Authors: Carrie Cox
That afternoon Maria helped me with my surprise for Jack. She’d got supplies for me. I had popcorn, sodas and a big bag of M&M’s, perfect food for the movie. I disappeared when Jack was preoccupied with the computer, and then I slipped back in, carrying a tray with all my goodies with a dishcloth thrown over the top to hide the contents. I kicked the door shut with my heel.
Jack eyed me suspiciously. “What are you smiling at?”
I grinned. “Surprise, its movie night.”
He frowned. “But it’s the middle of the day.”
“Work with me on this,” I said, determined not to let him dampen my spirits.
I picked up the iPad from the desk in the corner of the room where I had stashed it earlier.
“We’re watching a movie,” I said. “I’ve got popcorn and sodas; it’s going to be awesome.”
Jack turned now fully from the computer and eyed me very suspiciously. “Movie, one that you picked out?” He screwed up his face. “Don’t tell me it’s a chick flick.”
I put my hands on my hips. “I picked out one I thought you would like,” I said.
He held out his hands for the iPad. “Let me see, what have you picked?”
“It’s a surprise,” I said and worked my way to the back of the TV. I stood and looked at the multitude of wires coming out of the back. “Um, I’m not sure how this works. Maybe I need a connector for this.”
He rolled his eyes, “Here, let me.”
He wheeled the chair over to me, very close. I tried to step backwards, but I was already up against the wall. I could smell the clean scent of his aftershave and the vague menthol tint of the massage oil I’d used earlier. Just the smell brought back memories of how it felt to have his skin beneath my fingertips, and I felt my heart begin to race. Seriously, what was up with me?
Luckily, Jack didn’t seem to notice. He was too focused on putting an HDMI cable into a white connector for the iPad.
“Oh yeah, I knew it was something like that I needed,” I said.
He tried to open the iPad but I waved his hands away. “Hey cut it out. I said it’s a surprise.”
He pouted. Honestly, he was just like a little kid sometimes.
I set it up. “Are you going to sit on the couch or should I angle the TV towards you over there?” I said.
He looked at me oddly for a moment, then said, “I’ll sit on the couch.”
I pretended not to notice as he pulled himself out of the chair, putting most of his weight on his arms. But I noticed that he did use his legs as well, and I took that as a good sign.
I set up the iPad ready to start, and I sat on the couch with him, but in the far corner. It was a full length sofa so there was a wealth of space between us.
He looked at me and then at the space. “Do I smell bad or something?”
“Oh,” I said, jumping up. “I forgot the popcorn.”
He stared at me as I got up and rushed to the kitchen.
“But you’re going to miss the movie,” he said.
I shrugged. “It’s all right. I’m sure I’ll follow the story. I can watch it while I do this.”
I emptied the bag of popcorn into the pan and placed it on the stovetop. I could hear Jack grumbling about something in the background, but I ignored him.
As the popcorn began to pop, Jack suddenly groaned loudly. I looked up, anxious, thinking maybe he’d hurt himself.
“I can’t believe this. We’re watching a remake of what happens to be one of the best films of all time? Why don’t we watch the original?”
“Um, the original? I just thought you would like it because it’s about cars,” I said, peering into the popcorn pot, checking that everything had popped.
As I put the popcorn into a serving dish and took it over to Jack, he said, “I’m not watching this, we need to watch the original.”
“Okay,” I huffed, annoyed. I really thought he’d like this movie. I disconnected the iPad and brought it over to him where in a couple of swipes of his fingers on the iPad screen, he found the original movie.
“There,” he said with satisfaction. “The Italian Job with Michael Caine. Now this is a movie.”
I shrugged. I didn’t really mind, whatever made him happy. I reconnected the iPad, remembering how he’d done it earlier and the movie started up. I took my seat on the other end of the couch.
“Want some?” Jack said and offered me the bowl of popcorn.
I leaned over and try to grab a handful, but he kept it just out of my reach, grinning.
“Hey!” I said. “It was to share!”
“Well, how are we meant to share it when you’re sitting all the way over there?”
He had a point. It was difficult to share a bowl of popcorn when we were sitting at opposite ends of the couch. So I moved up to the center cushion.
I eased myself gingerly back onto the cushions, willing myself to relax.
“There, that’s not so bad, is it? I don’t bite,” he said and gave me a look that said otherwise. And the truth was, I wouldn’t even mind if he did.
He gave me a look like he’d like to gobble me up.
My eyes flickered down to rest on his lips. Soft and smooth, I wondered what they’d be like to kiss. I wrenched my eyes away and focused on the film.
“Right, concentrate on the film,” I said. “You don’t want to miss it.”
As the movie started, I was so distracted. All I could think about was the fact that sitting a few centimeters away from me was the hottest guy I had ever seen.
We were sitting so close I swore I could feel the heat from his body. I imagined running my hand down his denim-encased thigh. I remembered the massage and how it felt to be so close to him.
I exhaled and crossed my legs. What was up with me? Seriously, it was like I couldn’t even be in the room with a hot guy without imagining what he looked like with his clothes off. I was turning into a nympho.
As the minutes passed, I actually started to relax. It helped that Jack was really into the movie. He kept pointing things out, laughing at things and at characters, and I actually started to enjoy it. Right up until the very end when the film just stopped.
“What? That can’t be the end!” I said and turned to Jack. “Is there a sequel?”
Jack grinned. “Uh-uh.”
“But what happens? I mean, they can’t just leave it like that.”
He shrugged. “I guess you just make up your own mind, you make up your own ending.”
His words seemed weighted with meaning. At least they did to me. Something in them resonated because that was exactly what I was trying to do. I’d screwed up, I’d made mistakes. But now I was trying to make my own ending. I was trying to rewrite my story, the way I wanted it to end.
Jack grinned at me. “You really enjoyed that, didn’t you?”
I shrugged. “It was okay.”
He laughed. “Come on, admit it. You were thinking you were going to hate it and it turned out great.”
I nodded. “It was pretty good.”
“Pretty good? I can see I’m going to have to educate you on movies. So what’s your favorite movie of all time?”
He groaned. “That is such a total chick flick.”
I didn’t apologize. It was a total chick flick, but I loved it. I’d loved it since I first saw it on a late night rerun when I was thirteen and should have been tucked up in bed. But he was right about remakes; nothing could come close to that first film.
The one that made me believe in happy-ever-afters.
The following morning I got up extra early. I wanted to talk to Brian before his appointment with Jack. So before breakfast, straight after showering and with my hair still wet, I sat on the stone steps in the sunshine and waited for Brian.
Only a few minutes had passed when I saw him pull up in a Mercedes outside the front gate. I got to my feet as he drove up the gravel pathway.
“Hey!” he called to me as he got out of the car. He walked round to the trunk to get out his bag and equipment, and I headed over to help him with it.
“How’s the patient?”
I nodded. “Not too bad. I was really worried about him yesterday, though. I think he overdid it. It was my fault. I encouraged him to go too far. He was in so much pain with his legs. I think maybe it’s too early for the crutches.”
Brian paused and stopped what he was doing. He set his bag on the floor beside him and turned to face me. “Look, I know this is difficult, Kristina. It’s not an easy job. I like the guy, I really do. I don’t put him through these intense therapy sessions because I enjoy seeing him in pain. His recovery isn’t going to be easy. It is going to hurt him. There is no getting away from that. He’s not just going to magically walk again. If he wants to do it, and I know deep down that he does, he’s going to have to put up with some serious pain.”
My hands fluttered at my side. I felt pretty useless. “But isn’t there something we can do, so it doesn’t hurt quite so much?”
“I think it’s down to consistency. The more he does it, the more his body will respond. But because of the way the bones and muscles have knitted together, it’s going to be painful for a long time.”
I picked up one of Brian’s bags, and we walked to the house together. I shot him a sideways glance.
“When you say it’s going to take a long time…” I paused. “Do you think he’ll ever be back to the way he was before?”
Brian took a breath. “Will he ever be Jack Harding, international playboy and racing driver?” Brian gave me a sad smile. “I don’t know if he’ll race again, Kristina, but I’ve seen some amazing recoveries doing this job and Jack’s tenacious. He’s not going to give up. I think as long as we can keep him strong mentally, his body will follow.”
I nodded and swallowed the lump in my throat.
When we got to Jack’s wing of the house, I made tea just for myself. Brian and Jack didn’t want any.
I cradled my mug and leaned against the wall, watching as Jack struggled through his morning exercises with Brian.
It felt odd today, and at first I didn’t realize what was different.
Normally, when I overheard them training, Jack was always cursing and basically being a pain in the ass. But today he didn’t complain.
His jaw was clenched and his muscles were tight as he went through the motions, and that’s why it was different. That’s when I realized… this time it was really hurting him. I felt my eyes tear up, and I turned away quickly, pretending to sip my tea.
What was up with me? Anyone would think I was a total wimp. Jesus, I needed to pull it together.
It was not as if I was a soft-centered, mushy type. I’d been through a lot in my life. I may have been lots of terrible things, but I was never a wimp. I was strong. I’ve had to be strong to get through the things I had. So why was I reacting like this?
After Brian left us, Jack was really quiet, and I wasn’t sure what to do to cheer him up. He surfed on the internet for a while, before looking distractedly out of the window.
I was already on my third cup of tea of the day when I stood up, propping my hands against my hips. “Right,” I said. “We’re going to do something.”
He turned to me, “Sorry?”
“We need to do something, get out of here and get some fresh air.”
Jack looked down at his feet and shook his head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said. “It didn’t work out so well yesterday.”
He looked so sad, my heart twisted in my chest.
“We’ll take the chair this time, you don’t have to use the crutches today.”
He didn’t answer, and for a moment, I thought he was going to refuse. This was the melancholy, quiet side of Jack, and I didn’t like it. I preferred the furious Jack burning with emotion. At least when he was like that I knew what he was thinking.
Finally he said, “We’ll take the crutches. I’ll be fine.”
Although he didn’t want to, I insisted on taking the chair. And this time, I said we had to take the electric one, much to Jack’s disgust.
He was right. It was much bulkier and annoying, but because he was in the chair we got much further this time. And as I didn’t have to push, I was pretty happy just to walk beside him. I had packed us a picnic for our lunch with Maria’s help and there was room on the back of the chair to hook the small picnic basket. We took the crutches with us too, just in case.