Walking Tall

The continuation of Misunderstandings: Aftermath

By Beej

 

Part 1

He sat like a statue, solid, still. His eyes were squeezed shut, his knuckles white from the pressure of gripping the arms of the chair, sweat beaded on his forehead and upper lip.

"I would suggest you breathe, Mr. Thorne."

Terry felt two hands on his shoulders, rubbing softly. He tilted his head back and opened his eyes and saw the smiling face of Jean.

"It's going to be okay, Terry."

He nodded and lowered his head to look at the nurse, who smiled at him as she turned the drill on. He tensed and reached his hand up to Jean, who held it tight and smiled. Her brave soldier boy was worried sick. In a matter of minutes the drill stopped and the nurse stood up.

"There ya go, Mr. Thorne. The doctor will be here in two ticks."

"Ta, Luv," Terry managed to say in reply.

As the nurse left, Terry looked at Jean and smiled sheepishly. "I'm being a bit of a wuss, aren't I."

"I would have to say yes, darling," Jean grinned as she ruffled his hair and kissed the top of his head.

The door flew open and Doctor Brass strode in.

"Good morning, Terrence. Are you ready to be released?"

"Go for it, Doc," Terry answered.

The doctor bent over, looked up at Terry for a moment and then an almighty ripping and cracking noise filled the room. Terry tensed up again, squeezing Jean's hand painfully.

"Well, young man, do you want to take a look?"

Terry slowly lowered his eyes to his leg. The cast he'd been wearing for what seemed like a lifetime was opened up and he could see his leg again for the first time in months. His foot and ankle were a patchwork of scars, the skin pale and flaky.

"Bloody hell!" he exclaimed.

"Pale and interesting," Jean whispered in his ear.

"No worries, Terrence, the colour will soon match the other one, and the scars will fade. You just need a few days of gentle sun and a lot of fresh air."

The doctor opened up the remains of the cast a little wider to allow his hand to reach in around the back of Terry's ankle.

"Ready?" he asked.

Terry nodded, not letting his grip loosen on Jean's hand. His leg was gently lifted from the cast and his foot touched the floor. He flinched a little at the cold.

"I'm giving you the weekend off, but physio starts first thing Monday morning. You've a lot of work ahead of you to regain movement and strength. Now, I'm going to help you up and see if you can walk over the the exam table.

Terry gripped hold of the chair arms and pushed himself up, Dr. Brass on one side, Jean on the other. Once he was upright, now bathed in sweat, he was handed his crutches. Balancing, he took a step. Pain shot up his leg and he gasped. Jean had tears in her eyes, but the doctor didn't seem to be bothered.

"Not to worry.  It's bound to hurt.  You've not really been using it properly, now have you? Just a couple of steps and turn around. I'll lower the table to make it easier for you."

Terry gratefully sat down on the exam table and tried to relax. Jean lifted up his legs and helped him get comfortable as the doctor rubbed his hands together. Terry looked at him, raising an eyebrow in question.

"Don't want to make you jump with my cold hands, Terrence. I want to see what movement you've got in that ankle I repaired so beautifully," Doctor Brass answered, winking at Jean.

He ran his hand down Terry's leg, starting just below the knee. He could feel Terry tense more and more the closer he got to the ankle.

"Being tense isn't good, young Terrence. You need to relax, then the movement won't be too uncomfortable, okay?"

"Okay, Doc, but can you do me a favour?"

"Ask, Terrence."

"Could you call me Terry please? My dad used to call me Terrence when he was in a strop with me."

"Ah, okay...Terry. Anything else before I start?"

"Be gentle with me," Terry answered, smiling for the first time since he and Jean had arrived.

The smile left his face when Dr. Brass held his foot and gently pushed his toes up.

"Bloody hell, Doc!"

"Tender?"

"You could say that," Terry replied, trying to breathe through the pain.

"Sorry, Terry, but I need to check a couple of things before I can let you go. The x-ray is looking okay, but I need to flex your foot a couple of times...I need to listen for any bones grinding," he said, trying to keep a straight face.

There was a knock on the door and a technician came in with a wheelchair.

"What's that for, mate?" Terry asked.

"Your transport, Mr. Thorne."

"Where am I going, Doc?"

"Just down the corridor, Terry. We need to get you into your walking cast."

It wasn't too long before Terry was all fitted up and raring to go. He decided he was going to enjoy the weekend with Jean and Henry before the torture began on Monday. Jean was putting her cell phone away as he came out with the technician who had fitted his cast.

"I've arranged for our ride," she said, kissing Terry.

"Good, I can't wait to get out of here."

They walked slowly to the front doors and were soon out in the glorious afternoon sunshine. Terry took a deep breath, closed his eyes and lifted his face to the sky, sighing in contentment.

"Anyone would think you've just been released from prison," Jean laughed.

"It feels like it, Luv. Didn't think that bloody cast was ever going to come off."

"Here's our lift," Jean said, pointing towards the corner.

Terry looked to where Jean had pointed, expecting to see Anton's car. He was surprised to see his own. He grinned. Henry was getting more use out of the new car than he was. He'd be pleased when he would be able to drive it himself.

Henry pulled up in front of them and jumped out, running round to open the passenger door for his dad. Once he was settled, Jean took his crutches and got in the back behind him, reaching forward to rest her hand on his shoulder.

"Do you want to grab something to eat or go straight home?" Henry asked.

Jean looked at Terry, knowing he just wanted to get home, but also knowing he didn't want to let Henry down if he wanted to go out to eat. She squeezed Terry's shoulder before speaking.

"Henry, would you mind very much if we went home? I don't really feel up to a restaurant."

"Who said anything about a restaurant?" Henry said, grinning to himself.

It only took a few minutes before Terry realised where his son was taking them. He looked over to him and grinned. "Make sure you get some custard tarts, mate."

Henry pulled up in the lay-by in front of the Blue hotel and turned in his seat. "The usual?" he asked Jean.

She laughed when she saw where he was going, and realised why Terry had asked for a custard tart. Nodding, she watched as Henry trotted over to Harry's Cafe de Wheels. The queue wasn't too long as it was early afternoon and the lunchtime rush was more or less over. He soon came back loaded with beef tigers and custard tarts.  He'd even had the forethought of taking a bag to put everything in.

They were home before the pies had a chance to get cold and they were soon tucking in, smiling at each other between bites. They went out on the terrace to have their desert and Terry made himself comfortable, resting his new walking cast on a spare chair and enjoying the afternoon sun.

"How'd it go, dad?" Henry asked.

"Apples, mate," Terry replied.

Jean giggled and held up her hand, still showing marks where Terry had squeezed so hard.

"Bugger, did I do that?"

"You did, my love, but I forgive you. I know how worried you were."

Henry moved his chair closer to his dad. "Is everything okay with it, dad?"

"Well, my foot didn't fall off when the cast was ripped open."

"You're getting me worried now.  Is everything going to be okay?"

"Yes, Henry," Jeannie replied. "Doctor Brass has given your dad the weekend off before the physio starts in earnest."

"So...got any plans then?" Henry asked his dad.

"A nice kip to digest the wonderful feast you treated us to, then this evening I was thinking about have a swim."

"Great idea.  That will loosen your ankle up without too much pain."

"I just hope there's a lot of hydrotherapy waiting for me next week, son."

 

Jean helped Terry strip off ready to have a couple of hours in bed. He sat on the side until Henry had gone, though, as he wasn't really ready for his son to see the mess that was now his ankle and foot. Safe in bed, Jean closed the curtains, kissed his forehead and went out to the kitchen, where she found Henry loading the dishwasher.

"Is he really okay, Jean?"

"He will be, Henry. It's going to take a lot of work to get things back to normal, though."

"Dad's a fighter. He's come back from injuries much worse than this, hasn't he."

"You're right, but somehow this is different. It hit him really hard that you were in the car with him and that had he not let you drive, it could have been you injured."

"I didn't get out unscathed, though, did I?"

"No, I know that, honey, but you know what your dad is like. He's carrying a lot of guilt about it even now."

"Silly bugger!"

"Too right. Thanks for coming to get us. Terry was expecting Anton."

"I felt I had to.  It won't be too long now before dad takes the keys off me and drives himself. I want to get as much drive time as I can. It's a beautiful car. Uncle Dean did well getting that one."

"He comes in handy sometimes, doesn't he. I need to call him later, let him know how Terry got on today."

"I'm surprised he hasn't called already despite the time difference," Henry laughed. "Want another cuppa?"

"That would be nice, Henry. I don't want to do too much while Terry's asleep.  You can bet that I'll start something and he'll wake up and call me."

Just then, there was a bump from the master bedroom. Henry was up before Jean and opened the door. He breathed a sigh of relief seeing his dad sleeping peacefully. A look over towards the terrace doors showed where the noise came from...the wind had picked up and the drapes had knocked over a chair close to the dresser.

"Wow, he must be whacked. He usually wakes up if a pin drops!"

"I think it was stress more than anything else, Henry. He won't admit it, but he was terrified that the surgery hadn't sorted out the bones."

"He keeps too much bottled up inside.  He always has. Mum said he was the same when they were together."

"How is your mum? We haven't heard from her for a while."

"They've been busy renovating the 'family pile'. After the General really retired, Gran thought it was a good idea to finally move to the property her parents left her. Mum said it's going to take a lot of work as it's been closed up for a while."

"I'm glad they're all okay. We'll call them later and give them a Terry update."

 

Terry stretched and groaned. Only half awake, he'd forgotten about his leg not being in plaster and had tried to flex his foot. Pain shot up his leg. This was getting old, he thought. Sitting up and getting comfortable resting against the headboard, he looked at the clock on the bedside cabinet and realised he'd been asleep almost four hours. He twisted, placing his legs over the side of the bed and yawned. He looked around for the walking cast and realised that Jean had put it out of reach. Not wanting to call out for help, he tried to reach it himself.

Henry walked into the bedroom just before Terry lost his balance and fell on the floor. Laughing, he grabbed the 'boot' and sat by his dad on the bed.

"Want some help?"

"I didn't think so, but I guess my arms aren't as long as they'd need to be to reach where Jeannie had left that bloody thing."

"Let me help you, dad," Henry said, kneeling down in front of Terry's legs.

"I'll manage," he replied, trying to cover the mess of his foot from Henry's view.

Henry put the boot down and rested his hands on Terry's knees. His heart was breaking at the anguish on his father's face.

"I'm going to see it sometime, dad. How did you think you were going to manage to hide it from me in the pool later?"

"I hadn't thought that far ahead, mate," Terry admitted.

"Okay...don't be a wuss, dad. Let me do this for you."

Terry nodded and pulled the sheet back. Henry looked down at the foot, noting all the scars around the foot and ankle. It was a mess, but the doctor had tried to be as neat as he could under the circumstances.

"They've faded quite a bit, haven't they, and once you get some colour back in that leg it will look a lot better."

Terry didn't say anything, just looking intently into his son's eyes.

"Dad, it could have been a lot worse...you could have lost your foot. It's not going to show at all when you're dressed...unless you're going to start going to the office in cut-offs and thongs!"

At last Terry smiled. He leaned forward to kiss his son and laughed out loud when Henry went to get his dad something to wear...coming back with cut-offs and a vest, leaving the thongs where they were. Terry was soon dressed and allowed Henry to slip on the boot and help him to his feet. They were laughing together as they walked out of the bedroom and down to the lounge-room.

 

The pool was almost empty with just a couple of residents sitting at the tables that were at the far end of the pool area. They waved when they saw Terry, Jean and Henry but left them in peace. Henry walked over to the benches that ran along one length of the pool and waited for Terry to sit down. He crouched down to open up the walking cast and gently lifted Terry's leg up and moved the cast to the side. He looked around to make sure the tiles were dry, not wanting his dad to slip, then helped Terry to his feet and walked with him to the side of the pool.

"You diving in, Dad?"

"Not this time, son. I think I'll sit on the edge and slide in."

That was easier said than done. For some reason, Terry just couldn't get down to sit on the side of the pool. Jean watched, a worried expression on her face.

"Ah well," Terry said, "looks like it's gonna be a dive after all."

He grinned as Henry walked with him to the deep end of the pool, and a few minutes later they took the plunge together, almost in perfect synchrony.

"Hello, Mrs. T." Peter the attendant walked up to Jean. "It's good to see Terry back in the water."

"Peter, you know I'm not Mrs. T yet, and why is it that you've finally started calling him Terry, but you still can't seem to call me Jean?"

Peter blushed and sat down next to Jean. "It's respect, Mrs. T. I think the world of you all and don't want to upset you by assuming it's okay to use your first name."

"Peter," Jean replied, putting her hand on his shoulder, "I will be more upset if you don't call me Jean. Terry won't mind."

He smiled and agreed to that before turning to watch Terry and Henry in the pool.

"Henry's almost as home in the water as his dad, isn't he."

"More so since he came down here to live with Terry. If he's not surfing, he's swimming."

"Is Terry a surfer as well?"

Jean grinned before answering. "If you ask him he'll say the only surfing he does is on the web. He actually surfs very well, but he prefers to swim."

"Well, maybe when his foot is stronger he'll take it up again.  It could help with the flexibility."

"I'll have a word with his surgeon, see if agrees. Who knows, we might see Henry get the better on his dad for once.  He'll never beat him in the water."

Terry and Henry were racing up and down the pool. Henry was trying hard to get in front of his dad. Even with a dodgy foot, Terry was like a dolphin. After a while, Henry decided he had to stop, so he got to the shallow end and stood up. Terry was in front of him so hadn't noticed. He did two more laps to get back to Henry.

"Had enough, son?"

"I can't even beat you when you've got a crook leg," Henry said, smiling.

Terry pulled himself up to sit on the edge of the pool before answering. "I've never had a very strong leg kick, mate. My strength is in my arms and shoulders so the bum leg doesn't really affect me once I'm in the water."

Henry sat beside him, kicking his legs in the water, not speaking.

"You okay, mate?"

"I'm good, dad. I'm just glad you're okay. There is one thing, though."

"What's that, mate?"

"How the hell are we going to get you out?"

Terry laughed at his son and slipped back into the water, making his way over to the steps. Ordinarily he wouldn't go anywhere near them to get in or out, but he wasn't too proud to know that was the only way to get out of the water. He slowly climbed up, putting most of his weight on his good leg, and allowed Henry and Peter to help him across the wet floor back to Jean on the bench.

His cast was soon back on his leg and Peter walked towards the exit with them. "You're looking good, Terry. Walking tall without those crutches."

"About time as well, mate. I was beginning to think I'd end up bent over forever. Just wait, I'll soon be able to get rid of this thing and the stick."

"That's great, Terry. Just don't rush it."

"You sound like my family, Peter," Terry laughed.

 

Weeks of intensive therapy were taking their toll on Terry. He gave it 100% plus, and although the foot and leg were getting stronger and more flexible, Terry was wearing himself out. He would come back from the hospital, rest for an hour, then go to the pool for hours. Jean was worried, but the Thorne stubborn streak was hard to get through.

One evening Jean and Henry were in the kitchen while Terry was out for the count on the sofa when the phone rang. They both rushed to the extension to answer it before he woke up. Henry got there first. It was his mother.

He managed to say hello to her, but from then on he could only listen, not able to get a word in. Jean watched his face with worry.  He was going pale. Penny must have stopped to breathe as he managed to tell her to hang on while he got Terry.

He walked into the lounge-room and knelt in front of his dad, shaking his shoulder gently to wake him. Terry's eyes popped open to see Henry holding the phone out to him.

"It's mum," he said softly.

Terry struggled to sit up and took the phone. "G'Day, Pen. How ya going?"

He was quiet for a few minutes, his face expressionless. "Don't worry, Pen. We'll come up. I'll call you back with the schedule."

He handed the phone back to Henry, who hung it up without a word. Terry struggled to his feet and limped into the kitchen where Jean was still standing.

"What's wrong, Terry?"

"Pack a bag, Luv. Penny needs us."

 

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