Sweat pours down the back of Clyde's neck, soaking into the soft fabric of his t-shirt, staining it to a darker grey. I really should be jealous that I'm not the woman holding onto his biceps and being the cause of his perspiration, but I'm far more happy sitting in a chair in the corner, reading my book. Despite batting down my comment about the upside of having no feeling down the waist was that he couldn't feel pain, he'd since discovered that his right leg hurt 'quite a lot'. Having a titanium rod inserted into it tends to have that effect. Even so, he's been a grumpy arsehole the past week or so, making everybody's lives a misery by taking as little pain management as possible. Sometimes I'm tempted to use his rarely used self-administering system on him when he's asleep and have him wake up in a deliriously nice mood for the first time in a month.
"It's only just been a week since my surgery," he informs the pretty physiotherapist, Hannah, who for all intents and purposes is married with a three year old toddler. "Are you sure I should be putting any weight on it this soon?"
"You're young and recovering well," she smiles at him, her eyes narrowed. "You're just being lazy."
In that moment I decide to like her a lot.
He scowls, his tightening grip given away by his knuckles whitening on the handles of the walking frame between them. "I'm not being lazy, I just don't want to slow the recovery."
"Exercise helps it. Now, let's shift you forward so your feet touch the floor."
Her help, a male orderly, holds Clyde's sides from behind, keeping his hard shell back brace taught as Clyde pulls himself forwards, grimacing. "I'd like to get into a wheelchair," he pants. "It's Jaye's twelve week scan later, and I'd like to be there."
I finally allow myself to speak up. "It's taken you forty minutes to sit on the side of the bed. You mustn't exert yourself - that's what is going to slow your recovery." I stand up and walk over to the bed, sitting down beside him and taking his hand from the frame. "I'll bring you pictures, and you can come to the next one."
He evidently about to protest when something makes him stop short. He reaches out with one hand and hooks the chain around my neck with one finger, pulling it out from under my shirt. The ring dangles from the end of it and one side of his mouth flips upwards. "You're wearing it."
"Of course I am," I say, waggling my left hand in its cast at him. "I just can't put it on my finger, can I?"
"I love you," he says and leans in to kiss me. The movement upsets his balance though, and I have to put my hands on his chest to steady him.
I give him a peck on the temple as a consolation prize. "Then focus on getting better and coming to the next scan. There's not much to see that this point anyway, you know he's basically a jelly bean with arms and legs."
"My jelly bean," he says and sighs. "Okay. Target for today then, standing?"
Hannah admonishes him. "We'll see how you go with just touching your feet to the floor, okay? There's no rush."
"There is," he dully remarks, nodding in my direction. "To get her up the aisle before she changes her mind."
I nod along with him, mocking a sigh. "Or before he realises he's engaged to a nutjob."
"Oh, I realised that a long time ago. Round about when you thought I was a drug dealer."
"Of chemotherapy and painkillers as you later told me," I retort, and Hannah laughs.
Hours later, I sit by Clyde's bedside as he traces his fingertip over the grainy ultrasound image of our baby's head. He grins at me, the happiest I've seen him since him in weeks, even before the accident. "So, Fiancé," he says, and I wrinkle my nose at the new term. "Do you want the wedding before or after Jelly Bean makes an appearance?"
"After," I admonish him. "I'm not being a pregnant bride. A spring wedding will do, next year."
He chuckles, wincing as he tries to pull himself more upright. "Are you sure you don't want a quickie wedding next week? I'm sure we could find someone to erect some scaffolding to hang me from."
"I don't doubt you could," I laugh back at him. "I'm not going to back out if we wait more than a few days."
I take the print out from him, smoothing back his hair and kissing him on the cheek - this man who I love more than life itself. "Now get some rest, you've have a tiring day and have many more to come. I want you walking me back down the aisle as my husband."
I give birth to our son on the eleventh of June after eighteen long hours of labour. Theodore Robert Gunn Ballantyne enters the world weighing exactly eight pounds and already possessing a strong likelihood of bullying to a ridiculously long name. It's all Clyde's fault really; insisting on carrying on Great Grandpa Theo's legacy, and then I had to get Robbie in there somewhere. As the whimpering, bloody little creature is placed on my chest and I cradle his downy head, I fall in love with him more than I knew was ever possible.
"He's perfect," Clyde remarks many an hour later and I can't help but agree. I drink in the sight of his face; his tiny nose and mouth which is Clyde's in miniature. His fingers and toes, with their minuscule nails. His head fits in the palm of Clyde's hand as he cradles him against his chest. "He's so small, I feel like I might break him."
I disagree at this one, I think he head is rather on the large side, but I don't voice my opinion. Clyde isn't the one with the torn skin and stitches after all.. He's spent the past four hours since Teddy's birth calling just about anyone he knows, pacing round the room on the phone, leaning heavily on his crutch. Clyde took his first steps two and a half months after the accident and he's been unstoppable since. He has a bad limp which will probably never disappear completely, but I don't care. I actually find it oddly sexy when he lopes towards me, especially when my pregnancy hormones had a stirring.
My parents visit and my mother cries when she holds her grandson. I'm a little embarrassed with her - Clyde didn't even shed a single tear as predicted.. And then Clyde's own mother turns up and does the same so I'm mollified. Sarah is smitten with her nephew, bringing him a little stuffed dog toy. Old Hal passed shortly after the New Year, and Clyde's father brought them home a new puppy a couple of months ago. Blue is a beautiful merle border collie, with a penchant for chewing chair legs and stealing socks out of the dryer. Julie's already threatened to kick him out of the house three times. Clyde's rather taken with him and I fear that I'm going to arrive home one day to find my scarves ripped to shreds and Blue's brother sat in a pile of the remains.
Teddy grows at an alarming rate. Clyde's beautiful tawny hair comes through when he's five months old and his eyes darken to clear green shortly after. Everything about him fascinates me, and he can do no wrong in my eyes. Clyde sold his apartment shortly after he was able to walk again and purchased an old stone farmhouse out of the city, near where our parents live, all without telling me. To say it was a disaster was an understatement - the place needed a complete revitalisation. Having taken a year off for recuperation, Clyde set to work redecorating and attempting to 'build up his strength' meanwhile. I stayed out of most of it, with the exception of the three times Teddy ended up playing in the paint roller tray, covered in emulsion. Clyde dotes on him - he's a fabulous father, but seems to have an absent observing eye until its just too late. Insisting toddler gates weren't needed until he could walk - "he's far too slow crawling, I catch him making a move all the time!", Clyde was far more focused on windowsill sanding. So I went a bought a load myself, made a hash job of one and then Clyde grudgingly took over.
We set the date for the wedding in early May; a small affair, just family and close friends. Clyde buys himself and Teddy matching suits, and a proper pair of shoes that he's now beginning to toddle round clumsily without support. He can't resist dressing him up multiple times before the actual date and taking hundreds of photos.
On the morning, I'm nervous and my mother gets on my nerves as she alternates between crying again and fussing with my hair. I keep Teddy on my lap most of the time, listing to his babbling and most common exclamation of "Da!". My mother tries to take him away, complaining his shoes are scuffing my dress. I refuse - he's keeping me occupied and I'm grateful.
My mother takes him on the way to the venue, whilst I join my father in another car. I'm glad I have him with me - he's calm and kind of stoic, which relaxes me instead of my usually hysteric mother. He takes me hand when we're in the back seat and smiles at me. "Are you excited?"
"Nervous," I admit to him.
"Well, of course. It's one of the biggest days of your life. It'll all be okay though, you're going to marry a good guy."
"I know, Dad," I say, and we spend the rest of the short journey in companionable silence.
I smooth down his morning coat lapels once we're outside, the room full and waiting. My nerves come to a head, squirming in my lower stomach, as I take his arm and enter the room by his side.
I look at the man standing at the end of the aisle, strong and kind, and I know that he's going to give me the most amazing rest of my life.
AN: If you enjoyed this story, please let me know what you think in a review, and check out my new story Pomegranate Jam :)