I can see out my window that Riley is in his office, but that he isn’t alone. I check his schedule online and I can see he’s got office hours right now and for the next… hour and a half. I suppose I could wait that long. Except I really can’t.
I go downstairs and then back up in the elevator to Riley’s floor. I’m practically running, but I slow to a stop in front of his office when I hear the clear voices coming from inside. Riley, speaking: “So the whole point is that the Turing machine halts on the given input, which means it’s accepting or rejected the input, then it decides the input. So an acceptance problem is decidable if there exists a Turing machine that halts for every input for that problem. Does that make sense?”
“I think so,” the student says. “But in the halting problem…”
Holy crap, this is boring. How do people go into computer science anyway? I peek my head around the door to let Riley know I’m here. He sees me and I can tell I’ve completely distracted him.
“…is that right, Dr. Samuels?” the student is asking.
“Huh?” Riley says.
The student jerks his head around and sees me standing in the doorway. The student has every right to be really pissed off by my intrusion, but to my surprise, he grins at us. “Maybe I’ll come back later.”
“No, that’s okay,” I mumble, my cheeks burning.
“No, it’s not okay,” Riley says. He turns to the student. “Thanks, Peter. You tell me any time you want to meet, and I’ll be here.”
After the student leaves, Riley wheels to the door, puts his hand on my back, and ushers me inside. He shuts the door behind me, and stares at me. “What’s going on, Maggie?”
“This isn’t about us,” I say quickly. “Or about the baby.”
I expected him to be upset, but instead he just looks relieved. “Okay…”
“Susan says you told her I finished my book on Jane Austin.”
“Uh huh.” He looks confused for a second. “Oh yeah, I guess you don’t remember having done it, huh? Well, you did. Congratulations. It’s on your computer.”
“No, it’s not.”
“I’m sure it is.”
“Riley, I’m not completely hopeless with computers.”
“I beg to differ.”
I huff at him. “How do you know it’s on my computer? Did you see it there?”
“No…” He frowns. “But I know you finished it. I mean, you’d been talking about it nonstop. You were really excited. You said it was even better than you’d hoped.”
Great. I wrote something totally brilliant and it’s gone. Vanished into the recesses of my hard drive.
“Can you please check out my computer,” I beg him. “See if you could find it? Please?”
For a second, I’m worried I’m going to have to get on my knees or something to convince him, but instead, he says, “Of course I will.”
He puts up a sign on his door saying that office hours have been rescheduled, then he follows me back to my own office. As we’re heading up in the elevator, I get this strange sense of déjà vu. “Hey,” I say, “did you help me get rid of some virus on my laptop at home?”
Riley gives me a funny look. “Yeah, you remember that?”
Bits and pieces. I remember dragging my laptop to work… lots of strange windows popping up on the computer… Riley, can you help me please?
“Sort of,” I say.
“Well, I’ll tell you what happened,” Riley says. “You were downloading these naked photos of Robert Pattinson… I mean, like gigabytes worth, and—”
I smack him in the arm and he gets this mock offended look. But I can see he’s pleased that I remember something. Maybe my memory is coming back?
Back in my office, I lead him to my computer. He pushes away my chair and pulls into the space in front of my desk. He reaches into the bag behind his wheelchair and pulls out what looks like the wrist guards I wore when I used to roller blade (the one time). He slides them onto his hands before he starts typing. “What are those?” I ask.
He holds up his wrists. “These? Neutral wrist splints.” Since I still look confused, he explains further: “About 90% of paraplegics end up with carpal tunnel, and the odds are just as good for people who work on computers all day. I’m just trying to stave off the crippling wrist pain.”
I can’t keep my brows from knitting together in concern. “I didn’t know you were in pain…”
“Maggie, believe me, that’s the least of my pain,” he says. “You try sitting in one place all day and see how your back feels.”
I stare at him, feeling very sad all of a sudden. “I didn’t realize…”
Riley looks up at my face. “Aw, come on, Mags. It’s okay. Look, it’s not that bad. I’m okay. I promise.” He adds, “Really.”
“Really really really. Cross my heart.” He gives me a crooked smile. “Now do you want me to find this file or not?”
I sit down in the empty chair, and start playing with the hem of my dress. I put my hand on my belly, feeling the gentle swell of my uterus. I guess it’s too early to feel the baby kicking, but that would definitely be pretty cool. I mean, that will be pretty cool. I imagine Riley with his hand on my stomach, both of us feeling our baby moving around.
I look up to see what Riley’s doing on my computer. He’s got a search window open and a window full of file names. “Did you find it yet?”
He flashes me an exasperated look. “No. It’s been sixty seconds, Maggie.”
I sigh, then get out my phone and check my email. No new messages. “How about now? Did you find it yet?”
“I have an idea,” Riley says. “Why don’t you play a game on your phone?”
“I don’t have any games.”
He reaches into his pocket and hands me his own phone. “Okay, then play a game on my phone.”
“I don’t really like games on phones.”
“Maggie, I swear to God…” Riley shakes his head at me. “Do you want me to find this file for you or not?”
I stand up from my chair. I walk around behind Riley and place my hands on his shoulders. He jumps slightly in surprise. The muscles in his neck feel very tense. “I could give you a massage while you work,” I offer.
He rolls his head back to look at me and I can see the longing in his eyes. “You’re aware that you’re torturing me, right?”
I want to tell him that it’s not my intention to torture him. I want to apologize for everything that’s happened between us, but I can’t quite get myself to say the words. Besides, I do want him to find this file. I really do. But it’s just not the thing that I want the most. Not anymore.
I pull my hands off his shoulders. “Maybe I’ll tidy up my office.”
While Riley works, I go through the file cabinets, arranging my papers and sorting through things I don’t want. I’ve always been a pretty tidy person, so there actually isn’t all that much to sort through. I need to tackle a really messy office. Like maybe Riley will let me clean his office one day. Unless I already have.
I look over at him, hunched over my computer screen. He always sits a little stooped, maybe because of the lack of muscles in his belly. I watch his hazel eyes scanning the screen, looking for clues to help me. He is a good guy, like Susan said. I get this sense that he’s always been around to help me, even before we were together. And even though I didn’t think so right away, he’s very sexy. There’s something about that disheveled black hair that is somehow crazy sexy. I don’t even mind the wheelchair bit so much. It’s all just part of him.
I bite down on my tongue to keep from asking him again if he’s found the file. Instead, I decide to rearrange the diplomas on my wall. That should kill at least twenty minutes. I grab the edges of my doctorate certificate from Ohio State, and suddenly, a sheaf of papers fall to the floor.
Riley jerks his head up. “What was that?”
“I have no idea,” I say. Why are there a bunch of papers behind my diploma? This is kind of like finding a treasure map on the back of the Constitution or something.
I bend down to look at the papers and I see my own handwriting. Pages and pages of it, written on both sides of the paper. I pick up a single sheet, picking out the words “Austin” and then “Mr. Darcy” and “Elizabeth Bennet.” I grip the sheet tightly enough to crinkle it slightly. “I think this is my book!”
“Those are the pages you used to write on by the tree,” Riley says quietly.
I start flipping through the stack of papers, which thankfully mostly stayed intact. “Is this all of it?”
“Maybe you should check your other diplomas.”
Sure enough, every single diploma on the wall has pages stuck behind it. By the time I’ve retrieved all of them, I have a sizable stack of writing. I can’t believe this.
“I guess I never typed them up,” I say.
“You probably figured you had time…”
Even though I’m glad I found my book, this huge stack of pages isn’t going to help me for tomorrow. I can’t very well hand this over to Frank. He’ll think I’m totally nuts. Hell, even I think I’m kind of nuts.
“Your meeting is tomorrow, right?” Riley looks at the stack in my hands, and grabs the top half. “I’ll type, you type. We’ll get it typed up and send it to Frank before your meeting.”
“It’s going to take forever,” I point out.
“No, it won’t,” he says. “I type crazy fast. I promise, we’ll get through it.”
And you know what? I believe him.
Five hours later, I’ve made a big dent in the papers I’ve typed up, but there’s still plenty left. It doesn’t look like so many, but my handwriting is tiny and I used both sides of each paper, so it’s more than it seems. Still, I’m confident that we’ll get through it tonight, especially since Riley is as fast a typist as he claimed to be. He came by here twice to get more papers from me.
And the book is pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. I can be objective, since I have zero memory of having written it, and it’s exactly as I always imagined it would be. Actually, I’m pretty impressed with my own insights into Austin’s characters. I hope Frank is too. In any case, I can’t imagine I’ll have any difficulty getting it published.
I flip through the remaining pages, trying to estimate how much I have left to type. As I get toward the end of the document, I see a few pages stuck in that look different from the rest. Instead of being filled with tiny writing, they have drawings on them. And the drawings look very familiar:
One is a square.
One is a triangle.
One is a tree.
One is a W with a line through it.
I feel a catch in my throat. These are the pictures I used to hang in the window to contact Riley. They’ve been in my office all along. Except there’s one paper I find that doesn’t resemble one he showed me in his own office. In my own block print, I’ve written “I LOVE YOU.”
I look across the way at Riley, still typing furiously on his keyboard. And I realize that I do love him. I love him. Maybe I don’t remember the first year of our relationship, but I feel this more strongly than I’ve ever felt anything in my entire life. I love him. And I need him to know it.
Tossing the rest of the sheets aside, I hurry to the window with the paper. I hold it up against the cold glass so that he can read it. But he’s still typing on his keyboard. Look up, Riley. Look up!
He can’t hear me. I know he can’t. But then he does look up, maybe because he’s so used to checking my window. And he sees my sign. And even with the distance between us, I can see the smile spreading across his lips.
He reaches under his desk and pulls out a sheet of paper of his own and presses it against the window. It says the same damn thing as mine.
I go back to my desk and fumble through the pages again until I find the one I want: the picture of the tree. I hurry back to the window, where Riley is still waiting, and slap it down for him to see. He nods.
A few minutes later, I get downstairs and I see he’s waiting for me outside the building. The sun has set, and he’s got a heavy jacket on, same as I do. He lifts his hands off his wheels to rub his bare hands together, and I can see his knuckles are pink. It’s pretty cold out, even by Ohio in November standards. “Break time?” he says.
“Let’s go,” I say.
We start on the path to the tree, which right now seems much too far away. “Your book is amazing,” he says. “Incidentally.”
I snort. “What do you know, computer science guy?”
“I’m not entirely illiterate. I know good writing when I see it.”
“Have you ever read Jane Austen?”
“I’m a man, so... no.”
“Her books are very romantic,” I say. “My favorite is Persuasion. The heroine Anne almost marries this terrible man, but then her true love stops her from making a horrible mistake by declaring his love for her.”
“I think I’m about three years too late for that one,” Riley says. “So is that how it always works in these books? Girl nearly ends up with horrible guy, then gets saved at the last minute by a devastatingly handsome underdog?”
“Hmm,” I say. “Maybe not devastatingly handsome.”
“Above average, at least?” he asks hopefully.
I laugh. “How about really cute and sexy?”
“Where’s that fucking tree?” Riley says.
And finally, we’re there. We’re at the tree. And now that we’re here, we don’t waste even a second. Riley transfers out of his wheelchair into the grass and I lay down beside him. The grass is somehow warmer than the air and Riley’s body is very warm as well, although I squeal slightly when his hand snakes inside my coat and touches my bare skin. When he kisses me, his breath is hot, and my whole body tingles with excitement.
“What have we done by this tree?” I whisper.
“We’ve done everything by this tree,” he whispers back. “The tree is completely traumatized, and is now in counseling.”
He continues to kiss me, his hands mostly staying inside my coat and over my dress to keep them warm. I clutch his back, pulling him close to me. I don’t know who this is more exciting for, him or me. Him, because it’s been a while and he seems to miss me. Me, because it feels like my first time with him. That’s the great thing about memory loss. You can be a virgin all over again.
“I want you to fuck me,” I whisper to him. “Is that okay?”
“Yeah, okay,” he says.
“Tell me what to do.” I assume things are a little different for him because of his disability, and I don’t want to ruin the moment by being an idiot.
“You have to be on top,” he says. “Lots of stimulation. Don’t stop.” He adds, “I was a little presumptuous and took a pill before we met up, so I think I’ll be okay.”
“Prenatal vitamins?” I tease him.
He smiles wryly. “Not quite.”
I open the button on his pants and insert my hand into his boxers. He’s only a little hard, but responds fairly quickly to my touch. It takes me a few minutes, but I get to the point where I’m pretty sure he’s hard enough to penetrate me. “Don’t lose contact,” he says to me, sensing what I’m about to do. Instead, he rips down my underwear himself, which is just really hot.
A few seconds later, I guide him inside me. I straddle him, just enjoying the sensation of a sexy guy being inside me. Remembering Riley’s warning, I start moving, thrusting against him as he rubs my clit with his fingers. Of course, he already told me that he has no sensation down there, so while I ride him, I run my hands over his upper chest, along the areas that I suspect are most sensitive like his nipples. He seems to like what I’m doing for him, and we’re both covered in sweat despite the cold night air, when I cum and collapse on top of him.
He slides out of me, and we both pull up our respective underwear. He puts his arms around me, holding me closely to his chest. “I love you so much, Maggie,” he says. His voice breaks slightly. “I really thought I’d lost you...”
And I remember this too. Lying under this very tree with Riley’s arms wrapped around me, making me feel safe and loved.
To be continued....
To be continued....