Mom makes French toast for breakfast the next morning, and true to form, she burns it. She doesn’t make any mention of the wet mattress and I have no idea if she knows or not. Maybe she just thinks we were good guests and decided to strip the sheets for her. That’s what I’m hoping.
As we sit at the kitchen table, I notice Chris is pushing the French toast around his plate. I’m not sure if my mother has finally created a meal that’s too inedible for him to force down his throat, or if he’s depressed over what happened this morning. Maybe a little of both.
“Did you sleep well?” Mom asks us, as she rinses off the frying pan. She’s looking at Chris when she says it. Does she know? Damn, I really hope not.
“Pretty well,” he says.
“You’re not heading back to New York too early, I hope?” she asks, although I suspect she hopes the opposite of that.
“Uh, whenever Samantha is ready,” Chris says, looking at me.
I take a deep breath. “Well, my landlord is showing my apartment this evening, so I should probably get back to clean it before then.”
Mom raises her eyebrows at me. “Showing your apartment? Are you moving, Sam?”
I nod. “Yes. I’m moving to D.C. with Chris.”
The frying pan clatters out of my mother’s hands into the sink. Chris is staring at me, looking completely stunned. But not in a bad way.
“You’re… what?” Mom’s hands are dripping soap suds all over the kitchen floor and she doesn’t even notice.
“Moving to D.C.,” I say. “I think it’ll be a nice change.”
Mom looks between the two of us, pink circles appearing on her white cheeks. “Tim!” she screams.
And here we go.
My parents spend the better part of an hour trying to gently talk me out of moving with Chris. They mention my career, all my friends in New York, and how much I just love the city. I can tell they’re not saying what they really mean, because he’s in the room. I have a feeling that as soon as I get home, Mom is going to call me with an earful. But I don’t care anymore.
Chris seems relatively unperturbed by the conversation. He calmly assures my parents that he’ll take good care of me, a promise they seem to find almost laughable. I love how calm he is through the whole thing. It helps me to stay calm too.
On the drive home, things are a little quiet, but not necessarily in a bad way. Whenever we hit a light, Chris quickly grabs my hand and gives it a squeeze, or he touches my knee. I keep thinking about the future, about spending my life with him, and even though it scares me, it makes me really happy.
I decide to spend the night at Chris’s apartment that night, mostly so I can avoid any calls from my parents. I can screen the calls on my cell phone, at least. I end up shutting it before dinner, because they’ve already called twice.
We go out to a diner, because I’m too tired to even attempt to cook something, and I’m not in the mood for takeout pizza or Chinese. As we sit in the diner, studying our menus, Chris reaches across the table and grabs my hand.
“Hey,” I say. “What’s this all about?”
“What?” he asks innocently.
“I thought you don’t believe in PDAs?”
Chris squeezes my hand harder. “Well, maybe I changed my mind.”
I grin at him. “Is that so?”
“Sure.” He grins back. “I’m a changed man because of you.”
Of course, if he were really changed, he’d lean forward and kiss me right now. But he doesn’t. That’s okay though. Baby steps.
I turn the page of the menu with my one free hand, studying my burger options. I deserve a nice big juicy burger after what I went through today. With onion rings. Yum.
I lift my eyes at the sound of the vaguely familiar voice. Suddenly, I feel ill. I’m dizzy, like the whole room is spinning. Omigod, no. This can’t be happening. Can’t be. Please no…
“Hi, Rob,” I croak.
Rob, in all his power wheelchair glory, is hovering in front of our table with a takeout bag on his lap. He looks like he’s gained an extra twenty pounds and lost several hairs since the last time I saw him. Despite being disabled, he is in no way, shape, or form attractive to me. Admittedly, he’s emailed me a few times in the last month, but I’ve been deleting all those emails without even reading them. I was hoping he’d just… give up. Stupid, naïve Sam.
“It’s so great to see you, Sam,” Rob says, although his tone is guarded as he looks at my date. He sees that Chris is in a wheelchair and we’re holding hands. Rob’s not a complete idiot.
“Uh huh,” I say, avoiding eye contact with him. I glance at Chris, who has a perplexed look on his face.
“I haven’t heard from you in a while,” Rob comments. He flashes Chris a dirty look. “I guess I can see why.”
I don’t even know what to say anymore. I look down at my menu and clear my throat loudly. “Well, it was good seeing you again.”
Is there any chance that he’ll leave this restaurant without letting on that we went out on a date? Please God, let him just shut up and get the hell out.
“I’d ask you if I still have a chance, but apparently you’ve made your decision,” he says, his voice cracking slightly on the words. And then he looks at Chris and nods his head. “I guess she’s yours now. Take good care of her, man.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
Chris is staring at me as Rob wheels out of the diner. I can’t even freaking believe that just happened. I try to laugh it off, but the laugh comes out sounding like a strangled noise. I realize that Chris is no longer holding my hand and his face is pale.
“Did you date that guy?” Chris asks me, his brown eyes narrowed.
“Sort of,” I admit. “Barely.”
“Rob…” he murmurs. I wince as he makes the connection. “That’s who Patrick thought I was when we met at that carnival. He thought I was that guy. He thought I was your last boyfriend.”
“He wasn’t my boyfriend,” I protest weakly.
Chris is still staring at me, shaking his head.
“Look,” I say. “I know what you’re thinking…”
“Really,” he says. His voice is flat. “What am I thinking?”
I swallow hard. “You’re thinking it’s… a pretty big coincidence that I dated two guys in a row who are disabled.” Chris doesn’t respond so I continue to babble: “And maybe you’re thinking that it isn’t a coincidence at all and that… that… you know, I’m into that. Or something.”
“Yeah,” he says quietly. “That is sort of what I’m thinking.”
He doesn’t say anything for a little while and just continues staring at me. Finally, he says, “So are you?”
At this point, I realize that lying is pointless. He caught me. “Yes,” I say. “I am.”
He sighs really, really loudly. “Wow,” he says. “I feel like a complete idiot.”
At this moment, the waitress comes over to take our order. She’s about twenty, and has this bright cheerful voice that grates on my very soul. “What can I get you guys?”
“Um, just… give us a minute,” I manage.
“Can I read you the specials?” she offers. “We’ve got a rainbow trout that—”
“Please,” I say in a choked voice. “Just give us a minute.”
Just when I think I might burst into tears if she says another word about the fish of the day, she chirps, “Sure thing!” And skips away to the next table. I try to roll my eyes at Chris, but he isn’t a taker. He looks really pissed off.
“Why didn’t you tell me, Samantha?” he hisses under his breath. “Seriously? We’ve been together for like nine months. We’re about to move in together! How could you not tell me?”
“I didn’t think it was important,” I whisper.
Of course, he knows that’s a lie. “All this time,” he mutters, “I’m thinking to myself that, wow, this gorgeous, funny, intelligent girl actually likes me. I must really have it going on. Except all the while, you only liked me for one reason.”
“That’s not true,” I insist. “I mean, yes, that was why I was initially attracted to you. But now there are so many things I love about you.”
Chris folds his arms across his chest. “Yeah? Like what?”
“Like you’re brilliant,” I say. “And you’re funny. And we have great conversations together. And you’re… really sexy.”
“Now I know you’re lying,” he says, his eyes darkening.
“You don’t give a shit what I look like,” he says. “I may as well be a fat, balding guy. As long as I’m in a wheelchair, right? Who the fuck cares?”
“That is so not true!” I say, but I feel like I’m losing him.
“Obviously it is.”
“It’s not! I swear to you.”
“Why didn’t you just tell me, Samantha?” he says, his voice breaking slightly on the words. His eyebrows knit together. “It’s just so… humiliating to find out this way. It’s like you’ve been lying to me our whole relationship.”
“I was never lying to you about how I felt,” I say.
He shakes his head and pushes his menu aside. He grabs his wheels and backs away from the table. “I think I’m going to go.”
“No…” My eyes fill with tears. I can’t believe this is happening. “Please don’t go. What can I do to prove to you that I really love you?”
He looks at me and sighs. I’m not even sure if he seems angry anymore, but it’s obvious that something has changed between us. “I need some time, okay?”
I nod. I’m afraid to even ask him about D.C. because I know what he’ll say. He wants some time away from me, not me moving into his apartment. At best, we’re on hiatus. At worst, we’re over.
To be continued....