Obviously, Eli couldn’t chase her down the stairs; so it was clear Isabel had intended to get away from him where he couldn’t follow, where he was physically incapable of going after her, and the fact hurt. He knew he had no right to feel that way, it was him who had wronged her, but it still hurt. He felt as if Isabel had used his disability against him. For the first time since he had met her she had made him feel helpless and crippled, she had done so on purpose, knowingly, deliberately, without stopping to consider how it would make him feel, and that seemed cruel. Now he realized how she most have always been aware of all her words and actions before, to never in over six months have made him feel that way. Everyone else did, everyone, even Matt and Sarah or Jenna or a random person in the street would at some point put him in a spot that made his disability more obvious, where he felt exposed as a paraplegic. But never Isabel. She always acted the right way, said the right thing. Now it all seemed orchestrated.
He spun his wheels around and rolled towards the elevator as the door opened; but he didn’t get in. Instead he returned to his apartment and rammed at Matt.
“Why are you doing this?” he yelled at him.
“Eli, can’t you see? Jayson told her about you. She came to Boston to find you.” Matt started.
“Stop it! Shut up!” Eli caught him off. “Are you deliberately trying to make me miserable?”
“What? No, I’m trying to help you.”
“Well you don’t, you don’t help me. You treat me like a child, like an invalid and it doesn’t help. You do the opposite. You make everything harder. You try to do everything for me and it makes me feel worse. You remind me of just how disable I am, you make me feel useless and worthless. I know I’m not a catch. I know Isabel is too good for me and that it’s unthinkable for a woman like her to love someone like me. I know I’m a cripple, I don’t need you reminding me every second. What I need is for you to leave me the hell alone!”
“I just don’t want you to get hurt,” Matt replied.
“Well, I’m hurt. I’m hurt, Matt! Why would you do this? Why would you want to take away from me the one person who makes my life bearable, the one person who has been there for me through all this shit.”
Matt stayed quiet. His lips parted but he didn’t speak. He looked down at Eli, stared at him, and his eyes showed a deep sorrow that almost made Eli quiver. “I’ve been there for you,” he finally said merely above a whisper.
“This isn’t being here for me. This is screwing me over. I will say this one last time. Isabel is NOT a gold digger! Jayson told her about me as an architect. I wasn’t even on the chair when he told her about me. He’s certain he never mentioned the money. And if Isabel wanted money don’t you think she would’ve said yes to Jayson. He wanted to marry her and he’s far richer than me. So for the last time, stop meddling in my life. I know what I am, but for some crazy reason that woman actually likes me, as unthinkable as it may seem to you or me. She actually wanted to be with me and now you came here and screwed everything up. I hope you’re happy now.” Eli rammed at him with all the anger and frustration he had been bottling up.
“Get out of here!”
“Get out of my house. Get out of my life!” Eli yelled.
Matt stared at him silently for a couple of seconds and then he walked away.
Eli turned around with his chair to face the doorway. “Leave the key,” he said before Matt had reached the door.
Matt turned around and squinted at him, but Eli’s eyes were fierce. So Matt took out his keychain, removed the key and left it on a tray by the door.
Once he was gone, Eli wheeled to the bar and poured himself a scotch. He drained it in one gulp and poured a second one. How the hell was he going to fix this? Could he fix it? Or was she gone for ever? Had he lost her? He didn’t know what to do, whether to call her, go look for her, or let her cool off before trying to apologize. But being with Isabel had always been a stretch. Maybe she had finally come to her senses; maybe he had given her the perfect excuse to dump him. Maybe he should just let her go. It was the best thing for her. He couldn’t make her happy; it was selfish to tie her down to him; she deserved to be with am abled body man. Maybe… He couldn’t think anymore. He grabbed his hair with both hands.
“Damn it!” he cursed out loud.
But it was so unthinkable to be without her, to live without her. He didn’t feel strong enough to let her go. Finally he resolved to go to her apartment. Transferring into his car seemed longer than ever, tiresome, dreadful. He lifted his useless legs and they seemed to weight a ton. He looked down at his crippled body as he adjusted his position in the seat and felt disgusted by his flaccid gut and his skinny legs lying awkwardly to the side. How could he ask Isabel to be with him? He got to her building and waited for someone to step out and let him in. He took the elevator and rang the doorbell at her front door.
Isabel opened the door but stayed at the threshold. Her big blue eyes were bolting at him. Was it hatred in them? Could she hate him already?
“Is, I know you’re angry but please listen to me. Just let me explain,” he started.
“Save it,” she said in a low tone. “I don’t want to hear it. It was all pretty clear.”
“Look, Matt’s an ass,” he said.
“I could care less about Matt. What he says or thinks doesn’t hurt me. But you obviously agree with him and THAT… I want you to leave.”
“Is, no, please… I don’t think you’re a gold digger.”
“You clearly do,” she countered.
“No, Is, I don’t. Of course I don’t.”
“Oh but you do. So please leave,” she said in a pleading tone.
“No Is, just listen to me. I know you’re angry but…”
“I’m not angry,” she interrupted.
“You’ve every right to be,” he insisted.
“I’m not angry, Eli. I’m…” she stopped and looked away crossing her arms across her chest. And she really didn’t seem angry but immeasurably sad, devastated.
“I know you’re not interested in my money…”
“Don’t lie,” she caught him off again. “Just don’t, ok? Don’t disrespect me like that. I deserve that much.”
Eli took a deep breath. Perhaps he should have waited for her to cool off after all. Clearly she wasn’t going to hear him out now. He wasn’t lying to her… or was he?
“I thought you saw me, REALLY saw me. I thought you knew me better than anyone… I thought you loved me,” her voice trembled.
“I do love you,” Eli assured her.
“I thought you liked who I really am,” she continued as if she hadn’t heard him. “But it turns out you never even saw me.”
“Of course I did, Isabel. I do.”
Again she didn’t let him speak. “It turns out you don’t know me at all or you would’ve never thought…”
“I didn’t, Is,” now it was him who interrupted her. “I know you’re not like that. You’re beautiful and kind, and honest.”
“Yeah,” she said ironically. “I’m so honest you thought I had looked you up and what? Deliberately seduced you to get you to marry me? What was I going to do next? Ha? Tell me, was I going to kill you afterwards and keep your fortune?”
“No, of course not. I didn’t think that…”
“Stop lying to me!” she raised her voice. “You explicitly asked Jayson if he had told me about your money!”
“When I saw Jayson and you knew each other I…”
“Even before that,” she interrupted again. “Don’t tell me that’s not the reason you never mentioned your inheritance. And you know what? That’s ok. You didn’t have to tell me, it was none of my business, but the fact is that the reason you kept it a secret was that you always doubted me.” A tear rolled down her pink cheek and she turned around and gave her back to him.
Eli pushed his rims a little bit to come closer to her and grabbed her hand but she pulled away and turned to face him again.
“So why were you with me all this time? Did you decide I was pretty enough to risk your fortune? Did you think ‘Oh what the hell, she’s worth a few thousand dollars!’” she rammed at him. “I thought you saw past my looks. I thought you liked the person I am. I thought you of all people wouldn’t just want to get in my pants. But it turns out you’re just like every other man out there.”
“Ha,” Eli let out air. “So that’s why you were with me? Because I can’t feel sex so you thought I wouldn’t want to sleep with you?” Eli felt like a bullet had pierced him again. Quite literally, quite physically, he felt a stroke right in his chest that pushed him back against the rest of his wheelchair.
“No, you idiot!” she answered. “I was with you because I love you!” she almost yelled. “I love you and I thought you were the most amazing man alive. I thought you were so faulking special. So talented, so strong, so aware of what’s actually important. I thought you saw the world differently, like I see it. But I was wrong. Boy was I wrong! You never saw me; you just saw a pretty face and company. You were willing to buy it with all your stupid and worthless money. All you saw was a hooker!” She yelled and stepped inside the house.
Eli followed by pushing his rims hard to catch up with her. She had his back to him but he could tell she was crying.
“Is, no. NO. That’s not it. If you’d just let me explain.” He circled around her to face her.
“Leave! I want you to leave!” she said in that strong and irrefutable tone of hers.
“Isabel, please,” he begged.
“You obviously don’t think much of me, but you will respect me right now and leave my house. I don’t want you here. I don’t want to hear any more excuses. Go and buy yourself another woman,” she stated and now it was rage in her wet eyes.
“You’re right, ok,” he admitted. “I didn’t tell you about the money because I didn’t want to have a reason to doubt you and I‘m sorry. Isabel, I’m so sorry. But how could I not doubt. It makes no sense that you like me. You’re so perfect and I’m a cripple. How could I just believe that you liked me?”
“Oh, don’t!” she shook her head. “Don’t you play the cripple card,” she said and the word hit him like a splash of cold water. “I’ve gone out of my way to show you how much I like you. I’ve explained a thousand times what I like about you. I’ve made it perfectly clear that your disability is not an issue for me. Hell, I even like it. I think it makes you stronger, sexier. And I’ve told you so. So don’t expect me to feel sorry for you! Don’t expect me to say ‘Oh poor, Eli. He thinks no one would want him because he’s in a wheelchair, so it’s ok he thought I was after his money and stayed with me anyway’. Because it’s not! The fact that you can’t walk doesn’t make it ok!”
Eli shivered at the coldness with which she spoke those words. He took a deep breath and thought of what else to say. But she was right. He had always said he didn’t want pity, not form Matt, and certainly not from her, and yet, it was his only excuse. It was all he had to say. I thought so because I know I’m not worthy of you. I thought you wanted my money because you couldn’t possibly want me. Not this disabled and crippled me. I want you to forgive me because I’m paralyzed and that’s why I had doubts about you. You HAVE to forgive me because I had a reason. I had every reason to doubt. You have to understand that because you’ve always been so good at understanding how I feel. But then again she was also right when she said she had done everything in her power to convince him otherwise. She had shown him in every possible way that she liked him, not just intellectually but also physically, she had shown him he actually turned her on. So why hadn’t he believed her? She was right. He had insulted her deeply by doubting her. He had taken all her kindness and understanding and flushed it down the drain. She had showed him acceptance and he had discarded it.
He analyzed her countenance and realized she was so deeply hurt. He had hurt this beautiful creature that had saved him. The one person who had as she’d put it, seen past his looks, seen past the evident and liked him for who he really was. Tears were rolling down her lovely face and he was the cause of them. How could he have done this to her?
“Isabel I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you,” he pleaded.
Isabel started taking short shallow breaths to stop crying. She dried her tears with the back of her hand.
“Is…” he couldn’t stand to watch her cry.
“Please leave,” she whispered.
“I don’t want to leave things like this.”
“Please,” she begged.
Eli pondered for a moment but he couldn’t think of anything to say that would make it better, so finally he put his hands on his rims and turned his chair around. He took a deep breath and pushed his wheels to roll out of the apartment. He heard the door close behind him and sighed before continuing towards the elevator.