The next morning, my resolve to break up Mason and Jane’s engagement hadn’t weakened one bit. If anything, I was more determined to nip this stupid relationship in the bud. And I knew exactly what I was going to do.
Cam got me out of bed and dressed, so I was already in my wheelchair when Jane made it to my room. Greg wasn’t around this morning, which was a relief because I thought he’d be coming all week. Cam told me Greg called and said something came up and he was busy today. That didn’t bode well for the future. If I was counting on him to help me at home, what was I supposed to do if he didn’t show up? I wasn’t used to relying so heavily on other people.
Jane looked a little wary when she came into my room, which was probably deserved after the way I acted yesterday. “I hope you’re not in a pissy mood again today, Nick,” she said.
“I’m not,” I said, even though I actually was.
Jane undid the straps from my right arm and started stretching me out. She braced my elbow against her body, trying to achieve the maximum amount of stretch. Even so, my elbows didn’t go straight anymore. Neither did my knees. It bothered me, but at the same time, I loved being close to Jane as she stretched me out. At least, I used to.
“You’re so tight today,” Jane commented. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Great,” I said. “Hey, you know who visited me yesterday? Mason.”
“Oh, that’s nice,” Jane said. I looked at her face for a reaction, but it was blank. What an actress. Maybe she could have a part in one of my dad’s movies.
“Let me tell you something about Mason Lunt,” I said.
She raised her eyebrows. “Yes?”
“When we were in our senior year of college,” I began, “we got really drunk one night and ended up on Hollywood Boulevard. You know, where all the hookers hang out? Mason got out of the car and brought back two hookers for us, one of which I’m pretty sure was a dude. I told him that I wasn’t into that and I didn’t want to get any diseases, so he fucked both of them at once in the backseat of the car.”
Jane stared at me, her jaw hanging open. Wedding cancelled, I hoped.
“And that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” I added, for good measure.
“That’s, um…” Jane shook her head. “Interesting. A little TMI, I think. But good to know. I guess.”
Jane went back to stretching me again. I couldn’t fucking believe this. I just told her that the man she was going to marry had fucked two hookers at once, one of which was a man, and she barely reacted. Had he already told her? No, that was impossible.
“So you don’t care?” I said.
Jane shrugged. “I don’t know, I’m sure you two both did some wild stuff in the past, but he seems like he’s changed. He seems like a good person, and he obviously cares about you a lot.”
“Aren’t you worried about diseases though?” I said. “Trust me, he didn’t always wear a rubber.”
Jane shrugged again. “Mason’s a big boy. He can go to a clinic and get himself checked out.”
“So you aren’t worried about catching genital herpes from him… or worse?”
Jane froze mid-stretch. She frowned at me. “What are you talking about? How would I catch genital herpes from Mason?”
“Well, presumably at some point in the course of your marriage, you’ll have unprotected sex with him, right?”
Jane dropped my arm. “My what?”
“Listen,” I said. “Mason told me everything, so drop the act. I know he proposed to you and you’re getting married. And honestly, I think it’s a shitty thing to do. You’re my therapist and he’s my best friend. I feel like you went behind my back. I thought you were a better person than that.” I took a deep breath and then went on. “I know Mason is good looking and all, but if you had just told me you were interested in him, at least then—”
“Just shut-up a second,” Jane said, holding up her hand. “I hate to interrupt your little accusation fest, but I am not marrying Mason. I’m not even dating him. I have no clue where you even got that idea.”
“Mason told me,” I reminded her.
“I don’t know what Mason told you,” Jane said. “But I think you misunderstood. Mason is engaged, but definitely not to me. He met some pre-law girl and he’s crazy about her. Ramona, I think her name is.”
“But he told me…” I thought back to what Mason had said to me yesterday. He had said it was Jane that he was marrying, didn’t he? Or was it possible I had just jumped to that conclusion? “But I saw you guys kiss. On the day of my birthday.”
“You mean when he hugged me and pecked me right here?” Jane pointed to the side of her lips. “He was just grateful to me for reconnecting you guys. And I think if we were dating, he could do a little better than that.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Are you seriously not dating Mason?”
“I promise you, I am not, have not, and will never date Mason,” Jane said. “I mean, shit, the guy’s probably crawling with STDs. I heard he even fucked two prostitutes in the backseat of a car on Hollywood Boulevard.”
I felt like a complete jackass. I had somehow imagined a great romance between Jane and Mason. I was embarrassed, but mostly, I was relieved. I looked up at Jane, who was grinning ear to ear.
“This is amazing,” she mused. “You were jealous. The Great Nick Edwards was actually jealous!”
“You totally were,” Jane teased me. She winked. “It’s all right. I won’t tell anybody.”
All I could think was that if I were able to move right now, I’d have tackled Jane onto my bed, pressed my body against hers, and kissed her till the sun went down. It was funny how my first thought wasn’t that I wanted to fuck her, just that I wanted to be close to her. Either way, it wasn’t going to happen though.
At the end of the week, Mason came by to visit me again. Except this time he wasn’t alone. He brought a girl with him.
I was, unfortunately, eating when he visited. So far, I’d somehow managed to avoid being around Mason during any meals. I was sure he had to know that I could no longer feed myself and now needed help with that, but it was another thing to actually have him see it. I was in the cafeteria and Gretchen, a nurse’s aide, was feeding me a bite of pureed squash when I saw Mason across the room.
My concentration broke and I didn’t get the food off the spoon properly and it ran down my chin. Luckily, Gretchen was on the ball and wiped me off before Mason got any closer. But I already decided I wasn’t going to eat anymore. I’d only finished about a third of my dinner, but I wasn’t even that hungry. I couldn’t really burn calories anymore, so my appetite had tanked.
I watched as Mason approached me, holding hands with an unfamiliar girl. The girl looked like a little pixie, with short brown hair and an unturned nose. She was the opposite of every girl I’d ever seen Mason with in the past. Usually he only dated tall, skinny blondes.
“Nico!” Mason was grinning at me. “Are you busy?”
I turned to Gretchen. “I’m done here.”
Gretchen looked doubtfully at my plate. “Maybe a few more bites?”
“No,” I said firmly. And thank god, Gretchen accepted that. I knew that eventually, Mason was going to see me be fed by another person, but I just didn’t want it to happen now. I wasn’t ready for that. And maybe my arms would recover enough that he wouldn’t have to see it.
“So Nick,” Mason said. “This here is Ramona, my fiancée.” He beamed as he said the words.
“Hi, Ramona,” I said. “Nice to finally meet you.”
Ramona smiled at me, and I had to admit, she had the cutest smile I’d ever seen. She ran to my side and stood next to me. “Oh my God!” she said. “We’re the same height! I can’t believe it! I’m shorter than everyone. It’s so nice to actually be able to look someone in the eyes.” Ramona shot Mason a look: “Especially after being around his family.”
I had to laugh at that. Mason’s entire family really is freakishly tall.
“I’ve been begging Mason to meet you forever,” Ramona went on. “He talks about you constantly, you know. I had to see what the hype was all about.”
“Well, I hope I can live up,” I said.
“Are you kidding me?” Ramona said. “You’re the BFF. I’m the one who has to get your approval. If you don’t like me, I’m gone. Seriously.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much,” I told her.
“Yeah?” She grinned at me.
“Well, I don’t like lawyers too much,” I said. “But since I’m giving Mason a pass on that, I guess it’s only fair to make an exception for you too.”
“Well, I’m planning to go into environmental law,” Ramona said. “I really just want to make a difference.”
“Oh, that’s great…”
Mason slugged Ramona in the shoulder. “She’s joking. She’s a total shark. She’s going to make her first million before I do.”
I looked at tiny Ramona with a newfound respect. I couldn’t imagine her being a shark. But there was this little glint in her eyes so maybe I could see it.
We spent the next hour chatting. I liked Ramona, or maybe I just liked that she wasn’t Jane. In any case, I could see what Mason saw in her, even if she wasn’t the typical blond beauty he usually went for. If he had to get married, it wouldn’t be so bad if he married her.
Apparently, they had trouble finding parking, so Mason sent Ramona ahead to get their car, which was mostly an excuse for us to talk alone. When she was out of sight, Mason leaned in toward me and said, “So? What do you think?”
“She’s great,” I answered truthfully.
Mason let out a breath. “I think so too.”
“So when are you getting married?”
“Not for a while,” he said. “She wants to travel first, see the world before we’re stuck in law school. Neither of us is eager to settle down right away. It’ll probably be at least two years, maybe three.” He paused. “But when we do it, I want you to be my best man.”
I started coughing, choking on invisible air. “No, Mason. Come on. You don’t want me in your wedding party.”
“Actually, you’re the only person I want in my wedding party,” Mason said. “Who am I going to get? One of those phony assholes we used to hang out with? You think Jay or Clyde would make a good best man?”
I hadn’t thought about our old friends in a while. Jay and Clyde were two guys we used to see fairly frequently. I knew Mason never thought much of them, but I always thought they were pretty fun. “Do you still hang out with them?”
“No,” Mason said and he squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. “I don’t. I don’t see any of them anymore.”
“Look,” I said. “Do you really want a quadriplegic zooming down the aisle in your wedding? And how I am supposed to take care of the ring?” Even if I got some arm movement back, a ring would certainly be too small and delicate for me to handle.
“All I know is I want you to be my best man,” Mason said. “I need you.”
How could I say no to that? “All right then.”
Mason grinned at me and clapped me on the shoulder. “Thanks, Nick,” he said. For a moment, I saw tears welling up in his eyes, but he blinked a few times and they were gone. Mason always was kind of a softie, despite his size. I remember when we were eight years old, I broke my arm when Mason and I were trying to climb a tree, and he cried the whole time we were in the emergency room. I was the one who broke my arm… how come he was crying? “Maybe someday you’ll make me your best man,” he added.
I didn’t say what I was thinking, which was that there was no way there was going to be a wedding in my future, either near or far.