Chiara and Mark had pulled the blanket over their bodies and lay there in an embrace when Mark’s phone on the bedside table beeped with a text message. He glanced over at it and then to Chiara as to ask for her permission if he could get it.
She didn’t say anything and he grabbed the phone and looked at it. It was Corey checking in to see if they were okay. Mark quickly typed that everything was good.
Corey then explained in a text: We went grocery shopping for you btw. Figured you guys need some basic food stuff and that way you don’t have to go to the store right away.
Mark texted: I saw that there’s food, I really appreciate that. Thanks man.
Corey typed again: If you need anything please let me or one of us know, okay
Okay man, thanks a lot. I may come back to that offer.
Please do so if you need to
Mark smiled at Chiara, ”It’s Corey just checking in with us.”Chiara smiled from her position in his arms, “He’s being a good friend.”
Mark finished texting with Corey.
Chiara didn’t have a cell phone anymore. She had destroyed her cell phone when she had come to Mark’s place back in November.
Now Mark scrolled over his messages and he ended on the unknown number. It was the number Chiara had sent the message from when she had been held in Portland by Trey.
Mark tapped on the message and showed it to Chiara. She was still nestled in his embrace and her trembling fingers now scanned over the screen.
Mark didn’t say anything and just let her read over the message.Chiara then pushed his phone away and said softly but determined, “You should delete this forever.”
Mark looked over the message once more and then asked, “Do you want to delete it?”
Chiara nodded and sat up. Mark handed her his phone and for a moment her eyes were still on the screen, then she selected the message and deleted it forever.
She handed Mark his phone back, “Here you go.”
Mark took the phone from her hand and their eyes met for a moment and they nodded at each other.
Chiara grabbed the stuffed animal cat from the pillow again and held it, “That was such a good day.”He nodded, “It was. You had my mind racing that day and all night with the things you had told me then. And even though I was confused, I was the happiest I had been in a very long time.”
Chiara didn’t say anything and just lay back down and nestled herself next to Mark again.
He then said, “And then when I woke up that morning, I…”
He stopped and took a deep breath, “Then you were gone.”
Chiara pushed herself closer to Mark and he pulled his arm around her tighter.He then said softly, “I just hope that will never happen again. I hope you’ll stay with me forever.”
Chiara now looked at him and his eyes were shiny and bright blue, but he looked tired.
“I’ll never leave you again Mark.”
Mark then swallowed and said with a trembling voice, “I may not always be very healthy and there will probably be a lot of bad days. I’m already worried about that and how it’ll be for you then. Not only will I deal with all the paraplegia stuff but also the stuff with my head and I’m scared…”
He stopped talking and Chiara asked softly, “Scared about what?”
“About you changing your mind about being with me. You’re free now, you can basically start a new life without all the bad stuff. But now…”
He stopped again, then stated softly, “Now you’re with me.”
Chiara held her head on her hand looking at Mark, “Yes, now I’m with you and you are the start of my new life Mark. This is my new life and this is the only life I want, with you.”
Mark smiled weakly, “I’ll try to give you the life you deserve and I’ll try to be good and strong as much as I can.”
Chiara smiled at him, “And on the days when you don’t feel strong, when you’re in pain or weak, I’ll still be there for you Mark. I will never go away; I will never leave you anymore. We’ll get through all of it together from now on, the good and the not so good days and I will always be there for you.”
Mark took a deep breath and nodded, “And I will always be there for you.”
Now Chiara leaned down and kissed him. Mark wrapped his arms around her body and pulled her to him and their kiss was deep and long, sealing once again their bond.
In an embrace and close to each other they fell asleep.
It was early evening when Mark woke up startled and with a slight headache. For a moment he was confused at his location and then remembered he was in his new apartment. He saw Chiara still sleeping next to him and he quickly grabbed his phone and looked at the time, it was almost seven.
Chiara was taking soft breaths next to him and he watched her for a moment, then looked around in the room. He then remembered that his last catherization had been hours ago right before he had left the hospital and he quickly looked under the blanket. Everything was still dry but he knew it would just be a matter of time when he would pee himself. It had been way too long since he had last emptied his bladder.
He gently pulled his arm out from under Chiara and she moaned in her sleep but didn’t open her eyes. As quiet as possible he pushed himself up on his hands and looked over at his TiLite next to the bed. He then scooted himself over to the edge of the bed, the spasms in his legs had stopped during his nap.
Mark held himself in a sitting position and he felt his head hurt more as he was upright now. With his hands he pushed first his left leg over the edge of the bed, then the right one. His legs plopped over the side of the bed and his feet landed on the floor with a thump.
He then scooted his butt to the edge and held himself there in a sitting position with both of his hands by his hips. He was still naked and he stared down to his feet. His TiLite was right there next to the bed and he glanced over at it preparing for the transfer.
He pulled the wheelchair closer and then transferred over into it. His head throbbed as he plopped onto the seat causing the wheelchair to squeak slightly. He then pulled his feet up on the foot rest and loosened the break. He didn’t realize that Chiara had watched him the whole time, lying still and quiet on the bed with her eyes open.
Mark wheeled over to the bathroom; the light was still on from earlier but for a moment he was hesitant to wheel in. He couldn’t help that he saw pictures in his head of Ranger dead and himself barely alive in the tub. He had to remind himself that this was not the same bathroom, but it was strange for him to be in the bathroom and he took a deep breath before he wheeled in. Chiara had quietly rolled over on the bed and had realized his hesitation before he wheeled in. She hoped Mark would be okay.
Once inside the bathroom Mark closed the door and he felt how his heart pounded faster. He looked at himself in the mirror and saw how tired he still looked. His head hurt more now and for a moment he looked up to the ceiling and took a deep breath and exhaled focusing on the headache. Most days in the past weeks he had suffered from some kind of headache and was almost getting used to the constant pain.
As he looked into the mirror, he saw on the shelf behind him the three bottles of shower soap Chiara had picked out from the Bath and Body store back in November. He washed his hands and dried them on the towel hanging there. He wondered about how his friends had thought of everything, even hung a towel up already. He smiled assuming that it had probably been Patrick’s girlfriend Jess, who had thought of that.
He spun his wheelchair around and pushed over to the toilet, opening the lid and then pulling out a catheter from the basket next to the toilet. He unwrapped the outer foil and then activated the catheter lube inside the inner foil. With slightly shaky hands he pushed the catheter out and with one end hanging in the toilet, he gently inserted the other end into his urethra. He watched as the yellow liquid started running through the tubing and into the toilet.
He just sat there and watched this process and seeing how much urine ran into the toilet, he was glad he had woken up when he did.
Just as he was thinking about this, it softly knocked on the door to the bathroom and it startled him.He heard Chiara’s voice, “Mark, are you all right?”
His eyes shot toward the door and he answered, “Yeah, I’m all right.”
“Can I come in?”
Chiara had not really bothered him in the hospital when he had been in the bathroom there. They had not taken showers together; they had not been in the bathroom together really, and usually a CNA had been there to help them with their morning routines. The most they had done together in the bathroom at the hospital had been to brush their teeth side by side but that had been it. They really had not even been naked together at the hospital.
Mark was nervous now at Chiara’s question and he really didn’t know how to answer.Before he could say something, she said, “Mark?”
He glanced back at the catheter tubing and then back at the door, “Yeah.”
“Can I come in?”
He felt silly the moment he said it, “Why?”
“I just want to.”
The urine was still flowing into the toilet but the stream was becoming weaker.
Mark took a breath and Chiara added, “I just want to see it.”
He realized she was talking about the catherization and he hung his head and she said outside the door, “Please!”
He now thought about how she had already seen him completely naked during the earlier love making and she had seen everything about him really and she had seen him at his worst. There was really no reason to keep this intimate detail from her anymore.
As the stream of urine depleted, he then answered, “Okay.”
Chiara turned the door knob and came into the bathroom, naked holding on to her crutches.
Mark felt nervous momentarily looking at her completely naked body except for the casted leg and he lowered his eyes quickly. The light was on and there was nothing hidden between them anymore.
He still held the tubing into the toilet and Chiara came over and said softly, “Hi.”He looked up at her, “Hi.”
She then leaned herself against the sink counter and had an unobstructed view of the catheter tubing hanging into the toilet and the other end disappearing in Mark’s penis.
She looked at this curiously and Mark didn’t say anything.Softly she stated, “So this is how you do it?”
Mark nodded without words and Chiara now leaned down and kissed his naked shoulder, “Thank you for letting me come in.”
The urine had stopped flowing into the toilet and Mark just sat there now but didn’t make a move. He slightly shook the tubing to let the remaining fluid drip out.
Chiara stood back up, “I did see it back then with…with Aaron.”Mark said softly, “Well, this is it for me. It’s not really great.”
“I don’t mind it Mark. I want you to know that.”
He nodded and she added, “And I know there could be issues and I also have an idea about the other thing.”
Mark did not want to talk about defecating now, he wasn’t ready, but Chiara had witnessed how he had had issues in the hospital and how he had actually been sick because of impaction. She just hadn’t really seen anything pertaining to how he had to deal with these things and usually it was all done before she had come to his room. He had always made sure of that. And once they were in the room together, she had actually left the room on Mark’s requests when the CNA’s and nurses had helped Mark with those things.
She now glanced at the tubing, “So you have to pull it out again?”He nodded and she asked, “You don’t feel any of it?”
He shook his head and then softly explained with a weak smile, “If I would feel it, I wouldn’t be sitting here this calm.”
“Because it would hurt or be uncomfortable?”
He nodded and now she watched as he took a piece of toilet paper and gently pulled out the tubing from the tip of his penis and dabbed it at the same time with the toilet paper. He then wrapped the catheter in toilet paper and dropped it into the empty trash can next to the toilet, still dabbing at his penis.
Chiara watched the whole process and Mark said softly, “I’m not proud of it. It’s not very hot I know.”She smiled, “It actually kind of is to me.”
Mark now hung his head and laughed softly, then looked up at Chiara, “How?”
Chiara now laughed, “I don’t know…I guess I’m just a weirdo.”
Mark smiled at her, “Which is a good thing for me.”
Just as he looked at her, a sudden pain shot through his head and he tensed up, his smile was wiped away, his expression turned pain stricken, and he took a hissing breath and cursed lowly, “Fuck.”
Chiara was alerted right away, “What is it?”Mark grabbed his head with both his hands and Chiara touched him, “Mark, what is it?”
He mumbled, “Just a headache.”
“Maybe you should take something before it gets worse.”
He shook his head, “I don’t want to. I’ll just lay down again.”
Chiara watched as he washed his hands and then wheeled out of the bathroom. She used the toilet herself and then made her way out to the bedroom again. Mark was in the process of putting on his lounge pants and she could see his face was tense and his movements were slow.
She sat on the bed and grabbed her own clothes and slipped into her shorts and T-Shirt again.
Mark then wheeled over to the closet and looked into it. All his clothes were hung up and he spotted the bag with the clothes he had gotten from his neighbors for Chiara.
Chiara appeared behind him and he pointed at the bag, “Look.”Chiara swallowed and made her way over to the bag, “It’s the clothes you got for me from your neighbors.”
She really didn’t have many belongings. The hospital had donated some personal clothing to her, but it hadn’t been much. Mark had all his clothes still right there in his closet, Chiara had nothing anymore really. She would make use of the clothes in the bag.
Now she stood in the closet and she saw some of Mark’s hoodies hanging there and asked softly, “May I wear one of those?”When she looked at him, he sat there with his head down and holding it with both his hands again.
“Mark, are you all right?”
He nodded and without looking up he said, “You can wear whatever you want from my stuff.”
He took some quick breaths under the pain, “We’ll buy you new clothes.”Chiara was worried about him, “Why don’t you just lay down again right now?”
He put his hands to the rims and looked up at her, “Take anything you want from my clothes.”
He then pushed out of the closet and Chiara looked after him. She then grabbed one of Mark’s hoodies from a hanger and slipped into it while leaning on the wall.She would go through the bag later.
When she came out to the living space, she saw Mark lying on the couch and he had his arm over his closed eyes. Chiara made her way back into the bathroom where she found a wash cloth and she took it to the kitchen. Everything was a little more complicated with her casted leg and on crutches but she managed all right. In the kitchen sink she wet the wash cloth with cold water and she took it over to the living room where Mark was on the couch.
She let herself down next to him and he moved over slightly, “Move your arm, Mark.”
Mark moved his arm and she was right there over him and without a word she draped the cold wash cloth over his eyes and forehead and it felt good right away, the coolness of the wash cloth distracting from the pain for a moment. He didn’t protest and just lay there.
Chiara stayed there and asked, “You don’t want any medication?”He shook his head, “I’m already taking too much crap. I’m going to try to ride it out as often as I can.”
“You know that’ll be difficult.”
Chiara didn’t say anything else about this, she would just keep wetting the wash cloth for him, which proved to be a hassle as she had to keep going back to the kitchen to wet the wash cloth. Mark just lay there and didn’t do anything. The headache was fluctuating with the pain but he just tried to relax.
Chiara stood in the kitchen and was debating if she would be able to fill a bowl with ice water and bring it to Mark and she could wet the wash cloth that way. She found a bowl and pushed the icemaker on the refrigerator to get some ice cubes, then filled the bowl with some water. It wasn’t very full and she used only one crutch and very slowly and carefully she made her way toward the living room.
Mark now looked up from under the wash cloth and when he saw Chiara limp into the living room, he sat up some, “Chiara, what are you doing?”She was taking quick breaths, “I’m trying to bring some water to you.”
Mark sat up, he was worried she would fall, “You didn’t have to do that.”
Chiara didn’t say anything but instead she focused on bringing the water to Mark.
Mark watched her make her way over to him and he was slightly worried but Chiara made it okay and set the bowl down on the small TV table. Mark watched her closely as she sat down again and took the wash cloth from him and wet it again in the cold water.
Mark’s eyes were on her as she wrung out the wash cloth and then met his eyes, “Here, let me put this on your forehead again.”Mark let her drape the wash cloth over his forehead and eyes and he then grabbed her hand and said softly, “Thank you.”
Chiara let him hold her hand, “You’re welcome my sweet Mark.”
Mark stayed on the couch for a while and Chiara kept wetting the wash cloth and draping it over his forehead and face and it felt good for him.
She also ordered some Pizza when they got hungry and it was around nine that night when the food got there. It rang at the door and Chiara made her way over there, Mark watched from the couch as she signed the receipt and told the Pizza guy to put the Pizza on the small table closest to the door as she couldn’t really grab it from him.
Chiara came around to Mark, “Do you want to eat?”He took the wash cloth off his eyes and nodded, “Yeah.”
His head was still hurting but not as much as earlier and he slowly pushed himself up into a sitting position. With the TV on he had been on the couch for two hours while Chiara had been making sure the wash cloth was constantly wet with cool water. Now she stood there holding herself on her crutches and she watched as Mark sat up. His facial expression was still tense, his head still hurt, but he looked up at Chiara and managed a smile brush over his face. She smiled at him and made her way into the kitchen where she was looking for paper towels.
Mark sat up on the couch and transferred into his wheelchair. He grabbed the two Pizza boxes from the table and set them on his lap and then pushed his rims wheeling over to the dining table and set the boxes on it.
Chiara was in the kitchen and he quickly wheeled over to her, “Here, I can get that.”
He grabbed the paper towels and quickly wheeled back to the table and set the roll on it. Then he made his way back to the kitchen and joined Chiara as she looked into the refrigerator for something to drink.
Mark was next to her and they both looked into the refrigerator, “I won’t have a beer right now.”Chiara replied, “Me neither. I’ll just have water.”
Mark grabbed two glasses and filled them with water and with both glasses in between his thighs he very carefully rolled over to the dining table while Chiara came behind him.
When they sat there, Chiara looked over at him, “How do you feel now?”He nodded, “Okay, it’s not as bad anymore.”
He then put his hand on hers, “Thanks for being there for me. The cold wash cloth felt good.”
Chiara smiled weakly, “Well, we can always try that before you take any medications.”
Mark’s headache didn’t go all the way away and after dinner he was ready to lie down again. After he helped Chiara in the kitchen to get things cleaned up somewhat, he made his way back into the bedroom. He was in the bathroom and Chiara appeared in the door frame.
Mark glanced up at her from brushing his teeth and she just smiled at him. Mark finished with his teeth and washed his hands. He wanted to empty his bladder before he would go to bed.
Chiara didn’t leave though and he pushed himself over to the toilet once again and glanced at her nervously. Chiara didn’t want to distract him and she pulled the door closed and walked away to the bed. She heard Mark in the bathroom and after a few moments she heard the water faucet again and then Mark came wheeling out into the bedroom.
He pushed his rims and rolled right up to Chiara who was sitting on the bed. He stopped with his wheelchair in front of her and they looked at each other.
He said softly, “Thanks for letting me do my thing in there. I still feel…”He paused and took a deep breath, then continued, “I know you’re okay with it all but I still feel weird about it.”
Chiara lowered her eyes and she then took his hands in hers, “I know. But yes, I’m okay with it but I’ll give you all the time you need.”
Mark smiled, “Thanks.”
She leaned over and he leaned toward her, putting his hands onto this push rims again and they kissed a quick kiss. Chiara then went into the bathroom.
Mark was already in bed when she came out. And she made her way over to the bed and let herself down. Mark watched as she slipped out of her shorts and then pulled his hoodie over her head. She then only wore panties and her tank top.
He opened the blanket for her and she lifted her casted leg up and then pulled her body next to Mark. She laid in his arm right away.
“Does your head still hurt?”Mark nodded, “Yeah, a little. I hope it’ll go away while I sleep.”
Only the bedside table lamp was on, and Chiara grabbed the stuffed animal cat and held it to herself. She nested herself into Mark’s arm and asked softly, “Do you want to call the vet tomorrow?”
Chiara sat the stuffed animal onto Mark’s chest and she then touched it to his nose.This brought a smile over his face and Mark then said, “Ranger used to sleep with me every night, always on the foot end.”
“Maybe we should get another little Ranger.”
Chiara then said, “But first we’ll get your Ranger from the vet.”
Mark nodded, “Yeah, and there’ll be no other Ranger really. If we get one it’ll have a different name.”
They kissed and Mark pulled Chiara close to him.“I’m glad we’re together.”
Chiara kissed his cheek, “Me too.”
They fell asleep in each other’s arms and at the very same moment a black kitten without a name was born under a car on the other side of town.