Monday, March 21, 2016

Building Love - Chapter 1

A talented architect, who’s trying to get back to his life after a spinal cord injury, meets a beautiful woman. Could she possibly like him back?
Hello everyone. I’m new here and this is my first story. I’m really enjoying indulging in my devotee fantasies, so I hope you like it too.  I apologize in advance for any spelling mistakes I might have, because English isn’t my first language. I welcome any comments to help me improve. 

Building love

                           By Alex Ray
Chapter I

Eli sat behind his desk going over the photographs of his last project, the Newton building. Out of all the buildings he had designed, this was by far his favorite and he was really happy to see the outcome. He always felt a bit of anxiety considering the distance between the blueprints and the real construction, because he knew the final result didn’t depend only on him but on a thousand different factors that were out of his control. Yes, he admitted to himself that he was a bit of a control freak, one of his larger flaws, and he couldn’t help but wonder if the universe was set on teaching him a lesson on that regard, because lately, he didn’t seem to be able to control anything. He pushed away from the desk making the wheels of his chair roll back a little and he took a deep breath. He tried to regain his previous trail of thought, reminding himself that only minutes ago he was actually feeling kind of happy. He picked one of the pictures from the desk thinking this time he was absolutely satisfied with the result. Yes, the Newton building had turned out perfect, a work of art, he thought to himself, and smiled thinking he sounded arrogant.
The phone on his desk rang and Eli picked up to hear Jenna’s voice, his secretary. “Isabel Auburn’s here."
“Thank you Jenna, let her in," Eli said worried that Jenna might have noticed the grim tone.
He was never happy about meeting new people, at least not since he was in the chair, because it was always awkward to see the look on their faces as they realized he was disabled. He wheeled out from behind the desk and placed himself in front of the door to meet her –rather than stay concealed behind it – to save himself the delay of her noticing he wasn’t just sitting on a normal chair. He was particularly dreading the moment today, because he had had several conversations over the phone with this woman, and she somehow sounded young and attractive. He supposed he could’ve warned her over the phone to spare himself the embarrassment, but it just never seemed to come up. Was he supposed to just say “oh, by the way, I’m paralyzed”? No, this was yet another thing about his new life that he just had to suck up.
Seconds later, Jenna opened the door and the most beautiful woman he had ever seen walked in. He had guessed she was pretty from her voice, but he never imagined this, he was astounded. She had a slim elegant figure, with a tiny waist, and long reddish hair that fell loose framing her perfect face. He thought back at how he had used that same adjective to describe his building saying it was a work of art, but this woman’s face was truly a work of art, big blue eyes with long lashes and full lips that were smiling at him. Was she smiling at him? Suddenly Eli thought back about his own face, fearing he might have literally dropped his jaw at the sight of her.
“It’s nice to finally meet you," she spoke and held out her hand for him to shake.
Eli didn’t move though, his eyes still locked on her mouth. She was smiling, not broadly, but slightly, kind of like the Mona Lisa. Usually, people dropped their smiles the moment they looked at his wheelchair, had she already known about it? Eli looked up at her eyes, examined them actually. God, they were beautiful eyes, a shade deeper than any blue eyes he had seen before, not light blue, but a sort of dark blue. He tried to analyze them, he guessed she did look kind of surprised but he wasn’t sure.
“Eli?” Her voice snapped him from his thoughts and back to her hand that was still stretched out for him to shake.
“Likewise," he managed to utter, while he shook her soft hand. She had only slightly long nails and was wearing no polish. He looked back up at her face and realized she was also wearing almost no makeup, only mascara and a touch of lipstick. She was dressed in a plain silky white blouse that fell loose over her small breasts and a black pencil skirt that hugged her perfect figure tight around her hips and legs. Eli felt his stomach turn. Was this what people meant by butterflies in the stomach? He had never felt this before, an actual physical sensation below his ribcage, just above his injury line.
“Uh… do you mind if I sit?” She said and pointed to the two chairs in front of the desk. Eli realized he had actually being staring at her without speaking for too long, long enough to make the moment awkward. He had expected the moment to be awkward but because of the way she would react to him, not the way he would react to her. He wondered if maybe she had been expecting that too, maybe this happened to her a lot, people being shocked the first time they looked at her; only, in her case, it was on account of her beauty.
“Of course, I’m sorry," he said trying to smile back at her, but he wasn’t sure if he had come up with a grimace instead.
She pulled up a chair and sat. Eli took a deep breath trying to calm down and then wheeled behind the desk.
“So, this is the Newton building," she said grabbing one of the pictures from his desk. And he noticed he had once again lingered in silence for too long.
“Yes," he nodded feeling like a fool.
“May I?” she asked and Eli handed her the rest of the pictures.
“Wow, it’s really a work of art," she said his own words back at him, “you are truly an artist Elijah Brown."
“Oh… I," he stuttered. “Thank you."
“You know, I would really like to see it. Is it possible?” She asked.
“Well, the inauguration is in two weeks, Friday 21st," he said happy to have managed a full sentence, “you are welcome to join me." Had he really just said that? Why didn’t he say “us," “join us." “I mean me and the rest of the team," he finished and again he feared he had a grimace on his face. “I can give you a full tour," he continued. “…of the building, I mean, so you can see it… from the inside…” he stuttered again. It took her a moment to answer, she was looking him straight in the eye and he felt her gaze was kind of intense, it made him want to look away but he forced himself not to. Please say something, he begged in his mind.
“I’d love to," she finally answered and Eli let out air relieved.
“Great," he said. “I’ll ask Jenna to give you an invitation."
“Thank you.”
Again they fell into an awkward silence. Her deep blue eyes locked into his.
“So, you said you had a few ideas about our building?," she finally broke the silence.
“Of course," Eli wiped his sweaty palms on his legs under the desk. Would you relax, he thought to himself. “I made a few sketches," he pulled some drawings from a folder and handed them over to her. She took them and browsed through them in silence for a few minutes. Eli shifted in his chair, using his hands to lift his body and adjust his position and she suddenly looked up from the drawings and looked at him. For the past year, Eli would feel self-conscious most of the time, but right now, the feeling was almost unbearable.
“These are amazing," she said finally. “It’s like you knew exactly what I wanted."
“I’m glad you like them. There are still a lot of details missing but it’s the general idea.”
“Well, I love it. I brought a draft of the contract for you to review," she handed him a folder.
“So, you’re sure you want me to be the one to handle the project?” Eli asked surprised at her certainty.
“Absolutely. I like your previous work and I think you transmitted my vision completely in these sketches, and only from what I told you over the phone. I can’t imagine anyone could do a better job.”
“Ok, then. I’ll be delighted to work with you," he replied smiling and she smiled back at him, this time broadly, making him get that feeling below his ribs again.
“So, walk me through it," she said showing him one of the sketches. Usually people avoided the word “walk” in front of him, and if they ended up saying it, they apologized immediately. But she didn’t seem to notice and just continued. “This and this are entrances…”
“Yeah, and this is the Lobby. The elevators would go here…” Eli started describing the first sketch and then he went on to the more detailed ones, after a few minutes he felt more relaxed, now that they were focusing on his design. But then, she suddenly stood up and walked around the desk to stand beside him, so that neither of them would have to look at the drawing upside down. She leaned over the desk, very close to him, making him feel nervous again. He forced himself to continue speaking. She made a few remarks here and there, but generally, she really seemed to like his design. He took out a pad to write down her ideas, which were actually really good. After a while, she turned around to face him and leaned on the desk, sitting slightly over it. Eli realized she had been standing next to him for almost half an hour now.
“Maybe we would be more comfortable over there," he said pointing at his drawing table. Then he rolled his wheels to back away from the desk and he placed the sketches on his lap, before rolling to the table and setting them down. Then he wheeled over to the chairs, he had originally intended to take a chair over to the table for her to sit in, but he now realized he wouldn’t be able to. He held his breath, trying to figure out what to do. She walked over to him and picked the chair herself to take it over there. Then she sat down and waited for him to join her.
“I’m a terrible host," he said to her. “I didn’t even offer you a coffee or a glass of water."
“Coffee would be great, thank you.”
“Cream, sugar?”
“Black’s fine for me," she said.
He wheeled back to his desk and called Jenna over the phone.
“Hey, Jenna, could you bring us two coffees please? No, thanks… Yes, black.” He hanged up and turned to look at her, fearing he would catch her staring, because people usually stared while he was distracted. She was still looking at the sketches paying no attention to him. He felt somewhat relieved and headed over there to continue working.
An hour and two coffees later, they thought they had covered everything for him to start working on the project. She stood up and held out her hand again for him to shake. This time he didn’t keep her waiting.
“So, I’ll call you when I have something to show you," he said as a goodbye.
“I’m looking forward to it," she replied and opened the door to leave, but then she stopped and looked back at him. “Oh, can I get that invitation?”
Eli almost asked her what she meant but then he remembered he had invited her to the inauguration for the Newton building.
“Oh, of course," he replied and circled around her to get out of the office and call for Jenna. He returned a minute later with an envelope over his lap. He stopped in front of her and handed her the invitation.
“Thank you," she said as he wheeled backwards to let her pass.
He stared at her all the way to the elevators, until her figure disappeared behind the metal doors. Once she was out of sight, he slowly felt the air return to his lungs. He closed the door to his office and rolled back under his desk. Once there, he put his elbows over the desk and his face between his hands. He felt pathetic. He had acted like a teenager who had never been in front of a woman before. In his favor, she was probably used to making men nervous, but he still felt embarrassed, remembering how he had stuttered and not being able to speak out a full sentence when she first arrived. He hoped he had made up for it along the morning. The part where they were working seemed to have gone well. After a while he managed to settle himself down and started working in the project.
By Thursday, he had made significant progress, yet he was debating whether to call her or not. Finally, he picked up the phone and dialed her number.
“Isabel," he said into the phone.
“Eli, it’s great to hear from you, how’s our building coming along?," she said in a sort of playful tone he had heard her use many times before over the phone. He realized now, it was that very same tone that had led him to believe she might be good looking and also that had made him nervous about meeting her. It was almost a flirty tone. He was surprised she still used it after having seen him in person.
“It’s going great, actually. That’s why I’m calling, there are a few things I’d like to run past you," he said and he was about to start telling her about it when she interrupted him.
“What if we discussed them over lunch tomorrow?” she suggested.
“Uh…, sure," he said after a moment hesitation.
“I’ll come by your office then, and we can leave from there. Does 1 o’clock work for you?”
“Yeah, that’s perfect," Eli replied.
“Great. See you then," she said and hanged up.
The next day Eli felt nervous all throughout the morning. Maybe he should have just said he was busy and couldn’t do lunch, or pushed her to discuss it over the phone. A couple of years ago, before his injury, he would never have been so intimidated by a woman, even one as beautiful as Isabel, because back then, Eli had been very attractive himself. He was over 6 feet tall, and well built, with broad shoulders he had developed from swimming every day for years. He had light brown hair and hazel eyes, and in his previous life as he liked to call it, not many women had refused him. Since he was injured, however, he hadn’t had one good experience with women. He scolded himself for the trail of his thoughts, obviously, this was just a work lunch, and he should not think about Isabel that way, because –again, obviously- she was completely out if his league. Actually, he wasn’t even sure he had a league anymore. Finally, he made a resolution that when Isabel walked through that door he would picture she was a man, an old fat man, and that way, perhaps he would manage to speak like a normal person.
Still, he didn’t manage to get much work done before 1pm, and ended up spending the last half hour staring at the watch every five minutes, completely unable to relax. Finally, the clock’s hands showed 1 o’clock. Eli took a deep breath and spent the next five minutes in agonizing expectation, until finally the phone rang and Jenna announced that Miss Auburn had arrived. Eli let out air and used his hands to push himself away from the desk.
“Hey,"Isabel said, and this time her tone sounded as casual as if they were old acquaintances.
“Hi," Eli wheeled over to the door. “So, where would you like to go?”
“I don’t know. I’m new in town, so I don’t know any places. Where do you usually have lunch?”
Eli hesitated, but finally he told her the truth. “I usually have lunch here in my office. But I do know a place," he suggested and rolled towards the door asking her to follow him.
He hadn’t been able to get used to rolling next to people yet. He always felt odd, too short and not quite sure if he was going too slow or too fast for them. Somehow, Isabel seemed to be the first person who could follow his pace without walking ahead and then stopping to wait for him or staying behind and then having to catch up. They reached the elevators and she got in first and pushed a button to make sure the doors kept opened for him. Once inside it was him who pressed the button for the lobby, grateful they were going down and not up, because he had trouble reaching the upper buttons. Once the metal doors opened, he let her get out first and then caught up with her. They went out to the parking lot, and he was sure she was now going to ask him how they were going to get to the restaurant, assuming he couldn’t possibly drive, but instead, she turned to him.
“Should we take your car or mine?”
Eli smiled and held a hand out. “Mine’s right there," he said pointing towards his silver Mercedes. He circled around the car an opened the door for her, but then he hesitated. “Uh… Do you mind waiting until I’m inside the car before getting in?” He asked her feeling really embarrassed, but he figured it would be far more embarrassing if he hit her with a wheel while throwing his chair in the back seat.
He went back around the car and opened his own door, and then transferred in one swift move to the car seat. Thank god he had gotten really good at this transferring thing, because he really didn’t want her to see him struggling. He took out one of his chair wheels and threw it to the back seat and then he did the same with the rest of his chair, finally –glad that the whole process hadn’t taken him too long – he leaned in to the passenger’s side to bring the seat up; it was usually reclined down, because it made it easier for him to throw his wheelchair to the back. Finally, he looked through the opened passenger door for Isabel.
“Sorry, you can get in now," he told her.
She got in and turned casually at him as if nothing unusual had happened. “So, where to?," she said, and he thought he detected the same playful tone she used over the phone.
“Oh, this small café I sometimes go to. The food is ok and they have great coffee."
“Good, I’m kind of a coffee junky," she said smiling.
“Ok then," he said and felt a bit more relaxed.
They arrived at the café and Eli parked on a handicap spot right next to a ramp at the entrance. She got out and waited while he repeated the whole process backwards feeling self-conscious again. God, he hoped she wasn’t looking while he carried his own legs to place them in position. He finally looked up at her, afraid to catch her staring but instead, he found her poking through the window of the café.
“The place looks charming," she said.
He smiled and held a hand out to signal her to go in first, and she did so and kept the door opened for him. He was glad, because he usually struggled with this type of doors. Isabel walked over to a table by the window that was set for two. Without asking him, she took one chair out and placed it in the contiguous table, leaving the space free for him to wheel in; then she circled around and sat on the other chair. Again, he felt grateful that she hadn’t made any comment and took his spot in front of her. A nice blond waitress brought them menus.
“Hello, Eli. It’s nice to see you around. Would you like the usual?” She was actually the owner’s daughter and Eli knew her well. He used to come in almost every day before, but he hadn’t been around much after his injury.
“Yes, please, Lily," he replied.
“I’ll give you a minute to look at the menu," Lily said turning to Isabel and then went back behind the counter, and whispered something in her mother’s ear, who had just came out from the kitchen.
“Hello, Eli," the woman waved from the back. “It’s nice to see you back here.”
“So, you’re a regular," Isabel said.
“I used to be," Eli confirmed and then he saw Isabel smiling and he turned around and saw Lily and her mother were both staring and smiling at them. For a moment, Eli feared they’d give him an actual thumbs up, because it was so obvious that they thought Isabel was his date and were both rooting for him from behind the counter. Eli sighted and looked back at Isabel.
“They seem to like you," she said, still smiling.
“Yeah, I’ve known them for a long time," he said embarrassed.
“I think they’re gossiping about us," she said still smiling and Eli turned around again to see that they were in fact, quite obviously gossiping about them.
“Uh… sorry about that," he said, unwilling to explain what they were surely thinking.
“Don’t be," she said. “Do they do that with every woman you bring here?” Isabel asked and she looked amused. Eli couldn’t help but feel a little offended, he wasn’t sure why.
“I don’t bring anyone here," he said sounding a little upset.
“Oh, then that’s why. They think I’m the lucky lady," she said broadening her smile and suddenly Eli got the impression she was making fun of him, or perhaps he was just paranoid. He was actually aware since he was paralyzed he was more than a little paranoid, so he tried to calm himself down and pretended to smile. Again he was glad he couldn’t see his own face, fearing all his smiles were now just grimaces.
“So tell me," Isabel started, finally looking away from the counter and back at him, who by now, surely looked miserable. “What’s your usual?”
“My what?”Eli asked .
“You ordered your usual. So, what is it?”
“Oh…” Eli felt again like a fool. Could he act any more stupidly? “Just a sandwich and coffee."
“Any particular kind of sandwich?” She insisted.
“Grilled cheese. I’m not very original.”
“You gotta love a classic," she smiled again. Why the hell did she smile so much? Eli tried to turn her beautiful visage into a fat old man.
“Are you ready to order?” Eli lifted his sight to find Lily with a pad and pen in her hand, and a stupid smile on her face. God, please don’t wink at me, Lily, don’t you dare. Eli begged silently.
“I’ll have coffee, black please, but I need another minute with the menu," Isabel smiled back, and for a moment Eli feared she’d laugh once Lily turned around. Yeah, she was going to laugh. If he were Isabel, a gorgeous and perfect woman, sitting across from a cripple in a wheelchair, watching two naïve women rooting for him to get the girl, he would laugh too, of course he would. It was ridiculous. But she didn’t. “Any recommendations?” She asked looking at him again.
“I usually stick to my grill cheese, so…”
“Mmmm…” she pondered.
Why didn’t she just order a salad and get on with it, Eli thought. Surely, after much looking at the menu, she would certainly order a salad. Girls like her always did. After a minute, Isabel closed the menu; she looked back up at him and smiled again. Bold, fat, old guy, Eli thought.
Lily came straight away; it was evident she hadn’t taken her eyes off them. Eli was starting to regret having come here.
“I’ll have a turkey sandwich, please, and a baked potato," she said. Lily widened her eyes and Eli blinked fearing he probably had too. When she was gone, Isabel smiled at him again. “What? Did you expect me to order a salad?”
“Uh… No,” he denied not very convincingly.
“Sorry to disappoint you," she said with a wide smile. Fat, old and bold guy, Eli tried to wipe away the image of that beautiful mouth. Why the hell did she smile so much at him? Was she flirting? If so, she was just cruel.
“So, let me show you what I’ve got so far," Eli pulled his Ipad out of a small backpack hanging from his wheelchair. He’d rather get down to business. He pressed a button and the screen lit up with a photograph. Isabel put her hand over his. Eli looked up at her surprised. She then slowly took the tablet away from him and let go of his hand.
“Is this…?” She asked staring at the picture and she wasn’t smiling anymore, actually she had a sad look all of a sudden. It was a photograph of a lighthouse he had taken himself a few years back at the Eastern shore of Ireland. He didn’t know why, but he just loved that picture, which was why he had used it for his screen.
“It’s Fanad Head Lighthouse, in Ireland," he explained.
“Did you take this picture?” She asked, and now the sadness had gone from her eyes to her voice.
“I did," he said almost concerned.
“Where did you take it from?” she continued without lifting her sight from the screen.
“I was in a sailboat," he said.
“You were out in Laugh Swilly?”
“I… used to sail.”
She stayed quiet for a moment, still staring at the picture, and then she swallowed hard and gave him back the tablet.
“I’m sorry. What were you going to show me?” She said looking back up at him, and as he looked into her sad eyes he found himself wishing she would smile again.
“Are you ok?” Eli asked putting the tablet aside and thoughtlessly reaching for her hand across the table.
“Yeah, I’m sorry," she sighed.
Eli heard Lily approaching with their coffees, and he let go of Isabel’s hand and looked up at Lily’s silly expression while she put down the cups over the table.
“Thank you," he said wishing she’d disappear.
Isabel picked up her cup and blew a little on it before taking a small sip.
“You were right, this is good coffee," she said.
“Yeah," he agreed after hesitating a moment whether to ask her or not what she was upset about. “It’s why I come here."
“Are you from here?” She asked him, trying to sound normal.
“No. I’m from a small town in Maine. I moved here after college."
“Where did you go to college?”
“Harvard," he replied trying not to sound arrogant.
“Yep," he said.
“I figured you were smart," she said and grinned a little. Her expression seemed so sweet all of a sudden he felt the urge to hug her. Instead he took a sip from his coffee. “Is your family back in Maine?” she asked.
“No, I… don’t really have any family," he said. “What about you? Where are you from?”
“Ireland," she replied.
“Really?” Eli asked surprised. “You don’t have an accent."
“I’ve lived here a long time. Well, not here in Boston, but in the US," she explained.
“Did you come here as a kid?”
“When I was eighteen," she answered. “I guess I deliberately got rid of it," she added because he looked skeptical.
“Did your family come with you?”
“No. I don’t have any family either," she said.
They stared into each other’s eyes for a moment in silence. Then Isabel took another sip from her coffee. “You have really pretty eyes," she said.
Eli looked away, feeling embarrassed. It wasn’t the first time a woman had said so, but it seemed like such an odd thing for this woman to say, there, at that precise moment.
“I was thinking the same thing about yours," he said after a while.
She grinned at him again, but it was still a sad grin. When the food arrived, Eli feared she had lost her appetite, but he was wrong.
“The food is great too," she said as she very elegantly put a piece of her baked potato in her mouth.
“I think I might order one of those next time," he said admiring the way she seemed to be savoring every piece.
“Would you like some?” she offered handing him her fork with a piece of potato. That was also kind of odd, Eli thought. It seemed like something you’d do with a good friend, not someone you’ve just met. He took the fork anyway, afraid she would be offended if he didn’t.
“You’re right. It’s really good," he agreed.
She smiled and this time her face seemed back to normal. He grinned back at her, convinced he had managed a real smile this time.
“So, do you like living here?” she asked him taking her fork back.
“I do, although sometimes I think I will always be a small town guy."
“Really? Do you miss your hometown?”
“Sometimes, I guess. Do you miss Ireland?” He asked and immediately regretted it because her expression seemed to sadden again.
“Sometimes," she replied looking away.
“Well, I should show you the city. There are many things to see," he said trying to change the subject but then regretted it again, because it sounded like he was asking her out.
“I’d love that," she said immediately though, and he felt relieved. “Are you free this weekend?” she added and for a second he wondered if he’d hear right. “Saturday, maybe?” She continued.
“Uh… This Saturday?” He asked and she nodded while taking another bite. “ Uh… sure," he agreed, fearing he was back to stuttering.
“Great. Where do you live?”
“Newton. You?”
“Central Boston," Isabel answered.
“I could pick you up there," Eli suggested shyly.
“That would be great, thank you. I’ll text you my address."
Eli took another bite from his sandwich feeling like nothing that had happened that day made any sense. Had this woman really agreed to go out with him? Of course he wouldn’t dare to think of it as a date, but still. It seemed pretty farfetched.


  1. Oh I'm liking this already x

  2. Ooh, good start. I'm looking forward to seeing where this story goes.

    Your English language is good, especially as it isn't your first language. But Eli has a spinal injury (not injurie) and I hope you don't mind me pointing it out. The error occurred a few times in the chapter and you said at the beginning that we should assist with that kind of thing...

    Thanks again, I really enjoyed this introduction and am looking forward to seeing how their date / not date goes.

  3. Thank you so much, that's exactly what I meant when I said I have plenty of spelling mistakes. So yeah, please help me! I'm glad someone's already reading the story. This is the first time I've been read so I'm a bit nervous about the public's response.

  4. O my goodness, I absolutely love your story! I totally fell in love with Eli and Isabel, their personalities and character development is great! Thank you for writing and sharing this wonderful story, I am very much looking forward to the next update! I can't wait to see how their Saturday goes!

  5. Great start! Can't wait to read more.

  6. Love it! Can't wait until the next chapter when they go out again. I'm curious to find out if Isabel is a dev and what his reaction will be if she is!

  7. Wow I if I could write like this in my first second language... Hell even in my first language! This is great!

  8. love the story so far!

  9. Thank you so much for your comments, they encourage me to keep writing. Actually the next part of the story is ready, and I can't wait to post it and see what you think about Isabel, but I'm going to make you wait.

  10. Alex Ray, I love this! It's so refreshing. Plus, I like getting to read a story from the male protagonists point of view occasionally. Thank you for sharing your talent with us! I can't wait to read more about Eli & Isabel...I bet it's going to be a fantastic journey :)
    Happy writing and welcome :)

    1. Thank you for noticing that. Almost every story here is writen from the girl's perspective. I'm glad you like it.

  11. I love Eli right away.
    Great beginning. Please give us more... ;-)
    Thank you.

  12. Wow! I'm hooked already! Great start and it's even more impressive considering English isn't your first language. You have better spelling and grammar than many native English speakers. I cannot wait to see how this story develops and read more of Eli's thoughts.

  13. A story at least as delicious as that meal! I love your characters. I am looking forward to more about these two.

  14. love It! But I'd prefer to read It in spanish please, easier for me.