Aaron slowly opened his eyes to see that the bedroom was completely dark. He was still on his stomach and shirtless in the bed, but was plenty warm with help from the comforter. He turned his head expecting to find Julia next to him, and his brow furrowed when he discovered she wasn’t. He turned to the nightstand, the clock read 1:26 a.m. and Aaron realized he must have fallen asleep hours before. He noted that his shoulder wasn’t throbbing like it had been, for which he was thankful. Taking his time with the process, Aaron pushed up from the bed and turned over.
Where is Julia if she’s not asleep in here?
Aaron threw the comforter back and then used the edge of the bed to aid in sitting up. His eyes adjusted to the darkness enough for him to reach out and switch on the bedside lamp. Then, slowly he lifted each leg over the side of the bed and made the transfer down into the seat of his chair. From under his knees he lifted each foot onto the footplate and wheeled to where his shirt was. He pulled it on over his head then pushed himself around the foot of the bed.
Aaron opened the bedroom door and couldn’t hear any noise coming from the living room. As he rounded the corner, Aaron could see that a light was on in the kitchen but the living room was dark. He glided across the hardwood floors silently as he made his way into the living room. Aaron could see then that Julia was on the couch, wrapped in a thick throw, sound asleep. Slowly he coasted to a stop next to the couch, unsure if he should wake her because she looked so comfortable.
My god, she’s beautiful.
Aaron reached out and brushed some strands of wavy hair from her forehead. She stirred then and Aaron leaned in to squeeze her hand.
He hadn’t intended to wake her but didn’t want to leave her to sleep in the living room. “Julia…,” his voice was soft and low.
“Hmm?” She said, her voice sounded scratchy and yet soft.
Aaron rubbed her hand with his thumb. “Let’s go to bed.”
“Uh huh.” Julia mumbled. She blinked her eyes open but didn’t move.
Aaron knew she was probably half asleep but he couldn’t let her spend the whole night out on the couch. “Come on, babe.” He ran a hand up her arm.
Julia nodded. “Ok.”
“Here, hitch a ride.” Aaron began to coax her up and she groggily pulled herself to sit sideways on his lap. She lazily put her arm around his neck and leaned against his chest. The top of her head was just under his chin.
“Here we go.” He backed away from the couch and gave the rims of the chair long purposeful strokes as he crossed the length of the living room.
Julia mumbled something, but the sound was muffled against his chest. Aaron wheeled them into the bedroom and stopped next to her side of the bed.
“Julia,” he said. “You’ve got to help me out with this one. Here’s the bed.”
“Mmm, ok.” She said as she pulled away and set her feet on the floor.
Aaron reached up and guided her into the bed and then pulled up the blankets and comforter around her. She closed her eyes and snuggled down into it.
Once Julia was settled, Aaron wheeled to the other side of the bed and switched off the bedside lamp, then went to retrieve some pajama pants, another shirt, and his hooded sweatshirt from his bag. He piled the items onto his lap and headed for the bathroom, where he silently closed the door behind him. Aaron quickly swallowed another couple ibuprofen capsules with some water then brushed his teeth. He changed out his jeans and t-shirt after relieving himself and put the clean clothes on. Once finished, he entered the bedroom and went to his side.
Julia wasn’t making any noise or movements and Aaron figured she had already fallen back to sleep. He successfully made the transfer up onto the bed the first try and tried not to move around too much as he settled next to Julia. He quickly felt her reach out to him and she tugged on his forearm, willing him to come closer. He did so and wrapped his arm around her.
“Good night,” he whispered into her hair and kissed the top of her head.
When daylight began to creep its way into the bedroom, Julia and Aaron both seemed to wake simultaneously as each one stirred. The sound of rain could be heard outside and thunder was rumbling in the distance. Julia laid still for a moment to piece together how she ended up in the bedroom when she clearly remembered sneaking into the living room the night before. The whole realizing she was in love with Aaron thing had really thrown her so she retreated. She remembered, albeit a hazy recollection, that Aaron had gotten her from the couch. The thought made her smile.
Yep. Still love him. Uh huh. Sure do.
She opened her eyes and peeked over her shoulder to see Aaron running a hand down his face and letting out a deep yawn.
Don’t be weird. Say something.
“Hi.” She said as she turned to him.
“Hi.” He said through a small smile.
“It’s raining.” Julia stated the obvious.
I sound like an idiot.
“It is.” Aaron agreed.
“How’s the shoulder today?” She asked.
“It is better I think. Thank you.” He said with an appreciative smile.
Julia nodded slightly and drew the comforter up around her neck and relished the warmth.
“So. The couch.” Aaron put an arm behind his head and turned more to face Julia.
Uh huh. The couch.
“Oh. Yeah. That. You were sleeping really soundly, so I took a shower and then went out there. Tried
to, you know, let you get some rest.” Julia added a shrug of her shoulder.
When it reality, I was freaking out internally and escaped the confines of this love nest as fast as I could. Because I’m ridiculous.
“Ah, I see. Well, thank you for that, but I couldn’t let you sleep out there, obviously.” He leaned in closer and Julia knew he was going to kiss her.
Alert. Alert. Alert. Withdraw. Withdraw. Withdraw.
Before he could she pulled the comforter up to cover her mouth.
“I have morning breath.” She shook her head.
Aaron raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Ok.”
Julia quickly threw back the comforter and swung her legs over the bed to get out.
“I’m going to brush my teeth.” She said quickly and left the bedroom.
Definitely being weird now.
She closed the bathroom door behind her and then turned on the faucet to let the water run. She leaning onto the counter with both hands, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath.
Oh my god.
She splashed some water on her face and looked in the mirror.
I love the guy out there. And that scares the hell out of me.
Julia let the water run a little longer as she got herself together and brushed her teeth. When she finished, she opened the door and Aaron was just coming out of the bedroom.
“All done?” He asked as he gestured to the bathroom.
“Mmhmm. It’s yours.” She said as she passed him.
“Hey,” Aaron reached out and grabbed her hand.
Julia stopped and turned to him. His hair was messy and his face unshaven. He looked rested and insanely handsome. “Good morning.” He gave her hand a squeeze.
No, no, no. Don’t be all cute and charming. I can’t handle it. I can’t say that I love you. Not yet…
“Good morning…,” she repeated and squeezed his hand in return. He tugged her closer and knew he would try for another kiss. She just couldn’t do it.
I’m going to burst. Any minute now.
“Breakfast?” Julia tipped her head toward the kitchen and released her grip on his hand, breaking the moment.
Move away. Quickly.
Aaron pushed toward the bathroom and smirked. “Sure.”
Now breathe. And go do something. Like make breakfast. Distraction – yes, that’s it!
Julia had her head in the refrigerator when Aaron came into the kitchen. He kept replaying the moment when she refused his kiss, which had struck him as odd. Morning breath hadn’t stopped them from morning kisses before. He had a slight feeling that something was off with her, he just wasn’t sure about what it was. She was short with him, although not as annoyed as she was with him the night before.
“How do you feel about frittatas?” She asked him when she heard him come behind her.
Oh, good. She speaks.
“In general, I am a fan.” He wheeled to the back door and moved the drapes aside to see outside. The rain was really coming down in conjunction with sporadic rumbles of thunder.
“Well, I make a pretty damn good frittata.” He heard Julia say, her tone sounded dry.
Stop over analyzing, Evans. You’re acting like a woman.
Aaron let the drapes fall back into place and backed away from the door, then turned to the kitchen. “I am in luck then, aren’t I?”
Julia was pulling out ingredients and placing them on the island in the middle of the room.
“Wait, you are offering to make one, right?” He said with a low laugh.
Julia shot him a look and shook her head. “Of course. And I need you.”
Aaron went closer to the island and waited for instructions.
“Crack, please.” She pushed a carton of eggs and a bowl toward him and he got to work.
When the eggs were done, Julia worked on the frittata and Aaron toasted bread and set the table. As
soon as the meal was prepped, they went to the table, both keeping fairly quiet while they ate.
Ha. Awkward silence for breakfast. My favorite.
“You’re right. You do indeed make a pretty darn good frittata. Very good, thank you.” Aaron complimented the meal when he was done.
“I’m glad you liked it.” Julia finished her toast in one bite.
Aaron pushed back from the table a couple inches, picked up his plate and silverware and placed it on his lap. He gestured at Julia’s, making sure she was done before he took it, and she nodded.
“It is pretty wet out there. Not sure the plan for packing up lunch and finding a cool place to explore will work out today.” He placed the dirty dishes in the sink and turned on the faucet to start some hot water as he spoke. They had talked about doing a picnic that afternoon but with the rain still coming down and didn’t look to be letting up, that plan was out the window.
“Yeah…,” Julia said from the table.
She doesn’t sound too excited.
Aaron filled the sink with hot water and squirted in some dish soap. The work would need to be done by hand as there was no dishwasher. Old school like. He proceeded to wash all of the dishes that had been used to prep breakfast and the tableware they had used. Julia came to the sink and rinsed the dishes before laying everything out on dry towels on the counter top. Again, they were quiet while they worked.
“I’m sorry we can’t do lunch, Julia.” He offered.
“It’s fine. No big deal.” Her response was clipped.
When they were finished, Aaron dried his hands on a towel. “I’m going to get a shower.” He said as he looked up at Julia. She nodded and he turned to leave the kitchen.
She might just need some alone time. Give it to her.
He stopped in the bedroom and grabbed a clean pair of pants, boxer briefs, socks, and another shirt before heading to the bathroom. Sitting in the shower a few minutes later, Aaron let the hot water spray down over his head and shoulder, which he rotated slowly to gently stretch the muscles. It felt better that morning and he knew he was on the mend. He relaxed in the heat of the shower for a while then washed his hair.
Julia was on his mind in a big way. He wondered what was bothering her. He thought things had been fine after he let her tend to his shoulder with the ice and massage the night before, but she had woken up and been…different. Quieter. Reserved, even. He was perceptive guy and could pick up on things easily. Something was off.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe she’s pissed off about something.
Aaron reached out and turned off the water but sat for a moment, unmoving. He and Julia had the whole day ahead of them and they would leave the next morning. The weekend had not gone completely as expected, between the spill he took and the consequences from that, and now, the weather. He decided he would make the best of it though, something he was used to doing.
Aaron dried off with a big, fluffy towel, then shifted over to the seat of his wheelchair. He put on his boxer briefs, a pair of drawstring pants, an undershirt, a long sleeve t-shirt, and then his socks. He pushed over to the sink and looked into the foggy mirror. He thought he could use a shave but then decided against it. He scrubbed the towel over his head to dry his hair some more then turned around to reach and hang it up. By his estimation, Aaron thought had been gone for a good half hour, purposely taking his time in the bathroom. He opened the door and crossed into the bedroom to deposit his dirty clothes. He hoped that giving Julia a little bit of space would make a difference. He left the bedroom and turned into the living room.
Julia was laid back on the couch, head propped on a pillow, and was reading the book in front of her face. It wasn’t until she heard Aaron’s hands on his wheels that she even knew he was in the room. She looked over the top of the book at him as he went into the kitchen to get a bottle of water from the refrigerator.
She watched him silently, simply just taking in his appearance and demeanor.
Maybe if he weren’t so great…I wouldn’t…
She shut down the thought.
Breakfast had been rough. She had been quiet because she was afraid that at any moment the words would come spilling out like a pipe had burst.
I love you. I am in love with you. Love. Love. Love!
With the acceptance that she was, in fact, in love with Aaron, Julia had withdrawn, but only because
she didn’t take the love thing lightly. Never had, never would.
This guy had come into her life and had completely shaken it up. She had never expected to fall that hard that fast, but it was happening, and it was a lot to take in. She had tamped down the feeling as best she could, to let it settle, but it would be hard to keep it down for long. They had the entire day ahead of them, and with the weather outside, they would most likely be in close proximity for the next twenty four hours. This would be a challenge that Julia was not at all prepared for.
In the kitchen, Aaron twisted the cap off of the bottled water and then took a big drink. When he came in he saw that Julia was on the couch reading; she hadn’t even so much as looked up at him. He glanced over at the living room and could see Julia’s head still on the pillow. He took another drink of water.
Just go talk to her. Pansy.
Aaron finished the water in a few gulps then tossed the empty bottle. He wheeled across the kitchen and slowly made his way around the couch where he stopped short of where Julia lay.
She brought the book down from her face and turned to him.
“Hello again.” She said as she folded the edge of the page down and closed the book.
“Hello,” he gave her a nod and a slight smile.
She kept looking at him, never breaking the eye contact.
“What can I do?” He asked quickly as he leaned down closer to Julia, forearms on knees. “I mean, for you.”
Julia’s expression changed then and she straightened to sit up. “I’m…not sure…what you mean…?”
“If you want to talk, I mean. Or if I’ve done or said something wrong…,” he rubbed his palms
Oh god. He thinks I am mad at him.
Julia shook her head.
No, no, no. Crap. It’s not you. I’m just the crazy girl who’s too afraid to tell you that she loves you. Fix it.
“Aaron, no…you didn’t do anything. I’m just…,” Julia felt the feelings creep back up.
“I’m just being a girl. I’m having a moment. It’s me, I’m sorry.”
He nodded understandingly, seeming to believe her. “We can talk about it. If you want.”
Oh god. Aaron, you have no idea.
She stayed silent.
“And if you don’t, that’s fine, too. I just…,” Aaron pushed off his knees and leaned back in the chair. “I’m not trying to pry or bug you, I just want you to know that if you need to work something out,
I’m all ears.”
Julia felt herself nodding in agreement. “Thank you.” She reached out quickly and grabbed his hand.
“I’m being rotten and I’m sorry. But I’ll be fine.”
Aaron held her hand between both of is. “Alright.”
Now, move on. Pull yourself out of the crazy, girl.
They sat in silence for a minute, then Julia pulled her hand back and set her book aside.
“Do you want to finish the movie we didn’t get through?” She suggested, attempting to return to normalcy. She changed her sitting position, giving him room on the couch should he want to move over.
Aaron nodded in agreement. “Sure.”
Ok. This is ok. I am ok. I can do this.
Julia hadn’t gotten much sleep since they turned in that night. She lay there next to Aaron in the dark and listened to him breathe. She couldn’t take it anymore; she had to get it out.
“Aaron…,” she whispered as she placed a hand on his chest. He didn’t move.
“Hey,” she said softly. “Aaron.”
He sucked in a deep breath and turned his head to her. “Hmm? What’s up? Are you ok?” He squinted through sleepy eyes.
There was no preface for what she needed to say.
“I…,” she stopped herself.
“Julia? What is it?” He began to twist to roll onto his side.
She couldn’t say it. The words wouldn’t actually come out.
Aaron’s face grew concerned and he studied her closely. “Are you alright? Talk to me.”
Aaron, I am in love with you.
“I… I thought I heard something. It’s nothing… I must have dreamed it.” Julia lied. She had lost her nerve.
Aaron nodded in confusion. “I can go look…” He started to move to get up.
Julia shook her head quickly. “No! No, no. It’s fine. I’m sorry I woke you. Let’s go to sleep.”
She put a hand on his chest in assurance. “Sorry.”
He settled back and yawned. “Ok…”
Julia turned and looked up at the ceiling, sighing deeply.
Comments and feedback appreciated! From now on, you can expect updates on a bi-weekly basis. : )