I watch as Jonas lines his wheelchair up next to the couch and transfer to it so he’s sitting next to me.
“Does this mean you’re staying?” he asks me, reaching for my hand.
I’m still a little in shock from what have happened over the last few minutes; that Jonas is actually okay with me being a devotee. More than okay it seems. I struggle to find my voice, so I just nod and grasp his hand. After I take a deep breath I finally manage to say something.
“I definitely didn’t expect this conversation to take this direction,” I confess. “I was very nervous about bringing it up and I’ve been very unsure about whether I should tell you or not. But a conversation with my best friend back home yesterday made up my mind.”
“You dropped a bit of a bombshell with your confession, but I’m glad you told me,” Jonas says. “What did your friend say?”
“Natalie is very direct and honest and she told me I was better off telling you early on than confessing a few months down the road. That you’d probably be more upset if you found out later.”
“I’m glad you listened to her, because I think she’s right. And knowing you’re okay with my disability makes me relax more. I don’t have to downplay my disablity and try to be normal for you.”
“Normalcy is overrated anyways,” I say with a smile. “Honestly I don’t feel very ‘normal’ myself. I don’t really fit in at school.”
“I know that feeling,” Jonas sighs. “Anyway, you’re still up for dinner tonight I hope?”
“I definitely am. Do you have anywhere specific in mind?”
“Nah, I figured we could just stroll around the area and see where we end up. There are several restaurants here at Tjuvholmen and just across the bridge we have Aker Brygge. There are plenty of choices.”
“Sounds great. You probably have some favorite places?”
“Yeah, definitely. Um…is it okay for you if I use my chair tonight?” Suddenly he appears a little tense and insecure again.
“Why do you even ask? Do whatever you’re most comfortable with.”
“I just thought you might prefer me tall. I feel like I don’t stand out as much in a crowd when I’m upright, but being seated is a different story…”
“I’ve noticed that you rarely use your wheelchair at school. Is that because you’re trying to blend in?” I ask, regretting it as soon as the words leave my mouth. Luckily Jonas doesn’t seem to mind the question at all.
“Yeah, I suppose it is, but I’ve realized that I probably stand out no matter what because I’m about a decade older than the rest of the first year students, so…” he shrugs as his voice trails off. “I saw my doctor the other day and he has ordered me to use the wheelchair more. It’s less straining on my shoulders.”
“Then listen to your doctor! I think leg braces are really hot and I hope I get to see yours one day, but you in your wheelchair is totally hot too.” I lean over and kiss his cheek. “I love how your chair is like a part of you.”
He looks at me with slight disbelief on his face and then he shakes his head, smiles and pulls me in for a passionate kiss. When we finally pull apart his glasses are askew on his nose and we’re both panting.
“By the way; why do you feel like you don’t fit in at school?” he asks me after a few beats of comfortable silence.
“I’m not a party animal and I’m more serious about my studies than most people in my class. Add a weird accent and un-fashionable style and…well… I just feel like I’m an outsider.”
“I like how you dress,” Jonas says. “You have your own style, but not in a crazy-artist way.”
I chuckle. “Thanks.”
He smiles and kisses me again. I can’t get enough of kissing him and I almost whimper when we pull apart. Jonas checks his watch.
“I just need to use the bathroom and put on a pair of shoes and then we can head out. Okay?”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” I say. I still feel a bit like a tourist in Oslo, so I’m looking forward to exploring Jonas’ neighborhood with him.
Jonas shows me the guest bathroom and then he wheels off into his bedroom. I can see the muscles in his shoulders and back ripple under his tight t-shirt as he pushes the rims of his chair with practiced ease.
Fifteen minutes later he wheels into the living area; he still haven’t shaved, but his hair appears to be tamer and he has changed from the plain white t-shirt to a fitted light blue oxford shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. It’s not tucked into his jeans and the top two buttons are undone. His feet are clad in a pair of black Converse shoes.
“Hey there handsome,” I say as he wheels up to me. “Ready to roll?”
“Always,” he grins. He grabs his wallet, phone and keys off a small table by the front door and after holding the door open for me he follows me into the hallway. When he has locked the door he tucks his things into a pouch that’s hanging behind his legs.
“That looks pretty pick-pocket safe,” I say as he zips the pouch closed and adjusts his legs. He looks at me with a crooked grin as he grabs the push rims of his chair and suspends himself in the air for a few seconds. Damn, weight shifts are hot!
“Yeah, anyone who manages to get in there are,” he says as he starts wheeling toward the elevator.
Half an hour later we’ve snagged a table at Jacob Aall brasserie at Aker Brygge. We’re sharing a bottle of rosé wine and Jonas has insisted on ordering a tapas platter to snack on. It’s only five in the afternoon, so it’s a bit early to have dinner.
“I like the relaxed atmosphere here,” I say, leaning back against the pillows of the couch. Jonas has transferred from his wheelchair and is sitting next to me with his arm wrapped around my shoulders.
“Yeah, me too. And another good thing is that it’s one of the least touristy places here and the food is good.”
“Thanks for helping me feel less of a tourist. I still have ways to go before I feel like I’m a native, but I’m confident I’ll get there.”
“I’m happy to help,” Jonas says with a grin.
“So, are you and Jonas Østgaard dating?” My classmate, Elise, asks the question as we’re waiting for the rest of our study group to show up a Friday afternoon in mid-October. Jonas and I have been dating for about a month and we’ve agreed to take things slow and I think it’s working out very well for us. I’ve never been in a serious relationship before and Jonas hasn’t really dated after his accident.
“Yeah, I we are,” I say happily.
“You do realize who he is? That a few years ago pretty much every girl in Oslo would’ve given an arm to be in your position?”
“Really?” I ask, unable to conceal my surprise.
“His dad is loaded. He owns a chain of hotels. His two younger brothers are ‘it’ in the world of dating these days.”
It takes me a minute or five to process the information. It explains why Jonas can afford an apartment in one of the most expensive areas of the city and how he can afford a new car. I must look as surprised as I feel.
“You had no idea, did you?” Elise asks me when she notices the look on my face.
I shake my head. “No. He never mentioned it to me.”
“I don’t think he has the greatest relationship with his father; he’s the oldest and he was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and eventually take over the business. Instead he opted for becoming a carpenter. Rumor was that there was a huge fallout between him and his father and they haven’t spoken for years.”
“Wow, I had no idea,” I say. “He hasn’t told me much about his family, just mentioned that he’s the oldest of three boys a while back, but what you just told me explains that.”
“So, how is he?” Elise asks. I hesitate a little before I answer; I don’t want to compromise Jonas’ privacy.
“He’s great. We’ve really clicked and we have so much in common,” I reply vaguely. Fortunately the remaining two members of our study group arrive and soon we’re immersed in our latest assignment. I’m relieved that I don’t have to discuss my relationship with Jonas further with my nosy classmates.
Saturday Jonas calls me around noon. We have already made plans to go out for dinner tonight. It turns out he calls to tell me me there’s a new restaurant not far from his apartment he wants to try and he has made reservations at seven. He asks if I want to come over to his place for a drink before we head out for dinner. I happily accept.
“Um, and if you want to spend the night you’re welcome to,” he adds hastily, his voice shifts from his normal confident tone to sounding more insecure. We still haven’t moved our relationship to the bedroom and my heart skips a beat. He senses my surprise and hesitation and hastily adds; “We’ve been going out for a while now and I like the thought of waking up with you next to me in the morning. There will be no pressure to go beyond kissing and cuddling, I promise.”
“I like the thought of waking up next to you too,” I say with a smile evident in my voice. “I bring an overnight bag.”
We chat for a little longer and then we end the call. I spend the next half hour fussing over what to pack. Suddenly all of my sleepwear and underwear seems kind of worn out and old. I check the time; it’s only four in the afternoon and Jonas asked me to be at his place around six. I have time to do some emergency shopping on my way over there. With that in mind I throw some things together in a duffle bag.
On my way out of my apartment I stop in front of the full-length mirror by the front door and I’m pretty happy with what I see. I’m about 5’10” tall and on the lean side. My breasts are a bit too small, but a good push-up bra makes them okay. My strawberry blonde hair flows down to the middle of my back and my blue eyes are nicely enhanced by a little mascara. I never wear much makeup; I prefer a natural look. I straighten out a few wrinkles on my wool cardigan, pull my coat on and head out into the chilly and dark October afternoon.
A little after six o clock Jonas lets me in to his apartment. He is in his wheelchair. He still uses his crutches and braces from time to time, but the wheelchair is his main means of locomotion these days.
“Hey babe,” he greets me with a smile. As always he looks yummy; dressed in a pair of dark jeans and a navy blue wool V-neck sweater with a light blue Oxford under it. His feet are clad in brown leather shoes.
“Hey,” I reply with a smile, then I bend down and kiss him quickly on the lips.
“You spent the afternoon shopping?” he asks as he rolls back and allows me to enter the apartment. I’m carrying a small duffle bag with a change of clothes and my toiletries and a couple of shopping bags.
“Yeah, some emergency shopping after I realized that most of my sleepwear is appropriate for a ten-year old.”
Jonas chuckles. “I’m sure you look very sexy in Barbie pajamas.”
“Whatever,” I say as I watch him close and lock the door. “I think you’ll prefer what I’ve got in this bag.” I hold up a bag from H&M for him to see.
“This means you’re spending the night, right?” he asks, hopefully.
“Yeah, I like the thought of waking up next to you too. As long as we don’t rush into anything it’s fine.”
“No pressure,” Jonas assures me. “I’m all for taking things slow.”
He wheels over to the couch and transfers to it, I plop down next to him and watch as he pours two glasses of wine from the bottle that’s already on the coffee table. He offers me one and takes the other one himself. I take a sip of it.
“This is good,” I say.
“Glad you like it. It’s South African by the way.”
I look at the label and instantly recognize it. “Oh, Spiers! I’ve been to that wine farm! It’s in Stellenbosch, just outside Cape Town. They have a great restaurant.”
“That’s awesome. That’s like the wine district in South Africa, right?”
“Yeah, there are several wineries in the area. Many of them have some sort of visitors center where you can taste their wine and buy it or course. I love Cape Town and the areas around.”
“It’s definitely on my list of places I want to see, but travel hasn’t been on my agenda for the past few years. It might be time to change that.”
“I’d love to show you South Africa,” I tell him with a smile. An idea is forming in my mind. If what Elise told me is true he might not be planning to spend Christmas with his family. I’m very tempted to invite him to spend the holidays with me in South Africa. I keep my mouth shut for now though; I have some prying to do first.
“So, one of the girls on my study group told me you’re quite the catch. That you used to be the most sought after bachelor in Norway or something,” I mention over dinner.
“Sheesh,” he sighs. “I guess I can’t get away from the gossip mill, huh?”
“If you don’t want to talk about it, it’s okay. She just really caught me by surprise because it’s not something you’ve mentioned and since I haven’t been following the Norwegian tabloids have no idea what she was talking about.”
Jonas leans back in his chair and rakes a hand through his hair. After a few beats of a somewhat awkward silence he speaks.
“My dad’s one of the richest men in Norway. I was sort of seen as his heir, being the oldest of three boys. I was expected to go to business school and go work for him after I graduated, to prepare to eventually take over from him. Dad was less than happy with my decision to go to a vocational school and be a carpenter. When I got injured at a worksite it gave him even more proof that I’d made a stupid decision.”
He pauses and has a sip of his wine before he carries on.
“When he and Mom came to see me in the hospital just after the accident he kept harping about how I’d been reckless and that I should have listened to him and opted for business school.”
“Seriously? You were in the hospital with a broken back, a life changing injury, and that was your father’s response? That’s just fucked up,” I exclaim, unable to restrain myself.
“Yeah…” he sighs. “I was stuck in bed; I’d just had surgery to fuse my spine back together and had learned that I’d never walk again a few hours earlier. And the only ‘support’ Dad offered was to tell me it was my own fault for not listening to him ten years earlier. I basically told him to get the fuck out and don’t come to see me again until he’d come to his senses. That still hasn’t happened.”
“So, you don’t have any contact with your family?”
“Not much. I talk to my mom from time to time, to keep her from worrying about me too much. I haven’t talked to my dad since he walked out of my hospital room three years ago.”
“What about your brothers?”
“I’ve met them a few times, but we were never close. It’s just awkward and I don’t think that’ll change.”
“It is what it is,” he says with a shrug. “Your family seems pretty uncomplicated compared to mine.”
“I’m very close with my parents, but I don’t really know the rest of my family.”
Conversation moves on to other subjects, but I make a mental note to call Mom when I get home tomorrow. I have told my parents about Jonas and I want to find out how they feel about me bringing him to South Africa for the holidays. We have a three-week break from school and I’ve already bought plane tickets to go home.
It’s a little past midnight when we arrive back at Jonas’ apartment. We’re both tired and decide to go to bed. Jonas tells me I can use his guest bathroom and then he excuses himself and wheels into to the master bathroom. I brush my teeth and pull my long hair into a ponytail to stop it from getting all tangled.
After I’ve changed into my new pajamas; a pair of grey cotton pants with a floral print and a plain grey t-shirt I survey my appearance in the mirror above the sink. I’m pretty happy with how I look, even if I’m sans makeup. Despite being blonde my eyelashes and brows are rather dark, so I don’t look too bad without mascara. I’m nervous about tonight, but the knowledge that Jonas is nervous too makes it less daunting. With a nervous sigh I turn off the light in the bathroom and walk down the hall to the master bedroom.
The door is open and when I take a tentative step into the room I realize that Jonas is still in the bathroom. My boyfriend takes longer in the bathroom than me. I know he’s got a routine to go through and it probably takes a while. I’m a bit unsure of what to do. I look around the room; the walls are painted in a dark grey and the furniture is like in the rest of his apartment; modern and masculine. A large bed dominates the room; the bedding is a dark grey with a geometric pattern. On the wall opposite from the foot of the bed a large TV takes up most of the space between two doors; I assume that one leads to the bathroom and the other one to a walk in closet.
I notice that on the bedside table on the left side of the bed there’s an alarm clock, a couple of remotes and a stack of magazines. On the one on the opposite side of the bed there’s only a life. I figure that’s the side Jonas usually sleeps on so after a moment’s hesitation sit down on the edge of the bed.
Jonas wheels out of the bedroom about 15 minutes later and he smiles when he sees me sitting on his bed. He’s dressed in a pair of plaid flannel sleep pants and a faded t-shirt. His feet are bare.
“Nice pajamas,” he compliments as he wheels up to the bed.
“No Barbie,” I say in a teasing tone as Jonas pulls the covers back on his side of the bed. I stand up and do the same on my side. I slide into bed and sit against the headboard and watch as Jonas transfers to bed. As soon as he’s settled in bed I lie down next to him and kiss him on the lips. He wraps his strong arms around me and pulls me closer.
“I could get used to this,” I say contentedly as I curl up against Jonas’ side.