I watched Chelsea walk away from my office.
I didn't do it like a stalker or anything. I don't want her getting the idea that I'm some kind of creep, because I'm not. Really. I went back inside so she didn't realize that I was doing it. And then I watched through the glass doors as she stuffed her cute little ass into her little blue car and zoomed away.
Chelsea was the first girl in a long time where I really got the feeling that there might be something there, that she might want me for something besides my money or my connections. Maybe the first time I felt that way since Maggie. Probably I was getting my hopes up too much though. I mean, I just met the girl.
But I just felt like a cute girl who could come up with a concept like giant mouse Kings had to be pretty cool.
When Denise called me last night and told me I had to clear my schedule out to make room for her cute, single new roommate, I did what she asked like I always did with Denise. But I was skeptical. "I told you, I don't want you setting me up," I had said to her.
"It's not a set up," Denise had insisted. "It's just a possibility."
"And she's okay with… everything?"
"Why wouldn't she be?" Denise had replied. In retrospect, she hadn't answered the question. And when the blood drained out of Chelsea's face when I stood up using my forearm crutches, I wanted to pommel Denise with one of her carrot sticks. But then by the time we got outside, Chelsea really did seem okay with it all again. She was back to looking at me like I was a normal, nice-looking guy, and not some cripple she felt sorry for.
When Chelsea's car was out of sight, I turned to go back to the office. I snagged an office on the first floor, because the elevators in the building are slow as shit and stairs aren't really within the realm of possibility. I mean, I can do stairs, but it's not pretty.
Then again, nothing about the way I walk is particularly pretty. I've had the pleasure of seeing myself on camera a few times, and wow, it does not look good. I've got some decent movement in my right leg, but nearly none in my left, so I basically have to drag it along behind me as I go. I've got a brace that goes up to mid thigh, but all it does is keep the leg from collapsing under me when I put my weight on it.
When I came back into the office, Mary with waiting for me. Mary's been my receptionist since I started my practice, and she kind of thinks of me as her son. Which is fine by me, since my real mom is off hosting some charity lunch or fucking her yoga instructor or I don't know what. It's nice for once in my life to have an older woman in my life who seems to care that I'm happy and eating well and getting enough sleep. Even if I'm not any of those things.
"She seemed nice," Mary said in her drippy sweet innocent voice.
"Yup," I said with a shrug.
"Pretty too," Mary added.
"Really," I muttered. "I hadn't noticed."
"Well," Mary mused. "It's not in an obvious way like some of those girls. But she's definitely cute. Don't you think so, Sammy?"
The problem is that Mary knows my type. She's seen photos of Maggie. It's not so much that Chelsea looks like Maggie, but there's something about them that's similar somehow. Mom's yoga instructor would call it an aura.
"Whatever you say," I said, trying to play it down. I considered briefly telling Mary that I was taking Chelsea out to dinner. Then I decided against it. Didn't want to jinx it or anything.
A lot of days, I end up staying at work till well after the sun goes down, at least eight or nine at night, sometimes even until midnight. I mean, it's not like I have anything waiting for me at home. But today after my meeting with Chelsea, I was distracted, and I ended up heading out just after six.
Even before my accident, I always drove the speed limit. That was something Maggie used to tease me about. She said I drove like an old man. Also, that I dressed like an old man. I'm not sure if my sense of style has gotten any better, but I still drive really slow. Unlike Maggie, who used to drive so fast that I would be clinging on to the dashboard for dear life. She never wore her seatbelt either.
But I wasn't going to think about that today.
My car is a Toyota Camry with every safety feature you can imagine. I'd feel better in an SUV, but it's easier to get into a car that's set closer to the ground. If I had to climb up into an SUV, I could very well end up on my ass.
Parking sucks in the lot by my office, but I have a great spot thanks to my handicapped plates. It took a lot of time before I swallowed my pride and opted to have the little wheelchair logo on my license plate. But it beat trying to navigate my way through a huge parking lot with my crutches and braces.
With traffic, it took me the better part of an hour to get home. I live in Beverly Hills, in a house that I shouldn't be able to afford even with my really respectable income. That's where I have to thank the settlement I got years ago.
I'm sure you're wondering what happened to me. Nobody walks like I do without having a story behind it.
It was the summer after I graduated from law school. I was engaged to Maggie and she was the one driving. I had just proposed to Maggie about two weeks earlier, actually. I was crazy in love with her. She was the best person I'd ever met. She was a comedian, or at least trying to be one. The next Janine Garofalo or something like that. She wasn't gorgeous like her model friend Denise, but she was adorable in this really freshfaced way that was just about a million times better. I never liked models.
She was the one driving when we got T-boned at the intersection. The guy who hit us? Unless you spent the last year living in a deep dark hole, you've seen this guy on TV or in the movies. It's pretty much impossible not to. I would tell you his name, but I can't as part of the settlement. In any case, he must've been on drugs or something when he hit us, because even though Maggie was at least partially at fault, his lawyer threw so much money at us, we basically had to take it. It was really a lot of money.
Maggie wasn't wearing her seatbelt when it happened, so she went through the windshield. She literally broke every bone in her face, and her skin was cut to shreds by the glass of the windshield. You don't have to be gorgeous to be a comedian, but you can't be the kind of person the kids run away from screaming. There wasn't much I could say to comfort her, and anyway, I had my own problems. My back was broken.
Maggie decided to go back to Kansas, where her parents lived. There was some talk of plastic surgery, but I don't know what ended up happening with her. For the record, I was still willing to marry her. I still wanted to marry her. She left anyway.
Anyway, that's why I need pounds of metal and plastic supporting my legs just to walk. More or less.
I pulled into the garage of my impressive home, where there are no steps to get into the house. When I was looking at houses years ago, the realtor promoted this one as "perfect for a differently abled individual such as yourself." Apparently, the house used to belong to a director who was about 100 years old and could barely walk. So there's a ramp at the front door, and no steps to get in through the garage. There's also a chair lift that goes up the stairs to the second floor, but it's so slow that I could probably get up the stairs faster riding on the back of the large snail. Plus I feel like an idiot sitting in that thing. Mostly, I just stay on the first floor.
When I walked into the house, I found my wheelchair waiting by the door, right where I left it. I unlocked my left knee and sunk into it gratefully. When I first learned to walk again in rehab, I swore I was never going to use the hated wheelchair again. That lasted a whole month. After a day of crutching around, especially if I had to be in court, I'm exhausted and my wrists are killing me. Not only do I not hate my wheelchair anymore, but I want to cover it in butterfly kisses when I see it at the end of a long day.
That said, nobody sees me in my wheelchair. Not my friends, not my parents, not even the few serious girlfriends I've had. If there's company coming over, I stash it in the closet. Obviously, if I moved in with a girl, I'd have to tell her about it. But for now, I want everyone to think that I am a hundred percent ambulatory. No matter how badly I walk, it's still better than a wheelchair.
I wheel myself to the refrigerator, to see what my housekeeper Petra had prepared for my dinner. She usually made something in the afternoon, then stashed it in the refrigerator for me to heat up in the microwave. The microwave is the extent of any cooking I can do.
It looked like Petra had made me a Turkey and bacon club sandwich. It looked good, but I didn't feel particularly hungry right now. I kept thinking about Chelsea. About that possibility, as Denise had put it.
I took out my cell phone, where I had stored Chelsea's phone number. I brought her number up on the screen and stared at it for a minute. There are all sorts of rules about when you're allowed to call a girl after she gives you her number. Anywhere from the day after, to three days after, to six months later. I don't know which rule I subscribe to exactly, but I'm pretty sure four hours after you meet a girl is too soon to call.
Still, my hand hovered over the call button.
Don't do it, Sam. Don't be stupid. Don't wreck it before it even started.
I'm not sure if I would've pressed the button if my phone didn't suddenly start ringing. I saw Denise's number on the screen. I picked up, grateful for the distraction.
"She's perfect, right?" Denise's high-pitched voice squealed on the other line.
"She's nice," I admitted grudgingly.
"I knew it!" Denise said triumphantly. "Now there's just one thing I need you to do for me."
"Delete her phone number from your phone."
I frowned. "What? What are you talking about?"
"I know you're too tempted to call her," Denise said. Damn her for being right. "But it's too soon. Chelsea gets scared easily. Delete her number before you screw it up."
I shook my head. "So how are we supposed to go out?"
"I'll give you her number when it's time for you to call her," Denise said.
I looked at Chelsea's number on my phone thoughtfully. I have to admit, Denise has had my back since Maggie took off. It's weird because Maggie and Denise were friends first, not me and Denise, but Denise never forgave her for the way she walked out on me.
"Okay," I said. I took a deep breath then deleted Chelsea's number from my phone. I felt a brief twinge of regret, but I pushed it away. Denise was right. I didn't want to screw this up.
"Good boy," Denise said. "Trust me, you'll thank me for this one."
To be continued...