When the countdown to my homecoming started, things seemed to move very quickly. My parents hired a new caregiver for the morning and evening, a guy named Pete who seemed nice enough, and he got trained without incident. If I needed anything during the day, there were other servants who would be around to help me. My parents also completed their renovations on the first floor of the house.
I got my suprapubic catheter put in too. I stressed a lot in the days leading up to the procedure, but it actually ended up not being that big a deal. I didn’t love the idea of having a tube in my abdomen, but I could see how much easier it was going to be than the catheter in my penis. It only had to be changed like once a month. And presumably, it would keep me from having any more incidents like that one with Savannah.
I tried to be upbeat about going home, even though I was nervous about it. “I’ll come by every day,” Mason promised me on one of his visits. We were sitting outside, watching cars drive by.
“No, you won’t,” I said. “You’ll be in fucking law school, you loser. Hey, did you get your LSAT scores back?”
Mason grinned. “I killed it. I got a perfect score.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
He shook his head.
Actually, that didn’t surprise me all that much. Mason was always a smart guy, even though he killed off a lot of his brain cells with the drugs we did. He smoked up before he took the SATs yet still managed to get the same score that I did, even though I was sober. “I guess you didn’t do a line before the test,” I said.
Mason lowered his eyes. “No, I didn’t. Actually, Nick, I’m not doing any of that stuff anymore.”
There was a silence between us. I think he was thinking that if I hadn’t been so trashed on the night I got injured, I wouldn’t have broken into that yard and jumped into that swimming pool. He was probably right too.
“So how about you?” Mason asked. “Are you thinking about going back to school?”
I had sort of been thinking about my career lately. I couldn’t fathom going back to school, but I did have some thoughts about what I’d like to do with my life. “Actually,” I said, “I’ve been sort of thinking about going into directing.”
Mason’s eyes lit up. “Really? That would be amazing. You were always into that. Remember when we were kids and you’d pretend to shoot those little movies?”
I did remember. When I was little, I wanted to be just like my father and make movies. I used to always go to the sets and watch. But then I hit adolescence and lost interest in everything, and movies seemed hopelessly lame. “I thought maybe I could hang out on the sets of a few of my dad’s movies,” I said. “See how it gets done.”
“Could I come?” Mason asked eagerly. He quickly checked his excitement. “Not to meet stars or anything. Just to, like, make contacts.”
I knew Mason was full of shit and just wanted to ogle the cute young actresses, and I didn’t blame him. But I figured it would be much better to have him with me to help me with whatever I needed, instead of some nurse. I’d already resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to go around town by myself much anymore.
“Maybe you could be my bodyguard,” I said with a grin.
“That,” Mason said, “would be awesome.”
And for the first time, I was really starting to look forward to my life when I got out of here again.
Every month, there was a special celebratory lunch for the patients being discharged. With my own discharge right around the corner, I was invited to attend the lunch this month. It was supposed to be a nice meal and we were supposed to dress up for it.
There was part of me that was really excited to go home, and part of me was dreading it. The part I dreaded most was leaving Jane. The best part of my day was seeing Jane, and I hated the idea of not seeing her anymore. I wondered if there was any chance she might visit me when I was discharged. I saw the way she was with other patients, and I was certain she treated me different from all the rest. There was a connection between us, I was pretty sure of it.
The other piece of news was that after hours on hours of practicing, I’d noticed a slight twitch of movement in my left biceps. I hadn’t told anyone, because I wasn’t absolutely sure, but the thought of maybe being able to move one arm a little made me extremely happy. If I regained a tiny bit of movement in that arm, my understanding was that I’d be able to use a sling to help me eat on my own. I’d still be dependent for most of my care, but it would be life-changing to be able to eat myself again and do some hygiene stuff.
That was why I hadn’t said anything. I knew if I showed Dr. Greenly and he didn’t feel any movement there, I’d be devastated. I needed to exercise it, make it stronger.
On the day of the lunch, Cam dressed me. He put me in the nice white dress shirt that I wore for my birthday and dark slacks. “Do you want to wear a tie?” he asked, pulling out a navy blue tie with black stripes from my closet.
That tie looked familiar to me. It took me a minute to remember that I had worn the tie to one of my father’s movie premieres about two years ago. I had been dating this wannabe model who had been really excited about seeing a movie premiere, so I scored tickets from my father and took her. She had been so grateful that she gave me head in my car after I drove her home.
I felt sad thinking back to that night. I had so much going for me. I was rich, good looking, and I could get pussy like nothing. I had no idea what was in store for me.
“No tie,” I told Cam.
I followed Cam to the dining room where we were going to have the special lunch. There were about seven other patients who would be joining us, but I was the only one with a spinal cord injury. Two of them had brain injuries, three had strokes, and two had just broken a bunch of bones.
The meal was a nice piece of steak with sautéed green beans and mashed potatoes. I wasn’t the only person in the room who needed to be fed, which made me feel slightly better. One of the brain injured patients was pretty messed up and he needed to be fed and have his food ground up into a mush. At least I was better off than that. I could chew and swallow.
As I took my place in front of my plate of food, I saw an empty chair next to me and wondered who would be feeding me. By now, I had developed pretty strong preferences about who I liked being fed by. But the last thing I expected was for Jane to take a seat next to me and pick up my fork.
“You ready for your delicious meal?” Jane asked, winking at me.
“You’re going to be feeding me?” I was amazed.
“Is that okay?” she asked, smiling.
“Definitely.” I smiled back at her. “I figured you’d want to talk to everyone around the room and eat your own food.”
She shrugged. “Nah. You’re my main patient anyway here, so I figured we’d be talking anyway. So I volunteered.”
I watched as Jane cut my steak into pieces with her slender fingers. She took a bite of my steak, then offered me the next bite. There was something so intimate about this gesture. It almost felt like we were on a date together. I’d been fed a lot of times, but this was the first time it had been a bit of a turn-on.
“It’s good, right?” Jane said.
“Really good,” I said, even though I barely tasted it.
She fed me a bite of mashed potatoes. She missed slightly and some potato went on my lower lip. Usually I was able to get at the escaped food with my tongue, but before I could do that, Jane used her thumb to brush the food off my lip. It would have been more appropriate for her to use a napkin, but I wasn’t complaining.
Jane and I shared our two plates of food. We didn’t say much during that time, mostly just staring at each other. I didn’t know what to think of this situation. She was just doing her job, just feeding me, but how could I not think there wasn’t something more going on? I mean, we were eating off the same goddamn fork. She was touching my lips with her fingers. And the way she was looking at me…
After the last patient and therapist exited the room, Jane and I were still lingering behind. “Do you always eat so slowly?” she teased me.
“No, you just suck at feeding me,” I said.
Jane peered at something on my neck, which made me a little self-conscious. “Wow, no wonder you’re eating so slowly. You’re probably choking from Cam buttoning your shirt up to the top. Isn’t that uncomfortable?”
“A little,” I admitted. Truthfully, I had told him to button my shirt to the top because I wanted to hide my trach scar.
“Let me help you with that,” Jane said.
She leaned in to unbutton my top button. She was fumbling a little and her face was so close to mine. I don’t know why I used to find her freckles unattractive… they were so sexy. I wished I could count them. I wished she could lie next to me in bed and I could count her freckles.
Jane lifted her face in triumph. “Got it!” Our eyes met and a thrill went through the parts of my body I could feel.
And then I leaned forward and kissed her.
I wish I could report that she kissed me back or even that she looked anything short of horrified. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. She backed away from me, her light blue eyes wide. She was shaking her head, looking like she couldn’t believe what I had done. And at that moment, I really, really regretted having kissed her.
“Nick...” she whispered. “I don’t…”
“It’s okay,” I croaked. “I get it. Never mind.”
“I’m really sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to make you think…”
“I said never mind,” I snapped. I didn’t want to hear her apologies. It was perfectly clear that she was uninterested in dating a quadriplegic, and I really didn’t want her to have to fumble through some bullshit reason. She wasn’t attracted to me. What else was there to say?
I was angry though. She was an experienced physical therapist. How could she not see that the things she was doing were making me fall in love with her? And how she was encouraging it with her actions? I mean, feeding me with the same fork she was using to feed herself. What the fuck was that?? The bitch was teasing me.
“It’s a normal thing,” she said, “to fall in love with your therapist. It’s common, actually.”
“What part of ‘never mind’ do you not fucking understand?!” I spat at her.
“Don’t be angry with me, Nick,” she said. “You know I care about you a lot. You’re my favorite patient. You know that, right?”
Something about the look on Jane’s face was calming to me. The tension drained out of my shoulders, although it was still hard to look her in the eyes. “Yeah, I know,” I said.
She put her hand on my shoulder, but she didn’t rub it or massage it, or anything that I could possibly construe as something more than friendship. “When you go home, I’m going to visit you,” she said. “I promise.”
I knew Jane meant well, but suddenly, I couldn’t bear the thought of her being in my life without being my girlfriend. I couldn’t imagine us spending hours together, constantly frustrated that we weren’t more than friends. I loved her too much. It would just hurt too much. “Please don’t,” I said.
Jane frowned and removed her hand from my shoulder. Finally, she said, “Okay.”
To be continued...