Chapter Two: Home

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After another three and a half gruelling weeks of physical therapy, Ash was being discharged. He had managed to prevent Derek from meddling and had stuck with his original physiotherapist Alice. Her jaw was on the floor that he was already in crutches and had ditched the wheelchair a week before he was discharged. Many of the doctors attributed his near miraculous recovery to his age, but Alice remained sceptical. However, she couldn’t explain it any other way.

Ash approached his front door, Bernie and his mom Becky accompanied him home.

“be careful up the steps, Ash,” said Becky in a wavering voice. In one hand she held an overly large bouquet of flowers. Ash nodded.

“I don’t really feel like I need these crutches anyway, to be perfectly honest.”

“You really should, at least whilst you’re out of the house.” Bernie’s tone was stern and tinted with warning. “Also, don’t let Derek push you into returning to training too soon. You know your body, so don’t push too hard, new season or not.”

Ash grumbled and winced as he crossed the threshold. Maybe he still needed the crutches a little. It was good to be home again: he had missed the tall ceilings, the plantation shutters on the windows, even the closet stuffed to bursting with with his old college work. He should probably throw it out, but he never found the right time to do so.

A scent of wood polish made itself known, letting Ash know someone from his agency had probably sent in a cleaning staff to take care of his house whilst he’d been away. He wasn’t sure he liked the idea of it but he kept his mouth shut in front of his company.

He hobbled to the couch as his mom fussed and fluffed the flowers in his one and only vase. He sunk down into the plush cushions, wincing a little as he did so. He hadn’t mentioned the weird, harsh breathing noise he was starting to hear more and more often to anyone. It was starting to happen almost every day, and it was getting louder.

“Say, Bernie… the MRI scan came back clear on my head, didn’t it?”

Bernie took an age to turn towards him as he was bustling in the refrigerator. “There was no lasting damage, no. Why?”

“Oh you know, when you’ve been told you’ve been in a coma, you want to be sure your brain still works like it should.” Ash chuckled and shrugged it off, masking what he actually meant.

“I can arrange a visit to a psychologist though -”

“No! No, that's not necessary. They’re full of mumbo jumbo anyway. I was just curious.” Bernie quirked a brow and Ash wished he had never brought up the topic in the first place.

“Bernie, maybe we should go, Ashley needs to rest.” Becky had caught her son’s uncomfortable air and pulled at Bernie’s arm gently. Inwardly, Ash thanked her, relieved. He was exhausted.

“You have my contact details, please do not hesitate to call if you’re struggling or anything, okay?” Bernie’s tone was one of a terse and overbearing father. Ash nodded, not wanting to get back up off the couch. Thank goodness his mom was here to usher the doctor out.

“I would avoid the papers tomorrow dear, it’ll just be of you trying to duck the paparazzi just now. They’re still hovering around outside the lobby, so me and Bernie are taking the service elevator to try and dodge them. I’ll call tomorrow, okay? Don’t strain yourself.”

“Okay, thanks mom.” With that she gleamed at him as they closed the front door behind them, leaving Ash in the blessed silence. Was it blessed? Sometimes when it went quiet around him the strange noise would ring in his ears. The first time it had happened Ash had tried to determine its origin only to surmise it was surely coming from within the confines of his head. That worried him, but surely if news got out he was seeking therapy for noises rattling around in his head it would be all over the news. For now, it was only an annoyance every now and again that made him jump, and something he could ignore.

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