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,” said Matt.
“Really?” Eli took his phone out and saw 7 missed calls from Matt. “Sorry, I didn’t hear it. But seriously Matt, 7 calls? What are you a jealous girlfriend?” Eli jocked.
“You’re in a good mood,” said Matt suspicious.
“Why did you go to the garden?” asked Matt acting like a detective.
“To draw,” replied Eli.
“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?” asked Eli 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?” said Eli attempting to get off the subject. “How’s Sarah?”
“I wanna know where you were,” said Matt ignoring 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?” asked Eli upset. This was too much. “What the hell is the matter with you?”
“Were you at the doctor?” asked Matt.
“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 denied, dropping 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?” asked his friend still skeptic.
“I was there with someone.”
“With who?”
“Isabel Auburn,” hissed Eli.
“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?” said Matt suddenly changing his tone and relaxing his expression. “Why didn’t you say so?”
“Because I wanted to avoid the interrogation,” confessed Eli.
“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,” replied Matt 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.”
“Why don’t you mind your own business for once and leave me alone,” said Eli rudely and turned around, using his hand to signal Matt towards the door.
“Just leave me alone, Matt.”
“You’ll find someone, you just gotta give it some time,” said Matt looking 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,” said Eli 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 seem 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 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 he’s 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 complemented 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 complementing 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,” said Melany pushing her blond hair back.
“Owe me what?” asked Eli.
“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,” said Eli fighting 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?” asked Eli unable to believe her nerve.
“My fiancĂ©e 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,” said Eli clenching 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,” said the man and 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 business men 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,” said Jenna over the phone and 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? thought Eli 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 twenty 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 kneeled 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.
“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?”
“Mmm, you’re well preserved for someone that old,” she joked.
“Ha, ha,” replied Eli. “Are you hungry?”
“Kind of. Maybe we could order take out,” she suggested.
Eli shook his head. “I’m cooking for you.”
“Really?” Said Isabel, 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,” said Isabel. “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 complementing 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,” said Eli 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.
“Don’t tell me you’re a Beatles fan?”
“Hell yeah! I’m a Beatles fan,” she alleged.
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 complemented 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,” said Isabel and Eli looked at his watch surprised. It was almost 2AM. 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 bellow 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?” asked Eli.
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, thought Eli 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 him. 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? thought Eli.
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 him 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,” said Isabel and she 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,” said Sarah. “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?” said Eli handing 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,” said Eli as 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,” replied Matt. 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?” said Eli 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.
“I don’t need your help,” said Eli 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,” said Eli 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,” said Eli trying 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,” said Isabel smiling 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,” said Isabel looking 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,” replied Sarah 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, thought Eli. 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!” said Matt 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?” said Eli 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?”
“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?” asked Eli almost scared to hear him continue.
“Well what?”
“Well, it’s obvious she’s playing you,” Matt almost spat out the words.
“She’s playing me? How’s so?” asked Eli emulating 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,” said Matt now bluntly looking at him as if he were stupid.
“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,” replied Matt 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…” said Matt walking around him to face Eli.
“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 said 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,” said Matt 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…” said Sarah 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,” said Sarah still standing up.
“I love board games,” said Isabel standing 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,” said Matt. “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,” agreed Matt taking 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?” asked Matt now in a cheerful tone Eli still wasn’t buying.
“Of course,” said Isabel. “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 said smiling melancholically. “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 bare 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, two months 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 breath taking; 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 look at 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 kneeled 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.


» 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.