Kieran was amazed when he woke up on Tuesday at almost nine o’clock and realized he had not been awakened by anything extraordinary.
Fiona and Tyler had gone to work that day and the kids were back in school. He was by himself.
In the bathroom he took care of his bowel program, and cathed. After he had shaved he looked and felt a lot better. His hair was getting somewhat long and he combed through it. He felt good and refreshed with his first full night of sleep in weeks.
As he sat over his breakfast cereal he brought up the websites Sarah had sent him and clicked on the one again where he assumed Erin aka “Rinny” had posted an intro. He read over Erin’s intro again and saw more people had welcomed her and she had thanked some of them.
He looked over some of the discussions again and the more he read the less strange all of it seemed. He was determined to make Erin feel okay about being this way. If she was into him because of his paraplegia, then so be it.
He brought up his messages and typed:
Hey Erin, Good Morning baby. I hope your day at work is going good. I miss and love you. Looking forward to see you tonight. K
He sent the message off, and kept reading on the site. After breakfast he got ready and headed to the YMCA again. He needed to let off some tension and it felt good when he did his range of motion exercises first and then moved to the weight room and worked on some of the weight machines. He didn’t see any of the YMCA staff around so he couldn’t really do any free weights because he usually did need assistance with that, getting positioned right on the bench and having someone stand by and help him with the weights. He couldn’t do as much as he usually did anyways, he felt his body was still weak from all the stuff that had happened. At least he did some of his regular routine and felt good afterwards.
That evening Ashleigh was happy to go over to Erin’s house with Kieran. She was looking forward to hang out with her friend.
In the car Kieran asked her, “How are things in school?”
“It’s all right.”
“Only all right still. Are you still talking to that boy you told me about, Jake I think?”
“Yes, we talk every day in Algebra. I’m scared to talk more to him outside of school.”
Kieran tried to think of something to say, “Well, sometimes you need to let a person know that you care about them or they may slip away from you. You should ask if he wants to go to a movie or something. It’s all right for a girl to ask a boy out you know. Sometimes boys are shy too.”
“We are both shy I guess. But maybe you are right. I do need to let him know.”
Kieran smiled, “That’s my girl. How are your classes going?”
“I’m on all A’s so far but it’s getting harder now.”
Kieran looked over to her, “Hey, if you ever need help with anything you can come to me, you know that?”
Kieran laughed lowly, “I’m not all the way stupid.”
Ashleigh looked over at him, “I never said you were stupid Uncle Kieran.”
“I know, I said it…but I mean it. I want to help you if you have any issues, okay. I want you to do well in school so you can go to college. You and Dominic both…”
“Dominic says he wants to join the Military.”
Kieran cleared his throat, then replied with a smile, “Yeah, if I have anything to say in that, I won’t let that happen.”
“I’ve thought about it too.”
Kieran looked over to his niece, “When did that happen?”
“I’ve thought about that for a long time.”
“Ashleigh, I won’t let you join the Military. You can do a lot better than that.”
“But what if I want to become a nurse or doctor in the Military?”
Kieran sighed, “A nurse or a doctor?”
He had an idea why his niece was toying with this idea and she confirmed it when she replied, “I want to be able to help soldiers who get hurt like you did.”
He gripped his steering wheel a bit tighter and took a deep breath, “I was afraid you would say something like that.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
Kieran really didn’t have any good arguments and didn’t say anything for a moment, stopped at a traffic light and looked over to Ashleigh, “If that’s what you want, I know you’d be great in it. But I hope you’ll change your mind before that time comes.”
Ashleigh smiled, “Maybe, maybe not…”
“Well, I support you whatever you decide to do.”
He held his fist out to her and she fist bumped him with a smile.
They arrived at Erin’s house and while Ashleigh already made her way to the door, Kieran pulled out his wheelchair and transferred, then wheeled up toward the house. Erin had already opened the door for Ashleigh and the girls disappeared into the house. Erin stood in the door and looked beautiful.
She watched Kieran push his rims and wheeling up the path to the door. He looked up at her as he arrived at the three steps leading up to the small front porch.
Kieran glanced at the steps somewhat weary but Erin said, “Here, I’ll pull you up.”
He just nodded and spun his chair around facing the steps with his back. Erin grabbed a hold of the handles on the Quickie and while he pushed his rims backward, Erin pulled him up the steps. It wasn’t really difficult, Kieran was not too heavy in his wheelchair but she still made a note in her mind that as soon as possible she would have a ramp installed.
Once he was up Erin said what was on her mind, “I will get a ramp over the stairs as soon as I can.”
He smiled at her. Erin leaned down to him and kissed him, he gently touched her hips.
He followed her into the house. It smelled like food and there was carefree chatter from the girls, and a TV running in the background.
Kieran wheeled into the open family room attached to the kitchen and a dining area. The girls were lounging on the couch. Erin’s younger daughter Ciara came over and without shame stared at Kieran in his Quickie.
Erin explained warmly, “Honey, this is my boyfriend Kieran.”
She turned to Kieran, “This is Ciara, my younger one.”
Kieran reached his hand out to Ciara and he could sense she was not too sure about his being in the wheelchair and in their house. Ciara was only nine, five years younger than Chloe.
Kieran smiled at her, “Hi Ciara, nice to meet you. I like your name. You know it’s almost like mine. Did you know it originates from Ireland?”
Ciara shook her head suspiciously and Kieran kept smiling at her, trying to make her feel at ease, “Yeah, my name is Kieran and it’s spelled with a “K” and “ie” instead of a “C” and “ia”, but boys in Ireland are named Ciaran just like yours with “n” on the end of it. So it’s a good name definitely.”
Ciara seemed to relax some and was apparently impressed by Kieran’s explanation. She nodded and smiled, then walked away.
Erin smiled at him, “I knew you were good with kids.”
He shrugged his shoulders and smiled, “I don’t know.”
She walked into the kitchen and Kieran followed her.
“What would you like to drink?”
“I’ll take a beer if you have any.”
Erin pulled out a cold beer from the refrigerator and handed it to Kieran. He was parked in the kitchen and twisted the cap off the bottle. Erin had a glass of wine already and she held it up and cheered at him. He held his bottle up to her and took a sip.
Erin drank from her wine and then set her glass back down, “Dinner is almost done, another 20 minutes.”
“What are we having?”
He held his hand out to her, “Come here.”
Erin felt her heart beat quickly and she walked over to Kieran. He put his break on and pulled Erin down onto his lap. She was excited and a little nervous still.
Kieran scanned her face and looked into her eyes.
Erin asked lowly, “So how do you know all this stuff about my daughter’s name?”
He smiled, “It’s a fact. You didn’t know this?”
“Yes, I knew it. What is it with your name anyways? It’s Irish all the way, isn’t it?”
“My grandparents came from Ireland. They lived in New York and that is where my parents were born. My dad got a job over here on the West Coast and we left New York. I think I was four. My mom was also from Irish descent so yeah, we are kind of full blooded Irish; thus the name.”
Erin nodded, “Interesting.”
Kieran smiled, “Fiona broke the streak marrying Tyler.” He laughed lowly.
“Well, I’m not Irish either but my name is.”
“You are not Irish?” Kieran pretended to be shocked, but grinned.
Erin laughed, “No, full blown American, from English descent.”
Kieran shook his head and bit his lips, “I can’t be with you then.”
Erin lightly pounded on his chest, “Whatever! Love doesn’t care about that stuff.”
“My grandparents are probably turning in their graves right now, and my parents…”
“Your parents are dead already?”
Kieran nodded, “My mom passed away eight years ago, she had breast cancer and dad had a fatal heart attack three years ago. I had just left for the deployment at that time.”
“It’s all right, that’s why Fiona is so overprotective sometimes. What about your parents?”
“They’re alive and well in Cali. We’re going down there for Thanksgiving.”
Kieran nodded, “Nice.”
Momentarily he thought about Erin not being able to spend Thanksgiving with him, but he pushed the thoughts away quickly. He stroked strands of hair from Erin’s face and then kissed her.
Dinner was delicious, the girls chattered happily at the dinner table, talking about school and all the seemingly horrible teachers they had. Ciara kept glancing at Kieran suspiciously and when he met her eyes he smiled at her. After dinner the girls disappeared in their rooms and Erin cleaned up. Kieran tried to help her some but couldn’t really do too much. One handed wheeling was not really easy. He would have to switch between pushing his rims and only slowly would make his way to wherever he needed to go.
Eventually Erin said, “You don’t have to help. Just get comfortable in the family room.”
She didn’t have to ask him twice and he wheeled into the family room. Erin looked after him and watched as he made his way over there. She loved so much seeing him maneuver his Quickie around.
When she was done in the kitchen she joined him.
She plopped onto the couch and pulled up her legs, then patted the spot next to her, “Sit up here next to me.”
She watched Kieran transfer and he somewhat fell over on the soft couch. They laughed as he was trying to find his balance and not fall all the way over. Erin didn’t let him get up anymore though, instead she pushed him down on the couch all the way and moved herself over him. Kieran’s legs were still dangling over the side of the couch some as Erin pressed herself to him and kissed him hard.
Kieran was caught off guard some but enjoyed Erin’s assertiveness and pulled her close to him, running his hands through her hair and kissing her just as demanding.
Erin was breathing quickly and hushed into his ear, “You’re so hot. I can’t get you out of my head. I think about you day and night.”
Kieran felt her weight on his body and her excitement about being with him.
She nibbled on his earlobe and whispered, “I wish we would have this place to ourselves.”
Kieran ran his fingers over her face and down her neck.
He hushed, “It would be nice.”
In reality he was actually okay with not having the house to themselves because he still didn’t have a clue how he would pull off sex with Erin. He knew penetration wasn’t possible for him since he didn’t have erections anymore ever.
Erin suckled on his neck and let her tongue travel down to his collar bone. She took in his masculine scent and pushed herself harder against his body. Wearing only a dress she felt Kieran’s legs in the jeans on her legs but she didn’t feel him getting hard in his crotch. Nonetheless she was very excited and aroused at thinking about his body.
Kieran tampered down the excitement some and held Erin back a little, “I love you Erin.”
“I love you baby.”
Erin looked at him warmly, “Are you all right?”
“Yeah, it’s just that…you know…”
Erin kissed him softly on his cheek, “I do know…and I can’t wait to explore sex with you in whichever way that’ll be. Nothing will happen tonight, baby. After all the girls are right there in their rooms.”
“I really want to be with you Erin and I wish I could just go for it but I’m not all the way sure how to. You’re my first since the injury, and I know there are ways to get an erection with meds but I haven’t tried it and I don’t know much about it. I think it’s only on prescription.”
“I don’t care for an erection, that’s not what I need. I’m sure there are other ways, baby. I can’t wait to be with you all the way…maybe we should go away this weekend. The girls are with their dad again. Maybe I can get off on Friday.”
“That would be awesome. I really could use some time away with you.”
Kieran played with Erin’s curls and after a few moments he asked lowly, “So, I have a question.”
Erin shifted some and smiled, “Yeah, what is it?”
Kieran kept playing with her hair, “Do you know someone named Rinny?”
Now Erin sat up some and Kieran pushed himself up on his elbows to pull up on the couch more. His legs were still dangling over the side of the couch and he pulled them up onto the couch then. Erin gave him some space and watched him curiously. Her arousal was still lingering at watching Kieran but she knew nothing would happen with him yet. She wanted to be with him so much more though and couldn’t wait for the weekend.
Kieran positioned himself on the two pillows behind his head and then opened his arms for Erin to lay back on him. Erin had not answered yet.
“Do you know her?” He stroked his hand over her hair with her head resting on his chest.
She didn’t look at him, “How do you know?”
“Well, the intro fit you perfectly, divorced with two girls and all that….”
She looked up at Kieran, shrugging her shoulders some, “I didn’t know what else to do. All of it feels so strange and I feel like I’m a freak or something.”
He stroked his hand over her cheek, “Don’t say that, you’re not a freak. I read through some of the stuff on there and everyone actually seems super cool. I for one am very happy about the fact that you’re like that. I just hope I can live up to your expectations.”
She sat up and looked at him with her dark eyes, “Kieran, you don’t have to live up to anything. I love you just the way you are and everything about you. I want to learn everything about paraplegia and I want you to teach me. I love the whole person that is you.”
“And that sounds perfect to me…I’m paraplegic and you’re into that, what more could I want. We’ll go through this together. I need your help too and I will help you just the same. I love you so much Erin and I’m just so happy our paths crossed. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
She pressed herself to him again, “I love you. You’re exactly the kind of man I dreamt about but I pushed these things away forever because it didn’t seem right and I didn’t know that this actually had a name.”
Kieran stroked strands of hair from her face and they kissed long and hard again but Erin kept her arousal in check. Nothing could happen between her and Kieran that night but a weekend getaway sounded like exactly what they needed.
Soon they sat cuddled next to each other on the couch and on Kieran’s phone they checked out various options for their weekend getaway, accessibility being a priority. Their final choice fell to an accessible resort on the Oregon coast, with access to the water by way of a paved path over the beach directly from the hotel. When Kieran had finished the reservation she kissed him excitedly.
“I’m so happy and can’t wait for the weekend.”
The plan was to leave on Friday and come back on Sunday night. They spent the rest of the evening in a loving embrace when around ten it was time to go because the girls did have school the next day.
It was on Wednesday when Kieran was on his way to his support group at the VA hospital. He parked his Mustang in a spacious disabled spot and got all his things out, transferred into his Quickie and wheeled along the sidewalk toward the main entrance. It seemed a busy day with lots of people walking in and out and even inside the lobby it was crowded with people. Kieran made his way down to the basement floor to the coffee shop.
As he approached the coffee shop Michelle had spotted him already, and called out cheerfully, “Kieran, my love!”
He smiled at her wheeling up to the counter, “Hey Michelle, how are you?”
She smiled over her whole face, “Now with you here I’m super good. How are you hot stuff?”
There were no other guests waiting.
Michelle laid halfway across the counter, “As always?”
“Same as always.”
Instead of making Kieran’s coffee Michelle called out to her colleague to prepare his usual Latte Macchiato.
She stayed where she was and smiled, “What have you been up to?”
Kieran sighed and smiled, “Actually a lot of stuff has happened but it’s too much to tell.”
“Tell me sweetie.”
Kieran tilted his head some, “I don’t know if you really want to hear it?”
“Try me.” Michelle rested her chin on her hand with her elbow on the counter.
Kieran started, “Well, for one - I have a girlfriend now.”
Now she stood up and looked at him with big eyes and a little frown, “What?”
“Yes, I have a girlfriend now.”
Michelle actually looked sad, “You’re breaking my heart right now, Kieran love.”
Kieran nodded with a shy smile, “That’s why I didn’t want to tell you….”
She was sad but not at a point of really being upset or angry with him. She had always had a crush on Kieran and she had never made a secret out of it but she was a lot younger than him and Kieran had kept telling her often enough that nothing was going to happen between them. Michelle knew that but she never had stopped flirting with him when he came around. She saw guys all the time and had left her options open.
Now she just looked at Kieran and smiled, “She’s a lucky girl. What is her name?”
Michelle laughed, “I’d love to be Erin.”
Kieran laughed with her and Michelle added, “So, are you happy?”
“I am now. It had been a bit rough the last couple of weeks but it’s all good now.”
“Did she not want you?”
Kieran shook his head, “More like me being an idiot.”
“You…what did you do?”
“I didn’t know what I wanted at first….I know it now.”
Michelle handed him his coffee, “Kieran, you needed someone and I’ve been waiting for the day when you come here and tell me that you’re hitched. Even though I had never given up hope that you would ask me out one day I’m happy for you. You really deserved this.”
She laughed and then came around to the front where Kieran had pushed his wheelchair over to the side.
She hugged him, “She’s a lucky girl. I want to meet her sometime.”
Kieran smiled at her when she let go of him, “Maybe one day.”
With the Latte Macchiato in between his thighs Kieran carefully pushed his rims and made his way over to the elevator to get to his support group.
In the hallway he heard Brandon behind him, “Kieran?”
He spun his chair around, “Hey man.”
Brandon came up to him, “K-Man, I wrote you back the other day when you asked to go for a beer. I never heard from you again.”
“Sorry man, something came up.”
Brandon looked at Kieran suspiciously, “What came up?”
Kieran shook his head quickly, “Dude, you don’t want to know.”
“What do you mean? What happened?”
“It’s a long story. Some other time. I’m good man. Let’s go to the meeting.”
They made their way to their support group. Terry and most of the group was already there. Everyone greeted each other warmly and Kieran claimed his spot next to Brandon.
After the initial greeting Terry asked, “Does anyone want to share anything with the group today?’
Kieran waited a moment but no one said anything and he started lowly, “I have a girlfriend now.”
Most people in the group smiled at his revelation and Terry stated warmly, “That’s great news Kieran. Is it the girl you were talking about in our last meeting?”
“Yes, her name is Erin.”
“I’m happy for you Kieran. Do you want to share more about Erin?”
“Not really, she’s amazing and I love her.”
Brandon looked over at Kieran surprised about the obvious deeper feelings his friend had for Erin. He nodded in confirmation toward his friend.
Terry took control of the discussion again and here and there members started sharing what had been going in their lives lately. Not everyone was doing well and there were some tears.
After support group Kieran made his way out into the lobby with Brandon walking next to him.
Brandon asked again, “So Erin is the real deal then, huh?”
Kieran nodded while pushing his rims, “Yes, she is.”
“You love her?”
“You should come over to the house sometime. Let’s get together for a BBQ before summer is all the way over.”
Kieran looked up at Brandon, “That would be great.”
Outside the hospital Brandon stopped before he parted ways with Kieran and looked at him, “So, everything is going good for you then?”
"Yes, I’ve had a couple of rough weeks but it’s better now. I’m very happy with Erin in my life.”
Brandon nodded, “I’m happy for you, man.”
Kieran changed the subject, “So, when is your baby coming?”
Brandon smiled, “Any day now…she’s due in four days. We are waiting man…she’s ready to pop.”
Kieran smiled, “That’s good…hey let me know when the baby is here. I’m going away for the weekend with Erin but text me or call me when it’s here, okay?”
“I will my friend. I will.”
“Are you ready for the baby?”
Brandon looked down and smiled, “I don’t know…it’s a big deal but I guess we're as ready as can be. It’s a good thing and I’m looking forward to hold it in my arms.”
Kieran could see the happiness in his friend’s face and Brandon added with a serious undertone, “I really need this baby in my life, man.”
Kieran nodded and replied, “I know…”
He knew Brandon struggled with PTSD just as he did, probably even more severe and Brandon needed something good in his life as well.
They fist bumped each other and then parted making their way to their cars. Kieran had a text message from Erin:
Hey baby, just thinking about you and the upcoming weekend. So looking forward to being with you. I love you.
Kieran replied before he got into his car:
Erin, hey, I am looking forward to the weekend too. Should I come by tonight for a little while? Love you.
Erin sent her reply just as quick and wrote that Ciara had gymnastics that night and she would have to take her there and stay and it would be too late until she got home. They decided not to see each other and eventually Kieran was on his way home.
Over dinner that night Kieran told the family that he was going away with Erin for the weekend.
Fiona looked over at him, “Where are you going?”
“Surf Sand Resort in Seaside.”
“Yes, we’re driving down there Friday and are staying until Sunday afternoon.”
Fiona ate a bite and then looked up again, “Is the place accessible?”
Kieran heard the tension in Fiona’s voice, “Yes, it is. We made sure of that. We booked an accessible room, the place is accessible all around and there’s even an access to the beach for wheelchairs.”
“Are you going to manage with travelling and all?”
Tyler cut in now, “Fiona, I’m sure Kieran will manage.”
Tyler threw a sharp look at Fiona, trying to keep her from being overbearing and suspicious of Kieran’s actions.
Fiona got the hint and kept eating and then said in a softer tone, “I’m sure you’ll have a great time.”
Kieran glanced at his sister and nodded, saying lowly, “Thanks.”
Dominic asked Kieran about the resort and what all he would be doing there.
Kieran smiled, “Just relaxing and enjoying time with my girlfriend.”
Dominic looked away with a grin, “Yuck, that’s gross.”
Ashleigh said, “You’re gross Nickie. Uncle Kieran has a girlfriend now and it’s not yuck. It’s super cool.”
That night Kieran couldn’t fall asleep and ended up playing Video games in his room while everyone else was asleep. He got caught up in the game and when he looked over at the clock he saw it was 12:30 in the morning. For a moment it struck him how he had been waking up at 12:48 all those nights over the last couple of weeks. He paused his game and let the controller drop next to him on the bed and he waited looking at the clock. When it jumped to 12:48 he couldn’t help a distant feeling of expectation for something to happen, for his legs to twitch, or his body to feel different. Nothing happened and the clock changed to 12:49, 12:50 and 12:51…
His body remained silent, not even a slight spasm and he just looked down at his legs and he pulled himself up some to sit more upright. He glanced over at the wheelchair next to his bed and then back down to his legs and he swallowed. It had come true, the proposition was determined when he had confessed his love for Erin and his decision to opt out of walking and in return to be with the woman he loved. Now the experience of having been able to walk and stand in the last couple of weeks seemed like it had all been a dream or really more of a nightmare. It had felt so very good and had stirred emotions of pure joy in his heart but now there was nothing again. His legs felt invisible, they felt like someone else’s limbs that happened to lay on his bed. He didn’t feel the material of his lounge pants on his legs and he didn’t feel his hand on his belly. The lower half of his body starting at the T-4 vertebrae was gone again to another realm, one that Kieran wasn’t part of and never again would be.
He felt the knot in his throat and tried to swallow it away. He pulled his phone over and texted Erin:
Erin, baby, are you there?
To his surprise he saw the phone showing Erin typing a reply and he waited for a moment until her reply appeared.
Baby, yes, I am here. Why are you up? Is something going on?
Kieran decided then to call Erin. He felt the need to hear her voice and quickly he heard her voice on the other end, “Kieran, hey?”
She sounded worried and sleepy.
“Erin, I’m sorry. Did I wake you up with my text?”
“No, somehow I was awake already. I didn’t sleep good. I was thinking about you. Are you okay Kieran?”
“I’m okay but I was up playing video games when I realized it was almost 12:48. Somehow I expected something to happen I guess…”
He stopped and before he could say anything else, Erin replied, “And then you realized nothing was happening?”
“Yeah, it kind of hit me tonight….”
“Kieran, I’m sorry…”
She felt bad for him but at the same time she now also felt like somehow it was her fault that he was not able to experience those things anymore.
Lowly she said into the phone, “Kieran, I love you very much.”
That was all she could think of to say to make him feel better.
He was quiet for a moment and Erin asked, “Kieran, are you there?”
“Yes, I’m sorry Erin…I just…I guess it kind of hurts. I love you too.”
“Kieran, just think about the weekend. I’m so looking forward to spend it with you.”
“I’m looking forward to it too. Well, I should let you go back to sleep. I’m sorry I woke you up.”
“You didn’t, but you should try to get some sleep now.”
“I will. Sleep good baby. Maybe we can get together tomorrow after you are off work?”
“Yeah, I will call or text you tomorrow. I love you Kieran.”
“I love you too.”
Kieran dropped the phone next to him on the bed and leaned his head back on the headboard, looking up at the ceiling and taking a deep breath. He then looked down at his legs again and over at the Quickie next to his bed and with another sigh he pushed his body down into the bed, adjusted his legs and found a comfortable position to fall asleep in.