Friday, February 6, 2015

Twist Of Fate Chapter 14

Recap of Chapter 13
After their reconciliation, all is for the best between Cassie and Matt. They plan a trip to Florida to meet her parents. Matt takes her to a hockey game for the first time, where he finally introduces her to his best friends.  

Now I am being edgy. We leave for Miami the next day and I haven’t been on a plane since I am crippled. I hate the word but I guess a lot of people see me that way, so let’s not be touchy. I don’t want to worry Cassie but she feels my tension.
“What’s the matter Matt? Are you having second thoughts about meeting my parents?”
“No…no. It’s not that. It’s about the three-hour flight. I hate the idea of not being able to move for so long. What about if my chair gets lost or damaged?”
“It’s not possible Matt. They stow it on board in a special place, so you can have it back as soon as we land. They will be careful. We’ll see to that. You already informed the airline company of your disability, so they know what to do.”
“And what if I need to go to the bathroom? I can’t have an accident on the plane.”
“You won’t. We’ll do everything to prevent it. You’ll do your bowel protocol and catheterize tomorrow just before we leave, and… maybe you can wear a protection just in case.”
I gaze at her with a horrified look, “No way I am wearing a diaper if that’s what you are implying. I’d rather not go if I have to be humiliated.”
“Matt, there are not ‘diapers’ but incontinence briefs and there is nothing to be ashamed of. No one will know except me, and I already told you my feeling about it.”
“Whatever it’s called, I still have my dignity. I’m not a senile old man yet.”
I’ve long known Cassie is ok with my paraplegic issues including these embarrassing ones. Even so, I sulk like a grounded kid looking distantly through my bay window. She comes near me and kisses my lips sensually with her hands cupping my face, “You do what you feel comfortable with and you don’t worry, we’ll be ok. We are in this together.”
She is so understanding and comforting I feel bad making a scene. She is just trying her best to minimize the situation and put my mind at rest. Nevertheless I’m scared like hell.
“Well, yeah. I guess I’m overreacting a little bit. Thanks for being so supportive. You know, I am sorry to mention her, but in that case Melissa would just be freaking out and stressing me out.”

Here I am at the O’Hare airport check-in counter. I haven’t been in this place for over a year, although I spent more time on planes than in my apartment for the last decade. The whole team always traveled on chartered flights, and it was simple routine back then. Now I am with Cassie on a scheduled flight as a regular passenger, if I can call myself that. We check in our two suitcases, plus our carry-ons. I don’t want any hassle for Cassie to store them on board. I just hang on to my inseparable backpack. Then I have to answer unpleasant questions.
“Do you wish to check in your wheelchair as well Sir? We can provide you one and assist you to the gate.”
Do I look like I am willing to leave my chair behind to trade it in for their ugly, bulky airport ones ? With an agent pushing me to exacerbate my growing anxiety on top of it?
“No. I’ll keep my chair and I don’t need any help.”
I’m aware I sound cold and snappy and I hate this new side of me. I put a fake smile on my face and add sheepishly, “But thank you.”
“I am sorry. I just notice you requested special accommodations. A member of the company will wait for you at the boarding platform for your transfer on the aircraft.”
I nod quickly, in a hurry to get over with this irritating exchange, but I guess I have to abide their rules. They are just doing their job after all.
At the security check, I have to put up with a zealous employee.
“Sir, can you walk?”
“No.”
“Get up?”
“That neither.”
The TSA officer gives me a once-over to see if I really look disabled enough for not being able to stand. He seems convinced after he catches a glimpse of my sudden shaky legs.
“Ok. You can wheel on the side of the scanner and someone will search you on the other side.”

Still, I have to remove my shoes and detach my backpack for screening. Luckily I don’t wear a belt and have some change or keys in my pockets. Cassie helps me with my sneakers which are tightly laced up and I am due for a pat-down inspection. They ask me to shift my body up so they can check my cushion and underneath. I’m cleared but that was the easiest part. As I am not a featherweight, I barely fit in the aisle seat I have to transfer in. As an airline agent starts strapping me, I stop the lady with an offended look,
“Don’t bother with this, I don’t need to be buckled up and I won’t sue the company if I fall. I take full responsibility.”
She smiles at me but keeps on with her task, “I am sorry Sir but it’s the company's policy. I have to do this, even if it looks a bit too tedious for you.”
Phew, I hate all this! Sighing heavily, I let her strap my shoulders and my stomach as if I was about to skydive. To lighten the mood I am about to ask where my parachute is, but I hold my tongue in front of such seriousness. Cassie flashes a reassuring smile at me, puts her hand on my back and it helps me relax. Fortunately I don’t have to ride in that thing for long. I booked in business class to be close to the main door, and have more privacy and leg room. Our seats are on the first row. As soon as I am unstrapped, I transfer swiftly into the comfy seat on my gel cushion Cassie set under me. We are the first ones to board and as the attendants are the only witnesses of my disability, I don’t feel too bad. I make sure my wheelchair is on board before I can unwind and loosen the tension in my chest. I lean my head back on the headrest and I close my eyes. I didn’t expect such a headache to board a plane. If I mean physically I also think psychologically. It reminds me that a lot of things are not as easy as before, especially when I am not in my environment. I feel Cassie’s hand massaging my neck and shoulders and I sigh contentedly. I turn slightly my head to her, take her free hand in mine, “Mmm, it feels so good. Be careful, I could get used to this special treatment very easily.”
She smiles and gives me a tender kiss just above the ear. She definitely knows the good way to ease my discomfort. The staff is very attentive and careful, constantly proposing us drinks and inquiring about my well-being. A little too much hovering if you want my opinion. I turn down their beverage offerings pretending to be asleep. Even though I am dying for a glass of water I fear to fill up my bladder. I doze off for a while and a burning sensation in my left leg and foot makes me open my eyes. Cassie’s hand is resting on the sensitive spot of my thigh. I wish her touching could give me a more pleasant feeling, but that’s how I function now and this itching and burning doesn’t look good. Usually it is a sign of spasms or worse, cramps. If spasms are a nuisance and deeply embarrassing in public, they are not painful. Cramps are another story. Sometimes I even found myself praying for them to stop. I remove Cassie’s hand gently, “I’m sorry Cass. I'm stiff and I need to stretch.”
I shift my body up and down a few times, and wincing I dig my fingers roughly in my atrophied muscle.
“Your leg hurts Matt?”
“A little bit.”
“Let me massage it.”
She undertakes the kneading while I close my eyes again. I grit my teeth enduring the adversity in silence. The hand of the flight attendant on my shoulder startles me.
“Are you alright Sir?”
“Yes, I’m good.”
“Can I get you anything? You seem to be in pain. Do you want me to ask if there is a doctor on board?”
I shake my head angrily. I just want to be left alone. Then I look at her sternly, “I’m used to this, so don’t worry I won’t be the cause of an emergency landing. It will pass.”
She seems a tad offended by my sarcastic remark but ‘the customer is always right’ as the saying goes. She gives me a forced smile, “I am sorry. I am just concerned about your comfort. Maybe you would care for an extra pillow or blanket?”
I already have two pillows behind my back and I am burning hot. The hell with a blanket! Why do I have the feeling she is treating me like a sick and frail gimp? She is basically amplifying a bad mood which doesn’t match my rather easy-going temperament.
“No thanks. I have everything I need. How long before we land please?”
“About forty five minutes.”
“That will be all. Thank you.”
Why does this damn leg have to bug me just now? I am stuck on a plane unable to move, do some stretching or go to the bathroom. Isn’t that enough problems? When the somewhat worried flight attendant leaves, Cassie says softly, “Let me get your meds Matt, it is true you don’t look good. You are so pale you’re scarring me.”
She is already searching my backpack when I stop her with a strong hand on her wrist. The abrupt movement makes me groan, “No. I don’t want to take anything. You know I hate it. I’ll be drowsy for the rest of the day, and I don’t want that. I am just hot. Can you turn the AC button on please?”
From the sharp tone in my voice, she is aware she won’t convince me. She doesn’t insist and does what I ask. Then she keeps on massaging my leg in silence. I wish I could only be hot. The pain is excruciating from my hip to the sole of my foot, and I recline my seat to extend my leg forward, a position I couldn’t be in in coach. I try to ignore my sore side under Cassie’s expert hands and after a while the burning alleviates to a dull ache. She hasn’t talked for a while and is strangely immersed in a gloomy silence. I am not really in the mood to talk either, but I don’t like to see this annoyed and upset look on her face. I feel bad for showing my distress about this flight and troubling her with my physical issues. I try to be softer and reassuring, “Thanks Cass, I think I’m ok for now. Sorry for being such a grouchy boyfriend and an unpleasant traveler.”
“No you’re not. It’s just this flight attendant. She is getting on my nerves.”
I grumble with an assenting sigh, “Yes, me too. Unfortunately that’s one of the main hitches to be with a paraplegic. People can really be over caring, especially if they have a job responsibility. They fear I can create embarrassment for others or worse, a general panic on board with a medical emergency.”
“I am not talking about that. Did you see the way she looks at you, all smiles and fluttering her eyelashes leaning on you with her hand on your shoulder?”
I turned my head to her surprised by her sudden indignation. Despite my painful limb, I cannot suppress a smile. I don’t think for a minute this airline member is flirting with me, but I have a jealous girlfriend. What can I do?
“Come here Babe and don’t worry. I have been so obnoxious with her she will avoid me for the rest of the flight.”
A slight kiss on her lips and my arm wrapped around her shoulders is doing miracles. She cuddles and her disarming smile is back. I try to relax until I hear a slightly bossy tone, “You should drink some water. You know a lack of hydration is bad for your kidneys. You don’t want to have a UTI.”
I should know better. I forget how well informed she is about paraplegics’ conditions. If she is not the smothering type, I believe she is not going to drop it either. I take her bottle from the tray table and drink a few sips from it.
“Happy now?”
I’m a little bit ironic but I grin at her and peck her temple, “Thanks for your concern… and the massage. You’re the best.”
I don’t say out loud the insight that springs to my mind: an eyesight of me covering myself with a blanket, my fly open, inserting a catheter in my private parts to empty my full bladder in a bottle on a plane seat. What a humiliating and awkward vision it would be! The other passengers don’t know I am paralyzed so what would they imagine? Better not extrapolate.
The rest of the flight goes smoothly, but as we were the first to board we are the last to get off the aircraft. I guess that makes it even, one advantage for one drawback. Yet, I have to bear again their ridiculous dolly for a few feet, before I can happily return to my beloved chair and be out of this confined space. I let Cassie rent a car while I rush to the restrooms to cath. I also try to ease the recurring pain in my leg with a few stretching exercises.

Cassie’s parents live only half an hour from the airport in a city called Hollywood, but obviously not the famous California one. It’s located in the North of Miami, and I know this town fairly well, because it is the favorite winter destination of the French Canadians. I spent many holidays in the Sunshine state with Abby and my parents when we were young. My father used to meet a lot of his ‘snow birds’ friends in winter, when it was freezing in Chicago and Montréal. He always found a Good Samaritan willing to let us use his vacation condo. Mostly, I came down here as a hockey player for many years to play against the Florida Panthers in the Fort Lauderdale Arena, which is only a few miles away. The ‘not too good thing’ about it, is that I have lots of memories with Melissa in this southern state. She came with us several times, and I would find it annoying to repeat history with Cassie. She is so different in many ways it would be inappropriate of me to even dare a comparison. Anyway, I have in mind to drive around a little bit and a surprise that will keep us away from this neighborhood for a few days. If we are awaited for the tomorrow’s Christmas dinner, I expect an intimate New Year’s Eve getaway with my girlfriend. I know she needs some time with her parents to smooth out a few issues. For this reason I’ll try to step aside to give her some privacy, but after that I planned a kidnapping, hoping she’ll agree to be the abducted.
                                                                   ****
We stop in the driveway on the side of a small white house surrounded by a tropical landscape. It is only ten minutes away from the beach, but it looks like a remote country style suburbs. The garden is flowery and green, and I imagine Cassie on a pink bike playing here as a kid. She told me once their parents bought the house thirty years ago. The community of small homes is pleasant, but some of them are in bad shape. It is not hard to guess this is not one of the wealthiest areas, but I didn’t grow up in the best suburbs of Chicago either. If we had a great childhood I don’t owe it to our tiny apartment or our wealth. The money shortage my parents had to face more than once is also a reminder of challenging times. Being a NHL player brought me fame and money and if I feel blessed I know where I am coming from. I am proud of my family no matter what and will always defend my values. The house of Cassie’s parents is modest but clean and well maintained, and I can feature some sort of canal on the back, but I’m not sure.
“Is the property on the water?”
“Yes, with a dock even. You probably know that Florida has an inland waterway called the Intracoastal. It’s a network of canals, inlets, bays and rivers that runs up to Norfolk in Virginia. Here the canal is not wide, but if you follow it a few miles north to Fort Lauderdale, there is an ocean access.”
Now I am really surprised to think that all those houses have a water view, “So, does it mean your father has a boat?”
She laughs, “Yes, but a small fishing one to go in the canal. Stop dreaming about going deep sea fishing on a Miller’s yacht! Ok, enough with geography and boating, let’s go meet my parents.”
I chuckle but I am a bit nervous about it, and she doesn’t look particularly at ease either. She waits for me by the passenger’s side and watches me assemble my wheelchair and transfer with appreciative eyes. 
"How do I look? Am I dressed up to Mr and Mrs Miller's code?" I say it grinning with irony but I am suddenly concerned about my first impression. I wear a white linen shirt with long sleeves, black jeans and black suede loafers. I put my winter jacket on my lap.
“First you won’t need this here.” She takes my coat and put it back in the car. “And secondly, you’re perfect. You look handsome in whatever you wear. Everyone dresses casual here, even my parents. It is so hot that we don’t care about clothes as long as it’s comfortable and light.”
Then she takes my hand in her, which leaves me only with the other one to push on my rims. I zigzag awkwardly on the thick lawn and have to wheel harder.
“Cass! How I am supposed to move straight like this? Do you want us to arrive at dusk?”
We laugh but she doesn’t let go of my hand, and she pulls me powerfully toward the house.
Astie de calice!”  I mean damn it!
I stare at the steps leading to the front door and give a questioning glance at Cassie, “Did you really tell your parents I’m a wheelchair user?”
“Yes Matt I did, and my father was supposed to put a wooden ramp. Now I am getting really upset.”
I would rather use the term ‘pissed off’. She drops my hand and quickens her pace. The door opens and a middle-aged man greets us with a friendly smile. Cassie looks so much like him; he has the same amazing green eyes, and a well shaped nose slightly upturned I find so sexy on her.
“Hello sweetie, here you are. We started worrying. You flight landed one hour ago. I told you I’ll come pick you up.”
“And I told you we would rent a car Dad. I don’t want be stuck here for a whole week and depend on you.”
 Now she is really mad and I can’t suppress a lopsided smile.Yet it doesn’t seem like a good start.
“Can I at least get a kiss from my girl before you complain?”
“Sorry.”
She kisses him quickly on the cheek but she is not done yet. She nods at the stairs and shoots an angry look at him, “Where is the ramp Dad? I told you Matt can’t do stairs.”
Her father seems embarrassed, “I know but I thought we could lift him, it’s only four steps. I bought some wood boards, but I couldn’t find a way to fix them yet.”
“That’s alright Sir. I’ll manage. I am Matthew Vincent by the way.”
I hold out my hand and he has to go down the stairs to shake it, “Nice to meet you Matthew. Let’s get you up.”
I hate this but what other choice do I have? Cassie and her father carry me up the steps heavily. We are still on the threshold, when suddenly a small black dog rushes toward Cassie and leaps around her yipping in joy.
“Hey Gus, I’m so happy to see you!”
She pets him smiling and then the Westie turns to me and sniffs my hand. He seems to like my smell because he tries to jump on my lap.
“Gus no! Please behave.”
Cassie moves the dog away from my legs.
“I don’t mind. I love animals.”
She gives me a surprised look. I guess we don’t know everything about each other and I intend to change that. We enter the house and the mother comes to greet us, “Oh Cassie, I’m so glad you’re here honey. You haven’t called before leaving or after you landed. We didn’t know if you were on the plane. We were anxious. I wish you could stay longer than ten days.”
If only she knew it wasn’t even close.
“Oh Mom! Please don’t start. Dad already lectured me. I am here to spend Christmas with you ok?”

Helen Miller looks emotional and hugs her daughter as if she hasn’t seen her for years. Then she comes to me shyly. She looks down at me hesitant, not knowing if she should give me a hug or shake my hand. Right now she is wringing hers. Maybe she thinks I am a quad and can’t move my arms. I feel sorry for her and extend my hand, which she shakes feebly as she is afraid to harm me. Cassie is a perfect blend of both parents, and I know now where she got her natural beauty from. Her mother is still an attractive woman with the same pulpy lips and silky auburn hair, even if she wears it short. However, there is no need to be a shrink to see she is also a very stressed and inhibited person. I imagine it must have been burdensome on Cassie’s youth, and it explains her insecurities and the need to escape this oppressive family environment. Cassie looks happier to see her dog than her parents. I don’t know yet what to think about this reunion, but my first reaction leans toward lukewarm feelings.
“You must be hungry and thirsty after this long trip. Come and have a seat in the living room, I’ll fix you some sandwiches.”
“It’s only a three-hour flight Mom and we ate just before leaving. We can wait until dinner.”
“Have something to drink at least. What can I offer Matthew?”
She addresses Cassie when asking the question.
“Why don’t you ask him yourself Mom? He is not deaf and he can talk.”
Hmm… that’s not good, not good at all. I have never seen Cassie so over the edge. Well… except for her fit of jealousy after she met Melissa.
“Uh… of course. I am sorry. What do you want to drink…Matthew?”
“Water is fine. Thank you.”
It’s the first time she talks to me. Cassie’s dad hasn’t said much either, and I try to enlighten the atmosphere a little bit, “So Mister Miller, Cassie told me you like gardening? I bet you did all this beautiful landscaping yourself. ”
“Yes I did. I run a small company with two employees and I look after a few properties’ yards. I like plants, flowers and trees but I am also interested in our wildlife. Here in Florida we have more than 150 tree species and 516 bird species. Do you know we even have panthers and bears?”
I crack a smile. After Cassie’s marine geography lesson I have one about animal life and lush vegetation, “No, I didn’t know Sir. I knew about snakes, alligators and manatees, but it’s very interesting. I bet you never get bored with all your hobbies.”
He grins from ear to ear, “Please call me Gary. It’s true. I am busy all the time, but I can be boring to others talking about my outdoor activities, so you need to stop me if I repeat myself.”
I am glad I found a mean to make him more talkative, and I don't find anything wrong about his area of interests, because my dad talked to Cassie for hours about his.
“Maybe I could show you my garden after you rest? It’s much bigger on the back and there are no stairs.”
“I’m not tired and I’d be glad to.”
“Can you wheel that chair in the grass and on a few stones?”
“Only if it’s not a roller coaster.”
 He looks bewildered.
“No I’m just kidding. I certainly can.” I casually tap on my rims, “This thing is an all-terrain vehicle.”
I puzzle him once again. He is wondering if I’m serious or if it’s just a special sense of humor.
“Ok then. I took some time off to take you around and be with our daughter. We haven’t seen her much lately.”
Cassie looks at me discreetly and rolls her eyes in a funny way. I guess that means she is not too excited about the idea. Why is she so reluctant to spend some time with her parents? She is an only child and they seem to care about her a lot and miss her. Her mother comes back after a while with drinks and snacks.
“Hey Helen, I am going to show Matthew around. We’ll be back before dinner.”
“Oh, do you think it’s safe? I mean… it’s outdoor and maybe not convenient for a …wheelchair.”
“Don’t worry Mrs. Miller. I’ve done worse. I won’t take any risk. I won’t climb trees or pretend to be a lumberjack.”
By her offended look, I can tell she doesn’t appreciate my sense of humor, but Cassie beams at me.
“Mommy, Matt is very independent, active and strong and he knows what he’s doing.”
“But he can’t walk and pushing those heavy big wheels must be exhausting.”
To prove her wrong I pop a willie in the middle of the living room, “It’s actually very light. It’s made of carbon fiber and titanium and pushing is a very good exercise for my arms.”
I raise them and contract my biceps with a wink. After recovering from their stupefaction Gary asks me with a hint of embarrassment, “Cassie told us you were hurt in an ice hockey accident. Was it a long time ago?”
“Thirteen months and nineteen days.” I skip the hours.
Hesitant but curious enough, he dares asking me, “Is there still a chance for a recovery?”
His voice is full of hope. If he is thinking of one of those biblical miracles, I have to bring him back to reality, my reality, “I am afraid not. This is as far as I can recover. I am at my maximum potential. My spinal cord was severed almost completely, and I will never be able to walk again if that’s what you mean. Believe me I tried.”
I prefer to make things clear from the beginning and answer their tricky questions.
“What do you do for a living Matthew? Cassie told us you are in the medical field.”
“Right now I work as a consultant in a rehabilitation center.”
If they were portraying me as a doctor, a paraplegic one needless to say, it doesn't help my case.
“Ah, I hope you can make ends meet. My daughter told me Chicago is an expensive city to live in.”
I assume they are inquiring about my personal situation to assess their daughter’s financial future. Living with a cripple who cannot meet the couple’s needs is a legitimate parent’s concern, I can give them that. Obviously Cassie didn’t tell them I was a professional hockey player, and I decide to not clarify that point.
“She is right, but don’t worry I can financially support myself… and a second person if needed.”
From the awkward silence, that’s apparently it for the nosey questions. Only Gus seems oblivious to his master’s concerns. Relaxed, he chooses this moment to jump on my lap and this time he succeeds.
Cassie’s mom springs up from the sofa and tries to make him go down.
“I am so sorry; he never does that with strangers.”
Thank you for the ‘stranger’ but obviously Gus doesn’t think that way. My skinny thighs seem to fit him perfectly, because he is literally curled up into a ball and already asleep.
“You can let him. He doesn’t bother me and he looks comfortable.”
“I don’t want him to hurt you.”
I chuckle, “No worry. I am a tough guy, I won’t break.”
“Cassandra, why don’t you show Matthew your room and put your luggage in? He is probably tired and wishes to take a nap.”

Why on earth do they both want me to rest? I’m just disabled, not sick or some kind of wimp. I guess it’s just the way they are. They act the same way with their daughter which obviously gets on Cassie’s nerves.
“Oh yes. I am a terrible host. Let me get your bags from the car.”
Gary is already up, ready to carry out his wife’s suggestion.
“No, please Mister Miller, I’ll get it.”
I spin around swiftly before I shamefully let him be our bellboy. Cassie is raising her eyebrows at me mouthing: STAIRS. Yeah. I stupidly forgot about this triviality.
“I’ll get it Dad. It’s not heavy.”

While she unloads the truck of the car I wait for her on the doorstep. I pile the bags on my lap, relunctantly let her roll the small suitcases and follow her to her room. She throws herself on the bed sighing heavily.
“I am sorry Matt for dragging you into this. I warned you my parents are special. They are old school and so overwhelming. That’s why I had to leave. Can you imagine I didn’t have permission to go out at night or date boys before I was in college? I had to sneak out of the house through my bedroom window and lie to them. Jeffrey was a way out for me. We dated for several months before I could tell my parents. He knew how to get round people with flattery and it didn’t take long before they accepted him at their table. He always came with flowers for my mom, wine for my dad and go on fishing trips with him, but I was the first one he manipulated. Thinking back, my troubles with him were a blessing in disguise. I had the courage to leave and I met you. My parents don’t even know what really happened. I wasn’t living with them for already four years. I didn’t tell them about the restraining order or the real reason of our breakup. It was hard enough to first tell them I was going to live with him and then, that I was leaving him. They just think we had a little argument and they blame me for not trying to patch things up. The only securing matters for them were that Jeffrey was older than me, already working, owning a house, financially independent, and his dad was a lawyer. That’s all they seemed to care about; settling me down with someone who could impress them.”

I wheel to the bed and transfer by her side. I pull her in my arms and try to calm her down, “Cass, I’m sorry to hear all this, but it’s obvious your parents love you and care about you. Just accept the way they are and talk to them. You are not a teenage girl anymore and they are aware of that. They just want what’s best for you, and they should know what you’ve been through.”
“Matt, don’t ever mention this, but my dad is not healthy. He had a double bypass a year ago and he doesn’t need any stress. He should take it easy but he doesn’t, as if nothing happened. He could have a heart attack if he knew how his little fragile girl was treated. My mom stresses for two and makes me go ballistic. To be honest they aren’t thrilled about our relationship, and I am sure they are comparing you to my freaking ex.”
“Yeah, I had the feeling I didn’t make a great impression on them but all is not lost. Let’s see…Putting aside I am a bit small now, on another hand I am also… older than you, I have a job even if it’s temporary, I own my apartment, I have substantial savings and besides a scar on my face and a broken back, you told me I am still attractive.”
Broadly smiling I look at her waiting for a reaction. It doesn’t last long to get one. She throws a pillow at me groaning, “Matt! I am serious. That’s not funny.”
“I am serious too. I can be charming and convincing if I want to. Oh, and I forgot, I can also go fishing with your dad.”
Now she is pretending to smother me, “What am I going to do with you? You are charming indeed and good looking, and the kindest guy I ever met Matthew, but I would like my parents to realize it, and see that your handicap is not a setback to live well and be a happy couple.”
“I’ll try my best to be a lovable boyfriend, but please chill out. We are on vacation, aren’t we?”
“Ok, you’re right. I know they are worried about me and my future, but I can take care of myself and they have to accept my own choices. They still hope I will come back to live in the neighborhood but I won’t, even if I miss the sun.”
“Does that mean I have some kind of responsibility in your choices? Are you seriously giving me priority over the sun?”
Her face brightened and she laughs impishly, “You are my sun.”

For the next half hour we cuddle and make out like high school students and it feels good. My leg still hurts but it is a bearable pain and I try to forget it in Cassie’s arms. The tension and nervousness give way to a mutual enjoyable feeling; love and be loved and it makes my day. After a quiet and relaxing moment with Cassie’s head resting against my chest, we are taken to a higher level of leisure.  
“Please Cass, stop torturing me. Let’s behave.”
She is nibbling at my ear, kissing my neck, my collarbone. I am very much aroused, but I don’t want that now. I want it to be for her as well but this isn’t the right time or place.
“So, you are allowed to play with my nipples and explore all my body with your wandering fingers and I am the torturer?”
“Sorry Cass, but you started it and I got carried away.”
I realize my hands sneaked under her blouse, and I unwillingly remove them, “I promised your dad I’ll go see his garden, so I’d better start now to act like a flawless future son-in-law.”
She raises her eyebrows in astonishment and I wink at her. I sit up and scoot over to the edge of the bed. Then, I plop down wearily on my wheelchair.
“You are not going to get away with this so easily. I’ll go help my mom to fix dinner while you talk greenery with my dad.”
She jumps out of the bed, comes around it and gives me one quick kiss on the lips leaning on my thighs. The pressure makes them shake.
“Oops! I am sorry Matt.”
She removes her hands.
“Seriously?” Wickedly, I give her a kiss back but much more intense. I get a glimpse of a beaming smile.

Gary shows me every inch and every corner of his yard, and I have to say I’m impressed. The lot is huge compared to the size of the house, but apparently the neighbors have all the same acreage. However, the Millers’ is the nicest. It is a tropical garden with lush vegetation, colorful flowers, numerous plants and various palm trees all around. The boat docks send like holiday vibes, and the canal a peaceful atmosphere. For the matter I am scheduled for a fishing trip the next day. Thinking of a boat ride in December with a temperature of seventy five degrees doesn’t sound like Christmas to me. Only the light strings wound around the palm trees boarding the city streets remind us it is Christmas time. Last year at the same date, I was in the hospital being cheered up by my family, who came with a big dinner to celebrate the 25th of December with me. At that time I was in bad shape, immobilized in a full brace and not in the mood to party, but I put a smile on my face and the year ended better than expected. Today I am not with my parents, but as long as I am with Cassie those bad days are behind me and I’m good. Her dad is at least friendly with me and I think he is trying to discover the person I am, setting the impairment aside.

“Here you are! I was getting worried. You were gone a long time just to show the garden.”
Helen Miller looks truly relieved to see us back. Anxious as she is, she probably had a vision of me falling flat on my face or maybe drowning in the canal pulled down by my wheelchair.
“I was showing Matthew the irrigation system I created, so the sprinklers are supplied by water from the canal, and we went to see the boat. By the way we both are going fishing after lunch tomorrow. Matthew told me he likes it, and he is really skilled with his wheelchair. He can move around pretty easily.”
“But it’s Christmas!”
“Yeah, and that’s the whole point. It will be quiet and we will have a better chance for a good catch.”
Gary is smiling brightly obviously happy with himself. Helen seems upset by the news and Cassie is looking at me in surprise, asking me with her eyes for a confirmation. As I wheel to the bathroom, she follows me.
“I promised Cass. I haven’t fished in a long time. It will remind me of my childhood and that’s a good way to get acquainted with your father. Meanwhile you can spend some mother-daughter time.”

I didn’t tell her I am taking her away on a trip, and if I bet she will be pleased, I’m not sure about her parents at all. I suddenly feel bad for taking their daughter away half of our stay. For that I have to make amends and really emphasize my endearing side. I think the fishing trip could be a good start.

Dinner is a little less reserved and we make small talks about the weather, the Chicago snow versus the sunny Miami, Cassie’s job, my family and my Canadian background. On Gary’s request I enliven the evening with French Canadian words and funny idioms we use in Québec. We even have a few fits of laughter, when they all try to repeat after me imitating the nasal sound and rolling the Rs. Then we head to the living room for coffee. I decide not to transfer in the couch by Cassie, and I stay in my chair not to unsettle them with spasms and spoil the mood. We chat a little bit more and as my guest status seems to have turned into an ‘official new boyfriend’s position’, everybody becomes much more relaxed. I finally get back the Cassie I know, and that’s what matters to me. I can’t wait to be alone with her again. When Gary starts yawing I seize the opportunity to end this first Floridian day, “Well, it’s getting late. If you don’t mind it’s time for me to call it a night.”
“Oh, of course! Time flies by so quickly we didn’t realize it was so late. Come Gary, it is bed time for us too. You had a hard day. You were up early to pick up those trees at the nursery.”

Helen is already up and Gary looks really exhausted. I think about what Cassie told me regarding his heart condition, and I hope he doesn’t go overboard. He doesn’t look like the idler kind of man to me.
Cassie is already in bed when I join her. I didn’t mention it to her earlier, but I haven’t slept in a full size for ages. If I could sleep anywhere and in anything before my accident, it’s not the case anymore. I became overly demanding in regard to bedding, and it is the only luxury I don’t skimp on. I need my space and a comfortable mattress. I don’t want to offend her, but I prefer to warn her, “Cass, I am sorry in advance if I wake you up. The bed is a bit narrow and you know I might have spasms, and I need to change position during the night.”
“Oh Matt! Now I am embarrassed for not thinking about that. Selfishly I just thought I’d be closer to you. If you don’t feel comfortable I understand, I can sleep in the living room sofa.”
She seems troubled and looks at me with a pouty face.
“No way! It’s not what I meant. I didn’t take this trip to be away from you. I want you by my side with your body as close to mine as it can be. I am just concerned about disturbing your sleep. Usually I scoot over to the far end of the bed, so you don’t touch my crazy spastic legs or feel me twist from one side to the other. Here it’s just going to be a bit riskier if I don’t want to end up on the floor.”
Casually I turn my head slightly and nod down at the bedside rug. She grins.
“If it is really your only concern, for my part I haven’t slept so well since we’ve been in the same bed, so I’ll just have to hold on tight to you all night long to prevent you from falling.”
She has both her hands on my shoulders and is half balanced on top of me. I pull her against my chest with a satisfied sigh and kiss her long and hard, “Ok Miss Miller, it sounds like a plan. Don’t let go of me. You’re my lifesaver.”

We snuggle up and after a few endless good night kisses, we both fall asleep.

5 comments:

  1. I really love the way you write. You have strong, fascinating characters and paint vivid pictures with your words. Thanks for a wonderful chapter!

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  2. Great chapter!

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  3. Thanks so much for this story, I am loving the way all the characters gradually discover how Matt's disability affects both him and them.

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  4. Here it is friday eve and I'm just writing a thank you for this chapter. Thank yo thank you! Fantastic story! And we all love Matt!

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  5. Love hearing Matt's perspective!

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