I was just looking through some application materials for a local program when I heard a knock on my door. I checked my watch. Chloe was supposed to come by, but I wasn’t expecting her for at least an hour.
I got up to answer the door. I was shocked to see Liz standing in front of me. And she was crying.
I have to confess, I find Liz sexy when she’s crying. I know, it’s weird. I guess it sort of shows her vulnerable side and makes me want to rescue her. It’s not like I want her to be unhappy or anything. I don’t. Well, I do a little bit these days. Not as much since I’ve been with Chloe.
Tears or not though, Liz is hot. She’s my exact type. I didn’t even know I had an exact type until I laid eyes on her. I couldn’t get her out of my head. She looks different than she did eight years ago, but I still think she’s very attractive. I keep trying to turn off the part of me that thinks so, but I can’t. Chloe is adorable and I’m crazy about her, but Liz… I mean, she’s Liz. There’s only one Liz.
“Noel,” she sniffled. “Can I come in?”
I stepped back and she came inside. I was trying to work this one out. Why was Liz at my door crying? What made her cry? No, better question: what made her cry that she couldn’t go to Glenn about?
There was one obvious answer. I had a sudden flashback to when I saw Glenn with that attractive nurse. I frowned. No, Glenn wouldn’t do that to her. Would he? No, not Glenn. He’s too much of a nice guy. Or is he? A nice guy would never do what he did to me.
“Uh, have a seat,” I said.
“Thanks,” she said and settled down on my couch.
“Do you want some water or… something?”
Liz shook her head. “I need to talk to you.”
“Okay,” I said uneasily. I was feeling kind of uncomfortable all of a sudden. I sat down on the couch as far from her as I could get, which was difficult because she was sitting right in the center. I remembered how we used to sit on Liz’s couch in med school and play footsie as we studied together. Considering I have one foot that’s paralyzed and one that’s amputated, it’s safe to say my footsie days are over.
Liz took off her coat. She was dressed in blue scrubs. Of course. She smoothed her ponytail out, which was still messy from her scrub cap. As she looked at me, her eyes filled with fresh tears. “I caught Glenn with a nurse,” she said.
“Oh shit,” I said. Despite my suspicions, I was really surprised. Glenn used to be a freaking boy scout. He’d really changed. I wondered if it was that same nurse I saw him with. I bet it was.
“How could he do this to me?” Liz sobbed, burying her face in her hands.
I didn’t know what to say. The whole thing was ironic enough that I kind of wanted to comment on it. But I’m not that big an asshole. At least, I’m not that big an asshole to Liz.
“I want to kill him,” she said, wiping her eyes, struggling to compose herself.
“What did he say?” I asked. “Did he give you some excuse?”
“He said…” Liz’s eyes welled up with fresh tears. “He’s said he’s in love with her! He wants to call off the wedding. Not that I would ever marry him now anyway.”
“I’m so sorry, Liz,” I said. I tried to sound sympathetic, but I was still wary. I didn’t touch her to comfort her.
She sniffled loudly. “You don’t look sorry.”
“No, I am,” I insisted. “I just think it’s a little interesting that I’m supposed to be this huge asshole, but I was faithful to you for over five years. And Glenn is this super nice guy who everyone likes, and then he cheats on you with some blond hoochie nurse.” Okay, I guess I am that big an asshole to Liz.
“You’re enjoying this,” Liz said accusingly.
“I’m really not,” I said. “I know you don’t believe me, but I actually want you to be happy. I’m just sorry that… you couldn’t have been happy with me.”
“What I did to you was the biggest mistake of my life,” Liz said, wiping her eyes. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about it.”
“Yeah, me too,” I said. We make eye contact, and for a minute, I can’t swallow. It takes all my self-restraint to break away. “Mostly I wonder how someone I loved so much could do something so horrible to me.”
“Noel,” she said in a pleading voice. “I made a mistake. Haven’t you ever made a mistake?”
“Yes,” I said, looking hard at her.
She pulled her hair out of the ponytail and let it fall softly around her face. She was so freaking sexy, it was killing me. It was literally painful. “I’m still in love with you,” she said. “You’re the love of my life. I’ve been realizing it more and more lately. I can’t stop thinking about you. The truth is, I had been considering calling off the wedding before this happened.”
I stared at her. I was stunned. Of all the things I thought Liz might say when she showed up at my door, I didn’t expect her to say that.
She reached out and put her hand on my left knee. Her fingers hit the socket of my prosthetic and she looked confused and startled. “That’s my prosthetic,” I said.
“Oh, right,” she said, nodding. She had forgotten. Of course she had forgotten. She doesn’t have to live with the damn thing every day of her life. I thought for a moment it had deterred her, but it hadn’t. Instead, her hand moved south of my knee. Way south. I knew I should have jerked away, but I felt frozen. Her eyelids were lined with red from crying and she looked incredibly sexy. I had to stop this. “Don’t do that, Liz.”
“Come on,” she said. “I know you still have feelings for me. It’s obvious.”
“I’m with Chloe now.”
“Chloe?” Liz laughed. “Are you serious? She’s a child. And she’s totally wrong for you. You’re only dating her because you think you can’t do any better.”
“I love her,” I said.
“No, you don’t.”
“You don’t even know what love is, Liz. You’re fucking clueless.”
She blinked, surprised. I thought she might back off after that, but she didn’t. Liz didn’t get where she was without being persistent. “Noel,” she said. “You and I have a history together. You were my first love. My only love. And I know you feel the same way about me.”
Okay, I’ll be honest: I’ve had daydreams about getting back together with Liz. About this exact situation. Even after all she did to me, I still wanted her for a long time. Except things have changed now. Maybe it changed because of Chloe, who I think might be the most wonderful girl I ever met. Or maybe it was just time. But as I looked at Liz, the girl I almost pledged to spend the rest of my life with, I realized that I didn’t love her at all anymore. I didn’t hate her either. I felt nothing for her.
“I want you to imagine something,” I said to her. “Imagine you just emerged from a coma and you don’t know what the hell is going on. Imagine you can’t swallow, you can’t talk, you can’t walk, your face is in pieces, you can’t move the right half of your goddamn body. You don’t know if you’re ever going to get better or if you’re just going to be this vegetable for the rest of your life. And through the confusion, there’s one familiar face of the woman you love, the woman that you were going to marry, that you want to see so badly, and it’s all you can think about.” I swallowed. “But she never shows up. Because she’s fucking your best friend.”
Liz stared at me. She was quiet for a long time. “I see,” she finally said.
“You hate me,” she said.
“I don’t hate you,” I said. I had to be honest: “I just don’t love you anymore.”
Liz dropped her face into her hands and started sobbing again. This time she was almost inconsolable. She kept saying over and over again “I blew it.” I sensed that she wanted me to comfort her, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have it in me anymore. Somebody else was going to have to comfort Liz.
I heard a knock on the door. Chloe. I looked over anxiously at Liz, wondering how this was going to look having her here. Oh well, not much I could do about it.
When I opened the door, Chloe was standing there, hugging herself in her coat, her little nose all pink from the cold. She cocked a smile at me. “Hey there,” she said.
Unable to stop myself, I leaned forward and kissed her. She’s six inches shorter than I am, which is the perfect height for kissing. She shivered at first, then huddled closer to me. It’s because of this girl that I’m going back to school, that I’m actually going to be doing something with my life rather than just pushing buttons in the elevator. I owe her everything. “I love you,” I whispered in her ear.
She smiled at me and looked like she was about to say something when she noticed Liz sitting on the couch, still sort of crying. Chloe blinked in surprise. “Um, hi, Elizabeth,” she said.
Liz stood up and brushed imaginary dust off her pants legs. “I should go,” she said.
I held onto Chloe’s arm as Liz hastily pulled on her coat and walked out my door. It was the second time she had exited my life. It gets easier each time.
Oh god, what just happened between Noel and Elizabeth?
They were alone. In his apartment. And I know that Elizabeth still has feelings for him.
Except she was crying, which was weird. I wonder what happened.
“Liz’s fiancé was cheating on her,” Noel tells me, before I have much more of a chance to wonder about it.
“Oh,” I say. “You mean Glenn?”
“You met him?”
“Yes.” I shrug. “Never sure what she saw in him.”
Noel laughs. “How about me? Could you figure out what she ever saw in me?”
“Maybe,” I say thoughtfully. “Or maybe she was just using you for your money.”
He laughs again and kisses me.
There’s something Noel needs to know, if he doesn’t know it already. I didn’t want to tell him, but I think he deserves to know. He needs to make an informed decision about who he wants to be with. “Noel,” I say. “Elizabeth still is in love with you. She told me.”
“Yeah,” he says. “She told me too.”
I make a face. “She’s the love of your life! I mean, don’t you want to be with her?”
He stares at me. “Do you want me to be with her?”
“No,” I say. I hesitate. “I mean, yes. I mean… I just want you to be happy. I don’t want you to feel like you’re stuck with me, you know?”
“Is that what you think?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “It just… sounds like you and Elizabeth had this great romance.”
Noel takes my hand in his. He stares into my eyes, although I know he can only see out of the one on the right. It’s something I’ve gotten used to, that feels normal to me now. “What about our great romance?” he asks me.
I blush. “I…”
He lowers his lips onto mine. I remember thinking how Graham was an amazing kisser, and while that’s true, I’ve never shared as passionate kisses as the ones between me and Noel. When he tells me he loves me, my entire body tingles. He means it. He loves me. And I love him.
“Let’s go to the bedroom,” I say, fingering the zipper on his jeans so he has no doubt what I have in mind.
Noel’s eyes light up. “Really?”
We would hold hands on the way to the bedroom if we could, but Noel needs his good hand to lean on the furniture as he walks. Luckily, it’s not that far. I’ve gotten used to the way he limps and actually sort of find it sexy now. There’s something kind of rugged about the way he walks.
Noel lowers himself onto his bed as gracefully as he can manage. I practically pounce on him, pushing him down onto the mattress. He laughs and grabs my shirt, pulling me down with him.
“Give me a minute,” he says, as he goes about taking off the brace from his right leg and removing his prosthetic. Part of me can’t help but wonder how Elizabeth would have dealt with this, if Noel had responded differently to her confession. Elizabeth knew about his missing leg, but would she have found it as sexy as I do?
With his pants off and his legs back to being just flesh and bone, Noel looks mildly embarrassed like he always does. He always looks like he wants to apologize. One time he said to me in a quiet voice, “I know I don’t look as good as Graham.” I couldn’t even believe he’d say that.
I unbutton my blouse because I know Noel can’t do it with his messed up right hand and then I take off my jeans. He watches me intently. When I finish, he pulls me against him. I can feel his hands shaking. “Are you okay?” I ask.
“This is my first time since… you know,” he says.
“Well,” I say thoughtfully. “It hasn’t changed since then.”
“It’s a lot of pressure,” he breathes. “I want this to be fantastic for you.”
“There’s no way this won’t be fantastic,” I say.
“You’re not helping,” he laughs nervously.
I help him pull off his T-shirt and I kiss him all over his chest. He tenses as my lips graze the scars on his abdomen. “I want you,” I murmur into his skin.
He pulls me to his lips to kiss me and the only thing separating us is his boxers and my panties. I feel his good hand slipping underneath the band of my cotton underwear. When I feel his fingers on my clit, I’m reminded of the fact that it’s sort of been a long time for me too. And right now, I can’t wait another second to get him inside me.
“You’re really wet,” he comments, sounding a little surprised.
“Of course I am,” I say. Then I whisper in his ear: “I’m ready.”
Noel nods and shoves down his boxers as I pull down my panties. A second later, he’s inside me, filling me up, making me gasp. I’m on top, sitting up, and as I arch my back, I can grasp the stump of his left leg. This action makes him groan and squirm. “I love you,” he murmurs.
“I love you too,” I whisper back.
I climax more violently than I ever have before. Let me put it this way: I hope his upstairs neighbors aren’t home. Noel follows a minute later and I collapse on top of him. Our bodies sticking together with sweat.
“Fantastic,” I say again.
Noel grins and kisses me.
Noel’s Memory Book
The crazy thing is, this girl seems to love me even though I’m pretty messed up compared to most guys out there.
She’s okay with my legs being a train wreck. More than okay. She’s actually got me believing that she thinks it’s sexy.
This girl is adorable, gorgeous, sweet, funny, kind, loyal, tenacious, intelligent, and pretty much any other good adjective you can find in the dictionary.
This girl just gave me the best sex of my life.
I fucking love this girl.
Everyone has gotten into the grove of anatomy lately, and the labs are much more relaxed. We’re still nervous because we’re medical students, but there’s much more laughing and joking around, rather than an air of intense silence.
Believe it or not, I’m one of the stars of the anatomy lab. No, really. It’s all because of Noel. He’s been coming to the anatomy labs to help me most nights and he’s developed kind of a following. At least half a dozen med students come to get his help every night. Graham is one of them.
I stare into the pelvis, trying to remember what Noel taught me last night about the lumbosacral plexus. I hear a voice from behind me: “Chloe!”
I jump and turn. It’s Dr. Conrad. He has his arms crossed but he’s smiling at me. I used to be terrified of the guy, but now I think he’s the best professor I’ve ever had. I hope he’ll write me a letter of recommendation someday, like he did for Noel.
“Yes?” I say.
“Chloe,” he says, “can you tell me the main branches of the sciatic nerve?”
“Tibial and peroneal,” I answer quickly.
“Excellent,” he says. He winks. “As usual.”
Lately, I’ve been thinking about my own career a little bit more. Noel can’t stop talking about getting his degree in anatomy, so it’s kind of motivated me to think about my future. I know it’s early, but I think maybe he was onto something when he said I should consider emergency medicine. I still get excited when I think about the day that we saved Rich’s life. (He’s back in class and doing great, by the way. Still a huge jerk though.) All right, Noel saved his life, not me. But I want to be able to do what Noel did one day. I want to be a hero.
Graham comes into lab late, looking a bit flushed. I poke Olivia, “Graham’s never late. I wonder what’s up?”
“I don’t know, Chloe,” Olivia says. “But I swear to god, if you touch me again with those dirty gloves, I’m going to pinch your cheeks.”
“Oops, sorry.” I’ve done that before. Olivia doesn’t like it.
Graham comes to the table. He’s got a huge smile plastered across his face and his cheeks are a little pink. All of a sudden, it hits me: Graham just had sex.
“Who is she?” I whisper to him.
He looks up at me with feigned confusion. “What?”
“Who did you hook up with?” I press him further.
Claire is looking at us with interest.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Chloe,” Graham says innocently.
We get back to work. We’re still cleaning out the extremities, trying to make our dissections look pretty for the final exam. It’s about an hour before Graham says another word to me. Claire and Olivia have both wandered away to other cadavers.
“Elizabeth Woodhouse,” he says.
“Huh?” I say.
He grins at me. “You asked me a question before. That’s the answer.”
I stare at him. “No way!”
I can’t believe it. I can’t. Graham and Elizabeth? “How was it?”
“Amazing,” he says. He’s practically glowing. “She’s amazing. I’ve never met anyone like her. No offense, Chloe.”
“None taken.” (Okay, I’m a little offended.)
“She’s spectacular,” he goes on. “I can’t get her out of my head. We did it in the resident call room. It was so hot.” He shakes his head. “Chloe, I think I’m in love.”
At first I laugh because I think he’s kidding. But then I realize he isn’t. He actually is in love with Elizabeth. He was never like this with me. What is it about Elizabeth that’s so compelling to these young wannabe surgeons? I wonder if she’ll turn him around like she did to Noel. Make him into a better man.
“How does she feel about you?” I ask him.
“She thinks it’s just a fling,” he says regretfully. “She thinks I’m too young for her.”
“You kind of are,” I say. “She’s probably 30 and you’re only 22.”
“I’m 23,” Graham says defensively. “Besides, age doesn’t matter. It can still work. I’m going to prove it to her.”
Oh, Graham. I’ve never seen him so passionate about anything that wasn’t surgery. Certainly not about me. But that’s okay. I’m way past thinking about me and Graham anymore. I like Graham. I hope he talks Elizabeth into taking him seriously. Actually, I think they’d make a really good couple.
After lab, I change in the hallway with all the other students. I’m running late, so I’m the first person to get dressed and go out to the elevators. I press the button and wait, checking my watch. I’m ten minutes late. Damn it.
The elevator doors open and Noel is standing inside. I blink in surprise. There’s no stool in the elevator because he doesn’t work there anymore. I don’t expect to see him in the elevator anymore. Seeing him standing there fills me with nostalgia.
“Got tired of waiting for you outside,” he says with a grin. He holds out his hand to me. “Ready for dinner?”
He pulls me inside the elevator with him, then into his arms. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s nothing hotter than making out in an elevator.