”
Jason laughed lowly, “I don’t think she knows what she is getting into.”
Darryl replied, “I think she knows exactly what she is getting into with you. You should give her some credit and not underestimate your girlfriend.”
It felt strange to Jason hearing the expression “your girlfriend”.He hadn’t been able to say that in almost three years and he hadn’t thought he would ever hear it again, “I don’t know dad, I am just worried that once I am out of the hospital and life will get us back again she will realize how difficult everything is. She had this picture in her head about being with a paraplegic guy and that worked out for a while but not anymore if she is actually willing to get into a relationship with me. I don’t even have a job anymore. I don’t know how to actually support myself.”
“Don’t worry about these things yet. We will figure it out! And about Ariana having this picture in her head….she loves you and that should be enough for you to give this a try with her and not think about all the problems you think you have.”
“I just want her to be happy and not be a burden for her. Right now she is the most important person in my life aside from…you.”
Darryl smiled, “She cares a whole lot about you, Jason.”
Jason nodded but didn’t say anything. As hard as he tried to not worry about his future with Ariana he couldn’t help feeling doubts and worries about everything.
Ariana came back into the room after about 30 minutes and Darryl was getting ready to leave again, “Ariana, do you need a ride back home?”Ariana sat down in the chair and smiled, “Thanks Darryl, but I will hang out with Jason some more.”
Darryl left soon after and Ariana got comfortable in the chair, put her feet up on the other chair and reached over for Jason’s hand. He still had an IV line in his right hand, small monitors stuck on his chest and various tubing coming out from under the blanket and running over to the other side of the bed.
His stomach looked hollow and flat, his rib cage showing under his tattoos, he had lost weight in the hospital. His cheek bones were more defined as he looked at her and when he smiled wrinkles appeared in the corners of his eyes.
Realizing these things, Ariana said softly, “I need to feed you again when you get out of here.”“What do you mean?”
“You are so skinny now. Skin and bones.”
Jason had to agree, “Yeah, but not being so heavy will make my transfers easier….”
“You were skinny even before but now it is worse…I will have to put some weight on you.”
Jason just smiled, then said softly with his eyes on her, “I can’t wait to get out of here and go eat with you.”
Ariana smiled at him, “Me too.”
They were quiet for a moment and then he asked carefully, “How is your work and everything?”Ariana looked away for a moment and then back up at Jason, “It is going good.”
She didn’t tell him anything else about her work.
Jason nodded, he tried to ignore the distant pain inside, thinking about Ariana and her line of work, but now he had no choice anymore, he couldn’t even support himself financially.
He looked down and remarked lowly, “You know I lost my job?”“Yeah, I know. Darryl told me. I am sorry about that.”
She smiled, then added, “Just for that I will make sure we never use Speedy taxi anymore at work. I am going to boycott them.”
Jason smiled but then added seriously, “My boss put up with my issues way too long anyways. I can’t even really be mad at him. I missed many days and with a couple of hospital stays I probably missed like 6 months out of my almost two years working there.”
Ariana asked, “What are you going to do?”
Jason shrugged his shoulders, “I am not sure. It is not easy to find a job being paraplegic, lots of stuff has to be considered I guess.”
He grinned and asked, “Does your escort service need some additional escorts maybe, a guy like me?”
They both smiled and laughed a little.
Ariana then said, “I would not let another woman get close to you anyways, so forget about it.”
She smiled but she meant what she said, “You are mine!”
Jason thought about this for a moment and also how he was supposed to feel the other way around, with Ariana working as an escort and spending so much time with other men.
Just like she could sense his concern she added, “…and I am yours!”
Jason was surprised at her comment matching so much what he was thinking about. Ariana sat on the bed and leaned over to Jason moving up close to his face. Her hair fell over and almost worked like a curtain next to their faces as they looked each other in the eyes.
Her green eyes were drilling into him and he moved his hand up to her face and stroked softly over her cheek, “You know, Ariana…sometimes it feels…so unreal with…us and how…everything is.”She just smiled and nodded, “I know, but it is real.”
As their faces were real close they could feel the warmth of each other’s breath brushing over their lips and announcing a moment they had missed so much and for so long. Ariana leaned in on Jason and she kissed his lips softly. He closed his eyes and let the kiss go into him. So much he wanted to be close to her and hold her close to him. For way too long their physical contact had been interrupted and limited to holding hands and the quick kisses they had snuck in, even though they really hadn’t been allowed because of Jason’s weakened immune system. He pulled Ariana tightly to him and let his tongue encircle hers and it felt so good. She could feel his hands on her back, pulling her to him without much wiggle room, he wanted to hold her so tight and his kiss turned hard and passionate as his tongue explored every corner in her mouth. He moved his hand up to her head and held her in place, his lips pressed on hers and Ariana’s chest moving quickly up and down, feeling the excitement of Jason’s kiss and him holding her. Eventually their kiss faded to a slow and soft caress and Ariana lifted her lips from his and they just looked at each other for a moment.
Ariana said softly, “I love you!”Jason kept his eyes on her and with his hand on her cheek he replied, “I love you too!”
She stayed right there and he said softly, “Sometimes I wish we would have met in a different time and place. Everything is so complicated and sometimes I don’t know if I can do it.”
Ariana stroked her fingers through his hair and said with a smile, “Yeah, life sucks sometimes but we are together and I wouldn’t change a thing about the way we met, same place, same time….right here, right now.”
Jason nodded but he felt his heart heavy thinking about all the hurdles he had been over in his life and now being with Ariana and the things to come.
On Thursday day when she came to visit she found Jason without the IV fluids attached to him, only the IV port in his hand and the sensors on his chest were left. Another great thing was when she looked at his face and there was nothing there anymore, the feeding tube was gone, he looked so good, freshly shaved, his dark eyes alert and shiny and his hair brushed, just a couple of strands in his forehead. She remembered the moment she saw him first at the clinic and he was so attractive to her, he was that guy again and it made her heart beat quicken.
She smiled at him, “Oh my goodness, who is that hot guy in the bed?”Jason smiled shyly, he had been feeling good all day, he had been taken of the IV fluids in the morning, had the feeding tube taken out and he was supposed to start drinking water and eating slowly again. The plan was to move him out of ICU on Saturday; there was finally an end in sight to his hospital stay. Ariana leaned over him and they kissed. She pulled the chair next to the bed and took his hand, “It is so good to see you like this. When did all of this happen?”
“This morning they took me off the IV fluids and doc said I should slowly start eating regular food again.”
Ariana felt so happy inside to see Jason like this, “I am so glad you are free again.”
Jason replied lowly, “Almost, couple of things still need to go but hopefully soon.”
He looked down toward is lower body and Ariana had only a slight idea of what he was talking about but she didn’t want to ask.
She pulled the chair over and sat down, “Was your dad here today?”Jason nodded, “Yeah, he was here this morning.”
“How is your dad?”
“He couldn’t stay too long because he had to get to his appointment at 1:30. He didn’t look so good.”
Jason looked at Ariana with serious eyes and she asked softly, “Does he talk about it?”
“Not really, he won’t tell me everything. I don’t think he is doing well.”
Ariana nodded, “He just doesn’t want to worry you.”
They sat together and eventually Ariana started, “So I have been thinking…”Jason looked over at her with alert eyes, “About what?”
“Well, you know how I live on the second floor…“
"I am thinking about moving out.”
Jason shifted a little in the bed and pushed himself up slightly, “Where to?”
Ariana smiled, “I guess that depends on you.”
“Yeah, I want you to be able to get into my place no matter where it is, so that means it will either be a first floor apartment, one story house or….”
She stopped in her sentence and looked away shyly as Jason pushed on, “…or what?”“I move in with you and your dad.”
Jason was surprised to hear her say the words and for a moment he didn’t know what to reply.
Ariana must have read his doubtful silence as opposing the idea and she added quickly, “Of course that is just a weird idea, I am looking for another place though.”Jason shook his head, “No, it is not really a weird idea but we have to be realistic…I mean, I live out in the middle of nowhere in an old trailer and we have never had a woman in our place. I don’t know if you would like it very much where we live. You would be pretty far away from the city and stuff, kind of far from your work.”
Ariana nodded, “You are right but I guess we will have to see. I am still living in my apartment but I am going to start looking for another place.”
Jason imagined how it would be if Ariana would live with him and his dad and it seemed a strange thought and he didn’t know if it was a good idea. In a way he was somewhat excited to have her with him all the time but in another way he didn’t know how that would actually be for him. Ariana had not really been exposed to the full scope of his disability and he worried it would be traumatic for her and then she would really change her mind and realize it was all a big mistake dating him.
He said lowly, “Well, I guess we can think about it some more. First I have to get out of here.”Ariana agreed and she squeezed his hand, “Yeah, we will see.”
She spent the rest of her visit watching some TV with Jason and chatting. She was happy to see him so much better from what he had been. He was really on his way to full recovery but still had to take it easy.