Usually when I go up to visit my parents, I take the train. When I went with Patrick, he carried all my bags, which was kind of heroic considering I don’t pack light. I have no idea how accessible Penn Station is, but I’m guessing the answer is not very. So I call Chris to tell him that I’m going to rent a car for our weekend trip.
“No need,” he says. “I bought a car.”
For a second, I’m too stunned to respond. “You did?”
“Well, I figure I’ll need one in D.C.,” he says.
The gravity of what he said takes another second to hit home. “Does that mean they officially offered you the job?” Last week, Chris flew out for an interview at the company and as of yesterday, he hadn’t heard from them.
“Yep,” he says.
So that’s it. He’s going to take the job and I’m going to move out to D.C. with him. I’m going to leave my apartment, my job, my friends, everything. For him. Whoa.
“Getting cold feet?” he asks me. His voice is joking, but I can tell he’s worried.
“No,” I lie. I mean, it’s not totally a lie. I know for sure that I want to spend the rest of my life with him. But leaving everything behind… that’s kind of intense.
We make plans to meet up on Saturday, thinking we’ll drive to Connecticut, spend the night at my parents’ house, then drive back the next day. I think one night is about all I’ll be able to stand.
The next day, Chris shows up at my building in his new Honda Accord with hand controls. He’s stored his wheelchair in the back seat, and I climb in next to him. He’s popped his Android onto the dashboard to use as the GPS. “This is why I don’t buy an iPhone,” he explains to me. “Their map function completely sucks. I can’t imagine they’re ever going to get it right.”
“Hey, aren’t you an Apple salesman?” I tease him.
“Not anymore,” he says happily. “I turned in my two week notice today. It felt amazing.”
And this is why I couldn’t ask him to stay here. How could I deprive him of this kind of happiness?
I was a little nervous about being in a car with Chris, considering he told me he hadn’t driven in “years.” But as we get on the highway, it’s pretty clear I had nothing to worry about. He drives ridiculously slowly. The GPS’s prediction of our arrival time keeps getting later and later. Every car on the road is darting around us.
“You know, you can go a little faster,” I say to him. “We won’t spin out of control if you drive more than 50 miles per hour.”
“There’s nothing wrong with driving at the speed limit,” he insists.
“Chris, there’s an old lady with a walker that just passed us.”
“Haha, very funny.”
Still, there’s nothing that I can say to persuade him to drive even a drop faster. We end up taking about an hour longer to get there than I usually do when I drive. But considering how much I’m dreading it, it isn’t such a bad thing.
I give Chris instructions to park in our driveway. When he pulls in, he has this look on his face that I can’t quite read and I notice that he’s staring at the ten or so steps to get to our front door. I had forgotten all about it. “Um, is there a back entrance?” he asks me.
“Yes,” I say. I don’t tell him that the back entrance has about four steps as well. I did warn my parents that he’s in a wheelchair, but I didn’t specifically tell them that he can’t climb up a flight of stairs. I have a bad feeling about this.
As we’re getting out of the car, Mom comes out to meet us. Her hair is arranged in what I’ve been teasing her is an “old lady bun” and she’s wearing an old lady sweater. I swear, you’d never know she’s not even sixty yet.
“You must be Chris,” Mom says as she approaches us. Her voice has this mildly patronizing edge to it that I’ve noticed a lot of people use when they talk to him. “It’s great to meet you.” After a hesitation, she sticks out her hand.
Chris takes it. “Nice to meet you too, Mrs. Young,” he says.
“Please, call me Marian,” she says. At least she was more courteous in that regard than Chris’s parents.
“Thanks, Marian,” he says. “Um, Samantha says you have a back entrance?”
“Yes…” Mom says, looking a little confused.
“The stairs, Mom,” I say to her.
“Oh!” she says as if it never occurred to her.
We get around to the back, and of course, there are the four stairs back there too. Chris gives me this look, but seriously, this is not my fault. I warned them!
“There’s a railing,” Mom says. “Maybe you could hang onto it and walk up the stairs?”
“No, I can’t,” Chris says tightly.
Chris seems to be weighing his options when Mom yells for my father to come out and help. After a set of introductions, Mom explains the situation to Dad, who gives his head a big scratch. I can’t believe I’ve been here less than five minutes and already the situation is beyond awkward.
“Tim, why don’t you get that wooden board that’s in the garage? Mom says to Dad.
“But that’s for the dog house I’m building!” Dad protests.
“Tim, we don’t even have a dog,” Mom sighs. “Just get the board, okay?”
Dad goes to the garage and returns with a wooden board that he puts down on the stairs. It’s a little steeper than most ramps, but Chris is strong enough to push up it without a problem. I think this is probably the best solution we could have come up with on a minute’s notice.
“I’m so sorry,” I whisper to Chris as he’s wheeling himself inside.
He nods and doesn’t say anything. I can tell he’s pretty pissed off about the situation, but hopefully not at me.
“Dinner’s actually almost ready,” Mom says, with undue enthusiasm. “I was actually expecting you to get here earlier, but this is better… we can eat right away.”
I don’t mention Chris’s slow driving is responsible for our late arrival.
“Sam, do you want to help me out in the kitchen?” Mom asks me.
I really don’t, but it’s hard to say no. So I leave Chris to chat with my father while I join Mom in the kitchen. I know she wants to get me alone and I’m dreading what she has to say.
In the kitchen, Mom assigns me the task of tossing the salad while she checks on the chicken in the oven. “Well, I have to admit,” she says, as she peers into the oven, “he’s not what I expected.”
“No?” I croak.
“He’s very quiet,” she says. She straightens up and pulls off her oven mitts. “Not much personality. Not particularly handsome. Honestly, I’m having a little trouble figuring out what you see in him.”
“You only met him five minutes ago,” I point out.
“True,” she says.
“He’s very sweet,” I say. “Really considerate. Really, really smart. And he’s funny.” I want to point out how sexy he is too, but I don’t know if that will go over well. Better to make them think I like him for his intangible qualities.
“Is he?” Mom sounds unimpressed.
“Yes,” I say firmly. “You just need to get to know him a little better.”
“All right, Sam,” she says, chuckling slightly like she’s indulging something stupid that I’m doing. “You always like to make things interesting, don’t you? I can’t wait to see the next boy you bring home.”
Except there won’t be a next boy. I really think Chris might be the last. But I can see that if I try to tell my mother this, she isn’t going to take it very well. I need more time.
When Mom and I get back to the living room to announce dinner, Chris and my father are deeply entrenched in a discussion about smartphones. Dad is grinning and I feel relieved at least one of my parents seems to approve. “I’m switching to an Android!” Dad announces. “Chris convinced me.”
As is the tradition in our household, Mom and I serve as waitresses, bringing the food out to the men. I know it’s super sexist, but try telling my mother that. Chris offers to help, but Mom laughs out loud at him. “Just go with it,” I tell Chris, who is finally smiling and no longer seems to hate my family.
My mother has completely overcooked the chicken. It’s terrible. But to his credit, Chris is digging into it and pretending that it isn’t a dry, burnt piece of meat. “This is wonderful, Marian,” he says.
“Really?” she says, beaming. “I was worried it’s a little dry.”
“A little!” Dad snorts.
Mom glares at him, and Chris quickly says, “No, it’s very good. I like it just like this.”
“Well, I’m glad somebody likes my cooking,” Mom declares.
“It’s a miracle,” Dad mumbles.
I almost reach out to squeeze Chris’s knee under the table, a classic move when I’m with a guy at my parents’ house, but then I remember he won’t be able to feel it and I yank my hand back.
“So,” Dad says to Chris, “does your employer Apple know that you’re going around promoting their competitor’s products?”
Chris laughs. “Well, they’ll only be my employer one more week, so I don’t really care.”
“Oh, really?” Dad says. “You got a new job then?”
Chris turns his head and stares at me in disbelief. I guess I should have alerted him that I didn’t tell my parents about the job and the fact that I’ll be moving to D.C. with him. He doesn’t seem super pleased with me.
“Uh, yeah,” he finally says, his tone guarded. “I got a position at a great electronic company in Washington D.C.”
“Oh, how wonderful!” Mom says, looking truly pleased for the first time all night. I guess she’s thrilled he’ll be moving away from me.
“Well, D.C. isn’t too far from New York,” Dad says. “I’m sure you and Sam will get to see each other plenty.”
“Yeah,” Chris says, raising his eyebrows at me.
I shake my head. I can’t. I can’t tell them right now.
The rest of dinner is a little tense between me and Chris. I don’t blame him entirely, but he’s not seeing things from my perspective. I mean, I just admitted to my parents that I’m dating a guy with a major disability. I can’t also throw at them the fact that I’m moving to another state with him. It’s unfair to my parents. I’ll make him understand.
Mom made up the den, which has a fold-out couch as a bedroom for the two of us. (She had originally made up the upstairs guestroom, but then realized the error of her ways.) My parents have been totally cool recently about the fact that I sleep in the same bedroom as my boyfriends. Of course, they’d have to be idiots to think I hadn’t had sex at my age, but Kate tells me that her parents never let any of her redheads spend the night in the same room as her.
After my father recounts the story of his recent win in the above-60 golf tournament and we watch the news for a little while, my parents yawn and say they’re turning in. We decide to do the same. Of course, the second Chris and I are alone in the bedroom, I know I’m in for it. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell them, Samantha,” he says.
“I’ll tell them,” I promise, sinking down onto the open sofa bed.
Usually Chris is so easygoing, but he looks decidedly pissed off right now. “When?”
“Look, you just met them,” I point out. “It’s unfair to them to spring it all on them at once.”
“Yeah, it’s really unfair to them,” he says.
I see his point. I look down at my hands. “I’m sorry. I’ll tell them soon. I promise.”
His face softens and he wheels over to take my hands in his. “Hey. Look, I’m sorry I got pissed at you. I know you’re going to tell them when you’re ready.”
He leans forward to kiss me and I know all is now forgiven. I feel his rough palms against my skin and I get this irrepressible urge to feel him inside me. “Hey,” I whisper, pulling away for a second. “D’you think we could have sex?”
His ears turn a little pink. “Uh… well, I left my pills at home. And I can’t…”
“Never mind,” I say quickly.
“I’ll eat you out?” he offers.
I nod. We continue kissing until his lips slide downward, kissing my chest, my breasts, and my belly, then he pushes me down, lifts my skirt, and starts to spread my legs. There’s something so weird yet hot about having sex in your parents’ house. Unless, of course, they knock on the door while you’re in the middle of it. Which is naturally what my mother decides to do.
Chris quickly straightens up, and so do I, smoothing out my skirt over my thighs. “Come in,” I call.
Mom enters the room carrying a stack of blankets. She looks at the two of us, both somewhat disheveled from the activities of several seconds ago, and an uncomfortable look comes over her face. Maybe she thought it wasn’t possible, considering Chris’s situation. “I brought you blankets,” she says, holding them out to me.
“Thank you,” Chris says quickly, wheeling over to take them from her.
“Well,” Mom says, looking between the two of us. She’s probably really glad Chris is moving away. “Good night, I guess.”
“Yes, good night, Mom,” I say.
Unfortunately, she sort of killed the mood, so as soon as she’s gone, we decide to go straight to sleep. After all, we now have blankets.
The next morning, I wake up feeling oddly uncomfortable. For a minute, I can’t put my finger on what it is, but then I realize I feel wet all along my left thigh. Holy shit, did I get my period or something all over the bed? Nothing like that has happened to me since I was like twelve years old. Oh God, that would be like the most embarrassing thing I can imagine.
I yank back the covers, terrified I’m going to see a puddle of crimson under me, but I don’t. My first instinct is to be relieved, but then I realize what it is. There is a wet circle on the bed. And it’s right under my boyfriend. And I realize there’s one thing more embarrassing than getting your period all over the bed.
What am I supposed to do in this situation? Do I wake him up and tell him? I mean, he’s got to find out sooner or later. But… I don’t know, maybe I can pretend like I didn’t know.
Chris stirs next to me and I know the decision has been made. He opens his eyes a crack. He told me once about his terrible eyesight, which predates his spinal cord injury, but I guess he can see me well enough to see the look on my face. He pulls back the blankets, looks down at the sheets, and his face turns completely scarlet.
“Fuck,” he says, letting his head drop against the pillow. He looks like he’s about to cry.
I don’t know what to say. To be honest, I’m as embarrassed as he is. “It’s okay,” I tell him softly. “It’s not a big deal.”
“You know this isn’t something that happens to me,” he says quickly, propping his upper body up on his elbows. “This hasn’t happened to me in years. Like, forever. I can’t believe, of all the fucking times…”
“It’s okay,” I say again. “I’ll just throw the sheets in the wash. It’s not a big deal.”
He takes a shaky breath. “Let me take the sheets off, okay?”
We both get up off the bed and I step away to let him strip the sheets himself. Unfortunately, the mattress underneath is a little damp too, but not visibly so. Still, I should probably scrub it a little so it doesn’t smell.
“Where do these go?” he asks me, clutching the balled up sheets.
“You better let me,” I say. When he hesitates, I add, “They go in the basement.”
I tiptoe out of the den, still dressed only in my nightshirt, and I deposit the sheets in the hamper downstairs. I’m sure by the time my mother does the wash, it will be dry. Of course, she’ll know something happened when she sees the sheets are gone from the bed. I don’t think there’s any way to hide this from them.
When I get back to the room, Chris is rubbing a soapy cloth over the damp area on the mattress. He looks up at me, a guilty expression on his face. “This should help,” he says.
“It’s not a big deal,” I say.
He looks at me and throws the washcloth down on the mattress. “Will you please stop saying that, Samantha? It is a big deal. It’s a really fucking big deal. Did Patrick ever fucking wet the bed?”
My hands start shaking and bite my lip hard. I have no idea what to say to make this better.
Chris’s shoulders sag. “No wonder you don’t want to tell your parents you’re moving to D.C. with me. They’ll think you’re out of your mind. Hell, I think you’re out of your mind.”
“Stop it!” I cry. “Stop acting like this. It really isn’t a big… I mean, I love you. And I’m totally sane.”
Chris doesn’t smile.
At this point, I realize that there’s only one thing I can do to make this better.