Recap of Chapter 8
After another technical incident on a parking lot, Cassie and Matt finally have a romantic dinner in a French restaurant followed by a very intimate moment in the shower. If their first night together was more like a selfish physical discovery on Matt’s side, this time their love making is intense for both and they find out new ways of pleasuring one another.
I wake up at dawn like every day. As I already mentioned I don’t have any blinds because I like to open my eyes with the first morning light and watch the sunrise over the lake. Gradually it fills my apartment with a soft variety of natural colors. Unfortunately at this time of the year it is just a pale light due to a low and heavy winter sky. Snow is in the air. I would actually feel a little down if I hadn’t the beautiful sight of the harmonious body lying peacefully against mine. I am suddenly filled with a wave of emotion and I lean on my side to plant a kiss on her temple. She moans and turns toward me. She is still naked with just the t-shirt I wore the day before, folded on her eyes to block the light. I can’t avoid a lopsided smile and I whisper in her ear, “You should have asked for an eye mask or at least taken a clean t-shirt.”
“No. I like your scent. Can I stay in bed a little longer?”
“As you please baby. You can have all my clothes and stay in bed all day as long as it is in mine.”
I give her another kiss and leave the bed to take care of my daily routine.
Today is Saturday and tomorrow is my father’s birthday. I had planned to spend the week-end at my parents and introduce Cassandra to them. I didn’t talk to her about it yet fearing it is a bit premature and not sure of her reaction. I also need her help with something that I am sure she’ll be enthusiastic about. I have two surprises for my parents and Abby. I am driving my own car again, and I want to stand up on my braces and crutches. I trained for six months for this, but I feel unsecure to do it on my own. I don’t know how to ask her. When I‘m out of the bathroom, I find her in the kitchen in front of the stove making scrambled eggs. It already smells toasts and coffee and it opens my appetite. As she hears the muffled sound of my wheels on the wooden floor, she turns back to me with an appreciative look on her face. Is it desire? Admiration? Lust? Or simply love? I wish all those four but that might be a little ostentatious.
“Good morning hot guy. You look handsome with your wet curly hair and your clean shaven face.”
She leans forward and gives me a sensual kiss on the lips. I could feed only on those kisses.
“I hope you are hungry.”
“Yes I am but I have a craving for you.”
I pull her down on my lap and we make out as if we are both starving of kisses. We calm down when the smell of burning eggs comes to our noses. We burst out laughing.
“Thanks to you Mister, that will be only toasts and coffee!”
“Fine with me. I just had my breakfast! By the way, how about going to my parents for lunch…and dinner…and maybe breakfast tomorrow? It’s my dad’s birthday and I promised I’ll spend the week-end with them. I want you to come with me so they can meet you.”
She looks at me closer and she seems surprised, “Don’t you think it’s a bit fast? I don’t know Matt. I would love too, but I am reserved about it. You are asking me to spend a whole week-end at your parents’ house without meeting them before.”
“My folks are cool and simple people. I told them about you and they are dying to meet you. They are going to love you and you already know my sister, so what’s the big deal?”
“It’s your father’s birthday and I don’t have any present.”
“If it is the only problem we can go shopping on the way. But my surprise is the car I am driving. He wanted me to get one so badly he is going to be happy. To tell you the truth I also need your help for something else I cannot do without you.”
She frowns and makes a puzzled face.
“I want to wear my braces and I need to put them on before leaving. I’ll drive in them but I never wore them in a car. I don’t know if I can manage to get in and out without help.”
I feel a little ashamed to ask her this because I hate being reliant on someone, but Cassie is different from the others. I see a mischievous smile opens her pulpy lips.
“You really have a natural ability to persuade me Mister.”
“I knew you couldn’t resist me.” I crack a satisfied grin.
“Well you know my weakness, so it is not that hard to guess my answer.”
“It’s settled then. Today I introduce you to my parents and we spend the week-end with the whole Vincent family.”
I am thrilled at the idea and after swallowing two toasts and two coffees I free Cassie. She has to return to her place to get dressed.
She is back half an hour later in a beige sweater, light brown leggings and dark brown suede boots with a medium heel. She looks stunning, even with her entire body covered. She has some make-up on, more than usual, but it is light and discreet and it enhances her natural beauty. She brought a small travel bag with her and I’m glad she accepted to come with me so easily. Now I have a problem and I have to update her.
“Cassie, if we have to stop to buy a present for my dad I cannot wear my braces right away. I won’t be able to stand and walk for a long time. Going in a store on crutches is out of the question, so I guess I’ll have to fit my legs out after our purchases and you’ll have to help me put them on in the car.”
I don’t mention I have never worn them out of the rehab center. Getting out of the car and walking up the path which leads to my parent’s entrance door will already be a technical prowess.
“Don’t worry Matt, it is not a problem. I am sure we’ll do fine. You family is going to be so proud of you. As for me, you know I already am.”
She gives me a reassuring kiss and my worries evaporate. Nothing regarding my handicap seems to be a drawback for her. Will it last? Is she really aware of my situation and what she got herself into accepting to be with me so spontaneously? For now I feel blessed and I’m afraid to foretell on a long run what my future will be.
I take her to the nearest mall and I discover it is not such a good idea. It’s the end of the year and the stores are packed with Christmas buyers. I really have a hard time weaving in and out the wave of relentless shoppers. I avoid a collision with a stroller, another one with a scooter, I swiftly dodge a few careless running kids, but I get bumped into several times and I even wind up with an old lady on my lap. Luckily I don’t feel anything because she is huge, but for sure I’ll get a nice bruise on my shin from the umbrella she poked in to stop her fall. As usual I don’t go unnoticed and I have to put up with a variety of looks and stares. Some are friendly, others compassionate or sorry. The worst are the ones disturbed by the simple sight of my wheelchair as if it is some kind of dangerous device. Those ones turn away to avoid me or avert their eyes, and I’m still not used to it after all this time. Maybe I also became slightly paranoid since I shrank in size. Cassie sticks with me. She walks by my side and as soon as I stop to look at something or enter a store, she takes advantage of it to hold my hand or kiss me casually. Those simple tokens of affection have the benefit to heighten my self-esteem and help me get my confidence back.
As I don’t want her to spend a lot of money on a present, I advise her to buy him a book. My father has a hobby. He likes old ships and sailing boats. He even spends his spare time building scale models.
“You’re sure he’ll like it?”
I smile at her sincere concern, “Yes I’m sure he’ll love it. That’s his passion but be warned, you won’t escape from an inventory of his whole collection, and after his explanations you will be an expert on old ships.”
She smiles back. “I can’t wait to meet your parents. I am sure you look like your dad.”
“That would be a compliment. Everyone likes him.”
We leave the crowded mall and we head to the Chicago suburbs. It is only twenty minutes south of the city but it already looks like the countryside. The area where my family leaves is a residential community of houses, all different from one another; the streets are wide, bordered with old oak trees, and in summer time the gardens are flowery and the lawns perfectly mown. Right now the trees are leafless and the green turned brownish from the frost. I pray that the ground is not too slippery. My parents don’t know I am coming on my feet, and I am not sure they salted the alley. I really count on Cassie’s help because I am starting to get anxious as we approached the house. I didn’t put my braces on yet, so I park on the side in order for them not to see the car coming. It is raining and we have to hurry. Cassie is already by the driver’s side ready to assist me. I pull both my legs out of the car.
“Can you please grab the braces and the crutches from the back seat?”
They are usually made to be worn under pants, but in this particular situation I have no other choice than putting them on top of my jeans. The position in the car is not the best to do what we are doing right now. It’s cold with the car door wide open, but Cassie is fast and efficient. She has to remove the shoes I am wearing because the braces are already equipped with a pair of sneakers. She helps me put them on and ties the straps of the custom made orthosis. Now the kicker is to make me stand up. My legs are useless and I have to use my upper body strength and push on my arms. The crutches are not stable enough, and I don’t trust the wet ground.
“Cass, I am going to have to use your shoulders again.”
She anticipates my move and leans toward me. I grasp her shoulder with one hand and the door frame with the other and push myself up. I’m a bit wobbly and I don’t let go right away trying to find my balance.
“Can you hand me the crutches now”?
I take one at a time and straighten up. My legs are still bent and start shaking. All my weight is on the canes.
“Can you secure the knee locks?”
No need to explain her what to do. It’s done in seconds.
“Like this? You sure it’s safe?”
I nod in relief. It was a bit awkward but we did it. I am standing up on my stiff fitted legs.
It feels so good to look down at her again. She guesses my thought and tiptoes to kiss me on the lips with obvious satisfaction. She is proud for the two of us, and also looks more confident of my feat than myself.
“I assume you like this part of our trip. I hope my parents will be as thrilled as you are to see me tall again!”
I grin and kiss her back. I am ready to surprise my family standing for the first time since the accident. I use my ‘stuntman’ method and swing both my legs forward at the same time. The rain is just a drizzle, the alley is clear from frost and snow, and I manage pretty well. It’s a little trickier on the ramp leading to the front door. There were originally four high steps that my dad had to equip with a steep slope. It is not a problem for my wheelchair which easily rolls up, but with the crutches and the braces I don’t feel so self-assured. Cassie senses my apprehension,
“I’m right behind you and I won’t let you fall. Keep going Matt. You’re doing good and you’re almost there.”
I trust her and resume my ascent. It feels like climbing a hill, and I have to bent forward to keep my balance. I am finally at the front door breathing like a fish out of the water. On top of that I have steam coming out of my mouth from the cold air and my gloveless hands start freezing, but I can’t crutch properly with covered hands.
“Cass, can you please ring the bell. If I let go one of the crutches, you will probably have to pick me up from the floor before my mom or my sister call 911!”
Quickly the door opens and my father freezes seeing me at an eye level. It takes him a few seconds to realize what is happening.
“Matt! You’re standing…but how did you…? How can you…?”
He is so moved he has trouble to find his words.
I nod down at the braces and the crutches. “That’s no miracle Dad. It’s just a major technical support.”
Then I nod behind my back more cheerfully, “And this is my new car, I drove down here.”
My father gives me a quizzical glance before looking over my shoulder. I made quite an impression. Speechless he needs time to process.
“That’s… incredible son. I didn’t know you could do that. Wait until your mom and Abby see you. They are going to go crazy.”
The emotion made him forget all about Cassie and he suddenly feels embarrassed,
“And I assume this beautiful lady at your side is Cassandra. I’m so sorry I’m still in shock. Please welcome and come in.”
He stands aside to let us in, shouting with an enthusiastic voice,
“Nancy! Abby! You have to come and see that.”
From the kitchen appear my mom and Abs. They stop and stand gaping. I see instant tears in my mother’s eyes and I crutch clumsily toward her, touched by her reaction.
“Mom, I didn’t do all this to make you cry. It wasn’t the plan.”
She regains control of herself and wipes her eyes quickly with the back of her hand,
“I’m sorry Matt, they are tears of joy. I haven’t seen you…like this for so long. It’s such a wonderful surprise.”
My sister who didn’t say a word yet throws herself in my arms and hugs me.
“Whoa! Careful Abs.”
One of my crutches slips and I’m thrown off balance. All three women surround me and hold me tight.
“Sorry big bro! It’s so good to see you standing. I forgot how tall you are. I am so impressed.”
Their enthusiasm is heart-warming and I give them a blissful smile,
“I’ve heard this one before.”
I kiss my sister on the cheek and let my mother hug me too in a smothering embrace.
“Don’t get your hopes too high up though. You are not going to see me like this every day. It’s a real headache to put them on and I feel very clumsy and weird with this equipment. Speaking of which, I think I now need to get rid of it.”
My dad who was silent until now letting the women discover the surprise, starts speaking again with a joyful voice,
“Let’s go in the living room and introduce us to your lovely girlfriend properly. She is going to think we are very bad and rude hosts. C’est une autre agréable surprise. Elle est jolie et on l’aime déjà.”
“Dad, please! No French this week-end.”
“Oh, ok I am sorry. After thirty years, even your Mom isn’t fluent and just picks up a few words here and there.”
I turn to Cassie. “My father just said you are the other surprise, you are beautiful and they already like you.”
She smiles at me, then turning to my parents she holds out her hand.
“No hands shaking with our son’s girl. We are hug people.”
“I am very glad to meet you Mr. Vincent.”
“And no Mr. Vincent either. Call me Patrick. You’ve met my wife Nancy and you obviously already know my daughter Abby.”
My sister is the first one to welcome Cassie with a tight embrace,
“I’m so happy you are spending the week-end with us. I need some help with a new cake recipe, and I would like some girl advice about clothing. I have a hot date tomorrow night and I don’t know what to wear.”
It’s like the good old days and I feel the need to tease my baby sister,
“A hot date? I want to see the guy who’s taking my little sister out first.”
“You have no saying in the matter Matt. You hated every one of my boyfriends. If I’d listened to you I would still be a virgin in ten years and live like a nun.”
I laugh because it is the truth. I have a tendency to be very selective and protective when it comes to my sis’s male company.
“Touché! I just want what’s best for you. You never ask for my permission anyway.”
“That’s not true! I always value your opinion, but you are too picky and I am not looking for a fanciful Prince Charming. In reality, my fantasy would be my brother’s replica, but as it’s not going to happen anytime soon, I have to content myself with the average.”
“Whoa! Thanks for the compliment Abs, but I don’t think I’m the idealistic guy to date anymore.”
I feel Cassie’s hand squeeze my forearm possessively. Well, I guess I am to her, but I think she’s the exception. I have to add to Abby, “And you always complain I’m stubborn and bossy!”
My mom seems upset by our friendly argument, maybe more by the awkward subject and she cuts off the conversation trying to sound cheerful,
“You don’t want to quarrel in front of our guest you two. Let’s go and have a sit now. We’ll have a drink to celebrate all the good news.”
I didn’t dare asking but I really need to sit down and rest. My shoulders and my back are aching from the exercise. They all step aside to give me some space, so I can crutch to the nearest chair.
“You’ll be more comfortable on the sofa Matt.”
“No Mom. I need to be on a chair to remove the braces. The sofa is too soft and I sink into the cushions.”
The problem is either way I need help to sit. The braces keep my legs straight and I can’t unlock them until I am seated. While I’m figuring out the best way to do it, my father asks, “You need help son?”
Begrudgingly I have to accept his offer,
“Yeah I guess. Can I hold onto you?”
“Of course Matt.”
I cling to him while Cassie takes the crutches away. I sit rather ungracefully on the edge of the chair with both my braced legs extended in front of me. Cassie crouches at my feet and unlocks the knee safety. I can finally sit almost normally and bend my legs. When they are set properly with my feet flat on the ground, I let go a sigh of relief.
“Phew! I think I need a drink now.”
My mother who anxiously witnessed the tricky process seems relieved too,
“Let me bring you some snacks. Lunch will be ready in a bit.”
She comes back with various appetizers while my father takes care of the drinks.
“Cassandra, would you care for a cocktail, maybe a glass of whisky or something lighter?”
“First thing you have to know about Cassie Dad, is that she hates whisky!”
I glance at her and I laugh at her look of complicity, along with a funny face.
“I’m not into alcohol very much. A soda or a juice is fine… Patrick.”
“How about an orange juice with a drop of vodka to warm you up?”
Cassie is polite and wanting to please my father, she agrees with one of her best smile, “Ok.”
As a drop, my father mixes half juice and half alcohol, and I secretly hope it will help her to get rid of her shyness. It is not that she seems uncomfortable, but I don’t need to be a psychic to guess she doesn’t behave the same way she does with me. I want her to feel at ease with my family, because I intent to bring her often as my official new girlfriend. I can’t seem to get enough of her, and the way she looks at me tells me it’s a mutual feeling.
When it’s time to move on to the table, my dad is up and ready to help me.
“Need a hand son?”
“Yes Dad, but not to get up. I am going to remove those. I’ve had enough for today. If you can get my wheelchair from the car and grab the two small bags in the trunk, I’ll appreciate it.”
“Sure Matt. I’ll get them right now.”
He seems a tad disappointed and I can see he has something in mind.
“You wanted to ask me something Dad?”
“Hmm…yes. Since you can stand and walk a bit… I was wondering if… you could come upstairs with me to see the remodeling we did on the whole floor.”
He looks embarrassed and I feel sorry for him, even more with the answer I’m about to give him. I’m going to shatter his hopes and let him down.
“Dad, I am sorry. I would love too but I can’t do stairs even with the braces. They just help me stand straight, but they prevent me for bending my knees, and I need the crutches to take steps, so forget about the idea. I’m going to stick to the first floor.”
I am a bit harsh and I feel guilty because it is all my fault. Wanting to impress, I wrongly let them think I am back on my feet for good.
“No worry son. It was a stupid suggestion anyway. Let me get your chair.”
We all feel the slight uneasiness and everyone gets busy with something. My mom returns to the kitchen. Abby joins our dad to bring back our light travel bags, while Cassie helps me out of the braces. Suddenly my spirits are low.
“I guess it was a mistake. I gave them too much hope. They saw me lying flat on my back for months then bound to a wheelchair, and out of the blue I come on my two feet like I’m walking again. I should know better. I gave them a shock and a disappointment.”
Cassie takes my chin in her hand to lift it up, and she looks at me in the eyes,
“Don’t be silly. They are overwhelmed with joy. Did you see their happy faces? It really was a good surprise, but they are reasonable and sensitive people. They know your injury is severe enough to prevent you from walking, but seeing you tall again brightened up their mood. You did the right thing. Don’t think otherwise. And you know how much I love you standing, even for a little while.”
I look deep into the mesmerizing green of her eyes and their soothing effect is instantaneous. I crack a smile.
“Does that mean you don’t love me small?”
“Just as a reminder you were in a wheelchair when I met you Mr. Vincent.”
“Yeah, but I want to make sure you are aware I will always be.”
Abruptly I am not as upbeat as she is, and in no mood for funny comment anymore. She sees my sudden change of tone and it makes her sad. I’m rarely depressed and usually in a good state of mind. Meeting her is the best thing that happened to me since the injury. I should be thankful, and I am. I think I’m blessed as well but sometimes like now, I ask myself lots of questions and I fear the future. I need reassurance, comfort, and recognition as the man I am now. I never had those dark feelings before and it upsets me. I was a leader, a captain, dependable and trustworthy, and right now I have the unpleasant gut feeling of swapping roles. I am the one in need, the weak one who requires protection, guidance and help from the strongest, and I despise having those thoughts. Cassie doesn’t say anything. She just leans over me and lets her forehead rest against mine. For more stability she puts both hands on my thighs as a support. It looks like a sensual and intimate gesture, but I can’t even feel that. I just watch her in silence. She senses everything I think and feel and moves her hands up to my waist keeping her head to mine. I like it, being so close, smelling her perfume, touching her without needing to speak to understand each other. My hands are now cupping her cheeks and I want to kiss her so badly it’s even painful. I can’t resist and I take her lips in mine in a gentle kiss. I would like to be more audacious, but I’m leaning forward on the edge of the chair and my balance can’t be any riskier.
“Cass, I’m ready to fall down on you if we keep doing this.”
“Scoot over to the back of the chair.”
I do as I’m told and then she hops sideways on my lap and wraps her arms around my neck.
“Better this way?”
I nod with a smile.
“So now you can kiss me properly without any excuses Mister.”
Without arguing I finish what I started. My dad and Abby come back from outside at the same moment.
“Hey love birds! I can see you’re very hungry, so let’s go have lunch.”
My sister is not shy but Cassie is. She moves out of my knees and is up in a blink of an eye. My dad looks at us with tenderness.
“I am sorry Mr.…huh…Patrick.”
“No offense. I know you don’t only look at each other. As long as you make my son happy we don’t mind the kissing and the cuddling under our roof.”
I meet her eyes and see a hint of embarrassment. She raises her eyebrows in a funny way. I pull her back, tighten my embrace and whisper in her ear,
“Told you I have cool folks. Let’s go eat, you opened my appetite and I’m starving.”
My father already put the pieces of my wheelchair together and approaches it close to me, before joining my mom in the kitchen to give us some privacy.
We have a delicious lunch and again the cocktails and the wine loosen the tongues. My dad tells us funny stories of his youth in Canada; my mom is a perfect host as usual, but still trying to make us fat with her numerous dishes. Abby talks a lot about everything and all we can do is listen and laugh at her banter. We decide to give my father his birthday gifts after we finally leave the table and head back to the living room for coffee. My dad is eager and impatient like a child. His daughter offers him a new woolen coat with a cashmere scarf and leather gloves. He is not into clothing very much and never takes time to go shopping despite my mother’s harassment to renew his wardrobe.
“Thank you Abby. It’s a wonderful gift. You know how I hate going to the mall. You’re saving me a precious time and also make your mother happy!”
He tries it on and seems to really like it.
“My gift is much lighter Dad.”
I search in the small backpack strapped to my chair between my legs. I hand him an envelope, and as he gradually discovers what’s on the sheet of paper, he looks at me with real surprise and a flash of emotion overwhelms his face.
“This is way too much Matt. I don’t know what to say.”
“Well you don’t have to say anything. It’s for all the sacrifices you’ve made for me. Teaching me hockey and helping with my studies and my career. Plus as you can see it’s a present you have to share with mom, so it’s only half a gift!”
My mom comes closer and reads above my dad’s shoulder with a puzzled face. Her eyes widen and she looks thrilled.
“Matt what is it? We also have a right to know.”
Abby is pouting like a little girl and Cassie is giving me a questioning look.
“It is the trip to Europe he always wanted to do and pretended he didn’t have time and it was too expensive. Now he doesn’t have any excuses.”
My dad is truly touched and my mom starts reading the trip plan:
- Two business class roundtrip tickets to Europe with one week in Paris and one week in Italy in 4 stars hotels.
I chose flexible dates so they can adapt their trip according to work. For sure my mom is as excited as my dad. They both stand up and hug me. I feel my dad’s hand squeeze my upper arm tight. Their obvious pleasure warms my heart. After an emotional moment for everyone, Cassie’s nervous hand offers her own present.
“It’s not much but I hope you’ll like it.”
When my father sees the big illustrated book, a wide smile brightens his face. He is an easy person to please. In moments like those I feel really blessed to have such a nice and loving family. I’m so glad Cassie can share this day with me.
“I wanted to get this one for a while. It’s the only one missing in my collection.”
He winks at me, knowing I am the one who gave her the tip.
“If you are interested I can show you my ships’ fleet. I have a special room to built and expose them.”
Here we go! Now it’s me giving Cassie an ‘I told you so’ wink.
The afternoon goes by in a friendly atmosphere, until I have terrible cramps I can’t hide. My back and left leg are aching terribly, probably from my earlier crutching show, and everyone’s concern makes me feel bad, ruining the good time we were having. Cassie asks me whispering discreetly in my ear, “You want me to get your meds?”
I shake my head biting my lips. My mom suggests in an anxious voice,
“Maybe you should lie down in the bedroom for a while.”
My father agrees, “You’ve done a lot today Matt. Driving and standing up on those heavy devices is hard work. A nap might help.”
I shake my head again. They are not fully aware it’s part of my life now, and it cannot be controlled unless I become dependent on soporific drugs which I refuse vehemently. I wouldn’t do anything or go anywhere if I had to think about those predicaments. I’m used to spasticity, but my backache is killing me. Only Cassie understands what I’m going through, because I seem to be unable to hide anything from her. It’s my father’s day and I am not going to spoil it spending my evening in bed.
“No, don’t worry, it will pass. I’ll just transfer on the couch and I’ll feel better.”
I do as I say but I struggle to get out of my chair. I put my hand in front of me to stop my sister’s charitable assistance. Cassie never does that unless I ask for her help which rarely happens. She just arranges some pillows behind my back, and I literally slouched against the cushions with a painful sigh. I ask my parents in a tired voice, “Can I stretch my legs on the coffee table?”
“Don’t be silly son. Of course you can, you don’t have to ask.”
If my parents are easy going people, understanding and all they taught us respect and good manners, and we always stuck to the propriety rules we were raised in. I guess my hardship made them more lenient. Abby removes my shoes and starts pulling on my foot. Unexpectedly I notice an odd look on Cassie’s face. She clearly doesn’t approve and even seems upset. Is it jealousy? I’m pretty sure it is. I’m flattered but troubled that two people I love are competing to soothe my discomfort. I let Abs do her thing though, but I make a sign at Cass with my finger for her to come close to me, “Will you lend me your shoulder to lean on. I think I’m going to doze off.”
My proposition subdues her annoyance and she cuddles in my arms. I close my eyes trying to forget the stabbing pain in my spine. In Cassie and Abby’s care the cramps and the spasms subside eventually, and I fall in some kind of lethargy.