Monday, February 1, 2016

For The Love Of Not Walking

Still trying to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and his acquired disability during combat, Kieran has been living with his sister Fiona and her family. He is adjusting to life but at times feels lonely. There is a chance of this changing when he meets someone on an outing with the family.

Chapter 1
                It had been a busy day. Fiona was working later than usual on that Friday. Kieran had been at home with the kids all day. He had made sure they were fed and didn’t do anything crazy. Not that he could do a whole lot about it if they decided to run outside or climb on furniture to use for diving boards onto the couch. He was stuck in his wheelchair and even though the kids definitely had the upper hand in the “babysitting” department, they did respect their Uncle Kieran and usually listened to him when he did get on to them. He played board games and video games with them all the time. He threw the Football with them outside in the backyard, usually parked with his wheelchair on the deck and the kids in the grass running to catch the Football. The Basketball hoop in the drive way was another opportunity to hang out with them and show them that he could still make a basket even from the sitting position. Ashleigh was 14 years old and Dominic was 11 years old. The long summer break had been a challenge for everyone. It was almost time to go back to school. For two weeks the family had managed to go on a camping trip into the mountains and even though Kieran had enjoyed the silence in the house while they were gone, it did get lonely after a while. Living with his sister Fiona, her husband Tyler, and the kids had kept his mind occupied enough not to fall into too much of a depression lately.
                Before it had been decided for Kieran to move in with Fiona he had been severely plagued by depression that on two occasions he had attempted suicide and was only unsuccessful because his roommate had walked in on him trying to overdose on anti-depressants and pain medication. The second attempt was so serious that Kieran was in a coma for two weeks and everyone had feared the worst once he would wake up. Like a miracle he was all right though and had not sustained any brain damage or post suicidal effects. At that time Fiona stepped up and decided that it was in Kieran’s best interest to move in with her and her family so she could keep an eye on her younger brother. After all she was the only family he had left.

                Even though in the beginning Kieran had been fighting the decision with all his might, in the end it had been the best thing for him. Living with Fiona and her family had established a somewhat structured life for him with people who cared for him and especially the kids taking a liking to having their uncle there all the time. Kieran was just now coming to some kind of acceptance of his new life being paraplegic and taking on all the challenges that came with the disability.

                Fiona worked in a bank and with it being pay day for many she ended up working longer that day which had left Kieran in charge at home with Ashleigh and Dominic. When the kids finally settled down to watch a movie he also took the time to transfer over onto the recliner in the family room where he fell asleep shortly after. He only woke up when he heard Fiona’s voice by the front door calling over to their neighbors.

                Kieran slowly opened his eyes and blinked into the room finding Fiona towering over him, “Hey sleepyhead.”
He shifted and looked over to the kids, checking if they were still on the couch.
Fiona laughed, “Don’t worry, you are not in trouble. Sorry I had to work so late.”
“No big deal. They were good.”
Dominic added, “Uncle Kieran threw the Football over into Mike’s yard.”
Kieran mumbled, “Tattle Tale.”
Fiona smiled, “Did he now?”
Dominic repeated, “Yes, he did. He threw the ball while he was rolling fast with his chair on the deck.”

                Fiona touched Kieran’s shoulder gently and looking down at him with a warm expression she asked lowly, “Are you all right?”
Kieran just nodded and with the remote control he let the recliner foot rest down. Right away he felt gravity trying to pull him down but he fought against it and pressed his upper body onto the recliner, gaining some stability in his sitting position. Fiona pushed his wheelchair closer to the recliner again and then walked away.
Kieran looked over to Dominic, “Why are you telling on me like that?”
Dominic laughed, “Mama said you are not in trouble.”
A smile brushed over Kieran’s face and he turned his eyes to the TV, and watched the show. The short nap had felt good but he didn’t want to sleep anymore so he would be able to sleep at night, which was a problem on many occasions.

                Fiona’s husband Tyler walked in around six that evening. He worked for the Parks and Recreation Department of the city and was usually all over the place taking care of the Parks, Athletic Complexes and Recreational Facilities in town. Sometimes he worked on weekends depending on what was going on in the city’s events calendar. Tyler and Kieran got along well. It had never been a question for Tyler to help out his brother-in-law in his time of need.

                Dinner was ready and as they all sat around the table they talked about their day and enjoyed Fiona’s home cooking. As much as Kieran enjoyed being around the family it also hurt him sometimes and it kept reminding him of the things he somewhat longed for but wasn’t sure anymore if he would ever have; a family of his own. He knew he needed to get back on track and figure out what to do with his life and Fiona was helping him as much as she could but constant break downs kept Kieran to get on with it. A job he had held for a few months with a retailer was over when he had a flash back on one of his days there and actually had to get picked up by Fiona because he couldn’t perform his job anymore after a panic attack.

                The nights were his enemy. At the end of the hallway he had his own room with adjoining bathroom in the one story house. Before Kieran had moved in Tyler had added and changed a few things to the rooms so they would be as accessible as possible for Kieran. His bathroom was spacious and he was able to take care of himself with the provided accommodations. Tyler had done a great job remodeling the bathroom counters, adding grab bars and opening up the shower for Kieran to be able to transfer onto the shower chair. His bedroom was an open space and large enough for him to wheel around in comfortably. They had even taken out the carpet not too long ago which made things even better for Kieran. Everything as for accessibility was perfect for him but at night when he laid in his bed alone, his mind started spinning and often times he couldn’t relax enough to fall asleep. Muscle relaxers and sleeping pills were a constant helper and as much as he didn’t want to depend on all the medications most often he needed them just to be able to get some rest. When he finally did fall asleep usually sometime during the night he was awakened by nightmares that were a constant reminder of what he had been through. Many times he woke up screaming and in cold sweat and Fiona or Tyler came rushing into his bedroom trying to calm him down and reassuring him that he was safe at home.

               Friday night as he laid there in his bed at ten o’clock, the TV mounted up on the wall showing some movie, he was scrolling through his phone with no particular goal. His black framed Quickie GT wheelchair was parked next to his bed. His backrest was mid high, the injury giving him problems with trunk stability had forced him to opt for the higher back rest because he needed the support. He sometimes used the belt even though he hated it but there were days when his trunk stability was all but supportive. He used a single foot rest with the wide band right behind his ankles and calves holding his feet in place on the foot rest. The gel cushion pillow on his seat was supposed to prevent pressure sores and so far it had worked since he had not dealt with any sores. During his everyday living he was never short of performing quick lifts of his body in his chair to prevent the sores. He had heard too many horrible stories of pressure sores giving people in wheelchairs lots of grief and taking a long time to heal, sometimes leading to even more serious issues.

                As he lay in his bed, propped up on some pillows and scrolling through his phone he ended on his buddy Andy’s Facebook page. According to the FB threads Andy apparently had a good night out with his girlfriend and others showing photos of them at a bar in all different poses with all different types of drinks. Two years earlier Andy had been deployed with him to Afghanistan. During the deployment they had become close friends just to be torn apart by the fate that had come upon Kieran. Andy had finished the deployment, came back to the US and now was soon to be married to his girlfriend of four years. He had not been physically injured in combat and had been able to move on with his life, staying in the Military and having just reenlisted for another three years. Of the ten years Kieran had been Active Duty in the Infantry he had spent three separate years deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Now he lived with the haunting memories of combat and had not been very successful at dealing with his PTSD. Looking at Andy’s pictures hurt him and he wished so much to have what Andy had. Quickly he tapped on the “Like” button underneath the few party photos that had been sent by a cell phone and then turned his own phone off turning his eyes to the TV screen again.

                With the help of a sleeping pill and with the TV on Kieran fell asleep, his upper body still propped up somewhat on the pillows. It was a rude awakening when sudden spasms shot through his body and as he was jerked awake he glanced at the clock on his bedside table and it showed after one o’clock.  Sleepily he glanced at the TV. His legs under the blanket jerked up like there was a creature alive under it and for a moment he just watched until he attempted to adjust his body and the pillows to a more flat position realizing how his neck hurt badly from his head oddly hanging over to the side as he had fallen asleep in the awkward position. Lowly he cursed into the room.

                He turned off the TV and slid his body down, eventually lying flat on his back and letting the spasms just do their thing. He wanted to wait a few moments before taking his Baclofen to help get the spasms under control and after about twenty minutes they actually subsided on their own. Kieran didn’t want to depend on the medication at all times so mostly when he was at home he just dealt with the spasms and hoped they would go away on their own. As his body calmed down Kieran finally fell asleep at almost two in the morning.

                Kieran woke up to Fiona’s voice, “Kieran, how long do you want to sleep today?”
He could barely open his eyes and Fiona added, “It is almost noon. Remember we wanted to go to the mall today.”
As he moved some Fiona stated, “Kieran, the blanket is wet.”
He opened his eyes all the way and glanced down his blanket.
He saw the dark wet spot on the blanket and mumbled, “Fuck.”
Fiona shook her head, “Kieran…”
It was her way of reprimanding him of the curse slipping over his lips and she said softly, “You should get out of the wet clothes and the bed.”
Kieran slowly moved up on his elbows as Fiona pulled up the shades in his room.
Fiona turned to him, “Are you going to be okay in here?”
“Yes.” She walked out of the room.

                Kieran’s wheelchair was still parked right next to his bed. With one hand he pushed his legs over the edge of the bed and held himself steady with his hands by his sides in a sitting position. He looked down at his shorts and saw the wet spot and he caught the urine scent of his soaked briefs. It was always easier to take his clothes off or put them on while lying in his bed and he started wriggling his shorts down with one hand, letting gravity work as they slid down his legs and dropped to the floor. He left on the briefs as he would take them off in the bathroom. They were easy to just tear off on the side by his hip and he could just slip out of them when transferring onto the shower chair and then throw them away. Pulling his wheelchair closer he transferred into it and draped an old T-Shirt over his lap, then wheeling into the bathroom.

                His bathroom was accessible and spacious for him to move around in. In a years’ time he had become proficient in his bathroom routine and was able to get all his tasks done. Tyler had done a great job remodeling the bathroom and even taken out a wall for a door that led from Kieran’s bedroom right into the bathroom, so he would have his privacy and not have to wheel out into the hallway.
                Kieran wheeled up to the sink without a cabinet under it so he could wheel right up to it. He looked in the mirror and realized how he looked very tired. His longish dark brown hair was chaotic around his head, his green eyes were blood shot and dark rings showed under them. A three day stubble shadowed his face. He had always been a fairly good looking guy with his green eyes and dark hair never short to attract a woman with a sexy smile, something that had not happened a lot anymore lately. He hadn’t really been laughing or smiling anymore since he had left Afghanistan immobilized and sedated on a stretcher in a C-17 Military transport plane taking him back to the US to start his process of recovery and rehabilitation at Walter Reed Military Hospital and eventual honorable discharge from the US-Army, which had been his life for 10 years.

                He stared at his mirror image and let his hand run through his hair, taking a deep breath. He had to get out of his adult briefs, he hated thinking about them as diapers. Unfortunately he leaked on some nights and his doctor had suggested an indwelling Foley catheter to not have to worry about leakage and not having to use intermittent catherization every 4-6 hours. Kieran did not want to deal with an indwelling catheter, wearing a bag on his leg that would catch his urine in a constant flow. He hated the fact of not knowing anymore when he had to urinate or defecate but there was nothing he could do about it. He had had a couple of accidents in the first six months after rehab but now almost a year into his injury he had been able to establish a somewhat structured routine when it came to bowel movements and his catherization, also having dodged urinary tract infections so far. Accidents had become a rare occasion but he had to keep alert at his body’s signs of any changes.

                He washed his hands with soap. Lethargically he wheeled over to the toilet and tearing his briefs off on the sides he was able to slide them out from under his butt and balling the soaked briefs up he stuffed them into a small plastic bag, tied a knot in it and threw it in the trash. Naked he sat in his wheelchair. All his catherization items were on a shelf right next to the toilet, easy for him to reach and use. Not very enthusiastically he wiped the tip of his penis with an alcohol swab, and inserted the catheter tubing slowly into his urethra and letting the other end hang into the toilet. Momentarily he saw the urine run through the tubing and splashing into the toilet. He was lost in thoughts at how wonderful it had been when he was able to just stand at the urinal in the men’s bathrooms and just pee like any other guy.

                After his catherization he transferred onto the chair Tyler had installed for him in the shower, grab bars along the side of the tub wall and the shower head and faucet in reach for Kieran. He brushed his teeth in the shower. He dried off in the shower so he wouldn’t get his wheelchair wet and eventually laid spread out on his bed putting on his clothes. Since an outing was planned to the mall he had decided to actually put on some incontinence briefs again and his jeans over them. His legs were flopping spastically all over the bed and he had to keep adjusting them with his hands, mostly trying to guide them into his jeans and finally pulling the jeans all the way up. While sitting in his wheelchair he pulled his right leg up and with its foot on his left knee he pulled his sock on, then repeated the same procedure with is left leg. After the socks his Nike’s came on the same way and finally he sat in his chair with clothes on and wheeled into his bathroom once more to brush his hair and have one last look into the mirror. He looked a little bit better since the shower, not so tired anymore.

                He came wheeling out to the kitchen where the family was sitting around the table having breakfast. It was Saturday and everyone was at home. Kieran greeted them with a low Good Morning and the kids and Tyler said their Good Morning. Fiona was at the stove preparing some French toast and Kieran wheeled up to his place at the table.
Tyler looked up from his paper, “Did you have a good night?”
There were many nights when Kieran didn’t have good nights and sometimes it was Tyler and sometimes it was Fiona who would come into his room in the middle of the night, telling Kieran to calm down and that he was all right and not in the battlefield and no one was shooting at him.             
Dominic asked, “Are you going with us today?”
Kieran nodded, “Yeah, that’s the plan I guess.”
Fiona replied from the kitchen, “Yes, Uncle Kieran is going with us.”
Ashleigh added with a serious face, “You need to get out more, Uncle Kieran.”
Kieran grinned, “And you start sounding like your mom.”
Tyler looked up with a smile.

                After breakfast and cleaning up the kitchen, everyone got ready to go to the mall in town. The kids needed some new clothes for school and Kieran couldn’t ignore anymore that he could also use some new clothes. Most of his T-Shirts were faded and the few jeans he owned were getting wore out on the butt from sitting on it all the time. Apart from the shopping Ashleigh was right that he needed to get out more.

                The family car, a Subaru Outback was proficient for everyone to have enough room and also for Kieran’s wheelchair in the trunk. Usually Kieran sat in the front with Fiona or Tyler driving. Today Tyler took the wheel and Kieran transferred into the seat next to him, then Dominic stashed the Quickie into the trunk. Mom and kids scrambled into the back seat.

                The mall was packed on this Saturday. Back to school shopping in its full capacity but Tyler found a spot in one of the handicapped parking areas and while Kieran transferred into his wheelchair everyone gathered their things and eventually Tyler locked the car with the remote. Tyler had applied for the handicapped parking placard once Kieran had moved in with the family. 

                Ashleigh walked next to Kieran as he wheeled into the main entrance of the mall. While her mom, dad, and Dominic were chatting in front of them about which store to hit first she turned to Kieran, “Hey Uncle Kieran?”
Kieran answered while focused on spinning his rims, “Yes?”
“You look tired today. Are you feeling all right?”
Kieran was amazed how Ashleigh usually picked up on his moods and he looked up at her for a moment, then quickly back at the path in front of him and answered lowly, “Yeah, I am perfectly fine.”
Ashleigh didn’t ask anymore, another trait she possessed of not pushing Kieran too much if he didn’t feel like talking about a horrible night or a bad day.

                Inside the mall, Kieran just followed the family to wherever they decided to go. JC Penney was the first stop and while Tyler, Fiona and the kids looked around, Kieran wheeled around in the men’s clothing section just browsing.
Ashleigh found Kieran by a table with T-Shirts and surprised him as she suddenly appeared next to him and asked, “Will you go to Old Navy with me?”
He looked up, “Old Navy?”
“Yeah, I want you to go with me. Mom and Dad are busy with Dominic in the boy’s section. Mom said I can go ahead on my own.”
Kieran held up a T-Shirt for himself, “Is this one good?”
Ashleigh took the T-Shirt from him and held it up in front of her, “Nah, it looks boring.”
Somewhat folded she threw the T-Shirt back on the table and smiled, “I help you find some clothes if you help me.”
Kieran shrugged his shoulders. He really didn’t feel like buying clothes for himself anyways but didn’t mind accompanying his niece. He was actually a little honored that the teenage girl valued his opinion and didn’t mind being seen with her 32-year-old uncle in a wheelchair.
He put his hands to his rims and followed Ashleigh through the store and into the mall hallways heading for the Old Navy store. She strolled next to him and kept pace with him as he swiftly wheeled over the smooth mall flooring.

                He had never gotten all the way used to the looks of some people. He really didn’t know if it was curiosity or pity. He mostly kept his eyes in front of him on the ground, adjusting his speed to the pedestrians or making his way through the crowds, sometimes having to apologize when passing someone or needing to warn someone that he was right there in their space just a bit lower to the ground.
Ashleigh stopped at a window and looked at some shoes in the window, “Oh, these are super cute.”
Kieran whipped his wheelchair next to her and when he saw the heels Ashleigh was looking at, he replied, “They are too high, your dad won’t let you wear shoes like that.”
“Well, and I won’t let you wear them either. You can break your neck in these things.”
Ashleigh laughed, “Then I can race you in my own wheelchair.”
Kieran looked over at her somewhat surprised at the comment, “Ash, seriously?”
Ashleigh smiled at him warmly, “Sorry, Uncle Kieran…I didn’t mean that.”
He grinned, “It’s all right. I would win the race anyways.”

                They found Old Navy where Ashleigh knew right away her clothes section. Kieran slowly followed her to the girl’s clothes racks. Ashleigh was already looking through the shirts and Kieran watched and listened to her giggles and comments on shirts that were “totally dope”. Here and there she pulled out a shirt and held it in front of herself and turning to Kieran she wanted his opinion. He smiled, he nodded and he actually thought some of the shirts she picked weren’t bad for a 14-year-old girl. When she had three shirts draped over her arm that Kieran had also agreed on she walked over to the dressing room.

               As Kieran was going to wheel over to the men’s clothing section Ashleigh asked, “Why don’t you stay close by so I can show you my shirts?”
Kieran reluctantly shrugged his shoulders, “All right.”
Having been Fiona’s and Tyler’s first child and Kieran’s first and only niece, Ashleigh had always been close to him. She was born when Kieran was only 19 years old. Fiona was 3 years older than him and even though Ashleigh had not really been a planned baby, Fiona got pregnant, not even married to Tyler yet. Tyler stuck around, he did love Fiona and when Ashleigh was a little two year old she carried their rings at the wedding.

                Fiona had made sure Ashleigh always knew her uncle and had helped stay in touch with Kieran, even when he went off to Army basic training and then joined the Infantry. Even through the three deployments in his military life, his niece never forgot about her Uncle Kieran. Skype sessions and care packages from the little girl had been a highlight during his deployments.
Now even though he felt a bit lost at times with a young teenage girl he did feel close to her and didn’t really mind that she valued his opinion, sometimes even more than her mom’s or her dad’s.
He stayed close to the dressing rooms, pulled out his phone and looked over it until Ashleigh came out with the first shirt on, “How do you like it?”
He scanned her and smiled, “I guess it is all right.”
He really didn’t know what to tell her, he didn’t know the difference of what she may like or may not like.
Just as Ashleigh looked at her back side in the large mirror by the dressing rooms, a girl walked up, greeting her cheerfully, “Ash! Hey girlfriend.”
“Chloe, Hi…what are you doing here?”
“School clothes shopping of course. Let me see what you got there.”
Kieran watched the two girls hug each other and squeal in excitement, chattering about school starting and kids they both knew and clothes they wanted to get.
A voice next to Kieran made him look over, “Chloe, here are the pants you wanted in a different size.”
He saw an attractive woman next to him, holding out two pairs of pants to Chloe who grabbed them from the woman’s hand, “Thanks mom.”
Chloe’s mom warmly greeted Ashleigh, “Hello Ashleigh! Are you school clothes shopping too?”
“Yes, Mrs. Decker. How are you?”
Mrs. Decker smiled, “I am doing good. Is your mom here too?”
Ashleigh came closer and replied, “Yes, but my mom and dad are at JC Penney with Dominic. My uncle is here with me.”
Mrs. Decker nodded, “Oh, Okay.”
When Ashleigh walked up next to Kieran, Mrs. Decker looked somewhat surprised and Ashleigh introduced Kieran, “This is my Uncle Kieran. Uncle Kieran, this is Mrs. Decker, Chloe’s mom.”
Kieran had seen the girls together on many occasions but he didn’t know Chloe’s mom.
Now Mrs. Decker looked over to him with a smile, “Hi, nice to meet you. I am Erin.”
She held her hand out to Kieran and he greeted her with a smile, “Nice to meet you. I am Kieran, the uncle.”
The two girls kept on chatting and left Kieran sitting and Mrs. Decker standing there.
Erin asked, “So is Ashleigh’s mom your sister then?”
“Yes, I am the younger brother.”
Erin seemed slightly nervous in Kieran’s presence but tried to stay relaxed.
Kieran felt he needed to say something else, “Yeah, I stay kind of in the background.”
He smiled and Erin laughed lowly and looked down, then back up at him, “Well, you shouldn’t.”
Kieran was surprised at the comment and Erin seemed surprised at herself and nervously laughed again. Kieran glanced at her hands and didn’t see a ring on any of the important fingers.
Quickly she added, “It is so great you are hanging out with Ashleigh.”
Now he laughed, “Well, she kind of asked me to come with her. I wasn’t too crazy about it. I don’t know anything about girl’s clothes and all that stuff.”
Just at that moment Ashleigh came out of the dressing room, “Kieran, what do you think about this one?”
She stood there in her skinny jeans and with a light flowery top on and Kieran shrugged his shoulders, “It’s good. It covers you.”
Everyone laughed and Ashleigh turned to Mrs. Decker, “What do you think Mrs. Decker?”
Erin smiled, “I love it.”
Chloe joined them in her new jeans and agreed with her mom as Kieran just sat there watching and couldn’t help a few glances at Erin. She wore skinny jeans herself which covered some long legs and a nicely shaped behind. Her top was short and showed everything Kieran enjoyed seeing with her butt almost at his eye level.

                As the girls disappeared in the dressing rooms again, Erin smiled over at Kieran shyly. He was out of practice when it came to picking up a woman or asking her out. He had not really had too much contact with women over the last year or so. A few relationships he had in the past didn’t work out with the deployments taking a toll on him being gone a lot and in the end leaving him paralyzed and dealing with lots of physical and mental baggage, claiming his independence on some level and losing his grip on life somewhat. Every eight weeks he went to his psychiatrist appointments and every three weeks to the support group the VA had assigned him to. The anti-depressants he was on now were finally working after a few tries of various medications. Everyone had tried very hard over the last year to show him that his life was still worth living and the suicide thoughts had subsided somewhat, staying deep inside of him and being kept at bay with medication, therapy and the knowledge that there were people who cared for him very much.

                 Now he sat there in his wheelchair unsure of how to act around an attractive woman and he tried to remember the way he used to be. Erin seemed nervous too and just when he was about to say something she started as well. They both stopped and laughed and for a moment he hoped she would say whatever it was she wanted to say but instead she smiled, “You go first.”
Kieran smiled and looked down for a moment, then back up at her with his piercing green eyes, “So when you don’t have to go clothes shopping with your daughter, what do you do?”
“I am an office manager at the hospital.”
He nodded, “Cool.”
Kieran really wanted to ask her out but he wasn’t sure how to go about it.
Erin added, “I work Monday through Friday, 9-5.”
Before she had a chance to ask him what he did for a living besides hanging out with his niece at the mall, he had to act and with a deep breath he asked, “So, if you are free sometime, would you like to go for a drink or coffee?”
Erin seemed relieved and smiled shyly, “I would love to.”
She had hazel brown eyes and her long brown hair framed her face perfectly.
He took another breath, “Maybe Friday, dinner and a drink?”
Erin nodded, “That would work great.” She hesitated for a moment and then asked lowly, “Should I give you my number?”
Kieran snapped out of the moment, “Yeah, of course. Here...”
He pulled out his cell phone and eventually he typed in her number as she recited it, then said, “I will call you in the next couple of days to make sure you are still on for Friday and we can talk about a time.”
“Yes, great.”
Just then Ashleigh came out with another shirt on, “Uncle Kieran, what about this one?”
He was pulled out of the moment with Erin and looked over at his niece, “It’s nice I guess.”
Chloe appeared with the other pair of jeans on and the two girls giggled and compared and told each other how their choices looked.

                Erin smiled at Kieran again and when he met her eyes she said lowly, “Kudos to you for doing this girl stuff with Ashleigh.”
Kieran smiled back at her, “I try.”
Chloe had decided on her jeans and was done when Ashleigh came back out with the third shirt on.
The girls chatted for a moment longer and nervously Kieran looked over at Erin, “Well, I will see you on Friday then?”
Erin’s dark eyes were seriously on him as she replied, “Yes, you will. It was very nice meeting you Kieran.”
“Likewise.” He felt clumsy in his word choice and unsure of himself as she smiled once more and then said, “Bye then Kieran.”
“Yeah, bye Erin.”
He watched her walk away and couldn’t ignore the attraction he felt. She was definitely good looking for a woman with a teenage daughter. He wondered about her age, about her life, about her relationships and about what she thought of him. He had to take a deep breath of relieve as she walked away. The conversation had been stressful for him as he was trying to act right and not too weird around her.
It had made him realize that he was seriously out of practice on the whole dating thing but it was a nice thought to maybe be in the company of an attractive and nice woman soon.

                Ashleigh came out with her three shirts and wanted all of them but wasn’t done looking yet. She wanted to look at pants now and Kieran followed her as she got a cart for her shirts and then pushed it over to the pants section where she started looking through the racks.
She looked at Kieran, “If you want to look for clothes Uncle Kieran, they have nice men’s clothes too.”
He was still lost in thoughts about the meeting with Erin and looked up at his niece, “I don’t need anything really.”
“Yeah, you kind of do. You have had the same clothes the whole time you have been with us.”
Kieran smiled, “They are still good.”
Ashleigh laughed, “Uncle Kieran, you are still young and I think you could use some nice clothes.”
“I am not young.”
“You are only 32.”
“Yes, that’s old.”
“No, you are not.”
Kieran contemplated asking Ashleigh about Erin’s mom some more. He didn’t think the girls had picked up on the conversation he had had with Erin.
Lowly he started, “Ash?”
“Yes?” Absentminded Ashleigh held some pants up in front of herself, “What?”
“Does your friend Chloe have a dad?”
Ashleigh let the pants down and looked at Kieran, “Yes, but her mom and dad are divorced. Chloe and her sister switch between their parents on the weekends. Why?”
Kieran looked down for a moment, then up again and explained lowly, “I kind of asked her out for dinner.”
Ashleigh threw the pants over the cart and squealed in delight, “Really? Cool…that is awesome.”
She leaned down and excitedly hugged her uncle and Kieran laughed as he hugged her.
Ashleigh stood back up and decided enthusiastically, “You need some nice clothes for the date. I will help you.”
Ashleigh squatted down in front of him and with her hands on his knees she said with a warm smile, “Uncle Kieran, I am so happy. Chloe’s mom is super nice.”
She looked down and then up at him again, “You should start dating again. Mom always says we need to get you hitched.”
He asked with a smile, “Get me hitched?”
“Yes, because we want to see you happy again.”
He nodded and added lowly, “I am trying.”
“And it is a start…you asked Chloe’s mom out. I am so happy.”

                After Ashleigh picked out some pants she liked and a skirt she pushed the cart next to Kieran, “Let’s find you a nice shirt or something.”
“Maybe not in here. Old Navy is for young people, not an old dude like me.”
“Where do you want to look?”
“I don’t know. Not in a place where I am like the oldest person.”
He smiled at his niece and she agreed to pay for her clothes and then go to a more mature store to find something for Kieran.

                Just as they walked out of Old Navy, Ashleigh got a text from her mom, asking where they were. Ashleigh typed her answer and they all decided to meet up at Sears for more shopping.
“Sears would be good for you too.”
Kieran nodded and they made their way to the Sears store, meeting up with the rest of the family.
Fiona smiled at Kieran, “You really went with her to Old Navy?”
“It’s all good.”
“Courageous of you going clothes shopping with a teenage girl.”
Kieran smiled, “It wasn’t that bad.”
Before anyone could say anything else Ashleigh proclaimed the good news, “It wasn’t bad at all because Uncle Kieran is going on a date now.”
Fiona and Tyler looked surprised and before Kieran could explain, Ashleigh took the word again, “He met someone there and he asked her out.”
Fiona smiled at her brother, “Met someone at Old Navy? What are you talking about?”
Kieran was a little embarrassed but his niece couldn’t keep her mouth shut, “Chloe and her mom were there and while Chloe and I tried on clothes, apparently Uncle Kieran and Mrs. Decker talked and it ended in Uncle Kieran asking her out for dinner.”
Now Fiona was really surprised, “Erin Decker, Chloe’s mom?”
Kieran nodded and was somewhat insecure at his sister’s reaction, hoping it had not been a mistake for some unknown reason to him to ask Erin out, “Is it a bad idea?”
Fiona shook her head but still looked surprised, “No, I guess not….I don’t know…out of all people I guess…” Her sentence faded out and Kieran looked at Fiona with serious eyes.
Fiona then leaned down and hugged her brother, saying, “I am sorry Kieran. I am happy for you too. It’s wonderful news.”
Kieran hugged Fiona and when they let go she smiled, “You need some nice clothes.”
Ashleigh laughed, “That is exactly what I said.”

                The family strolled through Sears, everyone looking and browsing through the store. Dominic and Ashleigh found some more clothes on sale. Tyler ended up with some socks and underwear, Fiona with a jacket and sweater and eventually the women joined Kieran in the men’s clothing department and helped him pick out some new jeans and shirts.


  1. I'm so glad to see a new story from you. No strigs attached was the first story I ever read on this site and I love the way your characters are so deep, so tortured and you're not afraid to explore that. I'm looking forward to the next update.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thanks Alex, yep, NSA was my first try to post a story here but it actually totally needs to be reworked and I do still want to write Part 2 for it...

  2. Great, long chapter. I loved how you described Kieran and the family. Perhaps I was expecting a little more anxiety and hesitation before he asked her out. I'm very curious about what Fiona meant.. :)

  3. Dani you posted a new story!! Thank you!!! I'm hooked already!!

    I love the characters and descriptions you give. For a minute I thought it would be the guy from the last short story- during his bday his friends get him a hooker and asks him to sit on he grass but he can't transfer- anyways excited to see where it goes :)

    1. Yeah, it could have been that same guy but maybe I will figure out something else for that guy...:-) thanks for reading

  4. Wonderful beginning! I guess one never knows what's 'in store' for them...:)

  5. Wow, I love the characters and family interactions so much! I am very much looking forward to the next update!

  6. What a treat. So glad you are back. I love your characters. Sean in TAC is a tough act to follow. Many thanks for writing another!

    1. Thanks, yes, I liked Shawn and Trish and I am currently editing and rereading TAC for maybe publishing. You may see similarities between Shawn and Kieran though, have fun

  7. *happily applauds*
    I really like the story so far. I like all the characters so far and can't wait to see how things go for Kieran on his date!

  8. Thank you very much Dani. I am so happy that you are sharing another story with us... I love how you describe everything very detailed and realistically. It always feels like I am right there with your characters!

    1. Thank you so much, it's the most wonderful compliment to get if the reader feels like they are right there with the characters

  9. Thanks DanI. Such a great start. I love tortured heroes and with this story I'm sure I will get what I like.

    1. Good, I will try my best...thanks for reading

  10. Nice job Dani. Really enjoying the characters

    1. Thanks blueskye! Have fun with the story. Coffee/Lunch?????

    2. Yes would love to. I keep going to Seattle but my mom keeps inviting herself. Will need to just sneak away to Olympia. Maybe couple weeks? I'll msg u my phone #

  11. Hi Dani.
    Very well done. I love all the characters right from the start!

    1. Thanks a bunch Alexandra, it's good to see you