Friday, October 6, 2017

Will Love Prevail - Chapter 23


Chapter 23

The following days Chiara visited Mark every day and every day she told him she loved him and every day he told her he loved her. There was no mention of what had happened to him and he didn’t talk about what had happened to Chiara either. Things were left unsaid and Chiara was sad a lot after she had left his room. She loved him so much but he didn’t even once mention his disability. It seemed that he had forgotten about those things.

Chiara didn’t tell Mark about his sister yet. She was waiting for the right moment but it never seemed right. Mark was usually quiet and if Chiara didn’t talk to him, he didn’t say anything.

She held his hand, he looked at her and it always seemed like he was trying very hard not to forget or somehow was trying to remember.

Mark improved though and at the beginning of February, he was finally stable enough to be transferred out of ICU to the Neurology unit.

Chiara found out that Mark’s apartment had been closed off for the investigation and from what Officer Collins had been telling her it was most likely not livable anymore for some time. There had been damage to some of the furniture and blood had stained the floor and walls. Chiara couldn’t really imagine her and Mark living in the apartment anymore. With everything that had happened there she didn’t think it would even be an option for Mark either. 



In the Neurology unit Mark’s friends were allowed to visit.

The day after he had been transferred to the unit Chiara sat next to the bed in the afternoon when it knocked softly on the door and Mark looked over to the door, then to Chiara.

She nodded at him and he said, “Come in.”

Corey, Mitch, and Patrick hesitantly came in. Mark stared at them and Chiara looked from him to the three men, “Hi, I’m Chiara.”
The three introduced themselves to Chiara and she replied, “I’m so happy to meet you guys.”
She didn’t know Mark’s friends but had only heard about them.

Chiara looked back at Mark, anticipating the worst as he didn’t say anything and only had kept his eyes on the guys. She was worried Mark wouldn’t recognize his friends.  

Corey now stepped up to the bed and started cheerfully, “Mark, my friend.”

Mark looked at Corey somewhat suspicious. Corey was slightly uncertain about Mark just looking at him and didn’t do anything else.

Patrick and Mitch came up next to the bed, “Mark, it’s so good to see you, man.”
They all reached their hands out for fist bumps and Mark greeted them but only said a soft, “Good to see you guys. Thanks for coming.”

Chiara curiously watched Mark trying to read his facial expression if he possibly didn’t know who his friends were. Mark didn’t say anything else to them.

Mitch then smiled, “We were going to bring some beer but they said you couldn’t have any in here.”

The guys were expecting a livelier reaction from Mark but instead he just smiled at them quietly.

Chiara took Mark’s hand and she attempted to aid him some with his recollection, “Mark, you haven’t seen your friends in a while.”

The three men stood around the bed somewhat unsure. Mark then moved his eyes from them and looked out the window.

Patrick remarked, “Jess wanted to come too but she had to work. We all made sure to be off though so we could come and see you right away as soon as we heard you were out of ICU.”

Mark didn’t look at them. His chest was rising up and down quickly and he tried to swallow the knot in his throat.
Chiara saw how the three looked at each other questioning and then they looked at her. She knew they thought she had the answer but she didn’t know how much Mark remembered.

Corey then took the word again and said, “Mark, we missed you, man, and we were all very worried about you.”

Mark still didn’t look at them but now he hung his head. Chiara stood up and held herself on the edge of his bed.

The guys watched as she gently ran her hand over Mark’s arm and then explained softly, “Mark, these are you three best friends, Corey, Patrick and Mitch.”

He didn’t do anything but kept his face turned away and his eyes down.
Chiara’s heart hurt for Mark and she glanced at the three men and their faces were sad and confused.

She then explained softly, “Mark, baby, you and I met because of your friends.”
Now Mark looked back over at Chiara and she added, “Your friends are the reason you and I are together. They did a good thing.”

Mark then looked up and from one friend to the next.

He swallowed and said with a trembling voice, “I’m sorry guys. I…there’s stuff…I can’t remember some…”
He stopped and lowered his eyes.

Chiara was holding Mark’s hand and Patrick then said, “It’s all right man. Once you get out of here, we’ll hang out and we’ll do stuff together, stuff that we all like. We know your favorite Burger Joint and your favorite bar. We know your favorite beer and we’ll have that. We’ll help you remember things.”
Patrick tried to sound confident but the slight tremble in his voice was obvious.
Mark then inquired with a slight smile, “So what’s my favorite beer?”
Mitch now joined in, “Your favorite IPA’s are from Elysian brewery. You like their Space Dust. It’s some strong shit, man.”

Mark had his eyes on Mitch and listened attentively.
Mitch then added, “And when it comes to cheap crap you like Coors.”
Everyone was happy to see a broad smile come over Mark’s face now, “And how do I know you’re not just making this up?”
Mitch laughed, “You just have to trust us, man. We’re not just three random dudes walking in here to visit a random dude we don’t know. We know a lot about you, Marksman.”

Mitch emphasized on the expression “Marksman” and it seemed to trigger something in Mark. His friends knew that Mark had been an expert shooter in his Military years. He had actually considered going Sniper after his last deployment to Afghanistan but then he got injured and everything changed in an instant.

Every time the guys had gone to the shooting range Mark had always been the best shooter out of all of them, meeting target a 100 % every time, even from the position of his wheelchair. Marksman was the lower Army shooting level and it had always been an inside joke amongst the guys, firstly because of his name and also because Mark was way past the Marksman level in his shooting abilities and had been a qualified expert shooter throughout his years as an Army Ranger and he was still very much capable to meet the target every time.

The expression “Marksman” had stirred up a memory for Mark and Mitch realized this and added, “Yeah, we’ll go to the shooting range and see if you still got it.”
Mark now said with a smirk on his face, “I highly doubt it. I don’t think that’s going to happen anymore. I’ll watch you guys though, I’d like to have some entertainment.”
Corey now laughed and chimed in, “Oh, I’ll take that as a challenge. He wants entertainment, we’ll give him entertainment.”

Mark kept smiling at his friends and with this the conversation became a bit less awkward.

The guys realized that Mark had suffered some serious injuries and they tried to keep the visit light hearted and not stress him out about not remembering things. They were also glad to have met Chiara and she was relieved that Mark’s friends had stuck around.

Chiara stayed with Mark every day and usually he didn’t talk a whole lot and most times Chiara would just sit by his bed and hold his hand and he would stare into space and she knew he was trying to remember things. Chiara still used the hospital wheelchair but her left ankle was healed enough that she could bear weight on it and she was able to use crutches at times. It was strenuous though to get around on crutches but she tried to get better with it and hoped she would eventually get strong enough to make it further than just to Mark’s room on the ninth floor.

She kept Mark’s sister updated and Miriam booked a flight out for the last week in February. Chiara hadn’t told Mark yet about his sister coming.   

It was on a Sunday afternoon when Chiara once again sat next to Mark’s bed and was reading while he was sleeping.

She was startled when he suddenly asked, “Where’s my wheelchair?”
Chiara looked up and Mark met her eyes.
She answered, “I think the police have it.”

The police did have Mark’s wheelchair. They had taken it with them when the apartment had been closed for investigation. 

“I want them to bring me my wheelchair. I need it. I can’t walk and I need my chair.”
He sounded upset and Chiara took his hand, “I’ll call Officer Collins and tell him to bring your wheelchair.”

Mark hadn’t mentioned the paraplegia once since he had come out of the coma, and Chiara hadn’t brought it up either because she didn’t know how much Mark actually knew about his condition.

He now emphasized, “I need my wheelchair. I’m paraplegic, why didn’t they know this? Why didn’t they tell me?”
Chiara felt his anxiety about the sudden realization on his end, “Mark, you’ve been paraplegic for about three years.”
Mark seemed to concentrate and stared at the ceiling, then asked, “Three years?”

Chiara felt her hands tremble at his apparent lack of memory once again.

She asked hesitantly, “Do you know why you are paraplegic?”
Mark was still staring at the ceiling.  
He didn’t answer but instead he said, “So Trey succeeded.”

Chiara didn’t know what Mark was talking about. She looked at him expectantly, debating if she should ask him or wait for his further explanation.

Mark then looked over at her and started softly, “I know he did this to me.”
Chiara thought he was still talking about the paraplegia, “Trey didn’t cause your paraplegia.”
Mark seemed to be surprised at her assumption, “Not that. He said he didn’t really want to kill me because that would be too easy. He said he would want me to have a slow death, a painful slow death.”

Now Chiara saw Mark take a deep breath and he swallowed, “The slow death…it’s happening. I don’t remember things about my life and about myself. I just remembered that I actually can’t walk and I don’t even know why I can’t walk. And maybe tomorrow I’ll have forgotten again.”

Chiara now saw a tear run down over Mark’s cheek. Her vision was blurry with her own tears at realizing what Mark was talking about, the brain injury that cost him his memory about things at the moment and most likely further down the road. She was very surprised though that Mark now remembered Trey.

He now looked over at her with a fearful expression, “What if I forget who you are?”
Chiara shook her head and tried to contain her tears.
“I’ll never let you forget who I am. I’ll help you remember every day and I’ll help you remember who you are Mark. Even if you don’t remember me, I’ll keep your memories alive as good as I can. And I’ll stay in your life forever. And we will make new memories.”

Mark lowered his eyes and when he looked back at her she saw clearly the pain he felt at the realization of his memory loss.

She took his hand in hers and held it tight and she looked at him when he asked, “So why can’t I walk?”
Chiara now lowered her eyes and she cleared her throat before she replied, “You were in the Military. You were a Ranger in the Army and you were deployed to Afghanistan and the vehicle you were in was in an explosion. You were badly injured and were brought back to the US where you stayed at Walter Reed hospital. You had suffered a Spinal Cord Injury and it caused the paraplegia. This was about three years ago.”
Mark had kept his gaze on her and asked with a tear running out of his eye, “You’re not making this stuff up, are you?”

Chiara shook her head and felt her own tears run out, “No, I’m not. It’s the truth and I would never tell you anything that is not true. You have a Purple Heart medal from the Military.”
Mark seemed to still be in disbelief about this explanation, “Where is the medal?”
“It was on the wall in your apartment when I saw it and when you showed me. I think the police have everything.”
Tears were glistening in his eyes when he asked, “Were you with me when I got injured?”
Chiara was surprised with the question but answered, “No, I didn’t know you then. I just met you last year, in 2018.” 

Mark didn’t ask anything else but moved his eyes away and looked up at the ceiling again.

Chiara’s heart hurt at realizing all the things Mark didn’t remember. She would do anything in her power to bring back his memories of things in his life and she would do it over and over again if she had to. Even though she had only met him a few months earlier and she didn’t know everything about him, she would try to learn things about him. She already planned how she would get together with his friends and ask them about Mark before she met him.

What hurt her the most was the fact that Trey had indeed succeeded in a very strange way, leaving Mark without memories of his life and with that causing him constant pain and despair.

Most of Mark’s belongings were still in his apartment and had not really been moved or touched because the investigation was finishing up and things had been left the way they had been the night the SWAT team had stormed the apartment. His wheelchair had been taken by the police and they had also taken his car to a safe place.

Chiara talked to Officer Collins and he promised to make sure to get Mark’s wheelchair.

He brought it on his next visit. He was in civilian clothes when he came into the room pushing Mark’s wheelchair. Chiara was sitting next to the bed and Mark was slightly inclined in his bed.

Right away Mark’s eyes moved to the wheelchair. He had been bound to the bed for weeks and on doctor’s orders he hadn’t been allowed to get up because his brain was still healing. Any type of strenuous activity or stress was to be avoided while the swelling in his brain was still going down.

Officer Collins smiled, “Hi there, Mark. I brought something that belongs to you.”
He then looked at Chiara, “Good Morning Chiara.”
Chiara was happy to see the wheelchair and she greeted Officer Collins.
Mark was quiet and just watched as Officer Collins pushed his TiLite wheelchair over to the bed, “Here you go. I think you’ve been waiting for this.”

Mark shifted in the bed and stared at the wheelchair for a moment. He didn’t move his eyes and Chiara and Officer Collins were waiting for him so say something. He didn’t say anything but instead he pushed the blanket and sheet off his legs and attempted to sit up and move on the bed.

Chiara was worried, “Mark hold up, what are you doing?”
Mark swallowed and said with a serious expression, “I want to get in my wheelchair.”

Mark was still on IV fluids and various IV medications. An IV line was still attached to his arm and Officer Collins quickly stepped up to the bed, “Mark, we probably need to ask the nurse if it’s okay for you get up.”
Mark sounded tense, “I don’t need to ask. I just want to get into my wheelchair.”
Chiara put her hand on his, “Wait baby, let’s just make sure it’s okay.”
Mark looked at her and his blue eyes were glistening, “I want to get up.”
“I know that but let’s just ask. I don’t want you to hurt yourself. Your head is still…you…”
Mark didn’t let her finish but cut her off, “I want to get up. I don’t care about my head. It’s not going to get worse but I need to get out of this bed.”
He fiddled with the IV line, “I want to get all this shit off me and get up.”

Chiara realized he was determined and also tense. Officer Collins rushed out of the room. Chiara didn’t say anything and instead she kept her eyes on Mark as he held himself in the sitting position on the bed. The IV pole was next to his bed and with a quick scan Chiara saw the IV lines would be long enough to reach if he would get into the wheelchair. Mark was also still on an indwelling Foley catheter and there was a bag attached to the bed with the tubing running right to Mark and disappearing under his hospital pants. He was attached to a few things still and now she was worried that he could pull something out or hurt himself in the process of transferring into this wheelchair.

Chiara watched as he sat there for a moment, his back curved, every vertebra visible right under his skin. Since he wasn’t wearing a shirt but merely the mint green hospital pants, she got a glimpse of the scars on his spine and back. As much as she was worried about Mark moving around too much, watching him sit there she also felt her hands get sweaty in her lap.

His hair was hanging into his face as he sat there just holding himself up with his hands by his sides. She hadn’t seen Mark sitting up in a long time, he usually was laying back on the bed. The only time he had been sitting up somewhat was when the head end of the bed was inclined. On doctor’s orders Mark hadn’t been allowed to get up or really do anything even just a little strenuous. Right now, he didn’t care anymore and he was sitting there and Chiara knew he was determined to get up and into his wheelchair. 

She wanted to say something, she wanted to remind him of his head injury, and she wanted to tell him to take it easy but she just knew it didn’t matter in those moments what she would say.

Mark took a deep breath and he then grabbed the left pants leg and pulled and pushed his leg over toward the edge of the bed. His body shifted and he did the same with the right leg and then scooted his butt over, still sitting hunched over with his head hanging and his eyes down, focusing on his position. The catheter tubing stuck out on the bottom of his left pant leg and led to the bag attached to the side of the bed. Mark somewhat pushed the IV line over his arm out of his way.

He mumbled mostly to himself, “Too much shit attached to me. I’m done with this.”

His feet were in hospital socks and hung limp on his legs, toes pointing down. There was no twitch, no spasm, nothing. He pushed himself all the way to the edge of the bed and his feet landed scrambled on the linoleum floor. 
Chiara had witnessed how Mark had lost weight over the past few weeks, he hadn’t eaten a whole lot, and in the beginning, he had been on liquid nutrition for a few weeks when he was still kept in a coma. Even under his tattoos, she could see the veins in his arms and his tendons and bones protrude under his skin. His belly seemed hollow as he sat hunched over on the edge of the bed and held himself there.

The hospital pants were loose around his legs and for a moment he sat there keeping his eyes down, then glancing at the wheelchair and then he moved his eyes up from under his bangs looking at Chiara, “Can you pull it closer to me?”

Chiara let her eyes travel over Mark’s arm with the IV line running into it, she was worried he would rip out his IV if he would move sudden or too far away from the IV pole.

It looked like it could work though and she leaned over some and pulled the TiLite closer to Mark on the bed. Mark stared at the wheelchair and Chiara felt her heart beat fast at seeing his chair right there.

She took a deep breath and touched Mark’s arm, “Please be careful baby.”
When he looked at her, she saw a flicker in his blue eyes as he said, “I remember my wheelchair and I remember being in it. I also remember how you feel about it.”
Chiara was somewhat surprised at his comment and he asked with a smile, “Do you still feel the same way about it?”

Chiara felt nervous at the direct question but she got a glimpse of a side in Mark again that had seemed to have been lost.
Still sitting there on the edge of the bed Mark kept his eyes on her, “I still remember the things you had said.”
Chiara now lowered her eyes nervously and when she didn’t answer he repeated the question, “Do you still feel the same way?”
Chiara now looked up and with a weak smile she nodded and stuttered, “I do…I still feel the same way about you and about your…about your disability.”
She felt her heart skip a beat when she saw a smirk come over Mark’s face as he kept his eyes on her, “Good, I’m happy to hear that.”
He then looked at the wheelchair again and said softly, “I just hope I still remember how to get into this thing and get around in it.”
He didn’t move yet and added, “I really hope I remember how to handle all of this stuff.”
Chiara now touched his hand on the bed and their eyes met, “If you don’t remember, I’ll help you remember.”

It warmed her heart when she saw Mark smile again, wrinkles appearing in the corners of his eyes.

He now pushed himself over a bit more, the wheelchair was right next to the bed. Just at that moment Officer Collins and Mark’s nurse, Gail, came in.

Nurse Gail didn’t seem too excited about Mark’s excursion, “Mark, what are you trying to do here?”
Mark looked up at her, “Just want to get into my wheelchair.”
The nurse cautioned, “Hold on there, my friend.”

Chiara was worried that she wouldn’t allow Mark to get out of his bed. She saw his smile quickly fade.
She knew he was determined though and he would get angry if he couldn’t get into his wheelchair.

Instead though Gail touched Mark’s shoulder, “First let me lower the bed some more.”

Chiara took a breath of relief. Gail tended to the IV lines and the catheter tubing, unhooking the bag from the bed and trying to find a spot to attach it on Mark’s wheelchair for the moment.

Gail walked around to the other side of the bed and turned to Officer Collins, “Could you please stand in front of him and make sure he’s not going to fall off the bed?”

Officer Collins nodded and quickly stepped over to Mark and positioned himself in front of him with his arms ready to catch Mark if he should fall.

Gail then said, “Hold on Mark. I’m letting the bed down now.”

Mark didn’t move and his eyes were still fixed on the ground in front of him. Chiara watched as the bed came down with a soft hum and she saw Mark’s feet and legs move themselves with the lowering of the bed.

The bed stopped and Gail came around, “Okay, now let’s try this very carefully but let me set the break on the wheelchair first.”
Officer Collins stepped back and Gail stood next to Mark, “You’re ready to do this buddy. You remember how to do this?”

Mark didn’t say anything but basically now prepared for the transfer. He moved forward some and put his one hand in a fist on the seat of his TiLite and pushed all the way to the edge of the bed and then with one deep breath he pushed his body over and landed somewhat roughly on the seat of the wheelchair. As Chiara watched Mark’s transfer with full focus, she felt her heart beat fast and she felt her hands tremble.

Mark’s legs were hanging to the side but he now pushed himself up more on the seat. Under the vigilant eyes of his nurse Mark grabbed his legs under the knees and then pulled them up, placing his feet on the single foot rest. He still sat slumped over but now pushed with his hands next to his hips and he tried to sit upright and straighten his back. He was swaying slightly, trying to get a steady balance and secure position on the seat of his TiLite.

With some gasps he mumbled, “Shit, this is fucking hard.”

He grabbed his push rims and held on tightly. Chiara saw his knuckles turn white; she saw a little bit of blood run into the IV tubing from the strain, and she also saw some urine run through the catheter tubing and into the bag.

Mark held on to his rims though and he kept his back straight and he now looked directly at her again and she met his eyes and she couldn’t help put her fist to her mouth. She also couldn’t control her eyes tearing up at finally seeing him in his wheelchair again.

Mark smiled at her and he moved his hand down and undid the break, then put his hand to the push rim again and slowly rolled over to her.
Chiara felt a tear run out of her eye when Mark parked next to her.

He slowly reached his hand over to her cheek and once again wiped her tear away, “Why are you crying?”
She could barely say it, “I’m just happy to see you like this.”
“It’ll be like this again – always.”

He then took her hand in his and brought it to his mouth and kissed her hand softly, then said, “I love you.”
Chiara lost a few more tears, “I love you.”

8 comments:

  1. Wow Dani Such feeling in this chapter!

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    1. Thanks so much, sometimes I get overwhelmed myself with so many feelings when I write

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  2. Great chapter. Nice to see things getting better for Mark and Chiara. They really deserve it, after so much shit. Thanks! Also, really devvy chapter. Both physically and emotionally. Thanks for posting!

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    1. This makes me very happy that you find it devvy. Thank you for reading and commenting

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  3. Thanks, great chapter. I like your story very much.

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    1. So happy to read this comment. I am glad you like this story.

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  4. Such a devy chapter!!!
    I'm Glad Mark is recovering.

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    1. He is recovering and with that I hope to give my readers some more devvy scenes. Thanks so much for commenting.

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