Despite being in Doc's arms, I slept fitfully. I was so worried about Robbie and scared he wouldn't make it. And pissed off about my hip. I did not need to be sidelined now, with Christmas and then our honeymoon coming up. Finally, the clock said 8 am and I felt I could call Steve and not risk him calling me a bunch of unprintable names.
Of course, Julian noticed as soon as I slid out of bed. “What time is it?” he mumbled.
“It's 8 o'clock. Go back to sleep.”
“Why are you getting up?”
“To call Steve. If he can't come out until later, I'm coming back to bed.” I turned around and leaned over and kissed him, then picked up my crutches and went to the bathroom first.
In the kitchen, I called my vet. He was busy, but said he'd come out after supper even though he wasn't on call. I returned to the downstairs bedroom and crawled back into bed. “What did he say?” Doc asked me.
“He's coming after supper – around 7. He doesn't have time during the day.”
“Okay, we'll go to the hospital after lunch.”
“I was hoping you'd forgotten about that, Doc.”
“I never forget, hon.”
“Yeah, I know.” I pushed a lock of hair off his forehead and kissed him, then I turned over and let him put his arm around me.
A few hours later, we reluctantly got up. Neither of us had slept well. I insisted on going to the barn to see Robbie while Julian made lunch. He insisted I take my crutches and the 4 wheeler. Not wanting to argue with him, I let him get the ATV out of the garage and bring it up to the house. He had learned to drive it after we got home from the safe house and my subsequent hospitalization. I think he had been embarrassed at not knowing how to drive the UTV when we fled the safe house so he asked me to teach him when we returned to the farm.
I met him out back at the gate. He was batting at his arm, trying to brush something off of it. “I walked into a cobweb”, he said irritably. “That garage needs to be burned to the ground.”
“Oh, Julian, it's just a cobweb. Here, let me help.”
“No, you can't stand without your crutches. Get in.” He got off the 4 wheeler and I sat down.
“Honey, look at it this way. Spiders are good. They eat bugs. Cobwebs trap bugs.”
“At this time of year?”
“Well, no, but....”
“Which means that cobweb is at the least, a few months old. You need to clean that garage.”
“Okay, Doc. I'll clean it when I come back from the barn.”
He reacted exactly as I thought he would. “You will not! Not until your hip has healed.”
“All right, Doc”, I said with an exaggerated sigh. “But no complaints about it being dirty.”
“We need to talk about replacing it, Meredith.”
“I've been thinking about doing that, but we've been so busy, there hasn't been time to make plans to do it.”
“I know, hon. Let's look at doing it in the spring.” He gave me a kiss and I set off for the barn.
Robbie was in his stall. I wanted him to stay inside until Steve checked him over. Alex had put a blanket on him as he had practically no fat on him and wouldn't be able to cope with the cold as well as a horse in good condition. I'd asked him to put the heat on in the barn, but I didn't want it too high as the horses needed to keep their winter coats since they were outside for part of the time in all but the worst weather.
I asked Karen to bring him out and put him on the cross ties so that I could tend to his wounds. “Meredith, I can do it, I know how. You get off your feet. Julian will have your head if he sees you out here working.”
“He knows I'm out here.”
“Does he know you want to work?”
“No”, I admitted. “And he won't. I'm not going to fight with him only two weeks after our wedding.”
“Then sit your ass down and let me do it.” I sat on a bale of straw and chatted with my bestie while she tended to Robbie. The gelding trembled as she flushed his wounds and poured antiseptic into them. It was sad to see him so afraid of people, but I knew he'd start to trust humans again when he felt safe. Hopefully, that wouldn't take too long. That is, if he made it – he was sooooo emaciated.
When Doc called me on my cell, I went back to the house for lunch, then we got ready to go to the city. He had called Dr Beckett, the orthopedic surgeon, and got me in to see him at 3:00 in the afternoon. “I don't know how you do it, Doc”, I said to him over homemade soup and sandwiches. “Most specialists don't just happen to have an opening the same day, but you always manage to get me in.”
“That's a benefit of being married to a doctor, hon.”
“How would you feel about a career change, Doc?” The look he gave me was priceless. I can't imagine Doc being anything but a doctor and he can't either. “I'm teasing you, honey.”
I had my x ray, which turned out to be normal – no cracks or anything and the hip was in place. Dr. Beckett said I should stay on the crutches for a couple weeks if I could, just to make sure it stayed in. “If I thought you'd comply, I'd order you into a wheelchair for a month, but I know better, especially at this time of year and even more especially with a new horse in your stable. But I absolutely forbid riding.” My face sunk. “I mean it, Meredith.”
“I can't promise that, Dr Beckett. Riding is as essential to me as breathing.”
“Adam”, Doc interrupted. “If she rides, can she do permanent damage to the hip?”
“It's possible, Julian.”
“Which would mean she wouldn't be able to ride again, right?”
“Meredith, do you really want to take that chance?” Doc asked me.
He had me and he knew it. I'd exact my revenge later. “All right, Dr Beckett. I won't ride. But I can go upstairs to our bedroom, right?”
“As long as you do it with your crutches and walking only on your good leg.” I glared in triumph at Doc.
“Adam, one more thing. What about jumping on hay wagons?”
“Julian, you should know the answer to that.”
“Oh, I know the answer, but I want Meredith to hear it from you.” I knew what he was doing. We had discussed the hay ride on our way in and he was adamant that I could not get up on the wagon.
“Meredith, absolutely no jumping on hay wagons!”
“Dr Beckett, what about climbing up on them?” The orthopedist sighed. “I'm serious, Saturday is my annual Christmas carol hay ride.”
“Can you help her up, Julian?”
“I suppose so”, Doc reluctantly replied. “She's light enough that I can pick her up and lift her onto the wagon.”
“That solves the problem. Make sure you help her down, too. No jumping down, Meredith.”
“See, Doc? It's a good thing I haven't gained that weight back. Dr Beckett, what about sex?” Doc blushed.
“Only if you are careful. No missionary position or being on your feet or knees. It's too hard on your hip.”
“I could lie on my side with my knees bent and Julian behind me, right?”
“Yes, as long as he's not too ….. shall we say, enthusiastic.” Doc looked like he was going to have a coronary.
“There's nothing to be embarrassed about, Julian”, Dr Beckett said to him. “Sex is normal and natural. Just take it easy on her for a while.”
“More like it should be the other way around, Adam. She needs to take it easy on me.”
Doc was morose on the way home. “Oh, come on, Doc. It's not that bad.”
“I feel like I lost on every point, Meredith.”
“You didn't lose, honey. It's not a competition. And I have restrictions on what I can do and how.” I reached over and put my hand on his leg in a reassuring gesture. “I'll do my best to take it easy, I promise.”
Steve arrived after supper to look at Robbie. Alex came out to the barn with us and brought the horse out of his stall, since I wasn't supposed to be walking without my crutches. Steve gave him a thorough going over. Robbie trembled, but stood still for most of it. Until my vet tried to open his mouth to look inside. The horse was having nothing of it. “Meredith, I'm going to have to sedate him.”
“Do what you have to do, Steve”, I said, giving him permission. The veterinarian didn't want to give him too much, given his emaciated condition, but just enough to make him relax a bit. As soon as he saw inside the gelding's mouth, he knew what was wrong. “His teeth are in dire need of floating”, he said to me. “I see three that need filing down.” That explained the horse's weight loss, despite having lots of food. I fumed. Obviously, the owners could afford to feed him, so there was no excuse for not getting vet care.
Alex petted Robbie and talked softly to him while his brother filed his teeth down. He would have made a great veterinarian, I thought as I watched. It seemed that love of animals ran in his family.
Before he left, Steve said I could start to feed the gelding grain in a few days and told me how much to give him. He also said he could have as much hay as he wanted. He told me to call him if Robbie did not start to gain weight within a couple weeks. Alex walked him out to his truck, but told me to wait for him as he wanted to talk to me before we went back to the house.
“Meredith....” he said, as he came back through the barn door. “What the hell are you doing!”
“Stop. You aren't supposed to be doing that.”
“I can do whatever I want”, I grumpily told him as he tried to take the broom from me. I held on tightly.
“What's wrong with you, Meredith? You know you are not to be on both feet.”
“Says who?” I asked defiantly.
“Says Dr Beckett.”
“He did not say that.”
“Meredith, it's unlike you to lie.”
“I'm not lying, Alex. He said I *shouldn't* be on both feet, he did not say I *can't*.”
“You are splitting hairs.”
“I am not. Now, let go of the broom.”
“I'm not letting go, Meredith.” We continued to wrestle for a couple more minutes – damn, Alex was strong for someone with a cushy job – then I let go and stormed out of the barn without taking my crutches. “Meredith!” I heard him yell behind me. “Take your crutches!”
“Fuck you, Alex”, I muttered under my breath without faltering in my stride. I walked to my minivan in the laneway and fished out the spare key from a wheel well. The door wasn't locked but I needed it to start the car. I put the heat on full blast and sat fuming. I took a Johnny Cash CD out and put it in the player. As it played “Ring of Fire”, I cranked the music. Being in the country, there's no way my neighbours would hear it. As I calmed down, my anger at Alex and my situation abated. Instead, I was feeling sorry for myself. I rested my arms on the steering wheel and lay my head on them, closing my eyes as the tears ran down my face.
I don't know how long I sat like that. After a while, I was startled by a knock on the window. I looked up and Doc was there. “Open the door, Meredith.”
Great, just what I needed – to get into a fight with my husband. I shook my head no.
“I don't want to fight with you, Doc.”
“I'm not here to fight, hon. I'm not mad. Honest.” I unlocked the door and opened it. He leaned down and took me into his arms. “Alex told me what happened. He's worried about you. Hey, can you turn that off? Please?” I reached over and turned the CD player off. “Thanks, hon. Now, tell me what's wrong.”
“I'm just so sick of this!” I wailed.
“Things going wrong! Here it is almost Christmas and I can't do anything!”
“That isn't your fault, Meredith. It's the fault of the drunk driver that rammed into us. And it's only for two weeks. After that, you can walk on both legs.”
“Dr Beckett said he'd rather I be in a wheelchair for a month!”
“I know, but he knows you won't do it. So, he's settling for two weeks on crutches. Can you meet him halfway? You know I will do everything I can to help you.”
“I don't know.”
“At least think about it, okay? And look at it this way – you don't want to further injure yourself just before our honeymoon.”
“All right, Doc.”
“Let's go inside, it's freezing out here.” He reached inside the vehicle and turned it off, pulling the key out of the ignition. It reminded me of the time he'd done that after chasing me through the back roads when I had pneumonia. He handed me the key and kissed me before I got out and put it back under the wheel well.
“Where are my crutches?” I asked.
“Inside. I thought since you had walked from the barn to your car without them, you could walk to the house.” He put his arm around me and helped me walk up to the house. When we got to the foot of the steps, he picked me up and carried me up them, setting me down on the porch.
“I'm going upstairs”, I said. “I don't particularly want to talk to Alex right now. Where are my crutches?”
“In the living room. Alex brought them in from the barn.”
The Carmichaels were in the tv room watching something. I got my crutches and headed for the stairs. Alex came out and called to me “Meredith...”
Doc cut him short. “Not tonight, Alex. Leave her be. I'll be up in a moment, Meredith. I want to talk to Alex.” I continued up the stairs and went to the master bathroom. I turned on the water in the shower and let it heat up while I got out of my clothes. Just as I was stepping in, Doc appeared. “Wait for me, hon. I want to bathe you tonight.” He talked as he got undressed. “I told Alex that you are just feeling frustrated at having to be idle at your favourite time of year and that you don't feel like talking to him about it tonight, but maybe tomorrow.”
“I love you so much, Julian.”
“You know I love you, too, hon.” He got in the tub and bent down to kiss me before he got my wash cloth and the bar of soap. He began to bathe me.
“I don't deserve you, Doc. You could have done so much better than me.”
“Hush, Meredith. I knew what I was getting into. I love you, faults and all. Just like you love me, faults and all. Neither one of us is perfect.”
After our shower, we got into bed. Doc read a medical journal and I lay my head on his chest and closed my eyes. Scruffy jumped on the bed and lay down on Doc under my chin. “Meredith, your squirrel is on me”, he whined.
“It won't kill you, Doc. She's on your jammies, not your bare skin.”
“I will have to change into a clean pair before we go to sleep.”
“Oh, Doc”, I sighed. “I know how you are and you know I love you as you are, but Scruffy doesn't go outside anymore unless I'm with her, and she's been bathed since the last time she was out. Jessie is out every day and you are okay with her being on the bed.”
“I was afraid to say anything when I started spending time here. I didn't want you to kick me out of your house and your life. Tell you what, hon. I won't change if you promise to stay off that leg until we go away.”
“That's dirty pool, Doc.”
“Take it or leave it.”
“Okay. Change your jammies.”
“That is not the choice I was hoping you'd make, hon.”
“Oh well, Doc.”
“I should spank you for that, Meredith.”
“And disturb innocent Scruffy?”
He laughed. “Oh, Meredith. What am I going to do with you?”
“Well, I'd suggest you marry me, but you already did that.”
Doc put his magazine down beside him and reached over and stroked my hair. “You don't know how happy it makes me that you married me, hon.” I looked up at him and smiled. He kissed me.
Just then, there was a knock on the bedroom door. Doc and I both sighed. “Come in!” he called. The door opened and Alex walked into the room. I looked over and glared at him.
“Deanna and I are going to bed soon”, he said. “Is there anything we can get you before we do?”
“A new body would be nice”, I replied sarcastically.
“Are you in pain, hon?” Doc asked.
“I'll be okay, honey. Just feeling a bit sorry for myself. Alex, would you mind getting me a hot chocolate?”
“Not at all, Meredith. Where do you keep it?”
“Just get me an instant. It's in the cupboard above the bread maker.”
“Meredith, that is swill, as you say about Timmy's coffee”, Doc chastised me. “Alex, do you know how to make it from scratch?”
“No, Julian, but Deanna does. I'll get her to make one up. Do you want one, too?”
“I'm fine, thanks.”
“Alex, don't bother Deanna. Just get me an instant.”
“It's no trouble, Meredith. I'll get her to tell me how to make it.”
“Will I dare drink it?” I teased him.
He brought my drink up 10 minutes later. He had to come around the foot of the bed to give it to me. I sat up and took it from him. Scruffy chastised me for disturbing her as she jumped off the bed and headed for her nest. Alex sat down on the bed. Inwardly, I groaned. “Are you feeling better, Meredith?” he asked.
“Not really. I'll get Julian to give me my pain meds before we go to sleep.”
“I take it then that you aren't better emotionally, either.”
I sighed. “As Julian told you earlier, I'm just upset at having to be idle at my favourite time of year. I guess I needed to have a hissy fit, but I'm sorry for taking it out on you.”
“No need to apologize, Meredith. I'd rather you take it out on me than someone else.”
“Alex, you have been an amazing friend to Julian and I. It was unfair of me to do that. Not to mention how much you've helped us with dealing with our issues.”
“Well, I *do* get paid for that.” We laughed. “To be honest, I feel kind of bad imposing on you two for so long.”
“You aren't imposing, Alex. Like we've said, you and Deanna pull your weight and we love having you here. If any of us feels like we need alone time, we can go to the apartment. Doc is paying rent on it, it might as well get used at least some of the time when neither of you are on call. We know your insurance company is dragging it's heels, so you stay here as long as you need to. And, by the way, when are you going to give him” I pointed to Doc, who was engrossed in his magazine “that physical?”
“Never.” Julian wasn't as engrossed as I'd thought he was.
“I thought you were reading, Doc?”
“I am but I hear everything.”
“Ha! Alex, can I watch when you do?”
“If you want to, Meredith.”
“It's not going to happen, hon.”
“Oh? Okay, then no more cyst checks on me.”
“Oh, no, Meredith, you don't get to do that. You have an issue with cysts. I am perfectly healthy.”
“I'll get him to agree, Alex. Don't you worry.”
“Oh, I'm not worried. But I wasn't going to do it until you're back from your honeymoon anyway. So you have time to work on him. Are you finished your hot chocolate? I'll take the mug downstairs.” He gave me a hug before getting up. “Get a good sleep, everything will look better in the morning.”
Alex shut the door behind him, and Doc turned to me. “Ready for your meds, hon?”
“Yes, please.” He got them from his nightstand drawer and shook two into my hand. I swallowed them down with a drink of water from my nightstand. We turned off our lamps and he snuggled up behind me.
“It will be okay, hon”, he said. “You can still go on the hayride Saturday as long as you let me help you up onto the wagon. And you do not need to be on your feet for Christmas. I can cook and you can tell me what to do with the turkey.”
“Doc, I need to harness the horses and hook them up.”
“Get Karen to do it. I will pay her extra. Now, let's go to sleep.”