Sunday, February 15, 2015

Twist Of Fate Chapter 5

Recap of Chapter 4
Matthew meets his new neighbor Cassandra. She seems to have issues of her own, which leads to an unforeseen intimate and awkward moment. Matt likes her and is willing to know her better. As per Cassie, she obviously is interested in deepening the first friendly contact as well as she easily accepts Matt’s help to settle in her new apartment.

As planned, the next morning I help my new neighbor unpack the rest of her boxes. She looks fine and full of energy. She had a good night sleep and neither of us mentions her faintness of the previous day. 

We chat, joke and laugh together. It is a simple Sunday but the best I had in a long time. She is organized and knows exactly what is in each box and where everything is going. I help her the best I can with everything that’s within my reach. While I have dozens of books perilously piled up on my lap, she can put them back on the shelves. When we are done she glances around and seems satisfied with the result. The apartment is cozy and tidy and if she has inexpensive furniture for the building high standards, she has good taste and I like what she did with the place. I also don’t forget my parents’ rocky start and I haven’t been a famous athlete overnight. Therefore I can understand what a tight budget is. Her simplicity and humility are refreshing and peaceful. We act like old acquaintances and her positive outlook has a boosting effect on my spirit. I feel stimulated and I haven’t been that confident for quite a while. Naturally I suggest her, “Let’s go for lunch now. You must be hungry and my stomach is growling. I know a little Italian restaurant close to the rehab center where I would like to take you.”
“Ok, but it’s my treat. I owe you one.”
“Do you think I would let a woman pay in a restaurant? Never. Please don’t insult me, and you better start saving your money, because you’ll realize soon enough Chicago is not cheap.”
I take an overly severe and bossy look and she bursts out laughing, “Yes Sir!”
I take my cell phone out of my shirt’s pocket, “Let me call a cab.”
“But we can take my car. It’s parked in the building’s garage.”
“Sounds like a plan. I don’t have a car yet since my friends and family always come to pick me up, but now that I have to go to the Center every day, it’s my next purchase. It will be a break for everyone except for the taxi drivers. I bet they’ll miss their cripple client, plus I’m a good tipper.”
She doesn’t think my ironic comment is funny and shots me a disapproving look.
When we arrive at her parking space I suppress a laugh. She has a light green New Beetle at least twenty years old.
“What? You don’t like my car? I know it’s almost a collectible now, but I like it and it runs perfectly fine.”
“I trust you. It’s just I didn’t know people could still drive this model. I’m not even sure I can fit in it.”
“Don’t worry; I’ll make you get in just fine.”

I struggle a little bit to transfer and put my lifeless but long legs inside. As for the wheelchair it is ‘Mission Impossible’. Instead of stashing it on the rear seat, Cassie has to store the parts in the trunk and for one moment I’m afraid it won’t fit. After she is seated behind the wheel she flashes a triumphant smile as if she just has accomplished a feat. I’m a little bit out of breath, but I grin at her in return.

We have a very nice time and a good lunch. The owner Tony is a friendly guy. He knows me well for coming several times a week, and he rewards us with a special treatment. He is trying hard to give us some privacy, because most of the time he sits at my table to chat. Today he is all smiles, winking at me each time he passes by, looking at Cassandra with approving nods and I feel a little embarrassed. “I’m not on a date!” I want to point out, but he seems so happy to see me in good company I can’t disappoint him. And from the outside it looks like kind of a date after all.

I am welcomed by Tim who is already waiting for me on his crutches. He wouldn’t start the session without me walking by his side or listen to anyone else but me.

“Cassie, can you sit over there with Tim’s mom? Are you sure you want to wait two hours for me? It is not a very appealing show to watch us trying to pretend we can walk. I can take a cab on the way back.”
“Yes I’m sure. I wanted to come and I’ll drive you home. I don’t have any other plans and I like being here.”

Sean, my therapist helps me put my braces on, then after locking them I can stand up. Giving side looks in Cassie’s direction I can see she doesn’t miss anything of the whole process, as if she is in awe to see me standing. Or I am delusional again?  
I am standing next to Tim and as he is mimicking me I cannot do my little trick to swing both my stiff legs forward to go faster. I have to lift them one at a time and I am the one struggling. Tim is making amazing progress and he will walk without crutches in no time. This is the big difference between us. I will never be able to walk again, crutches or not. I can’t even lift my freaking right leg an inch from the floor without help. Within a few weeks Tim had gotten rid of his chair, but he is upset I have to return to mine after each session.
“That’s not fair! You helped me walk again, why can’t you? Your legs should be healed by now.”
I have to explain to him in simple words, “Tim, I know it’s difficult for you to accept but my legs are not the problem. They don't obey my brain anymore, but it’s not their fault. They cannot function because there is no more nerve connection below my injury. Something has been cut off in my back.
“So it’s like a short circuit. You have no electricity from…there.” 
With a straight horizontal hand he is touching below his own navel. I chuckle,
“It’s a very good explanation, Tim. I miss some fuses in my back and it can’t be fixed, but it is not painful.”
From the other side of the room Cassandra is still staring at me, smiling and even giving me a thumb up. I am still wondering how a guy leaning heavily on crutches, fitted with bulky braces and dragging his feet for a few laborious paces could be engaging, but she is definitely attracted to me. She likes me in my wheelchair and the crutches and the braces don’t seem to bother her a tad, so why should I think twice?

“Is the girl with my mom your girlfriend?”
I am caught off guard by the forthright question.
“No she is my neighbor.”
“But she could also be your girlfriend, right? You don’t like her?”
“Yes I do…a lot.”
“I like her too. She seems nice and she is cute. Does she like you?”
I grin. “I think so; well…I’m not sure…maybe.”
“So you should ask her out.”
“It’s not that simple. We have to know each other better before I can ask her out on a real date.”
“That’s not true. The first day I started school I saw a girl I liked in my class. I asked her to be my girlfriend and she said yes.”
This time I laugh loudly at his childish bluntness,
“And is she still your girlfriend?”
“No. After the accident she came to see me in the hospital with her parents and when she saw my bruises and my two casted legs she cried and said I couldn’t be her boyfriend anymore because I was too banged up.”
“That’s a terrible thing to say. You should have no regret because she didn’t deserve you.”
“That’s exactly what I thought. My mom told me I will find another girlfriend after I get better. You know you are lucky because you can have a girlfriend who doesn’t mind if you can’t walk. Don’t you feel tiny in your wheelchair? You always have to look up at people to see their faces.”
He is curious, smart and he makes his point with a ten-year-old child’s innocence. He is sharp-minded and can be more insightful than some adults. It is an invigorating moment talking to him.
“Yes, sometimes but you have no choice than getting used to it. That’s why I like to stand up on crutches for a change, to be as tall as I was before.”

When the session is over he begrudgingly goes back to his mom. Since we met he has been looking forward to those meetings with me so eagerly I feel bad to see him sad. The mother is a young widow of a navy officer and Tim is probably portraying me as a father figure he doesn’t have any more. From the corner of my eyes I see him talk to Cassandra and make her laugh. Oh no! Did he just report our private conversation to her? Seeing her looking at me with an ear to ear smile, I would opt for a yes.
I transfer to my chair with my braces still on and quickly free my stiff legs unlocking the knees. Then I go back to teach two young adults to do wheelies and how to swiftly avoid obstacles. After one more hour of intense exercises I am tired, and my supposedly dead legs are fiercely protesting. What a freaking paradox! If I have been nicknamed ‘the stuntman’, I am no superman. 'Crippleman' would nowadays suit me best as a superhero.

“Ok guys, enough for today. Next time I’ll show you how to do sidewalks, curbs up and down and how to open a door without slamming it into your legs or bumping into mindless passers-by.”
We high-five and we split.
I am impatient to go home and spend more time with Cassie, but it is a busy rehab center and there are hockey fans among the recovering patients. Either they heard about me and the accident, or they know my name, so I usually always have a few personal questions to answer. As if it is deliberate, no one wants to let me go today. After putting up a good show for an extra half hour I am eventually free to go. I am relieved to see Cassie doesn’t look bored or impatient to leave, from the genuine smile she flashes at me when I finally join her.
“You did really well over there. I am impressed. I didn’t know you could stand.”
“Not for a very long time. I do it mostly for Tim.”
“He is a very nice kid and he likes you a lot.”
“Yeah, I know. What did he tell you? I saw you talking and giggling.”
She shakes her head grinning, “That’s a secret.”
“Come on, please!”
“He told me you like me. Is it true?”
Her fabulous green eyes are into my mine with an intense stare, and that mischievous smile on her face is irresistible. If she wants to play I’m in the game too,
Let me think…hmm…maybe.”
She doesn’t let go, “Well…he also asked me if I like you.”
“And?” This time I am waiting more anxiously for her answer.
“I told him you were a hot and sexy guy, but I have to know you better before making up my mind.”
“What? You really didn’t tell him that!”
As she hears the genuine shock in my tone, she says quickly, “No I’m just kidding. I simply told him yes.”
I sigh in relief and we laugh childishly. As I want more insight, I keep on asking in a playful tone,
“Is it yes, you like me? Or yes, I am hot and sexy?”
“Both.”
Suddenly we become serious again and for the first time we stare at each other in silence, but with such intensity it is like we are trying to get into each others’ mind. Then her look goes down to my legs. They are still twitching a little bit from the stressful exercises and she scans them without hesitation,
“You’re tall Matthew Vincent, but I could already tell from your wheelchair.”
As I am seated back in my chair, it sounds like a strange statement. I guess she just likes picturing me standing, which lessens my embarrassment of being so clumsy on my two wobbling useless legs.
“Well, I hope you made the most of it today, because it’s not going to happen very often.”
“Can I come back here with you another time?”
“You want to see me tall again?” I am the mischievous one now.
She nods with a shy smile.
“That can be arranged Miss Cassandra Miller.”
                                                                  ****

The following weeks we are both very busy. She starts her new job and comes home late. I attend to several hockey games and hang out a lot with my friends. I am going to the gym every morning for an hour to work on my chest and arms. Since I have a lot of spasticity Abby comes often to help me with my range of motion. It’s on her way home from the nursing school, so I don’t feel too bad to bother her. Plus she loves it. Since my accident her new mission in life is to mother hen me. I’m so busy at the center I don’t have time to take care of myself and I’m always postponing Sean’s sessions. As the old proverb says ‘the shoemaker’ son always go barefoot’. Cassie and I do find some time to see each other regardless of our hectic days, even if it is just for coffee or a quick TV dinner. Both of us need this without daring to say it out loud. It is with the best intentions, although we both feel a close connection. I don’t want to rush her into a relationship after the bad break-up she went through, and I’m not even sure yet if there is any potential chance she wants one. Nevertheless I keep my highs up. It is always fun and engaging to be with her and we can talk for hours about anything and everything. She has ‘a mood enhancer effect’ on me and for now I have to content myself with that.

One evening we are seated side by side on her couch, joking cheekily about our platonic intimacy and we start talking more seriously about our sentimental pasts.
I tell her how Melissa and I were close for so many years and she is deeply shocked about her reaction to my disability. I have to find her excuses and take most of the blame on me to soften Cassie’s anger.
“At that time I wasn’t the same guy and not easy to live with. I gave her a hard time and I am the one who took the decision to split up. I didn’t leave her a choice.”
“Well I’m glad you didn’t. We wouldn’t be here talking with me like this otherwise.”
“True, I’m happy too.”
Then she talks about her boyfriend, and I let her lead the conversation not wanting to interrupt. I understand from her tone she is still very upset to recall those bad memories.
“We dated for three years before it started to get really bad. Jeffrey has always been jealous but it became really annoying when he forbade me to talk to any male friends. Then he started spying on me, checking on my phone, my girlfriends, my co-workers, calling my parent’s when I was five minutes late. I had no more life, no more friends except at work and I was staying at the office as long as I could, to spend the least time possible with him. He was mentally harassing me, leading my schedule, controlling my outings and he became sexually rough and demanding. One day we had a big quarrel. I decided to leave him, packed my things and was ready to go back to my parents. It was his apartment and I could not spend another night in his place and in his company. He apologized, tried to talk me out of it, but I had made my decision and I didn’t love him anymore. I even wonder if I ever did. He had become a tyrant and I was scared of him. He blocked the front door to keep me in and I had to fight to pass him. I have never been so angry and so full of hate in my whole life. I screamed, I called him names, I cried. He was still holding me against the wall. He didn’t slap me or punch me, but it was still ugly. He just put his hands on my throat and started squeezing. I thought I was going to die. I started choking. I kicked him hard between the legs and suddenly he realized what he was doing. He instantly let go of me and I could escape.”

She has her hands on her throat like it is happening to her, right here, right now. I want to reassure her but I am afraid to touch her. She pulls herself together, lets her hands rest on her lap and goes on as she is telling the story of someone else' story, “I went to the police to file a complaint for domestic violence. He was arrested and spent a few days in jail. His father is a lawyer and he was out on bail in exchange of signing up for an anger management program. I still was granted a restraining order against him. He works for a travel agency as a tour operator. Because of me he took a desk job so he could keep an eye on me. When I moved away from Florida, I was told he accepted to be a tour guide and from what I know he is out of the country most of the time.”
She looks calm but I think it is just an outward appearance. She is all distressed inside.
“Cassie it’s over. You’re safe now. You had a terrible experience but you have a new life. You have to put this behind you and if you want I can help you do that. I’m here. I’ll protect you. This man will never come close to you when I’m here. Believe me. I won’t let him.”
During all the talking she stared into emptiness. Now her eyes are looking for mine and she smiles gently at me,
“I feel safe here with you. Except on your balcony!”
She kept her sense of humor which is a good sign. Timidly she adds, “I like you…a lot.”
Then she does an unpredicted move. At least one I am not prepared for. She leans on me and kisses my temple very softly. I am startled but delighted. More when she puts her head on my shoulder with one arm resting on my chest. Since my accident I have never been so close with a woman, except for Cindy, but it doesn’t count as it is completely wiped out of my mind. It is the strangest sensation ever, but a very pleasant one. She isn’t moving as if she has fallen asleep. As for me there is not a slight chance I can sleep, not now, not later, not with this precious gift in my arms. I feel my heart pumping faster and this strange tingling below my navel reoccurring for the second time. I am having hot flashes like a menopaused woman and this time it isn’t pleasant at all. What is going on again with my messed up body. Is this arousal? Am I having a hard on? I am afraid to check. First, because I fear it isn’t the case, and secondly it is not a right thing to do in front of Cassie. Suddenly I am not feeling too good. I have a headache, I’m sweating and my breathing is labored. I have to move away from her and get out of this sofa fast. I try to be as gentle as possible,
“Cassie I’m sorry I’m starting to have a cramp and I need my muscle relaxant.”
She isn’t sleeping at all, just relaxing against on my now pounding chest,
“I can get it for you. Just tell me where it is.”
“No. I also need to go to the bathroom.”
Two lies in a row and I am not proud of myself.
“Well, I can’t help you for this one”.
She reluctantly straightens into a sitting position. I transfer as fast as I can and lock myself in in the bathroom. I catheterize which makes one less lie, and I can see for myself I have no erection at all. So what just happened in there? Feeling Cassie’s body lasciviously pressed against mine really did something to me, and one thing I am sure of, it was indeed arousal. The way it showed wasn’t maybe conventional, but Cassie turned me on and my body reacted in that sense. I don’t know what to do; go back on the couch to take her in my arms again and see where my damaged body will lead me? No. Maybe it is better to call it a night, and not push it too far. She has just opened to me about her abusive boyfriend; I can’t ask her or use her as a sex partner for a strange sexual experiment, at least not tonight, not so soon.
She is still seated in the sofa looking behind her shoulder with a concerned look,
 “How is the cramp?”
 “Better.”
What a liar!
“I don’t want kick you out…hmm…figure of speech, but it’s getting late and you have to work tomorrow.”
I am hesitant and terribly embarrassed, because I am actually kicking her out, but it isn’t the right time to be more intimate. I don’t want to take advantage of her tonight’s fragility for egoistic purposes. I am also a bit worried about my weird physiological reaction, and I need to be on my own to process what just happened. As much as I wish to have Cassie closer to me, I don’t want it to be as awkward as I feel right now. She senses my uneasiness and quickly stands up,
“You’re right, I’m tired anyway. Thanks for being such a good listener.”
“You’re welcome. And thanks for putting up with me and my…physical issues.”
“I already told you they are not a problem for me. I like you just the way you are…maybe more.”

What is she implying again? She is attracted to me because I am disabled? Not being bothered by my wheelchair is one thing; being drawn to me because of it is disturbing. I am bewildered. I don’t know how to take this. Should I ask her to clarify her comment? Should I be upset? Angry? Flattered? I am more confused and speechless. She is already on her way out, then after a slight hesitation she comes back to me and plants a soft kiss; this time on my lips. If it doesn’t ease my perplexity, it sends chills in my whole upper body.

4 comments:

  1. I enjoy your writing style very much! I look forward to your next update!

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  2. I am a big fan of the first person writing and I know it's a challenge to do, you're making it seem easy! I love the flow of your story, the characters, and all the detail you include. Thank you for sharing this story!

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  3. WOW, I can't wait until the next chapter. GREAT STORY!

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  4. You do the first person perspective quite well. I feel like I am there in the room, listening to Matt confide in me. And I want to know more and more what he is thinking and feeling!

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