Poles apart, p.27
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       Poles Apart, p.27
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           Kirsty Moseley

  A sad smile twitched at the corners of his lips. “My guardian angel is on her knees in front of me.”

  My heart stuttered in my chest as I closed my eyes and turned my face into his hand, relishing in the feel of his skin against my cheek. “In that case, your guardian angel desperately needs a change of underwear,” I joked, pushing myself up to my feet so I could look down at him properly. He chuckled awkwardly, wincing at the small movement. “Carson, don’t do that to me again. I thought you’d died; I thought you’d gone before I could tell you…” I took a deep breath and prepared myself to make a life-altering confession to him, but before I could finish speaking, the paramedic cleared his throat.

  “Let’s get this on you. It’ll relieve some of the pressure from your shoulder and should make you more comfortable,” he said, holding out a skin-coloured foam strip shaped like the figure eight. He unfastened one end and carefully looped it around Carson’s neck before gingerly picking up Carson’s arm and pushing his hand through the loop at the bottom. The groan of agony Carson made had the hair standing up on the back of my neck. Once he was done, the paramedic smiled sympathetically. “I’m fairly satisfied there’s no head or neck injury, but we’ll have to leave the collar on until they can do some proper tests. We’re ready to move you to the hospital. They’ll pop that back in when we get there. I think there may be some broken ribs, too.”

  I glanced up at him when he spoke. “Pop what in?” I questioned, confused. Carson scrunched his nose as another paramedic helped the first wheel the gurney toward the open doors of the ambulance.

  “His shoulder. It’s dislocated,” the first paramedic answered.

  A shudder washed over me, but I tried my best not to show any reaction. Carson saw it, though, and he chuckled quietly. “You can wait outside when they do it,” he offered.

  Bile rose in my throat. Too bloody right I’m waiting outside. I cannot see that! Ignoring his smug face, I looked at the paramedic. “I can get in the ambulance, too, right? I’m his fiancée.” I sniffed, wiping my nose on the back of my hand discreetly, silently wishing I had a tissue because I was sure to look an absolute mess.

  “Of course,” the paramedic answered. As soon as they’d settled Carson’s bed over on the right hand side, I climbed in. I sat opposite him and looked at him worriedly, wondering what I could do to help him. It was clear just by the stiff way he was lying and the paleness to his face that he was in a lot of pain.

  Just before the doors closed, one of Carson’s team stepped forward and placed Carson’s helmet on his stomach. “Don’t forget that, mate. Lucky helmet that,” the guy grinned.

  My eyes settled on the helmet and my stomach clenched, seeing just how much of a close call it really was. Carson’s helmet was cracked all around one side, scratches covering almost every inch of it. The visor was gone, ripped off no doubt because the clip on the side was shattered. As I looked at the thing that had saved Carson’s life, I burst into tears all over again.

  T DIDN’T TAKE LONG to get to the hospital. I didn’t get much chance to talk to Carson on the journey there because the paramedic was fussing over him the entire time. I did get to hold his hand, though. By the time we arrived, I was even more of a hysterical mess than I was minutes before. I had a feeling they were mostly tears of relief and ‘what could have been’ thoughts.

  When the ambulance pulled up outside the hospital, I tried my best to stay out of the way as they wheeled him inside. Doctors fussed over him, checking his eyes and head thoroughly, whilst asking him simple questions like his name and what day of the week it was.

  I pressed my back against the wall, watching it all with wide eyes, not knowing how I could help or what I should say. The guilt inside me was making me feel nauseous because this was entirely my fault.

  After finally concluding he had no head trauma, they removed the neck brace. When a nurse wheeled in an ultrasound machine, the doctor checked over Carson’s shoulder. “This is definitely dislocated. Your records show you’ve done it before,” the doctor stated, eyeing the screen carefully as he moved the little plastic thing around Carson’s shoulder.

  “Yeah, a few years ago,” Carson confirmed. He turned his head, looking over at me and a weak smile twitched at the corner of his lips. “Em, you can wait outside. You don’t have to be in here for this.”

  I gulped, wondering if my voice would work if I tried to speak. “I don’t want to leave you,” I admitted, even though in that second, I would rather be anywhere but there. I hated hospitals at the best of times, but knowing they were going to pop Carson’s shoulder back in was making my knees weak.

  His smile grew, and his eyes showed his appreciation before he turned back to the doctor. “Is there muscle damage? I won’t need surgery, will I?”

  Surgery? My breath caught in my throat.

  The doctor pursed his lips. “I’ve checked thoroughly for nerve damage and muscle tears, but it actually looks good. I can’t see anything which would require surgery.” He pulled the plastic wand-type thing away from Carson’s shoulder and smiled. “I think we can get this back in using reduction.”

  Carson winced but nodded.

  “What’s reduction?” I asked, finally pushing myself away from the wall.

  The doctor turned to me and smiled. “It’s the term we use. I’ll basically just manipulate the shoulder back into its socket manually, using massage and arm movements,” he explained. A lump formed in my throat, and I silently wished I hadn’t asked. He turned back to Carson. “Of course, we’ll have to get some pain medication and a mild sedative inside you first,” he added. “Let’s send you for x-ray to make sure nothing’s broken, and then we’ll get to it.”

  Carson nodded, wincing as they eased his arm back into the sling. “Can I request a full-blown sedative rather than a mild one? I’m a bit of a pussy, and I scream like a girl,” he joked.

  The doctor chuckled and pulled off his gloves, tossing them into the bin. “I’ll see what I can do.” He nodded to the nurse. “Rush him through x-ray and call me when he’s back.”

  “Emma, come here, will ya?” Carson asked, holding out his good hand to me.

  I nodded and obediently trotted to his side, taking his hand and gripping it tightly. Worry was eating me up inside. I felt useless just standing around and waiting. “You okay?” I whispered, squeezing his fingers gently.

  He nodded. “I’m all right. Listen, while I’m up in x-ray, can you call my mum and just tell her what’s happening? She’ll be going crazy, and the hospital probably won’t tell her anything because I changed my next of kin to you.”

  I frowned. “You did? Why did you do that? When?”

  He smiled, pulling my hand up and kissing the back of my knuckles softly. “I have to check over my medical forms and details before each race. I changed my next of kin to you a couple of weeks ago when you moved in with me.”

  I didn’t know what to say. That was kind of a big responsibility. Before he made his ‘I love you’ confession, I hadn’t even known he considered me to be his kin, let alone the most important one. “Oh.”

  He smiled weakly. “So, yeah, if you could possibly call my mum? Or if you don’t want to speak to her, then maybe you could call one of my sisters? Just tell them I’m fine, that I don’t need surgery and that I’ll call them later,” he asked.

  I nodded in agreement. “Of course, I’ll call her.” I didn’t really want to speak to his mother. We had barely exchanged more than a few polite words in the last few weeks, but I knew I needed to let it go for now. She may not like me, but I had no problem with her really, and she was still his mother, after all. If Sasha had been hurt and I didn’t know how she was, I would be beside myself with worry, so I knew what she’d be going through.

  “Thanks.” He kissed the back of my knuckles again, just as the nurses and an orderly unclicked the wheels of his bed and started to push him toward the door. I whimpered, tightening my grip on his hand, not wanting to let go. As I started walking alon
g by the side of his bed, meaning to go with him, he chuckled. “Emma, stop stressing. I’m fine.” He eased his hand from mine and smiled at me reassuringly.

  I stopped walking, feeling the lump in my throat swell as he was wheeled out of the room and down the corridor. As soon as he was out of sight, I slumped into the nearest chair and put my head in my hands.

  The phone call to Carson’s mother was an emotional one. As I suspected, she was beside herself and could hardly even speak to me on the phone. She was sobbing so hard I couldn’t quite make out her words, but I’d just cooed soothing things down the line, telling her he was fine and he didn’t want her to worry. She’d thanked me profusely for calling her and asked that I call again later to let her know when he was coming home and when she could come and visit. Lastly, she asked how Sasha was and if I needed her to go over and watch her while I was at the hospital. The gesture, although a relatively-small one, actually meant a lot to me. Sasha had certainly worked her magic and woven a spell over Jillian.

  After fifteen minutes, Carson was wheeled back into the room and smiled at me. “X-rays are all done, just gotta wait for the results and then they’ll pop my shoulder back in. I think you should probably go get a cup of tea or something while they do it,” he recommended.

  “Is it that bad?” I asked, pulling a chair up by the side of his bed.

  “It’s not exactly a walk in the park. I may swear a lot and even cry,” he joked. I smiled and behind me, the doctor walked in, x-rays in hand. We both looked up, eagerly awaiting the results.

  “Good news: no breaks in the shoulder. I was worried about the top of the humerus, but the x-ray shows no breaks. Also, the chest x-ray came back clear. No rib fractures either. You were extremely lucky.”

  Air rushed out of my lungs at the news and a smile crept onto my lips. No broken bones – that was certainly something to be thankful for.

  “All we need to do now is get that shoulder back into place. I’ll have a nurse come in and give you a sedative. Once that’s started to work, I’ll be back and we’ll get you back to fighting fit,” the doctor announced.

  WATCHING THE DOCTOR ease Carson’s arm back into place was one of the most horrifying things I’d ever seen in my life – probably second only to watching his accident earlier. Seeing him in that much pain while they moved his arm around in circles and massaged his shoulder was actually soul-shattering. I couldn’t watch most of it. I’d squeezed my eyes shut and turned my head away, gritting my teeth while he squeezed the life out of my hand with his good one. It was awful.

  After, they’d put his arm into a sling and performed another ultrasound to check again to make sure there was no damage to nerves and tissue. Thankfully, the doctor announced he had the all-clear and would just need to be referred to physiotherapy for aftercare.

  Once we were finally alone in the room, I smiled down at him. My heart ached with love for him as our eyes met.

  “Thanks for staying,” he said quietly.

  I nodded. “Of course. Although, I don’t think I’ll ever get the sound of that out of my head,” I winced and shook my head at the memory of the groans of agony which came from Carson.

  “Me either.” He chuckled awkwardly before he winced at the moment and gritted his teeth.

  I gulped, knowing I needed to broach the subject of the cause of this accident. I needed to apologise for it. “Carson, what happened? How did you lose control like that?”

  He blew out a big breath and shook his head. “I don’t know. I just wasn’t thinking clearly, I guess. I was stupid. I should have known better; it was a rookie mistake.”

  Shifting on my feet, I perched on the edge of his bed and pulled his hand into my lap. “It was my fault. You weren’t concentrating properly because we’d just argued. This is all my fault, all this pain you’re in, I caused that.” Tears overflowed in my eyes and trickled down my cheeks.

  He smiled weakly. “Emma, this isn’t your fault. It was mine. I was stupid and reckless today.”

  “Yeah, all because I didn’t tell you I loved you back before the race,” I countered, bending my head and pressing my face into the side of his neck. Feeling his soft skin against mine and having his breath blow across my damp cheek made my stomach flutter.

  His one good hand left mine and moved to cup the back of my head. “You shouldn’t have to lie to me just so I won’t drive like a dickhead.”

  I sniffed in an extremely unladylike fashion. “It wouldn’t have been a lie, Carson,” I mumbled against his neck.

  His whole body seemed to stiffen against me. “What? It… huh?”

  I smiled, finally pulling back and looked down at him. “You ran out of that room before I could compose myself. I was still in shock from hearing you say it to me. Your confession was so unexpected it just stumped me, and I couldn’t quite process it. And before I had the chance to accept what you said and say it back, you jumped to your own conclusions and ran from the room,” I explained, watching his eyes widen and his lips part.

  I gulped and tried to quash the ridiculous happiness trying to take over my body. Carson looked like he was barely breathing as his eyes scanned my face. Hope danced in his eyes as his hand tightened in my hair. “Emma, what?” he whispered. “You… you…”

  I smiled, reaching out to touch the confused frown lines on his forehead. “Why don’t you say it again? Now that you can’t run from the room, maybe I’ll get the chance to say my piece, too,” I suggested, grinning. I pressed myself closer to him, leaving barely an inch between our mouths. The heat from his body seeped into mine, making my skin tingle all over.

  Without missing a beat, he said the words I had longed to hear come out of his mouth for the last three years. “I love you, Emma.”

  My eyes fluttered closed, and I immediately pressed my mouth to his, kissing him as if it was the last thing I would ever get to do. Everything finally clicked back into place. The hurt and sadness I’d been feeling for the last few weeks just disappeared with that one kiss. When Carson’s lips were against mine, it felt right and whole and perfect – just like it always had done. He moaned in the back of his throat and kissed me back immediately. His arm wrapped around me tightly, as if he was afraid to let go.

  Not really wanting to, but knowing I had to, I broke the kiss. I needed to say it back this time; he needed to know he was my whole world and everything good in it. But clearly he wasn’t ready for the kiss to end yet because he guided my mouth back to his again. I smiled against his soft lips and broke the kiss for a second time, pressing my forehead to his. As I spoke the words, I looked deeply into his blue eyes that had me hooked from the first time I looked into them.

  “I love you, too.”

  He closed his eyes and his whole body relaxed as he seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. A beautiful smile stretched across his face that I couldn’t help but mirror. “That sounded even better than I imagined it would,” he said, laughing quietly. His hand guided my face to his, and he leant up, brushing his nose across mine in a little Eskimo kiss. That one small, familiar gesture warmed my heart and seemed to set my body on fire as my hormones started to rage. “Move back. I have something I need to do,” he muttered, tilting his head and kissing my lips gently for a second.

  “What?” I asked, confused as I moved and stood up, looking down at him in question. But he didn’t answer, just pulled back the sheets on the bed, and used his elbow to push himself up to sitting. I gasped, putting my hand on his good shoulder, trying to thwart his attempt to get up. “Carson, what are you doing? You need to stay still,” I protested, shaking my head in disbelief. “I’ll do whatever it is. What do you need? A drink, the bathroom, what?” I asked desperately.

  He grinned, his eyes twinkling with mischief as he moved his legs, swinging them off the side of the bed. “I just need to do something and then I’ll get back in bed. I promise.”

  I groaned in frustration, taking his arm and helping him stand when he wobbled. “Carson, you’re going to hurt yourself!
You should be resting!” I scolded.

  Without answering, he reached out and used the bed to brace himself as he bent his leg and got down on one knee, wincing and groaning in pain as he did it.

  “Carson, what are you doing?” I cried in exasperation, scowling at him. He was going to hurt himself, or cause more damage to his body. The doctors had said he was to rest for a couple of days; he shouldn’t be out of bed at all.

  Finally, he looked up at me. The smile that stretched across his face was beautiful and made the hair on the nape of my neck prickle. “I’m doing what I should have done weeks ago. I’m proposing,” he answered.

  My mouth popped open in shock at his words. Proposing. He was on his knees in front of me. He loved me. He wanted to marry me for real, and not because he didn’t want Sasha to grow up in a one-parent household.

  “But you already proposed,” I whimpered, watching him through teary eyes.

  He shook his head and frowned, seeming annoyed.

  “No, I didn’t. I didn’t ask the question. I didn’t ask you to be my wife. I told you instead.”

  My teeth sank into my bottom lip as happiness washed over me. When he shifted on his knee and sucked in a breath through his teeth, I could see how much pain he was in, but he made no moves to get up as he reached for my left hand.

  I whimpered, looking down at the love of my life. His eyes met mine as he spoke. “Emma, I’m sorry I didn’t do this properly before, really I am, and I hope you can forgive me for being such a wanker for the last few weeks. I’ll make it up to you, I swear.” He gulped, and I could see the sincerity on his face as his thumb brushed over the back of my hand. “I want to take care of you. I want to be there for you, always. I love you so much. Will you marry me? Not because you have to, but because you want to? Will you be my wife and let me love you forever?” he pleaded.

  My tears were back in force now at his words. His proposal, although done in a hospital surrounded by the busy goings-on and people rushing around in the corridor outside, was the most perfect thing ever. The only sound I’d ever heard which topped Carson’s proposal was hearing my daughter say her first word.

  “Yes,” I whispered, nodding excitedly. “I’d love to marry you.” That was the truth. I’d always wanted to be his wife, but just not under the circumstances he had demanded last time.

  The dazzling grin that crossed his face made my knees weak. He
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