The Silver Screen
“Shit, crutches!” Alex swore, only a little frantically, as he flicked his wrist round to see the time on his watch. He’d wheeled into the sitting room in his boxers, braces over his lap, and once there had transferred to the sofa so that he had a bit more room to manoeuvre the braces on, and had just done up the last strap on the KAFO when he saw the crutches on the other side of the room. He could have put the braces on in his chair, but he liked to keep his two worlds separate as far as possible – the chair was for sitting, and he’d never get up from it and walk unaided, and the braces were for standing and walking. Alex knew that Will didn’t really understand the profundity of the distinction for Alex, but Will did respect his decision, even though it probably seemed easier to him for Alex just to stand straight up out of the wheelchair.
Despite his rule about not standing from the chair, Alex placed his pale hand on his chair again, preparing to do yet another transfer. Then Will crossed the room and without a word, picked up the crutches and brought them over to him. “Save you the bother,” was the only statement he made to justify his actions as he set them down next to Alex.
“Cheers,” he muttered as he wrestled his jeans on. Standing up and locking the braces at the knee with a practised flick, he did a mental check of the things he needed to take with him, other than the wallet, keys and phone that were either stowed in a compact little black rucksack or in his pocket, before saying, “See you later.”
There was a shadow of grey over Will’s face and his features were strangely set as he said, “Have fun.” He was genuine, but a tense note carried above his words like a barely-audible harmonic.
Alex resisted the urge to say something childish like ‘Yes dad,’ or ‘I won’t talk to strangers, and I’ll come straight home,’ and on reflection Will probably had every right to be protective of his little brother. He thought Will was probably thinking too of the time during Alex’s undergrad when he’d gone out with a group of friends, wearing his KAFO’s and using his crutches, and had got only half way through the night when mild spasms had kicked in and he’d lost his balance. His friends had been too drunk to get him on his feet and help him safely home, and he’d been forced to phone Will, who’d had to bring his chair. Seeing him pushing the black wheelchair through the harsh orange street lights like an off-duty hospital porter had made Alex’s heart plunge through a new level of despair. Returning to the present, Alex said, “I will. And I’ll be careful.”
“I’ll have my phone on,” Will said, before turning away and heading for a bottle of red wine that was sitting open on the table. He poured a glass and took it with him while he turned the lamb chops he’d just removed from the oven. Alex had grabbed a sandwich before his shower, and he left Will to his lonely meal, heading for the Grafton Centre cinema, which was a fair walk from King’s Parade and the Norwood residence.
He wondered if she would be as nervous as he was.
Once he reached a steady pace, the crutch-swing-crutch-swing gait became fairly efficient, and he made it in record time - for him - to the cinema. The escalator rolled with unnerving speed up away from him like a mudslide on a mountain slope played in reverse. He quickly crutched onto the flat tread before it reared into a steep step. It threw him off balance a bit and so he was forced, crutch dangling from his forearm, to grab the moving handrails as quickly as he could before he made a spectacle of himself by falling backwards, arse-first, with a crash and no doubt getting tangled up in the infernal thing’s mechanics. There weren’t many people around the shopping centre at that time of night, he was pleased to observe. He could do the narrower escalators in his wheelchair no problem, if inelegantly, thanks to his good trunk control and strong biceps, but crutching was a little harder. Getting off it at the top was no trouble by comparison; he swung free, glad to put it behind him, and rounded the corner to the cinema, following the sickly scent of popcorn and pick-n-mix sweets.
There was a small queue of people, but glancing around, he realised that she was nowhere to be seen. He looked down at his watch - it was only 7.05pm - relax, Norwood, she hasn’t stood you up yet, he thought.
Shortly, a sound he recognised as the low beep of his phone cut through the tapestry of sound around him, and leant on a crutch while he dug it from his pocket. Two text messages: Sam Faye.
This is it, he thought sadly, wondering what excuse she’d come up with, and whether she’d just made up the whole thing about her grandmother as an elaborate ruse to ditch him. Stop it, he scolded himself. Just check the bloody message. His heart began to hammer harder as he read the first text, composed of only one word. “Sorry” He closed his eyes. Here goes. He opened the second message, and a new wave of emotion gushed through him. He nearly had to find somewhere to sit down it was so strong. “Argh, sent that before I was ready. Bloody fossil phone! Sorry I’m running a few minutes late, but I’ll be there for 7.20. See you soon xx”
The relief was palpable, tangible. Everything inside him relaxed and he felt like a guilty fool. I’m sorry too, he thought. “Don’t worry, I’ll get the tickets. You want a drink or popcorn or anything?” Suddenly his eyes noticed that the ‘x’ of her previous messages now had a friend, and the two ‘x’s sat nuzzled up to each other at the end of the text like birds on a wire. He added a little pair of kisses to his reply, and then sent it.
Tickets in hand, he stood reading an article on his phone, leaning all his weight on his right arm, glancing up every now and again, when a new movement caught his eye. As his watch ticked 7.18pm, a bobbing head came into view, and he saw her running up the escalator, her long hair flowing behind her like a war-banner in the breeze, dark jeans hugging her legs, black vest showing her athletic arms and her small, round breasts to excellent advantage. “Wow,” he breathed aloud, long before she saw him.
When her dark eyes locked onto him, her step faltered as she hurried over. Her expression blossomed into a wide and genuine grin, and she said, “Hey!” running a hand through her hair, scrunching it slightly for a moment to keep it back off her face before she let go. “Sorry to cut it a bit fine!” She didn’t offer an excuse, and he didn’t ask for one.
He noticed the deep purple shadows beneath her kohled eyes, and wondered how she was. “Hi,” he returned, “Don’t worry about it. I think you saved us those god-awful local business adverts before they start the trailers, so I guess I should thank you.” He handed her a ticket and said, “And I’m not in my chair today, so you’re not stuck in the front row.”
She chuckled, and her finger just brushed against his as she took the ticket from him. It sent a thrill right up his arm as he realised just how long it had been since he’d felt the tender touch of a woman. “Bonus,” she said with a smile. “Shall we go?” and she waited for him to turn on his crutches and swing towards the theatre.
The seats he had chosen when he paid for the tickets were at the very end of a row, just short of half way back in the tiered seating, and he ushered her up first, saying in his joking, self-effacing tone, “You go on ahead, and I should have joined you by the end of the trailers...”
She whickered a soft laugh, said, “Ok,” and walked slowly up the steps, searching in the dimly lit theatre for their seats.
He really had to drag his eyes away from the way her hips swung from side to side and her glutes pushed her little lithe form up the shallow steps away from him. Once, his crutch caught on the step as he tried to put his weight on it too soon, and he nearly stumbled, but he caught himself in time and started the manoeuvre all over again. Sam had sunk snugly into her seat, leaving him the spare one right by the central aisle, and he said a silent ‘thank you’ for her consideration. As he stowed the crutches beneath the seat and released the knees of his braces, his left leg began to bounce subtly up and down. He fought his instinct to clamp a palm over it immediately and force it down, and instead shuffled his weight in the deep seat and then placed his hand lightly over his thigh, feeling the muscle pulsing gently beneath, straining against the straps of the KAFO. Alex risked a quick look at her face, and saw that she was looking forward at the screen. She seemed to catch the movement of his head, as she turned to him and flashed him another devastating smile. He felt his heart skip a beat, and yet again he thought do not fuck this one up, Norwood, as the lights dimmed to darkness and the screen leapt into life.
He was so close that she could smell his cologne. It wasn’t heavy or strong, and was simultaneously sharp and musky; the kind of scent that makes you want to bury your face in the guy’s shirt while you run your hands over his stomach, chest and shoulders, inhaling deeply. Hoping he might catch on, she put her hand on the armrest between them, letting her fingers trail down into the empty space above his leg. His hand was only inches away, still bobbing slightly on his leg. Nerves? she wondered idly as the second trailer blasted into life on the enormous screen. She leaned across to whisper in his ear, her heart banging like a huge Korean barrel drum against her ribs, “I used to get so excited as a kid during the trailers, even if I didn’t really want to see the film that they were for.” Shut up, Sam, you still sound like you’re a child.
She hadn’t noticed the dimples in his cheeks before, little creased commas of genuine pleasure which, in the harsh light of the screen and the dark shadows around them, seemed really adorable. He turned his face towards hers, the silvery gash of the scar briefly visible in the stark light until he turned back just a fraction so that it was hidden from her searching eyes. “Yeah? I still do,” he admitted, returning his eyes to the front. ”I often end up preferring the trailer to the film.”
“Let’s hope this one lives up to its trailer...” She gestured slightly with her hand as she spoke and the tip of her middle finger just brushed the back of his hand. The surface of his skin twitched and his hand jerked like a startled frog. She was mortified; had she misread him completely? She didn’t dare look at his face, and put her hand back on the arm rest, feeling the heat of a blush prickling her cheeks. She prayed her foundation wouldn’t run under the combined stress of sprinting most of the way to the cinema and the new heat of her embarrassment. Her grandmother’s passing had prompted a vicious reaction from her skin, and she really hoped he wouldn’t notice where she’d broken out on her forehead and chin.
Only a heartbeat later however, she felt him shift his weight slightly in the seat, put his elbow on her armrest in the only square inch that was free, and lower his palm down on top of hers. Then she looked up at him, eyes wide and heart still pounding. He flashed her a grin in the darkness, and they settled down to watch the film. His palm was rough as sandpaper in places, but it was warm and inexpressibly gentle and she relished the contact. He left his hand on hers like that for at least the first twenty minutes, and it would frequently find its way back there throughout the course of the film.
The air-conditioning suddenly seemed to get ramped up after they’d been sitting there a while, and goosebumps rose along her arms, making her shiver.
Alex leaned over to her and whispered, his lips almost touching her pearl stud earring, “You cold?”
She nodded, rubbing the top of her arm with her free hand. “I was in such a pother earlier, but I’ve cooled off now,” she returned, raising her voice a little as a huge explosion tore across the screen.
“Here,” he said, and he took his jumper off, handing it to her with a smile, his biceps smooth and sculpted like living marble in the warm light of the fires in the film.
“Are you sure?” He nodded, and she closed her fingers around its warmth, and breathed in his musky, sandalwood scent as she drew it over her head. “Thank you so much,” she said. “If you get cold we can always take it in turns.”
He laughed softly, eyes crinkling, “That would really annoy the people behind...” he grinned, and added a simple hand gesture that it was all hers.
When the title credits rolled, she stretched her back, and jutted her short legs out under the seat in front, relishing the clenching tension in her body and the subsequent release. She rolled her shoulders back, and they gave two loud, grinding clunks. Alex, whose hand was still over hers, either heard or felt them go, because he turned to her, looking concerned, and said, “Was that your shoulder?”
She laughed, “Yeah, they always do that when I haven’t moved them for a while. Doesn’t hurt,” she added, sliding her hand out from under his and standing up.
Alex fished for his crutches, dropped one, picked it up again, and then stood awkwardly, heaving his hips upwards in the tiny space between the rows. Once upright, he locked his braces with that flick she’d seen him do in the UL tea rooms as his arms bore most of his weight for an instant. Like a dog gnawing a bone, her brain cells were occupied by his different way of doing things all the while they waited for the herd of people to shuffle down the steps. Why was it so attractive? She’d never noticed the strange, buzzing heat before if she’d seen someone in a wheelchair, or with crutches. Alex swung out into the central aisle to let their row clear, muttering something about needing a bit more space on the stairs to get down safely, and that he’d have to wait a bit.
A huge-bellied man staggered to a halt behind Alex, and growled, “Come on! Stop blocking the way! Just fucking move!”
Alex held up the crutches, and said, “I need to hang on a minute.”
The man laughed and said, “Fucking gimp. Get a wheelchair and sit at the front next time,” and he barrelled into him with his shoulder as he barged past. Alex lurched forward, knocked off balance, and he was unable to move his leg fast enough to brace himself and stop the fall.
Sam sprang forward instinctively, blocking his fall with her body before it really got going, holding the back of the cinema chair to stop them both careering down the steps like a wild bowling ball. He clutched her tightly, mild panic flaring briefly in his dark eyes, crutches dangling, fingers digging painfully in to the muscles in her arm, even through his hoody. Coming from a strong, male grip, this was an action that sent fear coursing through her whole body. Images, memories, flashed in rapid frame across her mind. Oh god, she thought as she felt the panic rise, trying to steady Alex so that he could let go of her, this is Alex; this is not him. He doesn’t mean to hurt you... And then Alex had released his steel grip on her arm and shoulder and had pushed himself upright, his cheeks flushed, the rest of his face white. The expression he wore was utter mortification. “I’m sorry,” he muttered. “Thank you.” He looked at the floor between them and then asked, “Are you alright? I didn’t hurt you?”
She forced herself to smile. This is Alex, not him, she told herself again. “I’m fine, you?” she said, taking a deep breath and forcing the old, stale fear from her lungs with an exhale. He nodded mutely.
As the rows behind them emptied, she felt her heart rate slow and she was able to retune her senses, shifting silently from past to present, her eyes resting on the seat of the chair.
When they were nearly the last people in the theatre, Alex began to make his way silently down the stairs, putting the crutches down and then hoisting his hips up and over the precipice of each step. He was remarkably elegant about it, and she wondered how long he’d been using crutches. When they reached the doors, he held one open for her, leaning away from it with all the relaxed ease of an Armani model. Again, she felt embers stir inside her, and gave him the most eye-sparkling smile she could muster, both to show how she felt, and to make up for her moment of panic on the stairs.
“I’ll be right back,” he called as they passed the disabled toilet.
She nodded and said, “I think I’ll go too. Meet you in the foyer?” and she ducked into the inevitably large queue waiting to use the limited number of ladies’ loos.
Alex was still fuming from the incident with the fat man on the stairs. He knew it shouldn’t get to him now, not after years of dealing with the looks, the comments, and the outright rudeness, but it did. The man’s words had seared like an electric cattle prod in his insides, and it had been in front of Sam to make things worse. He wondered what had made her leap like that to break his fall. Pity? Instinct? And what had flared in the depths of those dark irises as he’d come careering towards her. Was that a spark of fear? Was she afraid of him? Was he that hideous to look at? Something made him reluctant to settle on that conclusion; there was another, secret depth to this girl.
As he slid the cath inside and felt the familiar spasm in his right leg, he wondered if she might like to go for a drink. Physically he was feeling pretty much fine, and he wanted to get to know her. He did wonder briefly if his near fall would make her think twice about him. Making up his mind to ask her, if she was still there of course and hadn’t just bolted, he finished his procedure and headed out to the foyer.
There she was. Standing like a miracle made flesh, her hair shimmering in a spotlight in the ceiling. She was facing away from him, and he saw that her shoulders were high and tense, and she was scuffing her shoe around, rolling a boiled pick-n-mix sweet in circles under the ball of her foot. She looked round at the gentle clink of his crutches and braces, and he was astonished to watch that tension melt from her face and torso like spring thaw sped up on film. “Hey,” she breathed as he came closer. “Thanks for tonight, I had a wonderful time.”
“I was wondering if you wanted to get a drink,” he said, and it all came out in a bit of a rush. “But...”
She seemed to take a moment to herself to decide. Then that smile, which he’d come to love in just a few short meetings, dawned on her face and she said, “Sure. I don’t want to be too late - I’m quite tired - but I’d like that. Where do you want to go?”
Despite the fact that drunk people are often far more handicapped than disabled people, not many of Cambridge’s pubs were particularly accessible, but since it was nearby, and Alex knew it only had one small step to get in, he suggested The Lazy Scholar. It’s name was a bit cringe-worthy, but it had been recently renovated, and was one of the nicer pubs in the centre of town. He felt a glow inside as she walked beside him, keeping pace perfectly with his slow, strange, swinging gait. It was a simple enough thing, he thought, but it had surprised him when he’d discovered that people either walked faster than he did and then slowed down, repeating the cycle like a lurching learner driver, or were the other way round, letting him get ahead, then scurrying to catch up. How hard can it be just to keep up with me? he wondered.
She seemed quietly fascinated when he reached the top of the escalator, and she watched unobtrusively as he placed the crutches on and hurried onto the moving treads. He felt his pelvis wobble unsteadily, and he held the rail so tightly as they moved down that his knuckles bleached white. He heard her giggle from behind him, “You’re so tall!” and he looked up over his left shoulder to find her face level with his, despite being a step above him. He found the way that she was innocently standing so near, just smiling, incredibly alluring. He wanted nothing more than to reach his hand up and kiss her, but he knew he would fall if he tried, so he flashed her a playful grin, said, “Six foot exactly,” and then turned around as the bottom of the escalator reared up to meet them. He swung off the end and she leapt like a fairy off after him.
The pub was pleasantly full, the atmosphere humming and buzzing at the stage before it got raucous and rowdy, and they made their way to the high wooden bar, Alex deliberately not looking at the faces which he could feel staring at him. He turned and asked her what she’d like to drink.
“You sure?” she asked modestly.
“Of course,” and he pulled his wallet from his back pocket.
She nibbled her lip thoughtfully and he smiled. “Half a Ghostship, thank you,” she said.
“Just when I thought I couldn’t be any more impressed,” he said with a playful smile. “A girl who knows her ale.”
She tossed her hair a little and laughed, saying, “I’m hardly a connoisseur; I know what I like, and I’m always up for trying a new one.”
Alex smiled again, hardly conscious of the way his scar stretched on his lips anymore. “I’ll have a half a Broadside,” he said to the barman, not wanting to risk a pint of liquid all in one go. He handed over the cash, and had just turned to her to ask her to carry the glasses, when he saw her little hands already closing around them and looking for somewhere to sit.
“Over there alright?” she asked, nodding her head at a quiet corner with some comfy-looking sofas.
He nodded in mute astonishment. She’d be a keeper, he thought. You have to get her first though.
Once they’d sat down, she drew his hoody off over her head, her hair cascading out in a cocoa waterfall, and handed it back to him with a soft “Thank you, I’m nice and warm again now.” He took it from her, hoping their hands would touch, but they didn’t. He stowed it in his small rucksack, careful not to let her see the spare cath he’d brought with him, zipping it up quickly.
Alex marvelled at the way she vivaciously dissected the film, pointing out all the incongruous bits, and the funniest moments, but he marvelled more at the way she didn’t keep looking at his legs, and at the way she naturally looked at his left eye when she spoke to him. It was as if he were just any other guy going on a date with her, and for that he could have kissed her. Something held him back. Perhaps it was her earlier, blatant look of fear that had got him rattled. Like weak acid, self doubt began to corrode his self-confidence, and gradually, other, sadder thoughts began to creep to the forefront of his mind: what if this is all an act? What if she’s just being nice?
“Alex, are you ok?” Some of his uncertainty must have flashed across his face. It was the first time she’d asked him that, but she’d definitely seen him in more peril that evening than he was right then.
The staircase incident floated again across his mind. “Yeah,” he said, his voice croaking slightly.
She drew her phone from her pocket, pulled a slight face, and said reluctantly, “I probably ought to get going soon. I’m pretty tired.”
“Ok, sure,” he said, fighting that sinking feeling.
Was that concern on her face? “I’ve had fun,” she said with a rosy smile. “I actually can’t remember the last time I went to the cinema, but whatever I saw, I certainly didn’t enjoy this much.”
“Nor I,” he said, raising a hand and idly rubbing the old scar where it slashed through his eyebrow and over his eyelid. He thought he saw a question flicker on her lips for a second, and her eyes snagged noticeably on the scar, but she didn’t voice her question. “Does it bother you?” he asked, suddenly bold and reckless. She’s going. I’ve got nothing to lose. What was it about this girl that made him shrivel up with self-consciousness one moment and then blurt out ridiculously forward questions the next?
He regretted it instantly. She looked surprised, and blustered, “What? No, not at all, that wasn’t...” finishing in a nervous smile.
“I’m sorry,” he said, feeling remorse and sadness puffing up inside him like a thundercloud. “I guess after that guy in the cinema...”
“Hey,” she said softly, but not patronisingly, “You don’t have to justify yourself or your reactions to me. That guy was way out of line, and it sucks that you have to put up with people like him.”
His smile returned, shyly at the corners of his mouth. “Thanks.” He paused. “You know... if there was anything you want to ask me... about this...” he raised a hand to his cheek, and then waved it at his legs, “I mean, not necessarily now, don’t feel like you have to come up with a question, but... yeah...” Way to go, Alex, make things awkward before you part... She’s not coming back now.
Her smile had not faded, neither had the emotion tarnished on her lips. “I do have one question,” she said, and he felt his stomach lurch. Oh god, please don’t let it be awkward. ”How come you... you’re in a chair sometimes and on crutches at other times?”
That’s it? That’s what you want to know? he thought in a wave of bright relief which broadened the smile that had just erupted on his face. That was a question he could deal with. “My injury is incomplete, which means the nerves in my spinal column weren’t completely severed at the level of my injury, so I do have some movement and some feeling. Some days are good days, and I can haul my legs around in my braces -” he rubbed his thigh through his jeans where the KAFO ended, and he felt the laser-point of her gaze on it momentarily “- and other days it’s easier just to use my chair. I’m also not supposed to use either one for too long in one go.”
“I see,” she said. “How long ago were you hurt?”
That’s two questions... he thought nervously, wondering if he’d just opened up a can of worms. “Six years ago. Sometimes it feels like yesterday, but most of the time it feels like I’ve been like this forever.”
There was a far off look in her eyes, and her voice changed. “It’s amazing how the human body - and the mind - can learn to cope after...” she said, staring not at him, but across the pub to his left and out of the window at the dark street beyond.
“You thinking of your grandma?” he asked gently.
“Hmm? No, actually,” she said vaguely, visibly reeling herself back to him, to their conversation, and to Alex where he sat. “I... I’m sorry. I was just thinking... oh never mind,” she said with a wave of her hand and a sad smile. “That’s not a subject for a first date.”
His heart leapt. A first date; you didn’t completely fuck up, Norwood, he said to himself, as he beamed at her. “And what are the chances of a second date?” he asked playfully.
She pouted, faking a pensive look, before saying in a matter of seconds, “I’d say they were pretty good. Where are you going to take me?”
“I’ll have to have a think,” he said, reaching for his crutches, his heart fluttering wildly with exquisite happiness.
She raised her eyebrows as she stood, and said, “Ooh, I’m intrigued!” She stepped back to allow him enough room to manoeuvre to his feet, and added, “But you should know that I’m not a high-maintenance kind of girl; it doesn’t have to be posh or fancy...”
“A rare thing indeed,” he chuckled. “But there goes my plan to fly you to Rome for lunch in my private jet...”
She picked up his joking tone and said, “Darn, I knew I should have kept my mouth shut...” and cackled a girlish laugh.
“Ok,” he said, crutching towards the doors. His right leg was dragging much more noticeably now that he was tired, but he didn’t care.
They had to pass by the bar to get out, and a greasy-looking man on a bar stool leered at Sam as she passed, and slapped her backside. Alex watched her stop, eyes closed for an instant, and when they opened, they burned with a fury that took him completely by surprise. Her jaw was set and her teeth ground together like a bull in a ring. The man, drunk, probably in his early thirties, with trail of beer down his shirt, slurred, “You can do better than him, love.”
Alex nearly knocked him from his perch with a swipe of his bicep, and had even taken half a crutch towards him, but he was stopped by the cold, derisive, sweeping look that Sam gave the lecherous man, from gelled hair to scruffy shoes. It was a look that could have frozen boiling water, and even her lip curled like a dog with hackles raised. “I don’t think so,” he heard her say, and his lips lurched into a half-smile, despite the situation.
She turned to leave, but the man grabbed her by the wrist, saying, “Come on, have a drink with me.” In a flash that happened so quickly Alex hardly registered it, she’d clamped her other hand down over his grasping fingers, bent his arm horizontally at the elbow, and was rotating his wrist around towards his chest like it was a motorbike. He gave a yell and let go of her, sliding from the bar stool with a clatter to the floor. “Argh, you bitch! Let me go!” he gasped, and a couple of other people who had been watching the whole encounter, about to intervene, began to clap and whoop.
Sam let go of him, looking angry and hurt. As she turned her face towards Alex, the fire melted in her eyes and she was suddenly sheepish and embarrassed. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “Let’s get out of here.”
He was stunned. “Wow, don’t apologise” he said, crutching through the door after her. “Where did that come from?”
Her laugh was somehow sad as she said, “I took up taekwondo a couple of years ago. I thought it was a good thing to learn to protect myself.”
“I’m glad you know how to,” he said. He looked down at this extraordinary and beautiful girl; so happy one minute, and seemingly so sad the next. Something’s happened to her, he thought again, now recognising that deadening look in her eyes. Something awful was done to her, and his heart quavered, longing to give her comfort which she probably didn’t need by now. As they reached the street outside, he asked, “Which way are you headed? I would offer to walk you home, and I’m more than happy to, but it’s pretty clear you don’t need anyone to look out for you.”
She smiled again and looked up at him. “You never know when you might need someone,” she said sadly. “I’d love to walk with you, but it’s quite a way - I live up by Jesus Green...”
Great, he thought, that’s completely the other side of town.
“I don’t mind going alone,” she said, “But there is something that I won’t go without.”
His eyebrows buckled upwards in confusion, but he said nothing, knowing his entire face was enough of a question.
She chuckled, some of the life returning to her eyes. Then, she stepped closer, gripped the open edges of his grey checked shirt with her strong and delicate fingers, pulled herself up onto her tip toes, and almost before he could respond, was giving him the gentlest, softest, yet most heartfelt kiss he thought he’d ever experienced. She pulled away with a little smile dancing in her eyes.
Letting his crutch dangle from his arm, he put his right hand gently on her shoulder, not risking going any higher in case he whacked her with the dangling end of the crutch. He brought his scarred lips towards hers, any trace of embarrassment evaporating into the evening air, and he kissed her right back.