tagRomanceOvercoming the Odds

Overcoming the Odds

byBiggalute©

This is my first attempt at writing a romance story and I'm nervous. It's taken me a long time and become a bit of a labour of love (not necessarily a bad thing for a romance story, I suppose) It's long, over seventeen thousand words, but I hope the characters are strong and believable. There's not much actual sex but lots of strong language and references. I enjoy writing and really hope you enjoy reading this. Votes are lovely and comments and suggestions are really appreciated. It's the only feedback I get and the only way I can improve. Enjoy x.

*****

"Hi Chris, everything's ok, you're just waking up. Take a deep breath, you have a tube in your mouth to help you breath, try to relax and breathe normally."

Chris could hear the voices but couldn't make sense of them, he'd been dreaming for a long time, scary dreams, peoples voices, people pulling and dragging at him, sticking things in him, hurting him, trying to kill him.

"It's ok Chris, you're in intensive care, you were hurt but you're ok now. Chris keep your hands down, stop fighting, relax Chris, squeeze my hand if you understand."

Chris could feel hands pinning him down, pain everywhere.

"Chris you need to slow your breathing, you're safe, you're in intensive care. Look at me Chris, everything's fine, Chris try to relax."

A second voice, "His heart rate and BP are up, he's not syncing with the vent."

"He's not ready yet, give him a bolus of Proprofol."

More dreams, erotic ones, scary ones and damn right weird ones.

"Chris open your eyes, nod if you can see me."

A blurry face, maybe pretty, a nice smile, Chris tries to nod

"Good, my names Jackie, I'm one of the nurses, you're in the intensive care in the military hospital, you have a tube in your mouth, so you can't talk, we'll get it out soon."

Military hospital? I'm in the military.

"Nod if you understand me. That's good, we'll get that tube out soon, have you got any pain? OK I'll give you something for that."

"Chris I want you to squeeze my hands. Good!. Can you stick your tongue out? Brilliant! We're going to take that tube out now; we'll put a mask on your face to give you some oxygen."

Chris could see a small tube being put down the tube in his mouth, he coughed painfully. Lots of machine noises, alarms.

"The tubes coming out Chris, breath normally, that's great. Give me a little cough if you can. Great! Chris you're in the intensive care, you were very sick but you're getting better. You're going to be sleepy for a while, just go with it and try to relax. Do you understand me? Great. You'll be able to talk better in a little while."

Chris was awake now, very groggy but aware. Jackie, the nurse, seemed to be there the whole time, talking to him, reassuring him. He couldn't remember what she was saying but he felt safe, she wasn't going to hurt him.

Awake again, a different nurse in the room, older, bigger than Jackie. "Hi Chris, I'm Madeline one of the nurses, you were sleeping. It's 2 o'clock in the morning."

Chris tried speaking, a croaky noise comes out, he tried again, "Where am I?"

"You're in England, in the military hospital, you were injured in Afghanistan."

Chris just stared, trying to make sense of the information. "We're still giving you lots of strong pain killers and you've had a lot of sedation, you're bound to be groggy, try to rest and we'll talk more tomorrow."

"Good morning Chris," It was Jackie again. "It's 8.30, how are you feeling this morning?"

"Like shit."

"That's understandable; you've been through a lot."

"Can you cut back on the pain killers; I don't like being so out of it."

"We don't want you to be in pain, you were badly injured."

"I'll put up with the pain."

"I'll ask the doctor."

Jackie came back, "I spoke to the doctor and we're going to turn the pain killers down, tell us straight away if you're too sore."

Chris nodded. As the day went on Chris found he could concentrate more and retain information. Jackie told him he'd been in the ICU for three weeks, having been evacuated from Afghanistan. She told him he had been injured by shrapnel, damaging the right side of his chest. He kept asking more questions.

"Listen, you're doing well but you're still a bit groggy, tomorrow when you're more awake I'll get one of the doctors to talk to you and explain everything."

Chris nodded, he was exhausted and the pain was becoming harder to deal with. Jackie asked him if he wanted more pain killers, Chris said no, he decided he would try and do without.

The next day a Colonel Jones came to see Chris, he explained that he was an anesthetist and in charge of the ICU. He asked Chris what he remembered about being in Afghanistan.

"Do you know what regiment I was attached too?" Chris asked. The doctor nodded,

"I know you are a Royal Marine and a member of the SBS."

"Well we were involved in various operations, but my last memories are of going on a reconnaissance mission in the mountains."

"That was your last mission, you had been imbedded for two days when you came under attack, do you remember that?"

Chris shook his head.

"Don't worry, that's not unusual."

"There were four of you in your patrol, you came under mortar attack. Steve Adams, your corporal, was killed, you were badly injured, thankfully the other two were able to call for help and get you out of there."

Chris just stayed silent, not knowing what to say.

"Your injuries were fairly severe, we didn't know if you would survive, but you're a tough bugger."

"What were my injuries?"

"A few minor things but the main one was a piece of shell hitting the right side of your chest and partially coming out the other side, it took out your lung, but somehow missed your other major organs and blood vessels, also we didn't know what nerve damage was caused. You obviously lost a lot of blood and there was a fair bit of bony damage to your chest and shoulder. You have a long road ahead of you but I think you should make a fairly good recovery."

"When did it happen?"

"Four weeks ago now, they stabilized you over there then flew you back here. You've had a bit of a rocky ride, got infections along the way which held you up a bit, also you were very difficult to wean off the ventilator, partly because of your poor chest but also because you're a big guy and you were very agitated. We woke you a number of times, but you were too confused."

"So what happens now?"

"Well, you'll be in ICU for another day or two and then move to a ward. You're very weak still and have a lot of damage to your right side. You'll need a lot of building up and physio."

"Have you anymore questions?"

Chris shook his head.

"I'll see you again tomorrow, once your up and about we'll get you some counseling, these things can be hard to deal with."

The doctor left, Chris just lay there, trying to make sense of it all.

Chris moved into a six bedded ward with five other injured soldiers. They were all army and he was a Royal Marine which inevitably led to a lot of good natured slagging. They all seem to have been badly injured, two of the guys seemingly paralyzed. They all needed and got very intensive physiotherapy.

Chris became very bloody minded and determined, he refused painkillers even though he had a lot of pain. When one of the nurses asked him why he wouldn't take any painkillers Chris explained that he had spent most of his fourteen years as a Marine in some sort of pain or discomfort, always pushing himself further and harder and that he would do the same here. A psychologist came to see him a few times but he convinced them that he was coping, and that if he needed them he would contact them.

Chris started using a computer, trying to get a grip on the time he had lost and what had happened. Preferring this to asking people. About a week after he left ICU Chris got a messenger message from an old buddy, Jon James, 'You a cripple?' Typical Jon, straight to the point.

'No.'

'Good, get better and come and work with me in the States.'

Chris smiled, Jon was as close to family as he had; a big Geordie with a loud mouth and a quick wit; they had gone through basic training together and even applied for and got into special forces at the same time. Jon had left the Marines a year before but up until that time they had had each others backs on numerous occasions. Chris was the far quieter of the two, but they enjoyed many of the same interests and had the same dry, often absurd sense of humor. More than one person had said they were like an old married couple when they got going.

'No fucking way, you'll get me killed." Chris replied.

Jon was doing very well paid personal security work; the only problem was that the sort of people he worked for were the type that lots of people want to hurt.

'Can't kill a bad thing.'

'I thought you'd be here with a big bunch of flowers when I woke up.'

'If you were dead I was going to come to your funeral but when I heard you weren't, I didn't bother.

I have to go, keep your chin up, I'll contact you soon.' Jon signed off.

The next day a big bunch of flowers was delivered to the ward, much to the amusement of the other soldiers. Chris also found out from one of the nurses that Jon had phoned everyday he was in hospital.

As the weeks went by Chris began to realize that despite getting stronger, he was never going to get anywhere near as fit and strong as he had been. Breathing on one lung obviously restricted him and the bone and nerve damage meant that he had restricted movement and strength in his right arm and shoulder. He was also heavily scarred and lopsided when he stood up straight.

All the staff were brilliant and really tried to encourage him, telling him he was doing better than anyone expected and on a few occasions when he was down, reminding him he was lucky to be alive.

Chris didn't feel lucky; he'd gone from a super fit, elite soldier to what to him felt like a physical wreck. The psychologists came again but Chris knew he had to get his own head around it; he'd done it his whole life.

Chris's commanding officer visited. He thanked Chris for his bravery and service and offered him a place as a training instructor, saying his knowledge and experience would be invaluable. Chris said he'd think about it but knew he'd never do it. The trouble was he didn't know what else he would do. As his rehab continued Chris met many advisers and support workers, telling him what help and supports he could avail of. What was clear to Chris was that the only thing he knew how to do was to be a soldier, and he couldn't do that anymore.

Chris had always been interested in his body, how it worked, how far he could push it, how much was mental, how much was physical.

He had built up a rapport with one of the physios, Jane. They got along well and Jane really knew her stuff, pushing Chris and getting results. She was a very attractive girl in her late twenties with a very tight, swimmers body. Under other circumstances Chris would have been attracted to her and felt he had a chance of going out with this girl, but not in the state he was in.

One day as Jane was bending Chris's arm into a place he never thought it would go again, Chris was chatting, through gritted teeth, about the fact that he didn't know what jobs to train for.

"Why don't you do something like this, become a physio." Jane said

"I don't know anything about that sort of thing."

"That's why you train, besides you do know a lot of stuff, you know how a body works and how to talk to people."

"How longs the training?"

"Four years."

"That's probably too long for me; I can't see myself studying for that long."

"Well you should think about it. I tell you what, a friend of mine did an intensive therapeutic massage course up in London last year, now she's getting work with sports teams and alike, I'll get you some info if you like."

"That might be interesting, thanks. Do you think I'd be able for that, with my injured shoulder and all."

"You're a big guy and even with your shoulder being maybe 80% of what it was, you're still stronger than most, moreover even though it's nice to get a strong, deep tissue massage, the best masseuses have great touch and feel combined with knowledge rather than strength."

"I can appreciate that, thanks again."

This was all new to Chris; his whole adult life had been planned out for him; where to be and when to be there, and what to do when you got there. Now he had to decide on future training and work and where he was going to live. Thankfully he was due a reasonable payout from the Marines and a decent disability pension, so from a money point of view he should be ok.

Jane came back with information about the massage course. It was twenty weeks long, eight before Christmas and twelve after. It was quite expensive and would require him living up in London for the duration. Chris said he'd think about it.

When Chris next met his veteran's adviser he mentioned the course.

"Well it looks like a legit course at a reputable college, if you're really interested we could probably get you a grant to pay for the fees, also we have access to subsidized accommodation up in London. So if you want to go for it, we'll help you."

"That's great, I'll think about it some more and let you know soon," Chris said.

The more Chris looked into the course the more it appealed to him. It was run twice a year and only ever had small groups of between six and eight students, allowing for intensive training and support. The literature said they were always oversubscribed and that all applicants would undergo interview. He decided to apply.

Chris got called for interview in early September, the course starting in October. Chris realized he didn't have any clothes to wear for the interview. His old clothes were still on base and probably wouldn't fit anyway. For the months of rehab he'd been living in tracksuits and t shirt. He also realized that he didn't know anything about the nearest town to the hospital, what shops there were or anything. This was all becoming a bit daunting and overwhelming for Chris. He was finding the simple task of buying new clothes and going for an interview harder than putting his body through weeks of sometimes agonizing physiotherapy.

Whilst not wanting or feeling able to confide in and talk to the various counselors available to him, Chris had on a few occasions let his guard down with Jane. He asked her about the local town and shops and as if reading his mind she immediately offered to drive him in and show him around.

They went on the Saturday and even though Chris had always hated shopping he had a great time being dragged around by Jane. He virtually bought a whole new wardrobe and even he thought he cut a dashing figure in his new suit. In the late afternoon he asked Jane if he could buy her a drink and something to eat, as a thank you for all her help. She said she'd love to but was meeting her boyfriend at seven. Chris hadn't even considered that Jane would have a boyfriend, he felt stupid, rejected and dejected all at the same time.

"But I tell you what, once you've done the massage course I want a sumptuous deep tissue massage as payment, how about that?"

"You'll be the first on my list." Chris said, perking up a bit.

The interviewers were very good, making him feel relaxed and getting him to open up a bit. They asked about his military experience, his injuries and his reasons for wanting to do the course. He must have impressed them because two days later he got a letter offering him a place.

He was very nervous but delighted to be moving on with his life. Chris moved up to London the week before the course started. The veterans support team under the auspices of the Royal British Legion had found him a small one bedroom furnished apartment, very central and within walking distance of the college. It only took him a few minutes to put his clothes away and as he sat there on the sofa it occurred to him that he had never before lived alone.

He was now thirty four and had joined the Marines at eighteen, moving away from a loving if somewhat dysfunctional family. His father was a decent man who worked hard, but was rarely around. His mother probably had some undiagnosed mental disorder, she could be overly loving one minute and distant and disinterested the next, or so it felt to Chris growing up. The military had given him the structure and purpose he craved. Even as his career had advanced, Chris had always lived on base or more often been away on exercises or deployment. He had briefly lived with a girlfriend, but that had nearly finished before it began. Now he was on his own, an injured, fairly fucked up ex Special Forces Royal Marine, sat in a soulless apartment in the center of one of the most vibrant cities in the world. 'Things could be worse' Chris chuckled to himself.

Throughout his rehab Chris had been in regular contact with Jon but hadn't said anything about the course in case it didn't work out. He decided to message him.

'Hi Jon, what you at'

A few hours later a reply,

'Just home, added a new string to my bow, been up all night training fuckheads how to survive in the wilds'

'What's that all about?'

'Just survivalists who want to know how to survive. To be honest their not a bad bunch, for right wing, end of the world fucking idiots. You should come and help me train them, you'd fit right in'

Every time they had chatted Jon had encouraged him to come over.

'I'm taking a more gentle approach, I'm gonna train as a masseuse'

'Ha ha, no fucking way, what, happy endings and all'

'Not that type of masseuse, but for you I could make an exception'

'Fuck off you wanker. I'm gonna hit the sack, good luck using your gentle shovels on people'

Chris laughed, he was a big guy anyway but he'd always had noticeably big, strong hands. He could see why Jon would scoff.

On the first day of the course Chris was as nervous as he was starting primary school, a day he remembered because his mum had spent ages kissing him in front of the school gates, much to his embarrassment, and then hardly asked him how it had gone when she collected him.

Chris was the first student to arrive and eventually there were five of them, three women and two men. The lecturer said another student had dropped out at the last minute, before going over a brief outline of the course structure as a little reminder but also to give everyone time to relax. The first eight weeks would be lots of A&P and theory, interspersed with some practical sessions. After Christmas it would be mainly practical.

The lecturer asked everyone to introduce themselves to the class, their names, where they were from, what they worked at, that sort of thing. The first to stand up was Billy. Billy looked to be around the same age as Chris and said he was a nurse working in a hospice and hoped that what he learnt on the course could help relieve some of his patients' symptoms and maybe reduce the amount of drugs they used. Everyone mumbled approval at this, all thinking it was a great idea.

Jenny stood up next; she was pretty girl, maybe late twenties and seemed very nervous as she started to introduce herself. The whole group seemed kind and supportive, making encouraging sounds and giving Jenny time. Chris thought they were a good bunch and relaxed a bit himself. Jenny said she had been doing massage for years, but not this sort,

"It's the sort where you gave muscle stimulation rather than relaxation," She said, to a few laughs and smiles from the group. "But I've saved up my money and now want to learn to do proper massage."

Chris felt like clapping in encouragement but instead just nodded along with the rest of the group. Next two young blond women stood up together, early to mid twenties Chris guessed. They introduced themselves together, they were Enga and Alice, two friends from Sweden who had finished college but didn't know what they wanted to do and so had come to London to do the course. Chris looked at them, they were well dressed and he imagined they must have money behind them. Finally it was Chris's turn; he took a big breath to calm himself and stood up.

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byBiggalute© 14 comments/ 10319 views/ 25 favorites

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