Kieran opened his eyes when he heard a soft knock on the door.
He lifted his head some, “Yes.”
His head still hurt a lot and he pressed his lips together in pain.
Ashleigh appeared in his room and looked around cautiously, “Where’s Chloe’s mom?”
“She went home.”
Ashleigh knew right away that her uncle wasn’t feeling well and she approached his bed, “Uncle Kieran, are you all right?”
“Not really. Can you do me a favor?”
“The kitchen cabinet over the fridge has my pain meds in it. Can you get me two Extra Strength Tylenol?”
Ashleigh was aware that her mom kept the medications away from Kieran for a reason and she contemplated for a moment if it would be all right to get him the pain medication.
Kieran felt her apprehension, “Ash, I’m really hurting okay…it’s all right for you to get two tablets for me.”
“Okay, I’ll be right back.”
She hurried into the kitchen and had to climb on the counter to reach the cabinet, high above so Kieran could never reach it. She found the Tylenol among many other bottles and brought two tablets to Kieran, closing the door to his room behind her.
Kieran swallowed the tablets with some water and then leaned his head back with a moan, “Shit…”
Ashleigh sat down on the bed and looked at her uncle for a moment.
With a weary expression she then asked lowly, “Why is everything weird now?”
Kieran barely opened his eyes and blinked at his niece, “What do you mean?”
“What happened last night was really scary…I don’t understand.”
“Believe me, I don’t understand it either.”
“Are you not really paralyzed?”
Kieran now opened his eyes now and held his hand out to his niece.
She laid her hand into his and he closed his hand around hers, saying lowly, “I am really paralyzed Ash…but this stuff has been happening to me ever since I met Erin and I have visions of this old guy who just appears and so far told me some really crazy shit. It all scares the hell out of me and I wish so much that this would only be some weird nightmare I could wake up from. It’s fucking real though and it freaks me out and also pisses me off. I don’t know what to do. Basically the guy says I have to decide between Erin and walking again. That’s a fucked up deal.”
Ashleigh lowered her eyes at her uncle’s swear words.
Lowly she stated, “So you have to give up Erin in order to be able to walk again?”
Kieran looked at her with sad eyes, “Yeah, that is kind of the deal I guess.”
“Do you love Erin?”
Kieran didn’t answer right away and thought for a moment. It hurt him to think about it all but it was impossible for him to ignore the feelings emerging for Erin. He couldn’t stop thinking about her and he couldn’t even imagine not having her in his life anymore.
Ashleigh repeated, “Do you?”
He looked directly at her, “I do but it’s the hardest and most unfair deal.”
He paused and his voice trembled when he continued, “But standing and walking, and seeing myself in the mirror upright, tall and straight is….it’s…” He tried to swallow the clump in his throat, “It’s so amazing…and it hurts so much every time it goes away again. I can’t keep doing this for much longer. I know that. It’s getting to be too much.”
He wiped over his eyes with his hand, trying to keep the tears contained. Ashleigh also felt tears in her eyes at her uncle’s situation.
She asked lowly, “Why is this happening to you?”
Kieran thought about the reasons he was told why this was happening.
He explained lowly, “The night I got hurt in Afghanistan I apparently made a deal that I would give up love if I wouldn’t lose my ability to walk.”
Ashleigh looked at Kieran in disbelief. She couldn’t imagine that this was actually real and even though she wanted to believe her uncle she was concerned about his mental health.
She didn’t know what to say to all of it and instead of saying anything she moved up and hugged him tightly and muttered into his hair, “I want you to be okay.”
All he could say was, “Me too.”
Ashleigh sat up again, “Do you need anything right now?”
“I think I’ll just lay here. I can’t really move much with my head. I hope the pain meds will help some.”
“I love you Uncle Kieran.”
“I love you Ash, thanks.”
Ashleigh left him in his room and Kieran just laid there.
The tablets kicked in somewhat and the pain in his head became lighter, not as strong anymore and while sitting there with his eyes closed he actually fell asleep again.
Erin had arrived at home and now regretted she had left Kieran. She dropped her purse onto the kitchen table and went straight to her room where she fell on her bed and cried, eventually falling asleep as well.
Kieran woke up when he slumped over to the side, landing with his head on the pillow next to him, the pillow Erin had used during the short eventful night.
He smelled the lingering scent of Erin’s hair and he stayed on the pillow for a moment, lying awkwardly on the bed, his hips twisted and his legs crossed over each other.
Slowly he moved his body in position and laid on his back glancing at the clock on his bedside table. It showed almost 11 o’clock. He saw his bedroom door was wide open and just then Fiona came in.
He didn’t sit up or move but only watched his sister come up to the bed, “How are you feeling?”
Kieran concentrated on his head for a moment and realized it wasn’t as bad at the moment.
He mumbled his answer, “All right I guess.”
Fiona held a tray in her hands.
“I brought you something to eat and drink.”
Kieran slowly pushed himself up into a sitting position again.
Fiona didn’t say anything else and brought over the small lap table Kieran had in his room for the times when he couldn’t get up and in the past had to eat in his bed.
She set the tray with food onto the lap table and Kieran thanked her lowly.
He saw a sandwich, water and a yogurt.
Fiona then sat down on the bed, “Where is Erin?”
“She left earlier. She was tired and exhausted and wanted to get some sleep at home.”
“Oh, okay. How does your head feel?”
Fiona looked at her brother for a moment, then asked lowly, “Kieran, I’m worried about you. Please tell me you are okay.”
Kieran lowered his eyes, “Everything I told you last night and what you saw was real. You can either believe me or not. I have no control over how you feel but I’m not lying to you. I only told you the truth last night. I know it’s all weird but it’s real and it’s happening to me all the time. I’m not crazy.”
Fiona sighed and looked at Kieran wearily, “Have you been taking your meds?”
Kieran looked at his sister tensely, “Yes, I’ve been taking my meds. Fiona, every fucking night I’m standing on my legs. I can walk, I can run and I don’t know why this is happening. There is more to the story and if I tell you everything you will still think I’m crazy, even more so than what you’re already thinking.”
Fiona kept her eyes on Kieran and said lowly, “More to the story?”
Kieran nodded, “Yes, there is more and it’s absolutely insane.”
Kieran looked from his sister down to his tray, “Fiona, you have to promise me that you won’t…” He stopped and sighed.
“I know with one call you have the power to get me admitted to the Psych ward and I have to know that you won’t do that to me.”
Fiona took a deep breath but she didn’t answer and she didn’t promise Kieran anything.
Kieran’s voice trembled, “I can’t tell you if you can’t promise.”
She got up and all she said was, “You should eat something.”
Kieran knew she didn’t believe him all the way and it hurt him to see his sister act that way.
He felt his hands tremble and his vision get blurry when he said tensely with a shaking voice, “Fiona...”
He swallowed and Fiona looked at him from where she was standing in the middle of the room.
Kieran continued with a shaky voice, “Fiona, you’re my sister…and I know in the past I caused you a lot of grief and worries but I need you to be on my side now. I can’t do this alone and you, Tyler, and the kids are the only people I have. I don’t know why this is happening to me but it’s fucking hard….”
His voice almost broke as he continued, “Please don’t leave me hanging. I need you guys. I’m not crazy, all this is really happening and I wish I could tell you otherwise. Apparently there is a proposition…”
Fiona’s expression turned curious as Kieran continued, “I’ve been seeing this guy, he appears to me and he told me I have to decide between love or walking again.”
Hearing himself he knew he sounded crazy.
Fiona stood there and said with a trembling voice, “You should eat something Kieran.”
She walked away and Kieran attempted, “Fiona, I’m not crazy…why can’t you believe me?”
She closed the door behind herself. Kieran knew she didn’t believe anything he had said.
Frustrated with his sister and the whole situation he hit the pillow with his fist. He didn’t feel like eating anymore and moved the tray away from himself to get out of his bed and into his wheelchair.
He wheeled over to his closet, picked out a T-Shirt, and slipped into it. He still wore his jeans and socks from during the night. Just then his phone announced a text message again and when he looked at it he saw it was from Sarah:
Kieran, here is another link you can show your girlfriend about devotees. I hope she will be okay. Let me know how it goes. Sarah
Without thinking Kieran forwarded the message along with the one from the night before to Erin, both messages with links to websites for devotees. He didn’t look at any of it but was determined to get out of the house. He couldn’t stand being in his room anymore and even though his head still hurt he had to get out.
He made sure his back pack had all his stuff in it and he threw another bottle of water in it, put his sneakers on and with the backpack on his lap he wheeled out of his room and straight for the garage. Tyler crossed his path, “Kieran, where are you going?”
“I need to get out of here right now. I’m going to Erin’s.”
“You shouldn’t be going anywhere right now. Isn’t your head still hurting?”
“It’s all right.”
Kieran pushed his rims and rolled by Tyler.
His brother in law was usually on Kieran’s side but now he was worried about what was going on, “Hey man, I don’t know if it’s a good idea for you to leave right now.”
Kieran looked at his brother in law with piercing eyes, “Tyler, just get out of my way.”
Tyler stepped over some and watched Kieran wheel by him and to the garage door.
Fiona appeared in the hallway, “Where are you going Kieran?”
“To Erin’s, I need to get out of here.”
“Kieran, you shouldn’t be driving.”
She came closer and Kieran was out the door and rolled down the ramp into the garage, “Leave me alone Fiona. You don’t believe any of what I told you. I’m not letting you get me admitted to the Psych ward again.”
He unlocked his Mustang and quickly transferred in, taking his wheels off the Quickie, stashing it all on the seat next to him when Fiona appeared next to the driver’s side, “Kieran, what are you doing?”
Tyler appeared behind her and put his hands on his wife’s shoulders as she was trying to stop Kieran from leaving.
Kieran didn’t answer, closed the door and opened the garage, then pulled out and drove off.
He didn’t really want to go to Erin’s. He really had no specific destination but he had to get away from the house and the people who didn’t believe him. A couple of blocks from the house he pulled into a parking lot and texted Andy:
Hey Andy, how is it going? Just wondering if you feel like getting together for a drink today or this evening? Let me know!
He sent the message off and then just sat there in his car, pondering and debating if he should drive to Erin’s house. He decided not to.
For about two hours he drove around aimlessly. He didn’t hear anything from Andy and eventually pulled his phone out and texted Brandon:
Hey man, how are you? Are you up for a drink today? Let me know!
It was afternoon now, almost four o’clock and Kieran drove all the way up to Seattle. Traffic was heavy on this Sunday afternoon.
Erin had stayed mostly in her bed all day. She was sitting up now, leaning on the headboard, crying as she looked at the websites Kieran had forwarded to her from the woman he had met at the bar. She was overwhelmed at reading about other woman like her, women who liked men with disabilities. It all was so difficult to process and she could barely admit to herself that she did belong to this group of women. But the more she read on the websites the more she realized that these women were all normal women and most of them standing with both feet in life, educated, established, independent, attractive women who shared one common bond. They were all devotees, attracted to men with various disabilities, attracted to men with Paraplegia, Quadriplegia, Congenital disabilities, Blindness, Deafness, Amputees or any other form of a disability. It was overwhelming for her to read about all of it but she now knew that she was indeed special with her attraction to Kieran. Of course she liked his personality just as much but the Paraplegia made it all the more exciting for her.
She just wasn’t sure any more about all the things that apparently were going on with Kieran and thinking about it more she realized how surreal it all was and how unbelievable.
Kieran parked his car in a disabled spot at the waterfront. It was a nice late summer afternoon. He just needed to be alone and think about everything. He assembled his Quickie, attached his back pack to the handles, and transferred into it, then locked his door. People were strolling along the waterfront. The view of downtown across the Sound was amazing. Seagulls were gliding over the water and landed on the surface to take breaks from their scavenger hunt.
Kieran looked out across the water and let his thoughts drift. He pushed his rims and slowly rolled along the path, people dodging him, and dogs trying to get a sniff of him in passing. Kids were running along the path, laughing and parents calling to them to slow down. He just wheeled along for a while, the pathway wound a couple of miles along the water and in even distances there were benches to rest on or piers to wheel right up to the railing and to be able to look down to the water. Some anglers had their lines cast out over the railing, reaching far out in the water, waiting for a bite.
Kieran was lost in thoughts. With everything going on he knew Fiona didn’t believe him all the way. He wasn’t sure about Erin either. Even though she had said she believed him and she would be there for him now he didn’t know anymore. The kids seemed confused at the whole situation from the night before and Kieran wasn’t sure what his brother in-law thought about all of this either. He remembered way too well his time in the Psychiatry unit of the VA hospital after his suicide attempts. With medications, therapy, and counseling they had been trying to help him. He still dreamt almost every night and often woke up drenched in sweat or actually shivering. He still wasn’t okay with his disability and he thought about Sarah from the bar and what she had told him. He hadn’t even looked at the websites she had sent him. Instead he had just forwarded them to Erin to deal with on her own. He pulled his Quickie over to a quiet area on one of the piers overlooking the water and he pulled out his phone. He found the messages from Sarah and clicked on the links she had provided.
He didn’t even realize how time went by as he was looking at the sites and all the things people were discussing and writing about. He learned more about what the word devotee meant. He realized that on some of the sites disabled men were actually very fond and open to the idea of devotees, women who would like them not only for their personalities or looks but also didn’t have any issues with their various disabilities. Women who had no problems being with a man with a disability. Women who only sought out men with disabilities. Women who had met their disabled significant other on the sites. He read through many of the messages and flew over some of the discussions. On the main website he ended in the Personals section and started looking through some of the intros of people when his eyes stopped on the newest intro, written just one hour earlier by a female.
Her avatar picture was a cartoon character with long brown hair, and dark eyes, her avatar name was “Rinny”.
His eyes scanned over the intro:
Hi everyone, I am a 33 year old divorced mother of two beautiful teenage girls and I just found out about this website. I am really overwhelmed with what I found here but I guess this is where I belong. I just recently met a wonderful man who is paraplegic and I was very attracted to him from the start. We hit it off but I felt that somehow his disability triggered certain feelings inside of me, feelings that scared me. It didn’t feel right that I am attracted to him partly because he is in a wheelchair. I didn’t know the term “devotee” until now and I’m still shocked at it all. I hope to find like-minded women here who can somehow guide me in this self-exploration. I care very much about this man, not only because he is paraplegic but it makes him even more attractive to me. He is a wonderful man and I think I love him but I’m still trying to sort out my feelings for him. Thanks for letting me be here.
Kieran read over the intro once more and putting it together in his head he knew it could only be from Erin. A few members had already welcomed her warmly. Holding the phone in his trembling hands he brought up the message option to Erin and typed:
Erin, I’m not sure why you left this morning. I know the whole “devotee” thing is kind of strange. I didn’t know about any of this either until I met Sarah at the bar. Believe me I was pretty dumb founded. I want you to know that this changes nothing in how I feel for you. You are the best thing that has happened to me in a long time and I hope we can figure this out together. I know there is too much shit going on with me right now and it’s really like a nightmare. I think I know what I want if the proposition is real. As hard as it is for me I can’t even imagine not having you in my life anymore. No one believes me, I know that. My sister thinks I’m crazy and I don’t blame her. She has been through a lot with me but I really hope you are with me on this. I need you very much and I want to talk to you about the proposition. I want to see you tonight or tomorrow. K
He sent off the message and lost in thoughts he looked out over the water again. He put his hands to his rims and realized it was getting dusk already. He had sat on the pier for over an hour reading on the websites. Close to the Beach was a restaurant and Kieran decided to go in to have a bite to eat and also catheterize.
He was seated at a table for two where they moved one chair away. The waiter introduced himself, brought the menu and Kieran ordered a Soda. Just as he was done looking over the menu he was stunned to hear a familiar voice and when he looked up he found the old man sitting across from him.
Kieran stared at him and nervously looked around the room for a moment trying to see if people were close by to where he was sitting.
He hissed in a whisper, “What do you want from me?”
“Just checking in on you. How are things going?”
The old man was wearing his suit again, his hat was on the table in front of him and he smiled at Kieran.
Kieran was angry already, “Things are going honkey dory for me. My sister thinks I’m whacked out, my girlfriend has doubts about my sanity and other than that I’m fucking wondering what the hell you want from me. Oh, and I forgot, when I was at my girlfriend’s the other night you didn’t let me get my nightly high of standing and walking. I looked like an insane idiot trying to show her what is happening to me every night, because guess what, it didn’t happen and I assume it was because she was there.”
He whispered the words still and the old man replied, “You are right about that. Erin won’t be able to see it.”
“So why did it still happen when my sister was there, and my niece?”
“They’re your family, it’s a different bond you share with them. That night you said you would trade the love of a woman for walking, not the love of your family.”
Kieran replied angrily, “Oh, shit, I actually specified when I made the deal with you. Fuck!”
He sarcastically laughed lowly just as the waiter came. The waiter looked at him questioningly and Kieran turned serious. He ordered his food and the waiter walked away.
Kieran turned to look at the old man again, “Can you leave me alone actually?”
“Have you decided on what you want to do?”
Kieran leaned back in his Quickie and glared at the old man with small eyes.
“I won’t tell you.”
“If you’re trying to keep both, that won’t work.”
Kieran tried to keep his voice down. He didn’t know that the waiter and one of his coworkers actually watched from afar and saw him talking and looking right across the table at nothing. They didn’t see anyone there. They saw Kieran talking to an invisible being.
The old man just nodded, “Yes, really! You will have to decide Kieran. Soon!”
“Maybe I haven’t made up my mind yet.”
“The longer you wait the harder it will get. You would hurt Erin in the process.”
Kieran leaned forward some and hissed, “Erin is the only person who sticks by me right now with this shit you’re doing to me.”
“So your decision should be easy.”
Kieran tried to keep his voice down, “Yeah, it’s a fucking easy decision. Very easy…the love of a woman who is the best thing that happened to me since this fucking injury or me walking again, a dream I have almost every night…It’s a fucking easy decision and you’re an asshole.”
The waiter came over with the silver ware, looking at Kieran suspiciously, “Is there anything I can get you sir?”
Kieran looked at him angrily and answered tensely, “No, you can’t get me anything right now. Just my fucking food.”
The old man sat silently across the table from Kieran just watching. The waiter was surprised at Kieran’s tone and he glanced at the empty chair across from him. Kieran realized he must have been loud enough so the waiter had possibly heard him.
“Your food will be right out, sir.”
Kieran tried to sound less tense, “Thanks.” He knew he had been rude.
He looked over at the old man again and hissed, “Can you leave me the fuck alone now? I don’t want to look at you, I don’t want to hear you, and I don’t even want to smell you.”
“Kieran, do you dream about all the people you have killed?
Now Kieran balled his hand into a fist, “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Not really anything. Just wondering if it still haunts you. I was there most of the times, you know.”
Kieran looked down onto his fist, taking quick breaths. When he looked up again the old man had leaned back and had folded his hands in front of his chest, just keeping his eyes on Kieran.
Kieran asked lowly, “Why are you doing this to me?”
“I’m not doing anything, I’m just talking about things. I know you have been through a lot and I know you just did your job but think about walking and how great that would be again. I could speed up the process, you could be walking in six months Kieran. You could run again, get fit and strong. You could walk along the beach, play Football with the kids. You could hike with your friends, you could take up mountain climbing or swimming or anything your heart desires….”
He stopped talking and Kieran felt his heart beat into his neck and his hands tremble.
“Shut the fuck up! Just go away!”
“I will go away after you make a decision, Kieran. And you really need to make that decision as soon as possible. You can’t leave Erin hanging. The quicker you make your decision the less pain you will cause everyone. Right now there are people hurting with what is going on, your sister and her family, and Erin.”
Kieran could barely keep his anger inside as he felt the tension increase.
He stared at his fists and the voice of the old man seemed to be coming from another world when he said, “You have caused misery for many people and you will be doing it again if you will not make up your mind soon.”
Kieran couldn’t control himself now as he took his glass and flung it across the table at the old man. His body was shaking now, his throat felt constricted and at that moment the waiter walked up holding a plate with Pasta in his hand, the food Kieran had ordered. The waiter stared at the glass shattered on the floor, then at Kieran who looked dark and angry at him.
“Sir, is there something wrong?”
Kieran still saw the old man across from him and there was not a drop of Soda on him, the glass had went right through him.
In an angry impulse Kieran turned to the waiter and without hesitation he led his hand up to the plate and pushed it out of the waiter’s hand toward the old man. Now the plate landed on the floor, food splattered everywhere and the old man just sitting there.
Kieran now yelled, “Leave me the fuck alone….”
The old man said, “Make your decision soon, Kieran.”
The waiter now was joined by two colleagues and when Kieran finally focused on them they looked concerned and confused. When he glanced back at the spot where the old man had been sitting, he saw it was empty.
Kieran put his hands to his rims, pushed the Quickie away from the table, and snarled at the waiters, “Get out of my fucking way!”
He pushed his Quickie right in between the three young waiters.
One of them called, “Sir, you need to pay for your meal and beverage!”
Kieran didn’t look back and just yelled, “Fuck you!”
He was filled with anger and rage and people watched him push his wheelchair swiftly through the restaurant, followed by the waiter and also by the restaurant manager now, calling to him, “Sir, you need to calm down and pay for your order! Sir, wait!”
Kieran didn’t stop and the manager ran after him. He caught up to Kieran and tried to hold his wheelchair to stop him. Kieran stopped his chair abruptly and his eyes darted at the manager, “DO NOT TOUCH MY CHAIR! Get your fucking hands off my chair!”
“Sir, you need to calm down. I’m not sure what the problem is here but you’re out of control.”
Kieran yelled at him now, “Yes, I’m fucking out of control…and you can’t do anything about it. Get your hands off my chair.”
The manager let go off Kieran’s Quickie and Kieran put his hands to his rims and wheeled toward the exit.
He heard the manager behind him, “I’m going to call the police.”
Kieran clumsily pushed the door open as he made his way outside. His whole body was shaking, his breathing came in gasps and he felt his heart race inside his chest.
Swiftly he pushed his Quickie to his car and unlocked it quickly.
He heard voices and foot steps behind him, the manager again calling, “I’m going to call the police sir.”
Kieran got into his Mustang and hastily stashed his wheelchair into the passenger seat. He was breathing fast, his vision was blurry and he was talking to himself.
He started the Mustang and revved the engine, and squealed his tires as he sped out of the parking lot.
The manager wrote down the Mustang’s license plate on the back of his hand and was talking to the police on the phone.
Kieran sped down the main road along the beach and made his way out of town. He ran a red light to turn left and he pushed the gas reaching 70 miles an hour within the city limits.
The whole time he mumbled to himself about the old man, the proposition, Erin, and his disability.
He had lost his temper big time and even though he knew it wasn’t good he couldn’t stop now. He sped over a bridge and made his way onto the Interstate, where he forced his way over to the far left lane and brought his speed up to over 80 miles an hour.