Monday, February 29, 2016

Building Love Chapter III


"Hey, where have you been?” Eli heard Matt say as he wheeled into the living room. Matt was his best friend. He had a key to his apartment, which he used quite often to check on him. He had actually been more than a little reluctant to let Eli live alone after his injury; but he had been forced to agree to it, mostly by his wife, who probably didn’t want him around as a third wheel all the time. Still, Matt checked on Eli every day, either over the phone or by coming to see him, especially on weekends.


“Hi,” Eli greeted him. “I went to the Public Garden."


“I called you like a thousand times,” Matt said.


“Really?” Eli took his phone out and saw seven missed calls from Matt. “Sorry, I didn’t hear it. But seriously Matt, seven calls? What are you a jealous girlfriend?” Eli jocked.


“You’re in a good mood,” Matt sounded suspicious.


“What?”


“Why did you go to the garden?” Matt asked acting like a detective.


“To draw.”


“Where’s your notebook?” Matt got up from the couch and walked towards Eli to examine him up close.


“My what?”


“Why are you lying to me?” Matt accused him.


“What?” Eli asked feeling Matt was acting crazy.


“You’re lying to me, and you’re not any good at it. You don’t have so much as a pencil on you,” Matt rammed at him.


“You do realize you sound like a bitter old wife, don’t you?” Eli attempted to get off the subject. “How’s Sarah?”


“I wanna know where you were,” Matt ignored his comment.


“I told you. I was at the Public Garden,” Eli repeated running out of patience. Matt was the closest thing Eli had to a family but he had a bad habit of overstepping in his life.


“Stop lying. Come on, if you were at the garden then show me a drawing,” Matt dared him.


“Seriously?” Eli snapped. This was too much. “What the hell is the matter with you?”


“Were you at the doctor?” Matt asked.


“What?”


“Is something wrong? I know you don’t like to talk about this stuff but if you are not feeling well you have to tell me,” Matt urged him.


“I wasn’t at the doctor,” Eli dropped his guard now that he realized what Matt was thinking. “I was at the garden. I just didn’t go there to draw this time.”


“Then why did you go?” His friend was still skeptic.


“I was there with someone.”


“With who?”


“Isabel Auburn,” Eli hissed.


“The woman from MS Corporation?” Matt was Eli’s lawyer, so he was aware that his newest project was a building for a security company that was opening a branch in Boston. Isabel Auburn was here to oversee the construction and she had power of attorney, so Matt had talked to her over the phone to discuss Eli’s contract.


Eli nodded. “She’s new in town, so I was showing her the city.”


“Really?” Matt suddenly changed his tone and relaxed his expression. “Why didn’t you say so?”


“Because I wanted to avoid the interrogation,” Eli confessed.


“Oh…, so you like her,” Matt taunted him. “What’s she like?”


“She’s great.”


“So, are you seeing her again?”


“It wasn’t a date,” Eli clarified.


“Regardless. Maybe if you spend time with her… I’m sure if she got to know you she’d go on a date with you.”


Eli couldn’t help feeling insulted by his words. “Oh, you’re sure?” He said spiteful.


“Of course,” Matt replied without catching his tone. “Just give it some time and she’ll…”


“She’ll what?” Eli interrupted. “…see past the wheelchair?”


“Well, yeah.”


“Yeah, right.”


“Eli…”


“Why don’t you mind your own business for once and leave me alone,” Eli snapped rudely and turned around, using his hand to signal Matt towards the door.


“Eli…”


“Just leave me alone, Matt.”


“You’ll find someone, you just gotta give it some time,” Matt looked at him with pity in his eyes, not even slightly angry at Eli’s rudeness.


“Look. I’m kind of tired. Ok? I’m going to bed.”


“Are you ok? Do you need anything?” Matt offered.


“I’m fine,” Eli was fed up with Matt. “I’ll call you tomorrow,” he said and rolled away towards his bedroom.





They talked over the phone twice during the following week. They started out discussing work but ended speaking about all kinds of things. Eli enjoyed Isabel’s candid tone, as if they had known each other for a lot longer. It seemed strange to him that she treated him so naturally; perhaps it wouldn’t have, back when he could walk; but now, he felt as if there was an invisible wall that kept everyone at arm’s length, even the people closest to him like Matt and Sarah. And yet there seemed to be no wall between him and Isabel. Part of him feared it was all in his mind, that he was imagining it; after all he had only just met her. But whenever he heard her voice or read a text from her, his doubts seem to dissipate a little.


Friday morning Eli woke up again before dawn, nervous because he was going to see her that night at the Inauguration. He had offered to pick her up at her apartment, which she had accepted happily. That afternoon, Eli got into his best suit. As he looked at himself in the mirror to fix his tie, he thought not even the most expensive suit could hide his disability. He used his hands to shift his position in his chair, straightening as much as he could, and then he button the jacket over his slightly pronounced belly. He had once been very fit, and even after getting hurt, he hadn’t stopped exercising, but the more time went by the more he had a gut. He hadn’t actually gained weight, quite the opposite, because many days he simply didn’t have an appetite; still, there was a distinctive tummy that he was literally incapable of sucking in. Eli looked down at his immobile legs picturing how they would thin over the years. He had never been particularly worried about his looks, perhaps because he had always considered himself good looking; but he couldn’t help but dislike the way his body resembled that of a disabled person more and more. He had to force himself to think about something else, like the fact that his building had turned out perfect, to try to get his mood up, because he didn’t want to show up at the party depressed.


At eight o’clock, he parked in front of Isabel’s building and texted her to come down. His palms were sweaty again and he thought he felt like a bloody teenager about to pick up his prom date. He took a deep breath trying to steady his heartbeat and managed to calm down a little, but when he saw her walk through the building door, heading towards his car, he suddenly went out of breath. She looked amazing on a shiny dark blue gown, her red hair elegantly up and long earrings that accentuated her long neck. She got in the car and kissed him in the cheek.


“Hi,” she said with that smile he was growing addicted to.


“Hi,” he managed to say back.


“You clean up nice,” she complimented him and he had to swallow hard to be able to reply.


“You look dazzling,” he uttered.


“Thank you,” Isabel grinned.


They arrived at the party and Eli showed her around the building while being interrupted again and again by people complimenting him for his design. The owner of the building gave a short speech praising him for his work and talent. Afterwards he was overwhelmed by the amount of people who were actually standing in line to shake his hand and congratulate him. He lost track of Isabel amongst the crowd. When it started to dissipate he looked around for her but was suddenly startled by a familiar voice.


“Hello, Eli,” he heard a female’s voice and he looked up to find a beautiful blond woman.


“Melany,” he said trying to sound normal.


“Congratulations. The building is amazing,” she said smiling as if nothing had ever happened between them.


“Thank you,” he said coldly.


“It’s great that you’re working again. I was worried that you wouldn’t be able to… Anyway, it’s great that you’re doing so well.”


“Yeah, I’m doing great, Melany,” he said unable to hide the resentment from his tone.


“It’s good to see you again. We should get together and talk,” she suggested.


“About what?”


“I want to know how you’re doing, and maybe keep you company sometimes. I mean, I feel like I owe you that,” Melany pushed her blond hair back.


“Owe me what?”


“Well, you were so selfless to let me go and not want to tie me down to you,” she started to explain. Was she for real? As if he had had a choice when she left him while he was still in rehab. He watched her go on incredulous. “You wanted me to be happy and you understood I wouldn’t be if I stayed with you. I wanted you to know that I am happy. I’m engaged.”


“That’s great, Melany,” Eli fought the urge to turn around and leave.


“But I could still come and see you sometimes so you’re not that lonely,” she offered.


“What?” Eli couldn’t believe her nerve.


“My fiancée doesn’t mind. I’ve talked to him about it and we feel I should visit you sometimes.”


“That’s not necessary,” Eli refused offended.


“I could help you around a little with whatever you need,” she offered. “Matt must have his hands full, but if I came to help around from time to time…”


“I don’t need your help,” Eli clenched his teeth.


“I don’t mean like with…” Melany hesitated trying to find the right word while she made a strange gesture with her perfectly manicured hand. “I could make sure you have everything you need around the house and maybe supervise a nurse.”


Eli swore he was going to yell at her. He didn’t care if they were in a room full of people. How dare she talk to him like that? He took a deep breath trying to calm down. He should just turn around and leave. Yes, that’s what he should do.


“Oh, there you are darling,” Eli heard Isabel’s voice but before he could turn to look at her, she leaned in and kissed him on the mouth. He felt her wet lips against his and then her tongue slightly inside him before she pulled away. “I was looking all over for you,” she said in a completely casual tone. “Oh, hi! I’m Isabel,” she introduced herself to Melany and held a hand out for her to shake, while placing the other one over Eli’s shoulder.


“Hi…” Melany eyed Isabel clearly astonished.


“I know everyone wants a piece of you tonight, baby, but I need you," she said looking back at Eli. “Please, you can’t leave me alone to talk to Misses Lawson. You know you always soften her with your charm," Isabel said in a pleading tone. “You don’t mind, right?” she turned to Melany.


“Oh… We were actually…” Melany started to object but Isabel placed herself behind Eli and put both her hands over his chest.


“I promise to return him afterwards. After all I’ll have him all to myself later tonight," Isabel smiled and then grabbed Eli’s hand to make him follow her.


It took him a minute to recover from the initial shock, but finally he obliged and rolled behind her until Melany was out of sight.


“I’m sorry," Isabel apologized once they were far enough. “I know it was none of my business but she was being such a bitch. I couldn’t help myself.”


Eli was trying to figure out what to say to her, still too much in shock to come up with a response, when an older man approached him.


“Congratulations," the man held a hand out for him to shake. “There are some people who want to meet you. You did such an amazing job that I’m afraid anyone who wants to build something in the city is willing to fight over you with claws," he said.


He was busy the rest of the night talking to businessmen who wanted to hire him. He looked at Isabel from time to time, but he wasn’t able to talk to her in private again until they left the party.


Once they were inside the car he turned to her, still not being able to decide what he wanted to say. He felt angry, humiliated. Melany saying those things to him was bad enough, the fact that Isabel had heard her was worse, and what she had done was… He didn’t even know how to call it.


“Are you angry at me?” Isabel asked him once he parked outside her building. Eli hadn’t said a word to her the entire way there.


“No," he lied.


“I’m sorry…” she started to apologize again but he interrupted her.


“It’s late. I should really get going.”


Isabel stared at him for a minute but then she opened the car door. “Ok. Good night then," she said as a goodbye and got out of the car.


She texted him the next day. “Thank you for taking me to the party. I really appreciate it. Are you busy later?” Eli looked at his phone and tried to come up with a response, but he couldn’t figure out what to say to her. He was too embarrassed to see her so he decided not to answer. He turned off the phone and didn’t turn it back up until Monday morning before going to work. He checked to see if she had texted him again, but she hadn’t.


He didn’t leave his office all day and tried his best to focus on work and not think about the fact that everything in his life sucked. But he kept going back to Isabel’s kiss. He had to admit he had fantasized about kissing her since the day he first met her. More so, he couldn’t deny what her kiss had felt like. He couldn’t believe he had actually gotten to touch her lips. He wished she hadn’t caught him so off guarded, maybe he would’ve been able to respond better. But no, it had meant nothing; she had kissed him out of pity. She had felt so sorry for him that she’d thought she needed to rescue him. And Melany, god, she was unbelievable. Why the hell hadn’t he just told her to shut up? He should’ve yelled at her that she was a cold hearted bitch that couldn’t even wait until he was out of the hospital to dump him. She thought that Matt had to take care of him and that he needed a nurse, why hadn’t he just told her she was wrong. But then again, Melany wasn’t worth him spending a minute thinking about her. He didn’t care what she thought. Isabel had heard though, and he had to admit he cared about what she thought. At least it was obvious that Isabel didn’t agree with Melany. She had called her a bitch and stepped in in his defense. Should that count for something? Should he be thankful instead of mad? The look on Melany’s face when she saw Isabel; Eli almost laughed thinking back at the image. Melany was very beautiful but Isabel was like a movie star, and her comments, what she had implied and the way she had caressed his chest. Oh, come on, Eli, be real. That was the closest you’ll ever get to touching that woman, get over it, he scolded himself. It was half past five and he wasn’t getting any work done, so he turned off his computer and was about to leave when the phone rang. He picked up to hear Jenna’s voice.


“Miss Auburn’s here to see you," she announced. What? He couldn’t come up with an answer fast enough. “I’m sending her in," Jenna hanged up before he could object.


Seconds later the door opened and Isabel walked in.


“Hi,” she said shyly.


“Hi,” he replied.


“I know you’re angry at me,” she started.


“I’m not angry at you,” he tried to deny. She didn’t let him continue, instead, Isabel turned around and pulled up a chair to face him before sitting down at his level.


“You are," she confronted him. “I know you are and you have every right to be. It was none of my business. I know I should’ve just walked away, but she pissed me off.”


“I didn’t need you to defend me," he hissed at her.


“I know, and I’m sorry.”


“You don’t have to feel sorry for me," he said angry.


“I didn’t say I felt sorry for you. I said I’m sorry for meddling.”


“The last thing I want is your pity," he insisted.


“I don’t pity you. You think I pity you because you can’t walk, but I think you’re a successful, intelligent, really talented and attractive man. She was being a bitch to you and she pissed me off. I should’ve minded my own business though, and just let you tell her she was being a jerk. I took the opportunity away from you and for that I’m sorry. But I didn’t do it out of pity. I would never disrespect you like that," she explained.


Eli looked at her deep eyes, her words ringing in his ears. Of course she was aware that he couldn’t walk, it wasn’t the sort of thing you could miss, but to hear her speak the words aloud, somehow threw him off. He was under the impression she chose to ignore the fact that he was paralyzed; but she had said it so bluntly, as if it wasn’t a sensitive subject, that he just knew she was being honest. It was true, she didn’t pity him. Actually, she was the first person he’d dealt with since his injury who didn’t treat him like an invalid. More importantly –unlike Matt – she understood that pity was a lack of respect. After a minute of silence he nodded.


“Thank you," he said.


They stared into each other’s eyes for a while without speaking and then she smiled at him.


“Anyway, I’m sorry you got mad at me, but the look on her face was totally worth it," she jested.


Eli smiled back at her. “I think she actually dropped her jaw like a cartoon," he laughed.


They stayed quiet for another moment smiling at each other.


“Would you like to go out for a drink?” Eli asked.


“I could definitely use one," she accepted. “It’s Monday, though. I don’t think we’re going to find any bars open.”


“Oh, there are bars open on Monday, just not any nice ones," he joked.


“Maybe you could take me to your place instead and show me your drawings.” She made a face like a little girl begging for candy. “I’m dying to see them.”


“Are you asking to go to my apartment, Miss Auburn?” he taunted her exaggerating a flirty tone. Then he felt himself blushing. Why had he said that? What the hell was wrong with him?


“Mmmh, it sounds kinky, but yeah. Elijah Brown, I want to go to your apartment," she laughed miming to flirt and Eli felt the air go back into his lungs. “We could buy a bottle on the way," she added still smiling.


“Actually, I’m ashamed to admit, I have plenty of alcohol in my place.”


“Excellent," she stood up from the chair and headed for the door.


Had this really just happened? Eli thought on the way to his car. Had she actually asked to go to his apartment? He tried his best not to read anything into it, but her smile was fixated in his mind. The way she leaned forward while talking to him and, of course, her words. Yeah, she had actually used the word attractive to describe him, he hadn’t imagined that. As he transferred into the car he caught himself smiling.


She followed him in her own car. When they arrived at his apartment he invited her to sit in the living room and then parked his chair in front of her.


“So, what would you like to drink?” he asked.


“What are my options?”


“Pretty much anything you want," he said pointing at a bar at the corner of the living room. She stood up looking surprised. He had a cabinet filled with over ten bottles of wine, and another one with bottles of whisky, vodka, rum, tequila, she stopped reading the labels. “I’m not an alcoholic or anything, more like a collector," he tried to justify himself.


“Wow," she knelt down to take a better look at the bottles. When she did that, the fabric from her skirt tightened around her hips. “In that case, I’ll have a scotch.”


“Really?” he asked surprised and she nodded grinning.


“Do you take it with…”


“Neat, please," she interrupted him.


“Really?!” he repeated even more surprised.


“What?”


“Nothing," he laughed.


She walked around the room while he poured two glasses of scotch. The place looked like he had actually put some thought into decorating it. Of course he had, he was an architect. He had some paintings hanging over the walls, and a few photographs. Eli watched her as she toured the room, like one would a museum, and she suddenly turned around and caught him staring.


“Sorry," she apologized as if he had caught her doing something else. He shook his head at her but said nothing. Then he put her glass between his legs and wheeled over there to give it to her, and then turned around for his own.


“Cheers," she said following him back towards the bar, and they crashed their glasses and drank.


“Oh my god," she said after taking her sip. “This is…” but instead of finishing the phrase, she took another drink and savored the scotch inside her mouth.


“Speyburn, 1983.”


“Wow, it’s older than me."


“How old are you?” he asked without thinking. “I’m sorry," he said trying to take it back.


Isabel laughed. “I hope I’m not old enough to be offended by that question. I’m 30. You?”


“35.”


“Mmm, you’re well preserved for someone that old," she joked.


“Ha, ha," Eli grinned. “Are you hungry?”


“Kind of. Maybe we could order take out," she suggested.


Eli shook his head. “I’m cooking for you.”


“Really?” Isabel said, and for a moment Eli feared she was going to make some comment to imply he couldn’t possibly cook from the chair. “I love a man who can cook," she said in a flirty tone instead.


Eli rolled to the kitchen and Isabel followed. He had had the place modified so he could reach everything.


“I can’t cook to save my life, so don’t expect me to help," Isabel said. “But I’d like to watch," she added putting her hands on one of the counters and pulling herself swiftly to sit over it and then she crossed one leg over the other and dangled them in the sexiest way.


Eli started chopping, mixing and pouring and every time he turned to look at her, he’d find her staring. She was staring at him for the first time, but not the way everybody else stared, but kind of like if she were watching him dance. It didn’t take him too long to finish, and she jumped down from the counter as swiftly as she had gotten up, and helped him carry some dishes to the table. He put others on his lap and wheeled them over there. Then he cracked opened a bottle of wine and poured two glasses before joining her.


“This looks great," she said.


“Wait until you try it," he bragged.


She cut a piece of what looked like a fish stake and put it in her mouth and suddenly the smile was gone from her face.


“You don’t like fish?” Eli asked frightened.


“Are you trying to make me fall for you, Eli?” she said. It hadn’t sounded like a joke though, but a serious question and Eli got a fear expression in his face. But then she suddenly went back to smiling and he let out air relieved. “Is this tuna?” she asked.


“Yeah," Eli nodded nervously taking a bite from his own plate. “Tuna filet. Very different from that canned stuff, right?”


“I swear it’s the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted," Isabel’s voice sounded like bliss to him.


They toasted again, and Isabel kept complimenting him while she gobbled down her pasta and tuna. She lingered with every mouth-fool, savoring it inside her mouth in a way that Eli found incredibly sexy. He ran his hands over his thighs, thinking if he wasn’t paralyzed he would surely have a hard on right now. They stayed on the table long after they had finished eating, talking about different topics. After a while though, she stood up and walked up to him.


“So, how about those drawings now? Or are you making me beg?” she said. If he didn’t know better he would’ve sworn she was flirting.


“This way," Eli said rolling away from the table and towards his studio.


Once inside it, Isabel looked around like she had before in the living room, examining the room’s setting and the paintings and photographs on the walls. She stopped next to a vinyl record player.


“Wow, can I play something?” she suggested.


“Knock yourself out,” replied Eli pointing towards his record collection; it was quite broad.


Isabel browsed through the records for a while and finally she pulled one out.


“Gotta love a classic, right?” she said holding The Beatles Abbey Road Album.


Eli took the vinyl from her and played it on the spinner.


Isabel sang along. Eli thought she looked sweet singing. She knew the lyrics from every song in the album. They listened to it while he showed her his drawings.


“Wow, Eli, you could really have an exhibition, these are amazing," she complimented him.


“I’m not interested in that. I just like drawing them," he replied.


She picked up another notebook and opened it. The first page showed a drawing of a wheelchair. Eli almost yanked it from her hands.


“Not that one," he said and almost immediately realized he was being rude and apologized to her. “I’m sorry, it’s just…”


“It’s ok," she reassured him and grabbed another one as if nothing had happened.


They chose another record and played it while Isabel sang along again and had another glass of scotch as they talked and laughed. He couldn’t help but feel that she totally overlooked his disability; she treated him as if he were just any normal guy, she would sometimes lean in and touch him in the shoulder or the arm, and Eli felt grateful and yet a little scared about her attitude.


“So, I guess I should get going," Isabel said and Eli looked at his watch surprised. It was past midnight. He hadn’t realized it was so late.


He accompanied her to her car and she kissed him again in the cheek as a goodbye. Eli was really starting to love it when she did that.

Whitlash - Chp. 5

We last left our heroine and hero asleep by the fireplace. Story resumes from heroine's point of view. Let me know what you think! Anything you'd like to see? 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Building Love - Chapter IV


The next morning he woke up happy. Was he really happy? He grabbed his phone from the night table feeling the urge to text Isabel but then he stopped himself. This girl made him feel all kinds of things. He felt anxious and nervous when he was about to meet her, but he had to admit he was beginning to feel really comfortable when he was around her. Then again, he also felt kind of sad about the fact that he would never be able to have her the way he wanted her. That thought brought him down. Still, when he remembered her smile and the way she talked to him so casually and joked and even flirted a little, he felt happy again. Yes, this was happiness. After he was injured he was convinced there was no way he would ever be happy again, but that was what he felt around her. Don’t fall for this girl, Eli, he told himself, she’ll break your heart. And that was it, he felt depressed again, defeated.


He got into his wheelchair reluctantly, as he did most mornings. Getting up was the part of the day he hated the most, because every time he felt confronted again with his reality. Why couldn’t he just get used to it? It had been over a year and it still felt so weird to wake up and not be able to move. The lack of sensation below his ribs made him feel broken, incomplete. And the whole morning routine ordeal frustrated him.


About an hour later he was showered and dressed. He headed to the kitchen to make coffee, unable to shake Isabel’s face from his head. Finally, he couldn’t resist the urge anymore and he texted her. He was happy to see that she answered right away.


In the following days, he kept texting and she kept answering. Then he started calling and finally they started meeting more often than not. A few weeks later, the weekend before thanksgiving, Eli realized they had actually seen each other every day for five days straight.


“So, what are you doing for thanksgiving?” Eli asked.


They were sitting on the couch in his apartment listening to music. After Isabel had come to his place a few times, he had started transferring to the couch to sit next to her. He still felt self-conscious when he did that, but then he felt almost normal as they sat there talking or having a drink. More and more lately, he would realize at some point of their evening that he hadn’t thought about his injury for a while. What he loved most about Isabel was that she seemed to have the power to make him forget, at least for brief moments, about his disability.


“Nothing, I guess. I don’t really know all that many people here, so…” she said and he gave her a sympathetic look. “It’s not a big deal though. We don’t even have Thanksgiving in Ireland," she added.


“I always spend it with Matt and Sarah. You should join us," Eli invited her.


“Uh… I don’t know. I don’t want to intrude.”


“You wouldn’t be. Actually, you’d be doing me a favor. I’m tired of always being the third wheel," he said and then regretted it. He didn’t want to imply he was asking her on a date.


“Would they be ok with that? I mean, Thanksgiving is kind of a family thing and they don’t even know me," she hesitated.


“They won’t mind. The more the merrier," Eli insisted. “Please," he added pleading when she didn’t respond.


“Oh, that’s cheating! You know I can’t resist that face," she said laughing and she casually placed a hand over his leg. He couldn’t feel it, but he stared at it. No one had touched his legs since he was paralyzed, except for doctors, nurses or therapists.


“I’m sorry," she apologized noticing his stare. “Does that make you uncomfortable?” She asked removing her hand.


It took Eli a moment to answer. “No, quite the opposite actually," he said looking up at her face. “People don’t really touch me anymore. Not since I… They shake my hand but that’s about it. It’s like they think I’m going to break or something. Like they fear they could hurt me if they touch me… Either that or they think I’m radioactive," he tried to joke but didn’t really accomplish it. “Anyway, it’s nice that you don’t act all weird around me.”


Isabel gave him an intense look. “You know, Eli? I’ve a theory I’ve developed throughout years of observation," she said in a serious tone. “I think roughly around 93.7% of people are jerks.”


Eli laughed relaxing his expression.


“Ignorant jerks. I mean it," she smiled and leaned in closer to him to place her hand back over his thigh. “Lucky for you, I’m one of the remaining 6.3%.”


Eli put his hand over hers smiling grateful. “So… Thanksgiving?” he insisted.


“Oh, OK," she agreed.


When he told Matt and Sarah about it, they were both excited. They overwhelmed him with all kinds of questions about her. Was she pretty, tall, short, slim, nice, smart, shy or outgoing? Did they get along? Had he been hanging out with her? He avoided as much details as he was able to. He didn’t want them to notice how much he liked her.


Thursday morning, Eli smiled thinking Isabel seemed to be kind of nervous about dinner. She kept texting him asking him what she should wear or if she should bring something; what they had said about her coming over; if he was sure he wanted her to come along. It was funny, because he usually felt like that when he was about to meet up with her. It was kind of nice to see their roles reversed.


He picked her up at her place at 5 because he had to finish cooking at Matt and Sarah’s house. She came out looking beautiful, wrapped in a white coat that covered her just above her knees and black boots; the outfit left a stretch of her legs naked. Eli imagined kinkily what she was wearing underneath the coat. She got in the car and kissed him in the cheek as she always did. Eli closed his eyes savoring the moment it took her to part her lips from his skin, which he thought was repeatedly a second longer than normal. Those kisses were like a drug to him.


As soon as they herd Eli’s car pull over, Matt and Sarah came out of the house to welcome them. Isabel got out of the car first, as usual, so Eli could pull his chair from the back seat. He was sorry he couldn’t get out of the car fast enough to introduce her. They would probably be all over her before he could stop them, Eli thought as he leaned the passenger seat back. But instead, they both stood perplex looking at Isabel from the doorway. After a few awkward seconds, Matt walked over to him to try and help him get out of the car. Eli hated that he still did that, since Matt was perfectly aware he was able to transfer on his own. After all, he did drive himself to work every day. Sarah walked up to Isabel.


“Hi," she said with a forced smile. “It’s nice to meet you.”


“Likewise. Thank you for having me," Isabel said visibly nervous.


Eli restrained himself from pushing Matt back as he tried to lift the frame of his chair. When he was finally in his chair he rolled over to where Isabel and Sarah were standing.


“This is Isabel," he introduced her. “Isabel, these are Sarah and Matt.”


Matt shook Isabel’s hand with a serious expression in his face. What the hell? Eli thought.


They took the things out of the trunk and headed to the house. Once inside, Isabel started to unbutton her coat. Eli couldn’t help staring; she was doing it slowly, not in a sexy way but more in a nervous manner, as if she wasn’t sure whether she should take her coat off or not. She undid the first button quickly but then struggled at the second one and hesitated at the third. Finally, she seemed to make up her mind and finished the rest of them in a hurry, unveiling a silky dress, plain, yet elegant, no cleavage but a straight line along her neck that left her shoulders slightly naked, and then fell over her body hugging only her pronounced waist. Damn, she was beautiful, Eli thought as Isabel turned around and caught him staring. He immediately looked away, only to realize that Matt and Sarah were both staring as well.


Eli rolled to the kitchen to get started. He wanted Isabel to join him, because he didn’t feel comfortable living her alone with them. This kitchen wasn’t as accessible for him as the one in his apartment –although Matt would probably have it adapted immediately if he asked –so both Sarah and Matt hovered trying to help him with everything they could, whether he needed it or not. Isabel lingered back, apparently trying to stay out of the way.


“Can I help you with something, Sarah? Maybe setting the table?” Isabel offered after a few minutes.


“Oh, no thanks. The table is already set," Sarah answered.


“OK," Isabel leaned back against the wall.


“You know. I’ll be fine here on my own, why don’t you go have a drink while I put this in the oven," Eli suggested despite himself, noticing Isabel was feeling left out.


“Oh," Sarah said. “Sure, Matt can help you around while I take Isabel to the living room," she said in a strange tone. Why were they acting weird? They had been so excited to meet Isabel that he had guessed they would be all over her interrogating her as they had him. But instead they were acting cold and strange. Sarah took Isabel to the living room and Eli went back to cooking. It shouldn’t have taken him long to put the turkey in the oven, but Matt kept being in the way, eagerly trying to help him.


“You know, Matt. You’re really not a good sou-chef. What do you say if you pour me a drink instead?” Eli suggested to get Matt off his back.


“Uh…” Matt hesitated but then he finally obliged. “Sure.”


He poured two glasses of scotch and handed him one. Eli took a sip and then placed his drink over the kitchen counter before going back to cooking. But every time he tried to do something, Matt attempted to do it for him.


“Really, Matt. Why don’t you go keep the girls company?” he suggested to get rid of him.


“What? No," Matt refused.


“Well, then. Why don’t you chop this?” Eli handed him a carrot.


Matt took the carrot and started chopping, but he kept staring at Eli anxiously.


“I’m not going to chop my finger off. I promise," Eli made a final attempt to get him to relax. This was kind of a tradition for them. Every Thanksgiving, Eli would cook the turkey and Sarah would bake dessert. Matt would usually just pour them drinks and joke around about how Eli liked to cook more than any woman he had ever met, and he never, ever helped. But this was their first Thanksgiving since Eli was paralyzed, because last year he had spent it at the hospital.


“I know," Matt replied. Eli reached across the counter to grab the pepper and Matt immediately handed it to him. Then Eli attempted to lift a dish and Matt took it from his hands.


“Really?” Eli snapped unable to restrain himself any further. He didn’t want to pick a fight on Thanksgiving but he hated the way Matt kept trying to do everything for him. “I can lift a damn dish," he rammed at Matt.


“Sorry," Matt apologized without minding Eli’s tone and he gave him back the dish.


Then Eli opened the oven’s door and Matt tried to help him yet again.


“Seriously, Matt. Get out of here," he said trying his best to moderate his tone.


“What?”


“I don’t need your help," Eli said as calmly as possible. “Quite frankly, you’re in the way. Just go wait in the living room. I’ll be out in a minute."


Matt stared at him clearly debating whether to leave or not, but finally he stepped out. Eli was grateful; with him gone he was able to hurry. He was nervous about what they would be saying to Isabel. But when he finally finished, he headed towards the living room and found the three of them in an awkward silence.


“So, how about a drink?” he said to break the silence and then positioned his chair next to where Isabel was sitting. She smiled at the sight of him.


“Sure," Isabel agreed.


“Sarah?” Eli offered.


“Sure," she said standing up.


“I’ll get it," Eli stopped her and Sarah stared at him for a second before sitting back down.


“I’ll help you," Matt volunteered and followed him.


A minute later Matt handed Sarah a glass of wine while Eli gave Isabel a neat scotch he had carried between his legs. Isabel thanked him and took a large sip.


“So, dinner won’t be ready for at least an hour," Eli tried to start a conversation. Sarah and Matt both nodded but said nothing.


“If it’s half as good as your tuna filet, I can’t wait to try it," Isabel smiled at him.


Sarah and Matt both gave her a strange look, as if she had just insulted them. Eli looked back at them. If he had been able to move his legs he would’ve kicked Matt. What the hell was wrong with him?


“Oh, it’s much better," he said turning back at Isabel. “It’s one of my specialties. I cook it every year.”


“Really?” she asked candidly.


“Yeah. And Sarah bakes a mean pumpkin pie," he added.


“I love pumpkin pie," Isabel looked at Sarah but instead of responding she rolled her eyes at Isabel. Eli couldn’t believe it. He looked back at Matt half expecting him to say something, but he looked as if he had rolled his eyes as well. Why were they doing this to him? Why were they being rude to Isabel?


“Sarah?” Eli uttered giving her a chance to take it back.


“I’m sure she does," Sarah replied in an exaggerated tone.


Eli rolled closer to Isabel. She looked surprised, surely she hadn’t missed Sarah’s attitude. She didn’t look angry though, more like nervous because she took another large sip from her drink.


"So, Isabel, where did you say you were from?” Matt intervened before Eli could figure out what to say, but he too was using a rude tone.


“I just moved here from Washington," she replied.


“Are you planning on staying?” Matt ventured and Eli could swear he sounded as if he was accusing Isabel of something.


“Yeah. That’s the plan.”


“Why?” Matt asked. Why? It was such a stupid question, Eli thought. Should he jump in and say something? At least Matt was talking to her, rather than staring at her so awkwardly, so he decided not to intervene.


“Well…” Isabel hesitated probably thinking the same as Eli. “Once the building’s done and my company opens a branch here, I’ll be one of the CEO’s," she explained sounding kind of embarrassed.


“A CEO? Ha!” Matt bursted as if he had caught her in a lie. What the fuck, Matt! “What’s a CEO doing supervising a construction? Do you know anything about architecture?”


“Matt!” Eli jumped in now, but Isabel didn’t seem offended.


“I’m not supervising a construction," she said so very calmly. “I’m opening a branch of my company. Everything from buying the land, filing all the paperwork for city permits, to hiring personal. You’re right. I don’t know about architecture, that’s why I hired Eli, and he doesn’t seem like I need to supervise him.”


Eli was impressed, perhaps a little disappointed that she didn’t need him to defend her, but still impressed she managed to remain calmed and even make him look good in the process.


“So, you couldn’t take a few days off to go home for Thanksgiving?” Matt continued with the same accusative tone.


Isabel took another big sip from her scotch while Eli tried to figure out how to stop this.


“Can you help me check the oven Matt?” Eli said to get him to join him at the kitchen. It took Matt a moment to part his inquisition look from Isabel. “Matt," Eli repeated.


“Of course," he finally replied and stood up.


Eli led the way to the kitchen and then waited for Matt before closing the door. “What the hell, man?” he whispered. “Why are you acting like a jerk?”


“What?”


“I thought you wanted to meet her. That’s why I brought her here and now you’re both being rude.”


“Look, Eli," Matt started in a soothing tone that reminded Eli of when he was first told he would never walk again. “I know you like this girl, but…” he stopped.


“But what?” Eli asked almost scared to hear him continue.


“Well…”


“Well what?”


“Well, it’s obvious she’s playing you," Matt almost spat out the words.


“She’s playing me? How’s so?” Eli emulated Matt’s condescending tone.


“Well…” Matt hesitated. “She’s all over you, flirting and…”


“You think she’s flirting?” Eli interrupted him. He often wondered if Isabel flirted with him, but by now he had convinced himself that that was just the way she acted around everyone. Only he had never actually seen her around anyone else. He had considered asking Matt a few times if he had noticed that tone when he had spoken with her over the phone, but hadn’t, afraid to sound stupid. Now that Matt brought it up, he couldn’t help but feel flattered. At least he wasn’t crazy to think so if his friend had noticed. He had to remind himself that he was supposed to be angry at Matt right now.


“Of course she’s flirting," Matt repeated. “She’s trying to seduce you.”


“What?” Eli couldn’t help but laugh. It was ridiculous.


“Look, Eli. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but that woman is clearly a gold digger.”


“A gold digger? Really Matt, are you listening to yourself?” He attempted to sound angry, but he ended up laughing again. Then he stopped when he looked at Matt’s serious expression. His face was a combination of surprise and pity. “I’m sorry, haven’t you been the one encouraging me to see her?”


“Yeah, but that was before I met her.”


“And now you’ve met her, so?”


“Oh come on Eli," Matt said now bluntly looking at him as if he were stupid.


“What?”


“Well, she’s…”


“She’s what?”


“She looks like a freaking model," Matt hissed.


Now Eli was angry, angry and hurt. “Oh, so when you said I should give her a chance to get to know me and then she might like me, you were thinking she was ugly?”


“I didn’t think she was ugly, just not… not…”


“So, she’s too pretty to like me?” Eli said without being able to hide the pain from his voice.


“I didn’t mean it like that," Matt replied lowering his tone.


“You meant it exactly like that.”


“Eli, I…”


“No, Matt, I get it. She is too pretty to like me. I know that. I’m not blind and I’m not stupid. I know she’s gorgeous and I’m a cripple. But you don’t have to worry, because she’s not interested in me. We’re not like that, we’re just friends.” Eli’s tone had gone from mad to sad. He put one hand on his wheel to turn his chair around. He wanted to pretend he was ok with this; he didn’t want Matt to see he was upset about it. But Matt had been his best friend for almost twenty years, and Eli knew he could see right through him.


“Eli, listen to me.”


“Don’t, Matt, please," Eli almost begged.


“You’ll find someone, just…” Matt walked around to face him.


“I’m not looking for someone. I told you, we’re just friends.”


“I just think you should be careful. Maybe she looked you up and saw an opportunity," Matt insisted. Eli couldn’t believe it. Why didn’t he just drop it?


“Stop it, Matt," Eli raised his voice. “She’s not a gold digger."


“You have to consider the possibility…”


Matt didn’t let him continue. “She’s not a gold digger," he repeated exasperated. “She does pretty well for herself…”


“May be so, but there’s a big difference between doing well and your kind of money.”


“I said stop it. You’re insulting her and you’re insulting me. She’s not a gold digger and she’s not trying to seduce me. She’s just being friendly. We’re just friends. Unless you think she’s too pretty to be my friend too.”


“I didn’t say that," Matt shook his head.


“But you think that. God, Matt, you think I’m so appalling now that no one would even want to be friends with me. Do you think I should only hang around cripples now, just to be safe?” Eli snapped outraged.


“Of course not. I didn’t mean for it to sound like that. Look, man, I’m just trying to look out for you," Matt tried to apologize.


“Well, don’t. I don’t need you to look out for me. I’m perfectly capable of deciding who I befriend. I’m not some child. I’m paralyzed, not retarded.” Eli stormed out. He was set on grabbing Isabel and leaving Matt’s house but he got stuck on the kitchen door, and Matt, as always, hurried to help him. “I can do it!” he said pushing Matt’s arm away.


As he rolled to the living room, still in fury, he suddenly got scared that Isabel and Sarah had heard the whole ordeal. God, he hoped not. It was a big house and there was a considerable distance between the kitchen and the living room. He had started whispering but he was pretty sure he had ended up almost screaming. Now he wished he hadn’t lost his temper. He positioned his chair in front of Isabel, who was sitting at the edge of the sofa obviously uncomfortable. Sarah was quietly staring at her with bolting eyes. Isabel looked up at him with a grin, but as soon as she saw his expression she looked back down and finished her scotch in one gulp, tipping the glass to catch even the last drops. Eli reached for her hand, he was about to suggest they’ll leave, when Matt showed up behind him.


“Let me get you another one of those," Matt said to Isabel in a completely different tone, and took the empty glass from her hands. “Eli? Do you want one?”


Sarah gave Matt one of those looks wives give their husbands when they do something that upsets them in public, widening her eyes at him. Eli was about to refuse and announce they were living but Matt didn’t let him speak.


“So, Isabel, Thanksgivings are always a little awkward, right?” Matt started as he poured their scotches from a small bar in one corner of the living room. “Lucky for us, no Thanksgiving can go completely wrong with Eli’s turkey," he continued as he handed them their glasses back. He had filled them a little too much, but Isabel thanked him with a nod and drank half of hers in one sip. “This one likes to cook more than any woman I’ve ever met. I swear he probably spends all day in the kitchen when I’m not with him.”


Eli almost welcomed the joke, remembering their Thanksgiving dinners before his injury. But he wasn’t sure where Matt was going with the sudden change of attitude.


“And I’m glad you like pumpkin pie, because that’s Sarah’s specialty. As for me, well, I’ve more of a bartender’s kind of talent," Matt continued to smooth the atmosphere with his tone. Isabel seemed to be relaxing, but Eli wasn’t sure if it was on account of Matt or because of all the scotch she had drank by now.


“Matt…” Sarah spoke all of a sudden standing up from her place, but Matt caught her off.


“We should play something," he suggested and opened a cabinet that had a few board games stored in it. “Do you like board games?”


“I don’t think she likes board games," Sarah said still standing up.


“I love board games," Isabel stood up herself to examine the games. Isabel often acted excited like that, as if she were a child. She did it when she particularly liked some music or piece of art, but also with food and other conventional things. Eli found that cute.


“Excellent," Matt said. “Pick one.”


Isabel took a minute to choose, while Eli looked at Matt distrustfully and Matt gave Sarah a gesture meant to calm her down.


“Do you guys play domino?” Isabel suggested. “I’m a big poker’s fan, but I think domino will be perfect for the four of us, since it’s played in couples.”


Sarah opened her mouth and Eli could guess she was about to make another insulting comment, but Matt stopped her by grabbing her arm.


“We love domino," Matt took the small case from her and then he practically dragged Sarah towards a table. He set her down in a chair and then removed another one so Eli could roll under it. Isabel sat too, across from Eli so they could play as a team.


“So, do you know how to play?” Matt asked now in a cheerful tone Eli still wasn’t buying.


“Of course," Isabel nodded. “Do you?” she replied teasingly looking straight at Eli.


“We’ve won tournaments of this game, lady. You don’t know what you’re up against," Matt bragged.


As it turned out, Isabel could play. Eli was gladly surprised. Matt and Eli had discovered domino during college. It was a mathematical game, so Eli was naturally good at it, but it was also a couple’s game, as Isabel had put it. It required a sort of silent communication between partners, and that wasn’t easily achieved. All throughout college, Matt and Eli had played together against some of Harvard’s snobs, earning themselves a reputation, but also a fair amount of money, since they would usually bet. Surprisingly enough Sarah had gotten the hang of it pretty fast; she too was good at Math. After college they had kept on playing, except Matt and Sarah would now play as a team against Eli and whoever he could find, a friend or a date. When he had started a relationship with Melany, Eli had attempted to teach her the game, but it wasn’t her sort of thing. After a while, tired of losing against Matt and Sarah, they had stopped playing. So it had been about three years since they’d sat down for a good game.


Eli and Isabel won the first games easily, and that seemed to spike Sarah, who wasn’t really trying at first. After a few games the four of them were making jokes at whomever lost, teasing each other and playing as hard as they did back in college. Sarah had dropped the attitude, Eli suspected Matt had kicked her under the table a few times, but he had also served her another two glasses of wine, and Sarah wasn’t a big drinker. By the time dinner was ready, none of them wanted to stop playing but finally decided to take a break because they were all starving.


The rest of the evening went fine, no more awkward comments from Matt or Sarah, who had taken a rather happy attitude with all the wine. The food was perfect and Isabel seemed to enjoy every bite of it. Eli had a hard time parting his eyes from her mouth as she very slowly savored the turkey first and then the pumpkin pie. She hadn’t lied about loving pumpkin pie because she had two pieces, all so very slowly. At some point Eli thought he heard her moan a little, like a cat’s purr, but he wasn’t sure because Matt had been speaking at the time.


Finally, a little after midnight, they called it a night. Isabel thanked both Sarah and Matt for a lovely evening as she called it and then waited until Eli was inside the car to get in. Eli was grateful Matt didn’t try to help him this time; instead, he had walked up to him and given him a hug. As he was backing down from the driveway, he thought he saw Sarah and him arguing, but he wasn’t sure.


“So, I’m sorry if they acted a little strange. I guess they’re not used to meeting new people," Eli attempted to apologize for Matt and Sarah as they parked outside her apartment.


“Oh no, they’re great," she replied. “I can tell you guys are really close, almost like brothers. How long have you been friends?”


“Almost twenty years," Eli said. “My parents died when I was sixteen. I didn’t have any other family so I ended up in a foster home. Matt was there with me; so we are very much like brothers.” He gave her a little time to respond, expecting an “I’m so sorry” kind of comment, but she stayed quiet, so he continued. “He met Sarah in college and they’ve been together ever since.”


“You guys seem a little tense though…” Isabel said finally after a moment of silence.


“I guess…” he nodded. “When I first met him we didn’t really get along, you know," he smiled nostalgically. “He used to pick on me all the time saying I was a spoiled rich kid. But then we became friends and we’ve been inseparable ever since. We went to college together and then shared and apartment while he was in law school. He’s always been the person I trusted most in the entire world. I would’ve never guessed there could be anything to bring us apart. But…” He hesitated a second before continuing. “Since I was injured… he looks at me like… like I hurt to watch. He tries to help me with everything, even nonsense stuff, and I just can’t bear the pity in his eyes. I suppose it’s driven us apart.”


“Have you told him how you feel?” she asked.


“Oh no, I couldn’t. I would sound so ungrateful; he’s been there for me in so many ways. I don’t want to hurt his feelings.”


“I’m guessing it’s not been that long since you got hurt," she ventured. It was the first time she had asked him anything related to his disability, which he was partially grateful for, since people had a tendency to ask him right away as if it wasn’t something private. But it also made him feel like there was a huge elephant in the room they both pretended not to see.


“A year, one month and 13 days,” he answered and then debated whether to tell her how he had ended up paralyzed.


“Well then maybe you should caught him some slack," she suggested before he could make up his mind about telling her his story. “He obviously loves you. It just hurts him that you got hurt. But in time he’ll realize you don’t need his help, at least not that kind. And then he’ll understand you’re ok and he’ll accept it too.”


Isabel placed her hand on his that was resting over his thigh, and squeezed it a little. He returned the pressure turning his hand around to tangle his finger on hers. Then he looked up into her deep blue eyes. She was so incredibly beautiful, it was breathtaking; her fair skin a little blushed around her cheeks, her red hair falling down with slight curls, one of them was caught over her lips and Eli couldn’t resist the urge to part it with his free hand. She was grinning at him, much like the first time he laid eyes on her, when her expression had made him think of the Mona Lisa. It was like he couldn’t guess what she was thinking. They were sitting there, holding hands, Isabel smiling at him with an intense gaze and he just couldn’t help but lean in and kiss her.


She kissed him back and he could feel her full lips part and her warmth breath filling him as she let his tongue inside her mouth. He pressed her hand inside his against his thigh to keep his balance as he leaned in a little closer to her, holding her face with his left hand as he gave way to all he had desired her. He had never kissed anyone so intensely before, perhaps it was that it was all he could do, perhaps that he had wanted her for so long, but when they finally parted he was shaking.


He was still holding her face with his left hand, and he had to push back from her to return to his original position, resting his back against the seat of the car to regain his balance and be able to release the pressure from their tangled hands. That movement suddenly made him feel self- conscious, remembering he couldn’t walk, he couldn’t even sit up straight without leaning against something or using his hands for balance. He was paralyzed, his abdomen as useless as his legs, his tummy sticking out from his jacket and his legs twisted in an awkward position. And Isabel was perfect, more beautiful than any woman he had ever seen before and kind and caring. That was it; she was kind to him because she was such a nice person and he had misread that kindness and ruined everything. What woman, especially one like her, would ever want to be kissed by a cripple?


“I’m sorry," he managed to utter looking down unable to meet her eyes, afraid to find her looking repulsed by him. “You’ve been so great to me but I understand you don’t see me that way. I haven’t misread your kindness, I…” why had he kissed her? How the hell was he going to fix this? He had thrown their friendship away, ruined their relationship.


He was looking for more compelling words to apologize and make it perfectly clear that he knew she couldn’t possibly like him that way, when she suddenly leaned in and kissed him again. She kissed him. Eli felt her lips against his and then she kept kissing him. It was very different from when she had done so in front of Melany. This kiss was passionate, long, intense. At some point she even knelt over the seat of the car to be closer to him and he took her hair with both hands, as he pressed his lips against hers, feeling his fears and insecurities vanish under the wet flesh of her mouth.

Trapped Update

For those of you who are following Graham's story about a guy with spastic quadriplegic CP looking to lose his virginity, here is:

Part 3 of Trapped

(The entire story is here)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lies, All Lies Part Four!

Whew! It's been a crazy week. I was in a play at the local theater a couple of days ago, but deadlines are deadlines,   so I wrote a large chunk of this chapter huddled backstage in my costume (seventeenth century Polish royalty, to give an idea.) 

Here's part four.

Also, here's the updated Table of Contents.

Enjoy!

» Gemini«

Monday, February 22, 2016

Whitlash - Chp. 4

New week, new chapter! This one again comes from Carson's view (though he's not going to appreciate this one too much...) *see note below


*Note: Event in this chapter loosely based on a true story of a young man who was in a paralyzing car accident in the countryside and managed to crawl to help. It was featured in Guidepost probably back in 2000 or 2001.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Skin and Scars Chapter 12

Hello all! Are you still with me? Here is the next installment. Let me know your thoughts! : )


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Building Love - Chapter V


When they parted he looked into her face and watched her slowly open her eyes and breathe in deeply as if she was still savoring their kiss, much like the way she lingered with the taste of food she liked, and this time it was quiet enough for him to listen to her soft moan. She was still kneeling over the seat and she sat back over her heels keeping her right hand on him, her blue eyes locked on his.


“Would you like to come up?” she invited him.


“Uh… Isabel I…” he stuttered, his breath still heavy by the rush of their kiss. Of course, he wanted to come up with her; of course, he wanted to undress her with his mouth and peel off every inch of her soft skin with his tongue and leave not a shred of her untouched. Of course, he wanted to, but he couldn’t.


“I don’t mean to have sex," she said bluntly. “I know it sounded like that, but I mean like for a drink maybe. It’s still early," she clarified.


It took him a moment to answer. Part of him was barely resisting the urge to grab her again and kiss her until dawn. He wanted her so badly it physically hurt. And yet, another part of him was so scared he was seriously considering running away.


“I’d love to," he agreed at the end.


She lived on a second floor, but there was an elevator. She unlocked the door to her apartment and led the way to a small living room. There were still boxes around the place and it was clear she hadn’t finished moving because there weren’t any furniture except for a couch and a small table with two chairs. There were some books piled up around the floor and also some paintings, photographs and sketches, architecture sketches and pictures from famous buildings he recognized. She probably hadn’t gotten around to hanging them yet.


“Wow, so you really like architecture," he said as he looked into a photograph of Gaudi’s work. “Did you take these photographs?”


“No, I’m not an artist, but I really love art, all kinds of it. Music, literature, photography, painting and yes, I love architecture. I could look at these buildings all day.”


“Is that why you like me?” Eli said smiling because for the first time it didn’t seem so unbelievable that she would. He was after all a great architect; he had no insecurities about himself in that regard.


“Partly, I guess," she nodded. “But for the record, I usually like art, not artists, they’re typically snobs and I hate the pose. You’re actually the first artist I’ve liked.”


“So you think I’m an artist?” Eli ventured.


“Of course you’re an artist," she replied picking up some photographs from the ground. “The Newton building, mmm, totally a work of art. But this one is my favorite," she said pulling out a photograph from the first building he had ever built on his own. “It has its flaws. It’s not perfect like the Newton building, but I guess that’s why I like it so much. It’s so natural, so human. Look here, this line that stretches up and then the way it sort of catches the light over this curve. A building with curves, it’s like a woman. I find this building really sexy," she smiled.


Eli laughed, what a strange description of a building, and yet it was as if she somehow understood his vision of it. He took the photograph from her hands. “I can’t believe you have this," he said surprised. “I didn’t think anyone even knew that building.”


“Oh, I know all your work,” she said.


“You’ve done your homework," Eli spoke guessing she had researched him before hiring him.


“I loved this building long before I ever considered hiring you.”


“Really?” Eli asked skeptic.


“I stumbled across it by chance, but the minute I saw it I fell in love with it. I even came to Boston to look at it. It was the first time I was here," she confessed.


“You came to Boston just to see my building?”


“I did," she nodded.


“Wow. I’m flattered," he said rolling closer to her.


“Can I get you a drink? I don’t have so much variety, but I have scotch," she offered.


“Sure," he accepted.


Isabel walked over to the kitchen while she took her coat off and left it over a chair. Eli followed her with his eyes watching the thin fabric from her dress sway over her body as she moved. She opened a cabinet that he could see was empty except for two glasses. Then she opened another one that only had a bottle of scotch inside. As she reached up, her skirt lifted enough for him to see her leg straightening from the back of her knee to her firm thigh. She poured their glasses before heading back to the living room and sitting down. She set the glasses down on the floor and used her hand to invite Eli to sit next to her. She took off her boots and socks and put her legs sideways over the couch. He rolled over and parked his wheelchair next to the sofa, before transferring in one swift move. Then he grabbed his legs with his hands to set them in place and finally pulled his chair to the side. He looked up at her and found her watching. Isabel had a way of staring unlike anyone else; she rarely did so, most times she would find something to occupy herself discreetly while he went through this awkward moments that made him feel so self-conscious; but from time to time, she would just watch, bluntly, without pretense. Eli had spent a fair amount of time staring at her as well, analyzing her gestures and looks, and right about now, he could swear she was staring at him the same way she did at pictures, at the sketches he’d shown her, at the photograph of his first building, like something she liked and not something strange or awkward.


She handed him his glass and they toasted. She took her sip slowly as he had watched her do so often, and then parted her lips from the glass and smiled at him invitingly. Eli wanted to kiss her again so badly. He wanted to touch her hair and her long neck. He pictured himself taking her dress off slowly as he kissed the line of her naked shoulders. But he didn’t, he just sat there watching her, silently holding her gaze.


Isabel took another sip from her glass and set it back down on the floor. Then she took Eli’s hand and tangled their fingers as he had done in the car. Eli took a big gulp from his own glass and then set it down over a box that was next to the couch. His hands were sweaty again. He felt his back held straight by the cushion behind him, a soft comfortable feeling that ended midway down his back and then he felt nothing. Isabel’s knee was slightly grazing his right leg, but again he couldn’t feel that. His left hand was supported against the arm of the sofa, his right one tangled on hers. She was expecting him to kiss her again, right now; he could tell. She was leaning towards him, flirting now without mistake with her deep blue eyes and long lashes. But he was too insecure to move. He hadn’t been with anyone since he was paralyzed. Melany hadn’t even tried to touch him after he was injured. And right now, sitting in this couch, next to this beautiful woman, he felt even more paralyzed, as he had the first days in the hospital, when he couldn’t attempt even the simplest of movements without tipping over or feeling wobbly and insecure even in bed. He didn’t know how to reach over to her, how to touch her, how to engage in the passion he so clearly felt for her, without his body standing like a constant obstacle. He was breathing heavily and for a second he feared he was about to have a panic attack. What the hell was wrong with him? Why couldn’t he just relax? He had just kissed Isabel; she had kissed him back; and my god, in what way had she kissed him. He should be thriving with happiness.


“Eli,” Isabel’s voice snatched him from his tortured mind. She kneeled over the couch to be closer to him and she touched his face with her right hand releasing her left one from his. Eli took a deep breath.


“I’m sorry,” he apologized not exactly sure what for.


Isabel shook her head and then gently pecked him on the lips before getting up. “How about some music?” she suggested.


She plugged an Ipod to a small speaker and played a soft song, it was a duet and as always, Isabel started singing along.


“Who sings that?” Eli said as an attempt to seem more relaxed.


“Alex and Sierra," Isabel replied. “It’s a couple from one of those contest shows.”


“What show?”


“I can’t remember which one, like America’s got talent or the X factor,” Isabel said as she sat back down next to him.


“You watch those shows?”


“Not really. I don’t even own a TV," Isabel laughed. “But I confess I like watching the auditions online.”


“The auditions, really?”


“Yeah. Like that Paul Pott’s audition video that became really famous.”


“Yeah. I saw that,” Eli remembered.


“Well, there’s something kind of exciting about the moment a new talent is discovered. I like watching the faces of the judges when they weren’t expecting it. I like how the artists are so very nervous, some of them not confident at all even though they have great voices. It’s like once they’re famous, all that honest stuff is gone, but at that first approach they’re so naturally human. I also like watching that Simon guy, the judge.”


“The one who’s mean?”


“He’s not mean. He’s honest. And his face absolutely lights up when he sees someone he likes. It’s like it makes his day; his eyes get all shiny, he smiles like a kid. You can tell it’s what he loves most in the entire world, and I’m kind of like that. I like watching talent and art. I like watching you.”


He had to give it to her; Isabel sure knew how to make him relax.


“So, did these guys win?” asked Eli shyly trying to ignore her last comment.


“I don’t know.”


“You don’t know? But I thought you liked them so much.”


“I do. Listen to their voices. But I don’t want to find out if they won. I tried googling once if another girl I liked had won and I got very disappointed about what they tried to turn her into. She was so perfect in her audition and then they made her wear all this make up and high heels she couldn’t even walk in. She was just a kid, fourteen I think. It seems to me, that at that first approach is the best they’ll ever be, because they’re unpolluted. I don’t mean to say I don’t want them to win. It’ll be a real nice story, but I could just never like them that much again.”


“Why not?”


“Because what I like is that first moment, you know. When they go out there feeling insecure and yet bravely facing all those people. When they’re still regular guys even though they’re incredibly talented. That’s why I only watch the auditions and not the show.”


Eli wondered for a moment if she was really talking about those artists, or if she meant him, if what she was really saying was that she liked the fact that he was so insecure.


“So you really don’t own a TV?” he asked her pushing the thought away.


“Nope, feel free to check,” Isabel said using a hand to gesture he was free to look around the apartment. Eli had to admit he was curious to see the rest of her place.


“I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t own a TV,” Eli said seriously considering her offer to look around.


“Well, it’s not that I don’t like to watch TV. It’s just that a while back I got used to watching shows online so I would always end up using the computer instead of the television. Mine died still in Washington and I just didn’t see the point of getting a new one.”


“They have smart TV’s now, you know. You can watch the Internet on TV, even your auditions in YouTube.”


“Oh really?” she laughed. “I guess one of these days I’ll buy one.”


“And furniture?”


“Yeah, one of these days I’ll buy furniture too,” she laughed.


“Why didn’t you just bring your stuff from Washington?”


“This is my stuff from Washington,” she replied.


“This is all you’ve got?” he said and then he got worried he might have sounded insulting. “I mean…”


Isabel laughed. “It’s ok. This is all I’ve got. I move around a lot. I guess it’s easier this way.”


Eli’s expression suddenly went sad. “I thought you said you were planning on staying,” he said.


“I think this time I will,” she said smiling and then leaned in and kiss him gently, slowly, and then parted. “I think this time I found something I really like.”


Eli grabbed her face with his left hand and pulled her closer to him, without releasing his other hand from the grip of the couch’s arm, and pressed his lips against hers. He took her taste in as he kissed her softly at first and then passionately. She then threw one leg around him and sat astride him. Eli placed both his hands over her thin waist as Isabel started kissing his neck and then his mouth again, then she ran her tongue gently over his earlobes. Both their breaths hitched as Eli touched her curved back and then kissed her long neck and her collarbone, marking the beginning of her chest, then he followed the line of her dress across her naked shoulders, not daring to pull it down, but savoring the expectation. She caressed his chest arching back and moaned slightly as he tightened his grip over her waist and then up across her back while nibbling her earlobe subtly.


Eli kissed her again in the mouth and then he stopped to look at her. Her face was inclined to the right making her red hair fall down over that side, her wet lips slightly opened breathing heavily. Was it possible that she wanted more? Did this beautiful woman really want him? He looked at her; she was still sitting on top of him, her legs parted around his hips, her body so close to him that every inch of them was touching. And he suddenly felt so impotent, literally impotent. He wanted to lift her up and carry her to bed. Lay her down slowly and mount her; rip her dress off and make love to her. But he couldn’t, not any more, not ever. He would never feel himself inside her. Never again would he feel a woman’s hips tightened around him, pressing him as they sway together.


“Eli,” Isabel’s voice again called him back from his tormented mind.


“I’m sorry,” he apologized.


“Don’t be,” she said holding his face with both hands. “You don’t ever have to be sorry for that with me.”


What did she mean by that? Was his expression so obvious she could guess what he was thinking? She stood up from him, kneeling again over the couch while pressing her body against his right arm, slightly hugging him. She then kissed his shoulder and looked up at him smiling.


“What would you like to listen to?” she asked.


“Uh… anything,” replied Eli trying to shake away the sudden sadness that had stroke him. “Show me something else you like. You’ve been through my entire collection.”


“Ok.”


She stood up and played another song. It was a kind of music that Eli had never heard before. A man’s voice sang in a strange tone, like a loud cry, that somehow sounded the way Eli felt right then.


“It’s gipsy music,” she explained. “It’s a Spanish guy called Zigala. And the piano is played by a Cuban musician, Bebo Valdez. He was eighty years old when he played that.”


Eli listened to the piano strokes and the man’s hoarse voice.


“Do you like it?” she asked.


“I can’t decide if it’s a sad song or a happy one,” Eli replied.


“He’s talking about a woman who left him and he’s saying he should hate her, but he doesn’t. Instead of cursing her he blesses her. I think it’s neither sad nor happy, but sensual,” Isabel said returning to the couch and leaning her head over his shoulder while resting one hand over his chest and the other on his arm.


Eli touched Isabel’s hand that was on his chest and he kissed her head. He breathed in the scent of her hair that was now a little disheveled. It felt so good to be close to her like that, to have him hold him. Her presence comforted him, but at the same time, Eli knew it was her same presence that made him feel so sad.


They stayed that way for a while, listening to music, mostly quiet. He didn’t try to kiss her again and neither did she; although she didn’t separate herself from him for the rest of the night. She kept one hand on him at all times, either on the arm or the chest, and at some point she laid down on the couch and rested her head over his legs and stayed there while he caressed her hair.


He left almost at three AM, not sure how he felt. She had kissed him softly as a goodbye and Eli thought back at all the times she had lingered an extra second when she kissed his cheek. Had she always liked him? It was hard to believe. It made sense that she would be attracted to his talent as an architect, perhaps she had flirted with him over the phone after all; but then she had met him. Had she really still been attracted to him after seeing he was disabled? Or had she already known? Suddenly Matt’s words rang in his ears. Maybe she looked you up and saw an opportunity. Eli pushed the thought away. She wasn’t a gold digger; no way. She was kind and honest, she wasn’t playing him; she couldn’t be.


All night he kept waking up and by dawn, spasms kept him from falling back asleep altogether. He had drank too much the night before. He should know better by now. Alcohol triggered his spasms. He started stretching in bed to distract himself from his thoughts. He didn’t really want to get out of bed, but by seven AM he knew he had to. Life as a paraplegic was obliged by routine. He forced himself to make the uncomfortable movement of swinging across the bed to grab a tip of the mattress and pull himself up. Then he reluctantly transferred into his wheelchair and rolled over to the bathroom.


He had just finished getting dressed after showering when he heard the bell ring. He looked at his watch, it was half past eight. He picked up the interphone to hear Isabel’s voice. It wasn’t the first time she had surprised him, but things were different now, or weren’t they? They had kissed last night, or perhaps she had come to her senses by now. She had had over half a bottle of neat scotch after all. He pictured Isabel apologizing for the night before, telling him it had all been a mistake and that they should go back to being friends. The thought scared him. Then he dared to picture the opposite, Isabel greeting him with a passionate kiss and trying to make out with him. He wasn’t sure which option was more frightening. He hesitated before buzzing her in, trying to settle his legs with his palms. On top of everything he was still having spasms.


“Hey,” she greeted him. “I’m sorry to stop by unannounced, I hope you don’t mind. I come baring coffee,” she smiled holding out two cups.


His legs jumped a little and he forced himself to smile back while pressing them with his hands.


“It’s fine. You’re always welcome here,” he replied.


She leaned down and kissed him on the cheek, not the mouth, the same way she always did when they met. Eli didn’t know what to make of that and yet he somehow felt relieved. Then she handed him his coffee.


“Would you like some breakfast?” he offered.


“Are you cooking it for me?” she asked in her usual flirty tone. At least she wasn’t acting strange.


“Sure,” he said and rolled towards the kitchen. She followed him. “What would you like?”


“Surprise me.” She was wearing some kind of gloss over her lips and as she grinned, Eli had trouble parting his eyes from her mouth. He thought back about the way she had kissed him and felt anxious at the memory.


He cooked eggs and they sat down to have breakfast. As always, Isabel loved his food, she enjoyed it slowly while she complimented him. Eli usually liked her compliments but today he was too restless. His mind was all over the place, wondering did she like him or didn’t she. Was she playing him as Matt thought? He felt guilty to even consider the possibility. Isabel was so great, but then again, was she too great? Some things are just too good to be true. He tried to make small talk to hide his nerves, and halfway through their meal he found himself talking about the weather. Ever since he’d first met her, he had found half the things Isabel did strange. Why had she shown up this morning? It wasn’t that he didn’t want to see her. He had to admit he loved having her around. But it also seemed a bit too much. He pushed the thought away making some comment about how cold the morning was and then he stayed quiet not knowing what else to say.


“So, I was thinking we could watch some TV,” she suggested when they ran out of small talk and food.


“Uh… sure. But my only TV is in the bedroom,” he replied shyly.


She smiled. “Is it a smart TV?” she joked.


“It is.”


“Well then, I don’t mind if you don’t,” she teased him.


He led the way to his bedroom, pushing his wheels with steady strokes. He hadn’t made the bed, but as he rolled in the room he was a little more concern with checking that he hadn’t left any awkward items lying around like a catheter. He gave the room a quick glance before inviting her in.


“I’m sorry about the mess,” he apologized, even though the only thing messy about his room were the covers over the bed. Eli was actually very tidy.


Isabel smiled. “May I?” she asked pointing towards the bed.


“Sure,” Eli said feeling his heartbeat rising.


She sat down on the bed and then doubted a moment before taking her shoes off and putting her legs over the mattress. Eli circled the bed and positioned his wheelchair in front of it. A little over a year ago, he wouldn’t have hesitated a second to jump into bed next to this woman. Now, he looked at her before transferring, worried that the moment he did, his legs were likely to start shaking again. Then again, his legs had spasm in front of her other times before, and if that freaked Isabel out, she hid it well. Come to think about it, she had never reacted awkwardly to any aspect of his disability, which was part of what he found so intriguing about her. It wasn’t only that Isabel was beautiful, he also happened to really like her. She was odd sometimes, but Eli actually enjoyed that; her character was unexpected and refreshing. To be honest, were he not in a wheelchair, he would have no doubts about her at all.


She looked away while she pulled herself to rest her back against the headboard. Eli reached down to take his shoes off too, still in the chair. Then he placed a fist over the bed and swung his body. He picked up his legs and placed them as gently as possible over the mattress; but –as predicted - they shook uncontrollably. He took a deep breath waiting the spasm out. Once they stopped, he picked up the remote and turned to her.


“So, what would you like to watch?” he asked her.


“What do you usually watch?” she asked in return.


“Well, I like series.”


“Which ones?”


“Criminal minds, Castle, Crossing lines… usually thrillers.” He felt so awkward in bed next to her.


“Ok, so pick one.”


He used the remote and chose a random chapter of Crossing lines. She then pulled herself closer to him and placed her head on his chest. Eli swallowed hard and forced himself to put his arm around her, afraid she was going to try to make out with him now. She didn’t, she just laid there. After half a chapter of lying in the same position he started to relax. It was kind of nice to be lying with her that way. She smelled so good, her hair just underneath his face, her warm body pressed against his chest. Eli hadn’t realized how much he missed that human contact, how much he actually needed to be held like that; how good it felt to not be alone all the time.


Since she had never watched that show before he explained the basics to her, and then she made some questions along the way. By the second chapter, she was really into the plot and Eli finally started to believe she actually wanted to watch TV. She hadn’t tried to kiss him, and although she was holding his chest, she hadn’t touched him in any way that suggested she was expecting more from him.


“This is a really good show,” she said at the end of the second chapter. “I can’t believe I’ve never watched it before. I didn’t even know it existed.”


“Well, you don’t own a TV,” he joked, now feeling almost completely relaxed, enjoying her presence. He had had a few spasms but she had ignored them, and he was happy to see she hadn’t changed her attitude towards him after last night. She still treated him with complete casualness, as if they had known each other for a lot longer than they actually had.


He played the next chapter but halfway through the first scene they heard the main door open and someone walk in. Isabel sat up on the bed. Shit, it was probably Matt, thought Eli. It wasn’t the first time he had regretted having given him a key.


“Eli?” he heard Matt’s voice calling from the living room.


“Is that Matt?” asked Isabel.


“Yeah. He has a key,” Eli said as he hurried to transfer into his chair. Isabel watched him for a second but as he rolled out to meet Matt, she got off the bed too and started to put her shoes on.


“Hey, I thought maybe you weren’t home,” Matt greeted him. “I called you.”


“Sorry, I didn’t hear it,” Eli said looking for his phone, he had probably left it in the dining room.


“I brought you leftovers from dinner,” Matt said and then he noticed Isabel coming out of the bedroom. Eli turned around nervously. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t realize you had company,” Matt said awkwardly.


“Hi,” Isabel greeted him.


“Hello, Isabel," Matt replied. So he was back to his rude tone, thought Eli, as Matt looked down towards his feet. He hadn’t had time to put his shoes back on.


“Thanks,” Eli said taking the food from Matt’s hands and placing it on his lap to roll to the kitchen.


He was expecting Matt to leave it at that and go, but instead, he took a sit at the table. “So, have you guys had lunch yet?” he asked.


“We had breakfast kind of late,” Eli said and then regretted it because he wasn’t sure he wanted Matt to know he had had breakfast with Isabel.


“Oh! Did you stay up late last night?” Matt asked bluntly.


“No,” Eli lied and then tried his best not to turn around to look at Isabel; he could feel her eyes on him though.


“I brought pumpkin pie, Isabel. Don’t you want some? Since you like it so much,” Matt said.


“We’ll have some later,” Eli jumped in.


“So, what were you two doing?” Matt said taking the tone of a parent who had just walked in on two teenagers.


“Nothing,” Eli said before Isabel could speak. “Isabel just dropped by for a bit,” he said nervously looking straight at Matt who had his eyes fixed on her.


“So you won’t mind if I stay for a while, will you?” Matt said. “Unless I’m interrupting something…?” he added in a conspicuous tone. Eli robbed his forehead with his hand.


Isabel walked around Eli and sat down at the table across from him. Now Eli couldn’t avoid her gaze anymore.


“You’ll never guess who called this morning, Eli,” Matt said.


“Who?” asked Eli annoyed.


“Melany,” replied Matt. Isabel finally parted her eyes from Eli and turned to look at Matt.


“Could care less,” Eli said while lifting his body with his hands and adjusting his position in the chair. Matt point blank hated Melany. Eli had always thought Matt was angrier at her than he was; a fact that he had made more than evident since she walked out on him. It had been him who got rid of all her stuff and he had vanished her name from every conversation. Any time someone would mention her, Matt would swear or make some insulting comment. Eli even remembered him hitting the table once angry at Sarah for saying her name. So why the hell was he bringing her up now?


“Well, she seems to be under the impression that you two are… involved.”


“What?” asked Eli nervously.


“She said she met Isabel at the inauguration party for the Newton building. Funny how you didn’t want me to go with you that day.”


Ok, that was it, thought Eli as he felt anger building up inside him. He was done cutting him slack. He was done letting Matt treat him like a child and embarrassing him this way. So he had been his best friend for 19 years; so he had been there for him after his injury, so he hadn’t left his side at the hospital, and he had taken care of him when he was released, while he was still learning to be independent. So he had cleaned his ass, dressed him, carried him. So what? Did that give him the right to humiliate him? Eli took a deep breath considering, maybe, it did.


“So… are you…?” he heard Matt’s voice as a hoarse echo from behind the trail of his thoughts. Eli squinted at him. “…involved?”


“No, we’re not,” Eli said bluntly and without hesitation.


Isabel had been looking at Matt at the time, but the moment the words left Eli’s mouth, she turned around slowly to look at him. Shit. He could see her chest rise a little as she breathed in locking her eyes on his for just a second and then she looked down, her eyebrows curled slightly up as she did that and then she rested her chin over her hand, setting her elbow over the table, and looked away.


“I wondered how she got that idea,” Matt said. “So were you guys going out or something?”


“No, actually I was just leaving,” Isabel finally spoke. “As Eli said, I just dropped by for a bit," she added getting up.


“Oh, don’t leave on my account,” Matt said without sounding honest.


“Isabel,” uttered Eli. His anger towards Matt and Melany subsiding now, he realized he was being a jerk and was suddenly whipped by a lash of guilt.


“It was nice seeing you again, Matt. Say hi to Sarah for me.”


Isabel’s tone seemed normal; she didn’t sound upset, she wasn’t being ironic. Eli considered stopping her, but he didn’t really want to do so in front of Matt. Instead he just let her go, feeling even guiltier, but determined to apologize to her and make things right the minute Matt was out of the house.


“See you, Eli," she said as she walked out the door and now she sounded sad. Shit, he was a total jerk, Eli scolded himself.


“So… not involved ha?” Matt said a minute later.


Eli’s eyes were still fixed on the door. He used his left hand to turn his chair around and face Matt with bolting eyes.


“She didn’t spend the night if that’s what you’re thinking?” Eli said now ready to put a stop to Matt’s stupid attitude.


“I wasn’t thinking that,” replied Matt dropping the attitude, his tone back to the normal condescending way he had talked to Eli in for the past year.


Of course Matt wasn’t thinking that, he didn’t think Eli could lift a dish, let alone sleep with a woman. It was a damn miracle he hadn’t hired a nurse like Melany thought. And now what? Was he siding with her?


“Of course you weren’t,” Eli smiled wryly. “You know, Melany came to the party to share her happiness with me. It turns out she’s engaged. Big diamond ring on her finger and all,” Eli started saying in an exaggerated tone. “Oh! But get this. She’s talked it over with her fiancée, and they both feel like she should come to visit me from time to time to keep me company. So I won’t be so lonely,” he said ironically, stressing the words. He could see Matt’s eyes filling with sadness or pity as he spoke and that spiked him further, pissed him off. “She’s actually such a good person that she wants to help take care of me, to keep the weight off your back ‘cause you must be so tired. She was thinking of supervising a nurse. Is that what you two talked about this morning? Are you going to split expenses or maybe you convened that I’ll be better taken care of at a home?”


Matt’s expression went from gloom to furious. He got up from the table and grabbed his hair as he turned his back on Eli. He could hear him breathing heavily, but Eli was angry too. He had been holding things in for too long.


“That bitch is gonna listen to me,” Matt hissed and headed for the door.


Eli’s anger dissipated as fast as it had built up, and he pushed his wheels to caught Matt off. Matt had a temper, he was a good guy and the best of friends, but he would lit up in fury in a second and measure no consequences. And right now he was going to go find Melany, no doubt about that. Not that she didn’t deserve a little yelling, but Eli didn’t want that. So, Matt also thought he had to defend him from big bad Melany, which was again embarrassing, but mostly, he didn’t want Matt to get into trouble, which he had a neck for.


“Matt, don’t.” Eli parked his chair in front of him.


Matt tried to dodge him and Eli turned his wheelchair to the side hitting Matt’s leg with his footplate. Matt looked down at Eli’s feet that started shaking with the blow. His nostrils swollen from anger, as he tried to control his breathing. Unlike Isabel, Eli’s spasms always made Matt uneasy.


“I can’t believe her nerve,” Matt hissed after a while. “I’m sorry I brought her up, man,” he said lowering his tone.


“Not your fault,” replied Eli.


Matt turned around and dropped himself on the couch. He was clenching his fists and he threw his head back still breathing heavily. Eli rolled closer to him, positioning his chair in front of the sofa.


“Do you want to come over to the house? We could hang out,” Matt suggested.


“No, thanks,” refused Eli. “I’ve got some stuff to do.”


Matt looked at him, analyzing his expression. He then fixed his eyes on Eli’s legs that were shaking just a bit now.


“Are you sure? Or I could stay,” he insisted.


“I’m fine, Matt, really.”





When Matt finally left, Eli picked up his phone to call Isabel. He was afraid she wouldn’t pick up but she did.


“Hey, Isabel,” he said nervously into the phone.


“Hey,” she said back.


“Look, I’m so sorry… It’s just that Matt…” he didn’t know how to explain. Matt thinks you’re a gold digger, so I didn’t want him to know I kissed you.


“It’s ok, you don’t owe me an explanation,” she caught him off.


“I do. I acted like a jerk. I’m so sorry,” he apologized. “Where are you?”


“Home,” she said and Eli wasn’t sure if it was sadness on her tone.


“Would you like to maybe go somewhere?” he asked.


“I’m just going to lie down for a while. I’m kind of tired,” she refused him.


“Oh… OK,” he replied trying to figure out what else to say.


“OK, bye,” she didn’t give him an opportunity and hanged up.


Ok, so a beautiful woman had kissed him back, tried to make out with him, then acted perfectly understanding at the fact that he couldn’t quite make out with her, then stopped by to see him the next morning, brought him coffee, laid down with him to watch TV, not acted weird at his spasms and he had just blown it big time. He was such a jerk.


He rolled to the kitchen and stored the food Matt had brought in the fridge. Then he headed towards his bedroom thinking he should just lie down and try to sleep, but he was too upset. Finally he made up his mind; he picked up his car keys and decided to drive to Isabel’s place. The least he could do was apologize in person.


When he got there, he almost chickened out and turned back; but he forced himself to ring the doorbell instead. It took her a while to answer and Eli feared she wasn’t actually home, but finally he heard her voice on the intercom.


“It’s Eli,” he said shyly on the speaker. “It’s Eli,” he repeated lauder into the speaker realizing he was two feet down from it.


After a moment that seemed like an eternity to Eli, he finally heard her voice again.


“Oh… I’ll buzz you in,” she said.


Her door was opened when he left the elevator. She was standing at the entrance waiting for him. He took a deep breath before looking her in the eye.


“I’m sorry to drop by like this. I know you probably don’t want to see me, but I couldn’t leave things like that,” he said fighting not to look down, almost unable to hold her gaze.


“Come in,” she invited stepping away from the door. “Coffee?” she offered once they were both inside.


“Sure, thanks,” he accepted. His mouth was dry.


He followed her to the kitchen and watched her pour him a cup from a glass French coffee maker. As she opened a cupboard, he noticed again, she only had one mug in it, identical to the one she was already drinking from, the rest of the space was empty. They headed back to the couch where they had sat the night before and she sat down with her legs curled up over it, before handing him his mug. This time, she didn’t invite him to transfer.


“So, look… I’m sorry about Matt. But mostly I’m sorry about the way I acted,” he started. She stayed quiet so he continued. “I didn’t mean to deny we were… I just didn’t know exactly where we stand and I didn’t want to assume… maybe you don’t want people to know… we…” he was stuttering like the first times he had been around her.


“Are you still interested in Melany?” she interrupted him.


“What? God no! Of course not.” At least he was certain about that. If that was what Isabel was thinking he could set her mind at ease.


“Then what’s the matter?”


“Nothing… I didn’t know if last night… was a one time thing…” he almost whispered. That part was true; he had no idea if it had all been a moment of weakness on her part, perhaps she had drank too much.


Isabel stared at him. “Was me coming over this morning too subtle?” she laughed all of a sudden changing her expression. “I was kind of worried it was too blunt.”


“Uh… I… So you…? I thought you might regret last night,” he said feeling so very stupid.


“What? No,” she said smiling at him with that beautiful mouth. “Last night was amazing.”


“Really?” he couldn’t help but ask. “I thought it was kind of a disaster,” he said bluntly and her smile faded. “Oh, I don’t mean it like that, I just mean I didn’t, I wasn’t…” he took a deep breath. “Kissing you was amazing,” he said building up the courage to roll closer and grab her hand. “You’re amazing. Me on the other hand, I’m… well…,” he said looking down at his dead legs.


“What?”


“I’m on a wheelchair,” he spat out as if it was some big revelation, a secret he had been keeping from her.


Isabel smiled. “I’ve noticed.”


“Have you really?” he insisted. Isabel stopped smiling. “I mean, of course you know I’m on a wheelchair, but I’m not really sure you know what that means.” She looked at him as if she didn’t understand what he was saying. Truth be told he wasn’t making much sense so he tried to explain. “I think it’s absolutely amazing that you’re willing to overlook it, but the fact is I’m not sure you’ve thought things through.”


“You think I overlook the fact that you’re in a wheelchair?”


“I can’t walk.” Dah! He was aware he sounded ridiculous but he had to say it out loud. “I can’t move or feel anything from my chest down.”


“I know that. You think I don’t know that?”


“I…,” boy, this was harder than he anticipated. “Obviously you know that, but…”


“Do you think I somehow trick my mind into believing you’re… simply sitting down?” she said making a strange gesture that implied that was ridiculous.


“Well… yeah.” Yes, that was exactly what Eli thought. The way she acted so naturally around him, he was pretty sure in Isabel’s mind, he was just a normal guy who just happened to be always sitting down. He was sure she had never stopped to think that he was completely useless from the chest down, that he had to use a catheter to pee, that he had to grab on to the edge of the bed just to be able to sit up, that he was… crippled.


Isabel leaned over and put both her hands over his legs. She was looking him straight in the eye with that intense gaze he was familiar with by now. “I don’t think that,” she started. “I know you can’t move your legs, I know…” she hesitated. “I know you’re paralyzed.” She paused again. “Ok granted, I might not know everything that implies, but I have an idea, I’m not completely ignorant. I figure there’s more to it than just the fact that you can’t move, I hope you’ll trust me with it as we get to know each other, but I thought we could figure that along the way.”


“And you’re ok with that?” Eli asked incredulous.


“Of course,” she said as if it were obvious.


“You like me despite that?” he repeated not sure he believed her words.


“Not despite that,” she said narrowing her big eyes. “I like you, Eli, period. All of you, exactly the way you are.”


“What?” he asked now absolutely not believing her.


“I like you. I like your talent and your intelligence, I love the way you look at the world and how you’re able to transmit it in your buildings and your drawings. You’re an incredible cook, that’s sexy. And I adore that you don’t know how handsome you are, and you’re so humble even though you’re incredibly talented. But I also like your determination. It has been barely a year and you’ve got your life back together. I admire the fact that you’re dealing with it even though it must have been unimaginably hard, especially at first, it likely still is, but I have not once seen you feel sorry for yourself. I like the fact that you’re so strong, both mentally and physically… The way you can pull your body using only your arms, I think that’s kind of hot. I pretty much like everything about you. Most of the time I actually have to restrain myself from showing you just how much I like you.”


What? Had she really just said all that? Had she actually used the words sexy and hot to describe him? Was it possible that this gorgeous woman liked him? He leaned forward keeping his balance by resting his hands over hers that were still on his legs. Isabel was still looking straight at him, her big eyelashes framing her eyes. She was wearing no makeup on her skin, Eli could tell because he got to see a freckle on her nose and the natural way her cheeks had reddened. She was blushing, her eyes were fierce, not a shred of doubt in them, but she had blushed saying those things and Eli looked down to see her chest quickened by her breath. Was she nervous? Eli smiled, letting her words sink in. She liked him! He felt himself jump inside his mind, arms in the air, head back. Isabel liked him!


Not a second later he was kissing her. Hesitation completely gone. He grabbed her hair hard with one hand while keeping the other one on his lap and he let go into her mouth. No wandering thoughts or insecurities clouding the moment. Just the intense feeling of her closeness, her heat, the flesh of her lips pressed against his. When they parted, he smiled broadly at her, feeling pure and complete happiness.