Mark sat on the edge of the small dance floor, watching his friends act like idiots out there. The alcohol had been making its rounds all night and it showed now in the way everyone was acting.He had kept himself in check not overdoing it with the booze. His body wouldn’t take it very well. It was his 30th birthday and everyone had felt he needed to come out and party. They had basically forced him to celebrate his birthday.
In a way they were right but it had taken a lot of convincing for him to come out to the bar. The last time he had actually celebrated his birthday had been for his 25th birthday. At that party he had no idea that within the next five years his life would get turned completely upside down and he would soon be celebrating all his birthdays in the sitting position, watching life happen around him from the seat of a wheelchair.
It was shortly after his 27th birthday when he was riding in a Humvee in the convoy taking him and the unit he was assigned to from Baghdad to their camp in the desert about two hours away. At least ten vehicles ahead of him unknowingly dodged the IED and with everyone ahead apparently making it safely along the dirt road, Sergeant Phillips, the driver of their Humvee seemed confident enough to roll along with the rest of the unit, edging through the dust and heat of the Iraqi desert.
Mark didn’t even see it coming and the blast was enormous, throwing him against the roof of the vehicle, shrapnel flying all around him, screams of agony and pain breaking the monotony of the convoy.The unit quickly surrounded the hit vehicle in a protective perimeter, keeping Iraqi onlookers away with their M-16’s pointing to anyone trying to come closer.
The medics in the unit tended to the casualties and the injured, all four of the guys in the Humvee having been affected by the blast. The Humvee was torn to shreds and so was Private Lopez, dead on impact, the IED explosion ripping his body apart like a piece of paper in a shredder.
Mark remembered seeing Sergeant Phillips lying close to him screaming in terror over and over again that they had hit an IED. He was in total shock, his hands having been torn off still holding the steering wheel and now scattered among the pieces of the Humvee and not attached to Sergeant Phillips anymore. Lieutenant Wilkins was crawling from the burning pieces of metal and made his way over to Sergeant Phillips trying to apply tourniquets to the two bleeding stumps that were left of his arms. Mark felt blood all over him and his body burning like fire while he somewhat made out the first aid efforts of Lieutenant Wilkins on Sergeant Phillips, trying to keep him from bleeding out.
The medics got there in seconds with all their gear giving first aid to the survivors and while the unit was securing the perimeter the medics saved three lives, stabilizing them to be airlifted by helicopters to the nearest Military airfield and field hospital.
Mark remembered silence surrounding him shortly after he saw an armless Sergeant Phillips close to him. It was a silence like underwater, like he knew there were voices but they were suppressed to an extent where he couldn’t make out words or commands. He also felt like his head was detached from his body as his body felt like a piece of lead, not movable and needing to be lifted by four medics onto the stretcher that would take him into the helicopter. He passed out during the transport into the helicopter, strapped down and head held immobilized in a brace, three medics running alongside him, one holding an IV bag while moving. The last thing he remembered were the helicopter blades spinning over him like four gigantic knives getting closer and closer and seemingly about to cut him to shreds as well.
When he finally somewhat came to his senses he woke up in a US Military hospital in Germany, the place where they all came before being transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center in the US.
He was in a hospital bed, a Halo drilled into his skull, preventing any movement of his head, a back brace keeping his body still, bandages around his hands and one leg in a full length cast. It wasn’t the broken leg that bothered him or the bandages around his hands cut from the shrapnel but the Halo was serious and he knew it the moment he realized the fixture on his head.
When the doctor told him his diagnosis he wasn’t too shocked because he expected it. The emotions overcame him after the doctor had left his room, leaving him with the words, “You will be all right son. You can still live a fulfilling life being paraplegic. At least you survived with all your limbs still attached. Remember you did this for your country and people will recognize you for that.”
He came out of the whole ordeal with a Spinal Cord Injury, completely severing his spine at the T-4 vertebrae from the impact of his head and chest hitting the roof of the Humvee. When the rest of the vehicle followed upwards it compressed his spine crushing him between the top and the bottom of the vehicle.
This was almost three years ago and now there he sat trying to remember that he had done this for his country but he couldn’t really find the connection and while watching his friends slow dance with their wives or the girls they had brought or met at the bar, Mark took a large sip of the beer in his hand. He was on his third cold one for the night but it didn’t really compromise his judgement yet. Even after the injury he was still able to drink quite a bit but nowadays his body would usually make him suffer in the form of severe spasticity if he did overdo the booze or the beer so he stayed away from it mostly.
Mark finished his beer and set the bottle on the table next to his wheelchair. He was done drinking and he was almost ready to go home. His ride was still out on the dance floor, his best friend Patrick with his girlfriend Jessica. He had left his own car at home that night as Patrick had insisted he would take him out and Mark could drink if he wanted to in celebration of his birthday.
Out of nowhere the woman appeared and he hadn’t seen her in the place before, “Hey!”Mark looked up at the girl and was somewhat surprised, “Hey!”
She stood there in front of him wearing a very short black leather skirt and a green tank top. Her straight red hair was down to her waist. She had a small purse over her shoulder. Her long legs were bare and smooth looking and ended with her feet in some very high heeled black sandals, straps wrapping around her calves where they were fastened right under the knee.
He really didn’t know what to think of the girl and the situation but he hadn’t been with anyone in a while and was open to maybe have a little flirt or conversation.The red head asked, “What is your name?”
Mark couldn’t help grin a little at her bluntness, “What is your name?”
She smiled a seductive smile, “I asked you first…”
He smiled and nodded in agreement, “O.K…I am Mark. Now you…”
“I am Chiara.”
Chiara looked over at the empty bottle and then back at Mark. He recognized the hint and asked her, “Can I buy you a drink?”At her nod Mark spun his wheelchair around lifting his caster wheels off the ground for a wheelie at the same time and made his way to the bar, Chiara coming up behind him.
The bar was somewhat high for him but as Chiara stood next to him he told her, “Tell them what you want and get me a Sapphire.”
Chiara ordered their drinks and when the bartender set them on the counter, Mark held a 20 dollar note up to him and the bartender took the money from his hand and Mark telling him, “Keep the change.”
Chiara took her cocktail glass and was about to hand Mark his beer when he said, “Let’s move away from the bar and find a chair you can sit on and be face to face with me.”
He wheeled ahead and found a small table with two chairs close to where he was originally sitting with his friends. He was able to wheel up to the table and Chiara sat down in the chair next to him and set his bottle on the table.Mark took his bottle and leaned forward some to cheer with Chiara. She tapped her glass against his bottle and they both drank.
When she sat down her glass she looked at him with serious and seductive eyes and he shook his head some trying to figure out what was going on but smiling at her, “So…do you come here a lot?”
Chiara shook her head and answered, “No, it is my first time.”
Mark still smiled, “Really? Well, I guess that is a good thing for me then.”
She smiled but looked away shyly at his comment.
She didn’t say anything and he wasn’t all the way sure how to start a conversation. He had been out of practice for a long time when it came to talking to women. Since his accident he had only had one semi relationship with a girl he had met during rehab. They had a couple of months where she tried to make him feel better about his new identity but in the end the whole relationship wasn’t built on love but on some kind of sexual experiment that back fired on Mark because he realized he wasn’t capable of lots of things in the bed anymore that were a very normal thing for him before he got injured.So since the realization of this harsh truth he had mostly stayed by himself and only flirted here or there with a girl but not letting them get much closer to him than maybe some kissing.
Now with Chiara next to him he wasn’t sure what to say. After all she had approached him and now stayed somewhat silent as he felt a little nervous.He took another sip from his bottle and met Chiara’s eyes on him when he set the bottle down.
She moved her hand to his on the table and stroked over it softly, then looked at him and said, “You are really hot.”
Mark looked from their hands up to her and said somewhat unsure, “Thanks...you are very beautiful.”
She took her hand from his and leaned over closer to him, then moved her mouth next to his ear and said, “You are very hot in your wheelchair.”
He wasn’t sure what to think about her direct comment and looked down as she stayed next to his ear and whispered, “Let’s go outside away from all these people.”
Her hand softly stroked over his face as she moved away from him and just looked at him waiting for his reaction.Mark felt nervous now because he didn’t understand the direct approach of Chiara and what all this was about. She didn’t wait for his reply though and got up, ready to head outside.
Mark looked over toward the seats where he was with his friends earlier and he saw Patrick and Jessica sitting there and Patrick met his eyes. Just then his other three friends came back from the dancefloor and everyone watched as Mark gestured from Chiara towards the door, somehow trying to convey to them that he was about to get some fresh air with this woman by his side.All of them grinned and laughed and gave thumbs up. It was such an odd situation and even though Mark was nervous at what Chiara expected outside he didn’t want to decline spending some time with her alone, maybe getting to know her somewhat. He had no idea who she was and what she wanted with him.
She walked in front of him and he kept glancing at her legs and feet in the high heels. She was somehow overdressed for the bar environment, where the girls really only wore blue jeans. He saw all the guys check her out as she made her way toward the door and with that making way for Mark to follow her in his wheelchair, pushing his rims hard to keep up with her.He kept thinking about the situation and couldn’t really make any sense from it.
Outside Chiara walked down the ramp and he followed her, partly off his casters and partly on them, holding his rims to break the speed going down the ramp. She turned around and smiled at him and he followed her like a puppy following a treat.
Something about the situation kept his mind occupied. Chiara looked around some on the bottom of the ramp and then made her way behind the building to a park like area, some trees and brush and crickets chirping lowly.
She leaned on a tree with her glass in her hand as Mark wheeled up and a little out of breath parked close to her, “You really wanted to get out of there, didn’t you?”“Well, I wanted to be alone with you.”
He had set his beer bottle in between his thighs and now took another sip from the bottle.
Chiara looked down to the ground and to Mark’s surprise she sat down on the grass. It was a warm night but he really didn’t know how this was going to go down. She started to unstrap her sandals.
When she patted the grass next to herself, he was definitely caught off guard, “Why don’t you sit down next to me?”
He looked down to her, “Sit down…on the grass?”
She nodded, “Yes, you can get out of your chair, can’t you?”
Mark’s voice sounded somewhat shaky, “Ahem, yes....I can get out of my chair but it involves some difficulties and for me to get down on the ground like that will be a bit tricky and especially getting up into my chair again.”
Chiara looked at him with a seductive smile, “Would you do it for me?”
Mark was hesitant, “Well…before I get down on the ground…why don’t you tell me a little bit more about yourself? I don’t get down on my ass for just anyone.”
Chiara looked down and took a sip from her glass. She didn’t answer him though and Mark was concerned that he had sounded rude with his comment and with a softer voice he said, “I mean…I would love to get down there with you…but it is a little bit an issue. I wish you would tell me something about yourself. Are you from here?”
She looked up at him and then to his surprise she came over to him and kneeled in front of him on the ground and without saying anything she let her hands travel over his legs and her eyes stayed down watching her hands on his jeans. She whispered, “I am sorry things don’t work for you down there but I still would love to make your birthday special.”When he heard her say “birthday” he stopped her hands from moving over his legs and said tensely, “Hold up! What do you mean with making my birthday special?”
He held her hands by her wrists and she looked up a little nervous and said lowly, “Oooppss…”
Mark felt a slight anger creep up and asked tensely, “Who are you?”
She hushed, “Just a girl.”
He still held her hands and his grip got tighter as she pulled her hands away from him, “Ouch, you are hurting my wrists.”
He let go of her hands and shook his head some, “I am sorry…but how do you know it is my birthday? Why can’t you just tell me who you are?”
She looked up at Mark and said somewhat sternly, “Because it doesn’t matter who I am. This is about you and giving you a good time. Tell me Mark, how can I make your birthday special with things not working for you the conventional way anymore?”
Everything started to dawn on him and he definitely felt irritated now, “What the hell are you talking about?”
Instead of answering though Chiara tried again and moved her slender hands up to his thighs, letting her hands rub over his legs and toward his crotch.
She whispered, “You don’t feel any of that?”
Mark couldn’t control his temper anymore and pushed his rims backwards, making his wheelchair back up from Chiara. She balanced herself and with a sigh stood up.
Mark asked, “Who the fuck are you and what do you want from me?”
Chiara was beautiful in a naughty way and even though he didn’t mind the view at all, the situation did cause him stress.Chiara stood there and started wriggling her tank top over her head exposing two perfect breasts held by a skimpy looking black lacey bra.
She said, “You can have me Mark, any way you want.”
Mark left his hands on his rims, about to make his getaway and she added, “How about a blow job? Would that be something for you?”
Mark couldn’t control his anger anymore now and replied tensely, “No, a fucking blow job is nothing for me either. You need to get out of here and leave me alone. Whatever your fucking deal is I don’t know but I am out.”
He started to turn his wheelchair around and Chiara sounded nervous, “Mark, wait!”
He didn’t look at her, “What?”
“Please turn around.”
Mark spun his wheelchair around again facing Chiara. She had slipped into her tank top again and was digging around in her purse.Eventually she pulled out money and she shyly walked over to him and handed him the money, “Here you go. I can’t take it.”
Mark looked at the money dumb founded and asked with an impatient sigh, “Can you please tell me what is going on?”
All the sudden she sounded different, more personal and also weary when she explained lowly, “Mark, I am a hooker…your friends wanted to do something special for your birthday and this is why I am here. I am sorry you had no clue and it didn’t work out, this is the money I got paid to do you a favor and I can’t take it.”
He laughed lowly with sarcasm, “What the fuck? Who paid you?”
“Some of your friends. I am sorry.”
She stepped closer and pushed the money toward him. When he didn’t take it, she dropped it on his lap and then turned around, grabbed her high heels from the grass and her purse and walking by him, she let her hand stroke over his cheek, “You are a very attractive guy and I am sorry it didn’t work out. Happy Birthday Mark.”
With that she kept walking away, barefooted, her heels dangling from her hand and her red long hair flowing in the breeze as Mark turned around and looked after her.He was still in shock about the situation and thoughts of “Why?” and “Who?” kept running through his head as he tried to make sense of how his friends could have thought to do him a favor with hiring a hooker to give him pleasure in some unknown ways.
He spun his wheelchair around all the way and saw Chiara walk away, calling after her, “Chiara!”
She stopped in her pace and turned around with a smile.
Mark started with a stutter, “I am sorry too…I had no idea and I didn’t know how to act. I haven’t been in any situations with…women…lately.”
Chiara smiled, “It’s all right. I get it…maybe your friends should have thought of another present for you.”
All the sudden, he didn’t just want to see her leave and he felt bad for her in a way, “Maybe…but…you…”, he paused, took a deep breath and continued, “…you are very beautiful and I would have never guessed…that…” He stopped, feeling silly continuing.
Chiara finished his sentence, “…that I was a hooker.” She smiled at him, “Thanks…that made my day.”
Then she walked away and even though Mark tried to think of something else to say to her he couldn’t come up with anything.
He watched her walk away, took the money and stuffed it in his jeans pocket and wheeled toward the front of the building again. Chiara was walking over the parking lot and in the distance Mark saw a male figure leaning on the side of a car, smoking a cigarette. As Chiara reached the person, Mark saw them exchange a few words and was shocked when he saw the guy slap her face, making Chiara tumble slightly and then he saw her walk around to the side of the car where she got in the passenger side.
When he saw the guy slap Chiara he put his hands to his rims quickly and wheeled over the parking lot with speed trying to get to the car. At the same time he didn’t know what he would be doing if he would get to the car and the guy that had slapped Chiara. Nowadays he was not a predator anymore but much more the prey.He barely got out of the way as the car backed out of the parking space fiercely and then took off with squealing tires.
Mark felt angry and mad and all he could do to express his emotions was curse loudly, “Fuck!”
He pulled out the money from his pocket and with shaky hands he counted and came up with $ 250. Money that Chiara had lost out on because he didn’t go for her services. Money that her pimp had lost out on and she was paying for it with his abuse.
Now his birthday had turned from somewhat all right to not having been a good night. In a way he was mad at his friends who had arranged for Chiara. How could they have thought he would go for something like that?He pondered going back inside the bar and throwing the money on the table and confronting them with their stupid idea but then again he felt depressed and didn’t really feel like being around anyone for a moment longer.
He stuffed the money back in his pocket and put his hands to his rims wheeling over to where a taxi was parked, waiting for customers. As the driver saw Mark approach he stepped out of his vehicle and came around to open the door for Mark to transfer into the taxi. His wheelchair fit into the seat next to him and when the driver got in and turned around asking where he wanted to go Mark answered lowly, “3387 Stony Ridge Drive out in Burien.”
He couldn’t stop thinking about Chiara now and somewhat nervously he asked the taxi driver, “Excuse me, do you know if there are any places in the city to find a girl for money?”
The taxi driver smiled into the mirror, “I do know of those places. Do you want to change your route sir?”
He sighed, “No, just wondering.”
The taxi driver stated, “It is not too far from here…all our drivers know.”
“O.K….thanks but I am sticking with my original route.”
Feeling the money in his pocket he couldn’t stop shaking the thoughts that maybe he needed to find Chiara and give her the money. He texted his friend Patrick that he was on his way home and thanked him for the birthday present.