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, 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.
“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.”
“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.