Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Will Love Prevail - Chapter 18

Chapter 18

Mark was inside his apartment and he really didn’t know what to do. Ranger didn’t know what was going on with his owner and did the same thing he always did, rubbing around Mark’s legs and feet on the foot rest and meowing like he had not been fed in days. Mark could not focus and didn’t really register Ranger meowing. He was still in shock from what Officer Collins had told him and he just sat in his wheelchair in the living room staring at the stuffed animal cat Maddy on the couch. He felt helpless and desperate and really didn’t know what to do. He sat there completely stunned at the situation.

It was about an hour later when Mark got the call from Officer Collins, “Mark?”
“I have some information for you.”
“There is no warrant out and no charges filed against Chiara just yet but she is under police security here. I talked to Seattle PD and I can meet you at the hospital tomorrow and we’ll get you cleared there with the Seattle police so you can visit with her. You’ll get a special visitor pass but I’ll have to be there to vouch for you and basically be your sponsor.”
Mark was relieved some but also didn’t like hearing about the time line, “Tomorrow?”
“Yes, tomorrow. I can meet you there at eleven.”
“At eleven?”
Officer Collins sounded irritated, “Yes Mark, at eleven. I'm off tomorrow, I'm doing this off duty for you.”

Mark didn’t want to complain anymore about this, realizing that Officer Collins was doing him a favor.
Officer Collins then added, “Mark, I know this is all stressful and frustrating but just think, you have her up here now and I’ll help you tomorrow so you can see her every day. You have to be patient and keep yourself in check. Chiara came out of some very bad circumstances and a sting operation and criminal investigation really. I don’t know what’s going to happen to her and they’re still out looking for him and some other people so we’ll just have to see. It’s in the hands of the Seattle and Portland police departments. They’ve had it out for Trey’s gang for a long time. This is a big prostitution ring that they’ve been trying to bust. You played a little part in that but of course it makes it difficult for your situation with Chiara.”
“I’m still worried about what’s going to happen.”
“Don’t worry and just take it a day at a time right now. I’ll get you in so you can see Chiara and then just go from there.”

Mark finished up with Officer Collins and once he pushed the “End Call” button he just sat there. Ranger was rubbing around his legs and Mark just looked around in his apartment. He really didn’t like the fact of not being able to see Chiara until the next day but there was nothing he could do about it and he would just have to wait.

He felt alone and decided to text his friends and let them know what was going on. When Patrick asked if they needed to come over Mark didn’t decline and it was around eight that night when Patrick showed up with his girlfriend Jessica and Corey came over after work a little bit later. Mitch was out on a date but was glad that the other friends were with Mark. 

No one had any idea that the Honda Accord was still outside on the parking lot and on Trey’s orders kept watch on Mark’s apartment and the people who were coming and going.  For now, this was what Trey had instructed until he could make his way up from Oregon and take care of Mark himself.

Patrick and Jessica had brought Pizza. They sat together in Mark’s living room, eating and Mark told them about everything that had happened. Mark was thankful his friends were there to distract him.  

Corey sat on the couch, finishing a bite and looking over at Mark, “So it’s really a big deal with everything. Like the dude is dangerous and they’re out looking for him?”
Mark sat in his wheelchair, holding a beer in his hand and nodded, “Yeah, they have arrest warrants out for him in Oregon and Washington.”
Corey shook his head, “Just be careful man, like watch your back and stuff.”
“I will.”

Jessica asked, “How’s Chiara doing?”
Mark thought for a moment and shrugged his shoulders, “She’s in pain, she’s hurt and injured. She’s scared and worried, really everything not great. That’s why I need to be there for her.”
“I really hope we can meet her sometime. I’m so sorry about all those things that happened. I’m sure Chiara is terrified. I can’t even imagine.”
Mark nodded and Jessica kept her eyes on him, “You must really care for this girl?”
Mark had just taken a sip from his bottle and wiped with his hand over his mouth, “I do.”

Corey sat there thinking about the night Mark had told him all the things that Chiara had said to him pertaining to his disability and how she felt about those things. He was the only one Mark had confided those things to, the other friends didn’t know about it.

Corey now added, “I really hope that everything works out. What is your plan?”
Mark shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t have a good plan. She’ll have surgery next week. I want to go see her every day and I want her to come home with me when they release her. I don’t know how long all of it will take and I don’t know if they’ll keep her there at the hospital. In the long run I want her here at my place and even if she…”
He stopped for a moment and thought it over in his head, “Even if she isn’t really able to walk and stuff, it’ll be good for her here at my place. She may get a wheelchair or something from the hospital, I don’t know.”

Patrick then asked, “What if they charge her for…you know for prostitution or something?”
Mark lowered his eyes and took a deep breath, shrugging his shoulders again, then looking up at his friends, “Then I don’t know what I will do. I really hope it doesn’t come to that. I also don’t ever want to be face to face with that guy.”

The friends heard the tension in Mark’s words and they felt that what he had said didn’t mean anything good either way.

Jessica tried to calm the situation, “Well, I guess we shouldn’t think too far ahead. You’ll go to the hospital tomorrow and you’ll be there for her and just don’t worry about anything yet. Just try to live in the moment and be with her. And we’re here for you too Mark, you know that.”

Mark nodded and bit his lips.

They sat and talked some more, changing the subject to more light-hearted conversation and Mark was glad about the company. It kept his mind off everything somewhat but once his friends had left, he felt alone again and right away his thoughts drifted to Chiara again.

He didn’t know if she even knew why he had not showed up. He couldn’t wait until the next day when he would meet Officer Collins at the hospital and be able to see Chiara again.

It was after midnight when he was in his bedroom getting ready to go to bed. He had finished three beers throughout the evening and was hoping it would help him get some sleep. His mind seemed to be racing at everything that was happening and even though he tried not to worry about the future for Chiara and him, he couldn’t help it. 

With his thoughts scrambled he sat in his wheelchair holding the tubing of the catheter and watching as the urine flowed into the toilet. His legs had been spastic all night and were softly hopping up and down, his feet had kept coming off the foot rest a few times. He had kept lifting his feet back up onto the foot rest just to let them fall off again. Sometimes it was annoying but there was nothing he could do about it.

He remembered how Chiara had massaged his legs when she had been at his house. He longed for that kind of closeness with her again. He wanted her to be with him and show him all the ways she had been talking about his disability and how she felt for a man like he was.

Mark didn’t sleep very deep that night. He was ready for morning to come so he could go over to the hospital.


At shortly before eleven Mark parked his Challenger in the handicapped parking spot at the hospital and as he was in the middle of transferring, he heard Officer Collins’ voice, “Good Morning Mark.”
Mark looked up from the task and Officer Collins stood in front of him in his uniform, “You got it there, Mark?”
Mark was surprised to see Officer Collins in uniform and nodded, “Morning, yeah, I got it.”
Mark finished transferring and shut his car door and locked it with the beep of the key.
He looked up at Officer Collins, “I thought you were off today?”
Officer Collins smiled, “Well, yeah, but apparently I have to be in uniform to be doing this for you.”
“Oh okay.”
Officer Collins asked, “Are you ready to go in?”
"Yeah, been ready since yesterday.”

They made their way into the lobby of the hospital and at the reception Mark let Officer Collins take the word. People passing by looked over at them, a police officer in uniform always drew attention, especially in a hospital. Mark felt awkward because he was the one there with Officer Collins and people probably assumed, he may be under the security of the Officer. No one knew that Officer Collins was his only way to see the woman he cared about.

Officer Collins came back over to Mark, “Let’s go upstairs.”
Mark followed obediently and they made their way to the elevators and went up to the ninth floor where apparently Chiara had her room.
Mark didn’t say anything, he was slightly nervous at the situation and hoped very much that there wouldn’t be any issues.

He saw from a distance where Chiara’s room was because two police officers were stationed in front of the room and basically everyone had to pass by them to get in there. In reality the only people who had been in Chiara’s room were her nurses and the doctor and that had been it. No one else had come for her until now when Mark rolled up behind Officer Collins, who already greeted the Seattle PD officers in a friendly tone.

Officer Collins explained who Mark was and one of the two officers then led them to a small room at the end of the hallway where he had a desk with a computer set up. Mark didn’t miss that the officer was armed. He just followed the two officers and after they were all in the room, the Seattle police officer closed the door.

He took a seat behind the desk and looked at Mark, “So, you’re a close friend of Chiara Pearson?”
Mark nodded, “Yes, sir.”
Officer Collins stood somewhat behind Mark.
“I’m told you were the one who helped the Portland police track where Chiara Pearson was held.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Officer Collins here told me about the missing person report you filed and you claim you’re her boyfriend?”
“Yes, sir.”
“You’re aware that Ms. Pearson worked as prostitute?”
Mark was nervous at the questioning, “I’m aware of that, yes.”
“Is that how you met her?”

Mark didn’t know if he should answer anymore questions pertaining to how he met Chiara. Prostitution was illegal and he was very much aware that he could get charged for seeking the service of a prostitute and he definitely didn’t want to get his friends in trouble.

Mark glanced up at Officer Collins who stood by and now took the word, “I talked to Chief Getty last night about Mr. Ross and Ms. Pearson and how they met. He gave me permission to come here with Mr. Ross and get him registered with security here so he can see Ms. Pearson. She doesn’t have any support here, no family, and she’s in danger. Mr. Ross and Ms. Pearson are in a romantic relation to each other and Chief Getty gave his approval to have Mr. Ross registered. I’m here to vouch for him in this matter. The documentation should be in the computer.”

The Seattle PD officer with a name tag showing “Barrington” typed on his keyboard and looked at the screen of the computer for a moment. Mark was nervous and debated saying something but thought it would be better to let Officer Collins speak for him.

Officer Barrington then looked up, “Okay, I see the documentation from Chief Getty. I need to set up a profile for Mr. Ross.”
Officer Collins replied cool, “Thank you. I think you’ll find Mr. Ross already set up since he filed the missing report on his girlfriend a few weeks ago. It was set up by me.”

Mark could feel there was a tension between the two officers. Officer Barrington didn’t seem to be all the way on board with having Mark visit with Chiara.

Officer Barrington found Mark’s profile with the Burien PD and was able to transfer it into the Seattle PD database. He asked Mark several questions to confirm his address and other personal information. Mark answered everything obediently and hoped for no more problems. Officer Collins stood by quietly and waited until it was his turn to sign on an electronic pad which transferred his signature into the system, vouching for Mark and basically being responsible for him and his actions. Mark had to take a picture which was added to his profile and finally he was handed a temporary badge which showed he was a “registered visitor” permitted by the Seattle PD.

Officer Barrington then explained, “So, this permits you to see Ms. Pearson from eleven to six every day. All personal belongings will be stored with the police officer on duty. Cell phones or any electronics are not permitted in the room. You’ll be checked every time you come and every time you leave. You’re signed in and signed out every time as well. The officers are permitted to break up a visit at any time if it is required for any reason. This could be without notice.”

Mark listened to the directions and even though it sounded all very strict he really didn’t have a choice. If he wanted to be with Chiara, he had to follow the orders spelled out to him.

Officer Barrington finished, “Do you understand all of this Mr. Ross?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Do you have any questions?”
Mark thought for a moment and then asked cautiously, “May I ask why all of this in place?”

Officer Barrington looked up from the computer screen and Mark could hear Officer Collins behind him shifting.
Officer Barrington then explained, “Ms. Pearson is one of the main witnesses to a very important case. Trey Espinoza is a main suspect in running an extensive prostitution ring and is possibly also involved in some human trafficking cases. For once Ms. Pearson is in imminent danger since Espinoza is still on the loose and since she also worked as a prostitute, she may face charges. So, she’s in the custody of the Seattle PD at the moment.”

Mark nodded and added softy, “I understand. I care a lot about her, and I don’t want anything to happen to her. I’m the only person she can trust and the only person she has really.”
Officer Barrington nodded and his face seemed to turn somewhat more understanding, “Well, that’s why you’re allowed to be with her. And you can thank Officer Collins for his support in this. He spoke for you and on your behalf. That’s why you’re here.”

Mark lowered his eyes and nodded again, then looked up at Officer Collins and nodded a Thank you to him. Officer Collins nodded toward Mark and then Officer Barrington said, “Well, I’m sure you’re ready to see Ms. Pearson?”
Mark nodded again and put his hands to his rims, ready to get out of the small office and the tense space.

At the door to the room Mark had to give up his backpack, everything in his pockets, his cell phone, wallet, and car keys. All his items were stored and locked away. The other officer who was there let his wand go over Mark in the wheelchair and it didn’t go off. Mark then had to sign in on an iPad and finally was cleared to go in.

Before he went in, he turned to Officer Collins again, “Thank you so much for your help with this. It really means a lot.”
Officer Collins smiled with a nod and Mark reached his hand out and Officer Collins took Mark’s hand, “You’re welcome. I hope she’s holding up okay and that everything will go well for you and Chiara.”

Mark nodded and finally he put his hands to his rims and pushed his TiLite toward the closed door. He knocked softly and heard a low voice, telling him to come in.

Mark pulled the door open and pushed his wheelchair in awkwardly. Chiara sat up in the bed and as soon as Mark wheeled in her eyes welled up with tears.

Mark saw her face full of fear and sadness and he didn’t even say anything but pushed over to the side of her bed. Chiara stretched her arms out and started crying. He pushed his wheelchair as close as he could and Chiara leaned over some and he opened his arms and she fell into them.

Mark didn’t say anything but just held her to him as good as he could from his position. Chiara sniffled her nose and sobbed. 

They stayed like this for a few moments until Chiara said in a muffled voice, “Oh my God Mark, I was so scared. They didn’t tell me why you didn’t come yesterday. I was so worried about you.”
Her tears wet his hoodie.
He answered lowly, “I came as soon as I heard you had arrived, but then last night they didn’t let me see you because of everything.”
She sobbed still and Mark tried to explain while he held her, “I had to go through some security procedures to be able to see you.”

She didn’t let him go but held on to him and kept crying. Mark just held her. There was nothing to be said really, she had obviously been very upset at Mark not having been able to come the night before and she still seemed shaken up.

Mark let her cry and she eventually said softly with a tear-filled voice, “I’m so glad you’re here.”

It took a few more moments until she finally let go of Mark and he was able to look at her. Her face was wet, she looked tired, and she still had dark bruises under her eyes and on the side of the face. The bruising seemed to have become even more prominent with the hematoma spreading under her skin.

Mark had his hands on her arms and they looked into each other’s eyes when he explained, “I was so angry last night when they didn’t let me in to visit with you. They actually escorted me off hospital premises with security. I called one of the police officers I know from the Burien police department and he basically helped me out.”

He explained to Chiara what he had to do to get registered and be able to see her.
She listened to him as her tears were still running out of her emerald eyes.
When Mark was done explaining she hugged him again and he tried to comfort her, “I’m here now. And I’ll come every day.”

Eventually they let go and Mark just held Chiara’s hands as she laid back on her pillow.
They kept their eyes on each other and Mark then asked softly, “How are you?”
“I’m okay but last night I thought I was going crazy. I kept asking them about you and if I could try to get in touch with you but they didn’t say anything and said they couldn’t tell me anything. I was so worried about you. I thought something had happened to you.”
Mark lowered his eyes and then looked back up at her, “I felt the same way. I couldn’t believe that this was happening. But it’s all good now.” 

Chiara then stated softly, “I may get charged…for prostitution.”
Mark looked up at her and his eyes flickered, “I thought about that but you haven’t yet, have you?”
Chiara shook her head, “No. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Mark took a deep breath, “Let’s not think about that and let’s just be together right here, right now.”
He moved his wheelchair closer and asked, “Would it be all right if I get onto the bed with you?”

Chiara nodded shyly and moved herself over some as Mark angled his wheelchair next to the bed and prepared for the transfer. The bed was low enough that he made the transfer easily. He adjusted his position next to Chiara and his legs were halfway on the bed with his feet still hanging off the bed since he had shoes on.  

He finally laid next to Chiara and they looked at each other for a few moments, scanning each other’s faces and looking into each other’s eyes. 
Mark stroked through Chiara’s red long hair and tugged some strands behind her ear, “I’m so glad to be here with you. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I couldn’t have been able to see you again.”
Chiara lowered her eyes and a lonely tear dripped out of her eye, “I’m glad you’re here too. I was so scared last night when you didn’t come.”

Mark turned toward her some more and his hand stroked over her cheek. Her face was still badly bruised and she looked tired and exhausted.
Her lower lip was swollen and busted open on one side.

As Mark softly ran his finger over her face he carefully asked, “Did he hit you a lot?”
Chiara lowered her eyes but didn’t answer.
Mark added, “I hope they find him and lock him up.”
Chiara still didn’t say anything and kept her eyes down.

“Chiara, look at me.”
She swallowed and slowly moved her eyes up to Mark’s face, his bright blue eyes looking at her from under a baseball cap.
“I want to pick up where we left off when you were at my place. I haven’t forgotten all the things you said about how you feel about me and the way I am.”
Chiara nodded shyly, “I care a lot about you Mark.”
Mark nodded, “And I care a lot about you, probably more than I’ve ever cared about anyone in my life. I don’t want to worry about anything but I just want to be in your life all the way and I want you in my life all the way.”

Chiara scanned his face and pushed his baseball cap off his head and Mark quickly ran his hand through his hair.
He then smiled at her and Chiara touched her hand to his face, “I thought about you every moment of the day since I left your place. And I missed you so much but I didn’t know what to do and I was so scared.”
Mark took a breath and nodded, “You did the right thing.”

He then pulled her closer and moved his face toward hers, then nodded quietly as in waiting for Chiara’s permission.
She then nodded and he gently touched his lips onto her lips. He didn’t want to hurt her since her lip was still wounded.

Chiara wrapped her arms around his body as he held himself over her. His tongue pushed gently into her mouth. They kissed for a few moments with their eyes closed and taking in each other’s closeness once again. Her hands ran through his hair and down to his neck. Mark’s lips stayed attached to Chiara’s but he was careful to not hurt her and his kiss was gentle and soft.  

The kiss lasted for a few moments and eventually ended as gentle as it began. Chiara then nestled herself in Mark’s arms on the bed and her head was resting next to his chest as he held her to him. They didn’t speak for a few moments and just laid there.

Chiara glanced down to his legs in the jeans laying still on her bed, his feet in the worn-out sneakers hanging off the edge of the bed. She saw his wheelchair parked next to the bed and she felt the same emotions she had felt when she had first seen him at the bar. Those were emotions she didn’t think she would ever feel with a man again after Aaron until she met Mark at the bar. It had been a long time since she had felt this way about someone.

Mark’s legs were still hanging over the side of the bed somewhat. He was still wearing his Nike sneakers and didn’t want to put his feet onto Chiara’s hospital bed.
Chiara had her head resting on his chest and looked down the length of his body and saw his somewhat loose jeans crumbled on the bed, somewhere in there were his legs.
She then asked softly, “Do you want to take your shoes off and come all the way up here?”
Mark kissed her hair and said, “Sure.”

Chiara detached herself from him and Mark sat up, holding himself with his hands on the bed. She watched him get into a somewhat upright position, his legs fell all the way off the bed again as he moved into a sitting position. She was looking at his back. He sat hunched over, obviously not any stability in this trunk and hips. His head hung as he took some breaths and pulled his one leg up onto his knee. He had obvious trouble sitting there on the soft bed with no stability. Quickly he untied his sneaker and pulled off the shoe and let it drop to the ground. Chiara saw how he was swaying on the edge of the bed as he pulled his other foot up onto his knee. His back was curved extensively and he was taking audible breaths as he untied his second sneaker and let it drop to the ground.

Chiara felt her heart beat faster at watching Mark adhere to this. Her hands trembled as she touched his back softly. He didn’t feel it but was holding himself in the sitting position trying to get his back to straighten up some.

Almost like he felt Chiara’s eyes on him, he looked over toward her and his eyes seemed to flicker as he met her eyes curiously on him. She was surprised when he smirked at her and she quickly lowered her eyes embarrassed.

Mark held his hands by his sides and pushed himself into a more upright position again, then pulled himself over and basically fell back onto the bed next to Chiara.
She moved over slightly but could only move so much with her right leg still propped up on the foam wedge.

Mark laughed softly as he landed next to her, his legs still dangling over the side of the bed. Chiara felt her heart beat into her neck. He pushed himself up further next to her and with that his legs dragged further up on the bed. He almost lost his jeans on his waist as his butt slid up in the bed. Chiara got a glimpse of the waistband of his boxers. He then sat up again and pulled his legs up by grabbing his jeans and throwing his legs onto the bed.
Chiara watched every move and she felt her hands tremble and her breaths come quicker.

When he was finally on the bed, he let his head fall onto the pillow next to her again and exhaled with a smile, “There, I’m not moving anymore.”
Chiara then asked softly, “How do you do it?”
Mark looked over to her, “Do what?”
“Not being able to use your legs and not having any feelings in them.”

Mark took a deep breath and sighed, then looked down onto his legs lying still and motionless on the bed.
He then shrugged his shoulders and looked back at Chiara, “I don’t know. I had no choice and just had to get used to it. I try to keep strong in my upper body so the transfers are easier for me and really any kind of moving around or pushing the rims. My shoulders are getting bad though, the pushing is wearing on them. They were already bad from the years in the Military and having to wear all the gear all the time and during the deployments the full gear with flag vests and backpacks, it was heavy shit. So that already messed up my shoulders some and now this is not helping but there’s nothing I can do about it. Just suck it up I guess.”

Chiara let her hand run over his hand and kept her eyes on him, “You’re very strong Mark. Not just physically but also mentally.”
Mark sighed again and exhaled, “I don’t know. I try to not be down too much. It doesn’t always work.”

Mark pushed up and let his head rest on his hand with his arm on the bed, looking at Chiara, “Are you okay?”
She shook her head and said softly, “Not really, I hate being like this, helpless and depending on other people. I feel like an idiot.”
Mark took a deep breath and said softly with a smile, “I think I know a little bit how you feel.”
Chiara looked down at her legs and then back at Mark, “Why do you want to deal with all this? All of me and how I am right now, basically helpless and depending on others. I shouldn’t have jumped out of that window.”
Mark was scanning her face, “I can ask you the same thing about my situation.”
Chiara played with her hair but didn’t say anything.

Mark then started, “You know when I first found out I was paralyzed and would never walk again I really didn’t think I wanted to live like that. I was an active guy, I was a soldier, I liked being outdoors and I actually enjoyed life. I had girlfriends and I had lots of fun when I wasn’t deployed and even then, I had fun with my battle buddies. 
That explosion changed everything in an instant but for me it wasn’t going to be temporary, it was going to be forever and it’ll always be like this. It doesn’t matter what I try or do, my legs just don’t work anymore. I can’t stand up and I can’t walk and it’s always going to be like this. I felt like a complete failure in rehab because for some reason I thought if I push myself hard enough, I’ll walk out of that joint. 
I was in denial for a while and no one stopped me from being in that denial because they all figured that I’ll realize on my own sooner or later that I won’t walk out. I tried shit and I wanted to push myself to the point where even the rehab people had to tell me it was enough. I wanted braces and I wanted to be in them all day long or walk back and forth between the stupid parallel bars over and over again until I almost collapsed or the therapist put a stop to my madness. 
And at the end of the day I still had to transfer from my wheelchair into my bed and my legs didn’t do shit for me. And sometimes at night when it was quiet around me and my mind was racing, I cried because then it hit me that I wasn’t going to walk anymore, and in my mind, I would be alone forever, my life was going to be fucked up and I was done. 
Most of that actually happened, my life did get fucked up. My military career was done for good, here is a medal, now have a good life from the fucking seat of a wheelchair. Thanks for your service, we got what we needed out of you, sorry it got cut short. And they eventually sent me on my way to be paraplegic. 
I felt like an idiot day in and day out. Every time I got in that wheelchair, I was reminded of what I thought was my fault. I had screwed up, I didn’t have enough survival skills, my body hadn’t been strong enough to withstand the blast. I should have worked out more, I should have been in another vehicle, I should have not joined the military, should have, could have, would have. And that was going on and on because somehow I thought it was all my fault.”

Mark was now playing with Chiara’s hair as she listened and stared at him with tears in her eyes now.
He then continued softly, “None of it was my fault. I could have not done anything different. It was my fate to be where I was and for things to happen the way they did. And now it brought me to you. Because of my situation we’re in this very situation right here together, so I believe there’s a reason for this. There’s a reason that you were the one my friends picked for my birthday. And I don’t want to keep thinking that whatever happens to us is our fault. Because if we do this, we’ll break under that. I try my hardest to take things the way they come and right now I just want to be where you are and nowhere else. 
And after you had the surgery and they let you go, you come home with me and we’ll figure it out together. We were meant to meet and this situation right now is just a small part of what’s to come and what we’ll have.”

Chiara now lost a few tears and Mark just looked at her and wiped a tear away with his other hand, “None of what happened to you is your fault. Sometimes things happen to us that we can’t control and then we just have to be strong and move on. Believe me I know it’s so hard sometimes but now we’ll be together and we’ll get this done together. 
Your injuries will heal again. You’ll never have injuries like this again. They won’t be permanent and you’ll be okay again. You’ll walk again and you’ll be on your legs again. It’s just temporary for you and I plan on being there with you all the way.”

He let his hand run over the side of her face, “Chiara, I’m really glad we met even under the circumstances because that’s how it was meant to be and no other way. And none of this was your fault or anyone’s fault, it was just the way it was supposed to happen.”

Chiara looked into Mark’s eyes and she really couldn’t grasp it all the way that this man was right there next to her on the bed saying all those things. She felt safe for the first time again after so many years of abuse and exploitation by a guy she thought she had loved at some point.

Mark was still like a dream to her and she wanted to imagine herself and him in a not too distant future happy together ever after but her fear of something happening lingered. She knew Trey was still out there and he was angry and he was furious because even with the abuse and the pain he had put her through for such a long time, there had been some kind of dependence.

Trey had grown up around abuse and addiction throughout his whole childhood and he had endured things other children had no idea even existed so even through it all Chiara sometimes understood him. And she wished so many times he would get help and he would work through his traumatic childhood but he never admitted that it had made him who he was, a person incapable of giving and receiving love and tenderness in a normal way. She had tried to get through to him sometimes, she had tried to calm his demons, to make him happy somehow but it never worked and the few moments in their years together she could count on two hands the times when she had caught tiny glimpses of a man who had been hurt and done wrong on so many levels as a child.

And she had kept going and going and had been trying to stay strong and sometimes even excused his behavior and the way he had treated her. Her strength was used up now, she couldn’t keep going anymore and she needed to rest and she needed to finally find peace and contentment.

And she looked at Mark and his blue eyes were on her questioning as she had been lost in thoughts.
And she felt so at peace and so content as she was looking at him.

She was falling in love with him, she had been from the moment she had met him at the bar but she hadn’t known then yet but everything about him had pulled her in. She had realized how she was falling for him at the time he had come for her out on the streets when all of it had started. Even when she had told him to not come around and stay away from her, she was falling in love with him. And when she was at his place her love was almost flowing over and her heart hurt so much at loving him that she thought leaving would be the only option. Now there was really no turning back anymore. But with Trey still on the run the thought of something happening to Mark scared her so very much.

Mark’s eyes were on her and he asked softly, “What are you thinking?”

Chiara’s eyes were glistening at her thoughts and she scanned over Mark’s face with the blue eyes and the wrinkles in the corners when he smiled.

With her hand on his face she then said softly, “I love you Mark.” 

Mark’s expression turned serious and his eyes travelled over her battered face. He wasn’t sure for a moment on how to reply. When he had said this to her at his place weeks earlier, she hadn’t said it back to him. And even though he had felt it in his heart and he had felt it when being with her, he hadn’t attempted the expression of his feelings for her anymore because he wanted to wait for her if she ever would feel that way about him.

He now let his fingers run through her hair and kept scanning her face, then stopped his gaze on her eyes and swallowed, “I love you too.”

And he smiled his beautiful smile and she lost a tear when he softly let his lips come down on hers once again and they fell into a gentle yet deep kiss, laying in each other’s arms on the hospital bed and forgetting the world around them.