Max and Jess are having an engagement party at Jess’s friend’s apartment, and we’ve been invited. Because the party is going pretty late, Brody explained that Sean is going to come with us and help him out with his bedtime routine after. I go to Brody’s apartment first, with the plan for us all to get to the party together.
When I get to the Brody’s apartment, he’s already dressed up in a really cute long-sleeved black dress shirt and dark slacks. He looks incredibly sexy. Sean’s there too, and I notice immediately that he stinks of cigarette smoke. I hate the smell of cigarettes—it always makes me feel sort of short of breath. I had asthma as a kid and I can almost feel my airways narrowing.
“Emily!” Sean says when he sees me, flashing me this broad grin like I didn’t bail on him two of the two times I’ve met him. “You are looking quite ravishing tonight.”
I don’t look ravishing. I never look ravishing. And frankly, the fact that he said it is just insulting—and I’ll bet he knows it. But I still manage to force a smile. “Hi, Sean.”
Brody pushes his hand into the joystick on his chair to go into the living room. “All right, let’s head out.”
I follow Brody into the living room, and to my utter surprise, he’s got another wheelchair in there. This one is a manual wheelchair, much smaller than the power model he usually uses. I have no idea what it’s doing here.
“Jess told me her friend’s apartment has got a flight of stairs and no elevator,” Brody explains. “So this is the easiest way for me to manage it.”
“I didn’t know you could push a chair like that,” I say. If he could use a regular wheelchair, why on earth would he use a powerchair? The manual chair is so much less assuming. Much easier to fit through narrow spaces. Plus the powerchair is definitely a liability sometimes. There are times when I’ll be out somewhere with Brody, and he’ll tell me that his chair is nearly out of batteries, so we have to go home.
“Sure I can,” Brody says. He holds up his arms and I now see he’s wearing rigid splints on each wrist. “These brace my wrists. But it’s really hard work. It kills my shoulders.”
Brody lines up next to the manual chair. Sean leans in toward him and Brody grabs his brother around the neck. Sean actually is pretty good at helping with the transfer, which makes me realize how much he’s probably done it over the years. As Brody settles in the manual wheelchair, his legs start to spasm violently, but calm down after a minute.
Sean helps him secure a belt across his chest and his ankles, then moves the power wheelchair out of the way. “What’s the belt for anyway?” I blurt out suddenly.
Brody looks up at me in surprise. He glances down at the strap that arches over his gut. “It’s to keep me from falling forward when I reach for stuff,” he explains. “If my torso fell forward, I might not be able to get up again.”
“Oh,” I say.
He frowns. “Why? Do you think it looks bad?”
“No, of course not,” I say quickly. “I was just wondering.”
He bites his lip. “I could take it off, if you want. I mean, I’ll be with you guys, so…”
“Christ, Brody,” Sean interrupts us. “Emily said it’s fine.” He rolls his eyes. “Stop being so goddamn insecure about everything. She’s dating you—obviously, she likes the way you look. For some reason.”
Brody smiles crookedly at me and shrugs. Although as soon as Sean is out of earshot, he asks me again if I’d like him to undo the belt. I have to admit, the belt isn’t the most flattering thing in the world. It makes his gut look way bigger than it would otherwise, considering unlike me, he’s not actually fat. But I can tell he feels more secure with it on. So what am I supposed to say?
As I watch Brody wheel the manual wheelchair, I can see that it’s not easy for him. It’s got little spokes sticking out of the wheels to help him get a grip, but he’s still struggling a lot. When we get out in the hallway, which is covered in carpeting, he almost can’t do it. That’s when Sean offers to push him and Brody accepts.
When we get outside, Sean immediately lights up a cigarette. Brody flashes his brother a dirty look and waves his splinted hand in front of his nose. “Cut the attitude, Bro,” Sean says. “You used to smoke like a chimney.”
“I had a trach for three months, you idiot,” Brody says. “Are you trying to suffocate me?”
“Fine,” Sean grumbles and stubs out the cigarette.
He goes to hail a cab, and he expertly transfers Brody into the back seat and loads his wheelchair into the trunk. Brody’s having major spasm issues while we’re in the taxi, to the point where he’s shaking nearly the whole time and finally apologizes to me. “I think I’m at a bad angle,” he says. He attempts to adjust himself, but it doesn’t seem to help.
I’d been wondering exactly how Brody was going to get up the stairs to the apartment. When we get there, I find out: Max comes out, and he and Sean take either end of the wheelchair and lift Brody backwards up the stairs. Again, they do it so easily that I have to imagine that they’ve done it many times before.
Brody has got to be used to this routine, but he still seems mildly embarrassed. Maybe because I’m watching him. I have to admit, there’s definitely something a little awkward about the whole thing. Especially when Brody’s body sways with each step climbed.
“And that, Emily, is how your boyfriend climbs up a flight of stairs,” Sean says to me when they lower him to the ground at the top of the stairs.
“It’s just the one flight, right?” Brody asks Max, raising his eyebrows.
“Yes, we’re right over here,” Max says, gesturing at an apartment a few feet away.
And after that, Brody is totally fine. Well, aside from needing Sean to give him a little push to help him over the doorframe, but after that he’s fine. He can’t wheel the chair super well, even with his splints, but he doesn’t have to go very far in the small apartment. And there’s no carpeting, which definitely helps.
“Do you want some wine?” I ask him, looking over at the table of refreshments.
“No, thanks,” Brody says.
“Wine?” Sean snorts. “Is that all they’ve got?”
I wish it were. Unfortunately, they’ve got the full array of alcoholic beverages. Sean pours himself a shot of vodka and I can see the disapproval on Brody’s face. But of course, Sean’s an adult and can do whatever he wants. Hopefully, he won’t go overboard tonight.
After I pour myself a glass of wine, we make the rounds. Brody knows most of the people in the room and introduces me around. Everyone is really nice, if a little on the dorky side. Actually, that makes me feel better. If everyone were cool and sophisticated, I’d feel lost here.
So I have to be honest about something: I find Brody sexier in the manual wheelchair. I’ve gotten used to his other chair, but this one makes me feel like there’s less wheelchair between him and me. It’s more sporty and makes him seem less impaired even though it’s harder for him to control it. After I’ve gotten a couple of drinks in me, I can’t help but comment, “I really like this wheelchair.”
As I say it, I put my hand on Brody’s shoulder and slide it up onto his neck. He grins up at me, “Yeah?”
I nod, still rubbing his neck. I’d never have the nerve to do this in public if I hadn’t been drinking, but Brody definitely doesn’t seem to mind. “It’s sexy,” I say. Well, as much as a wheelchair can be sexy. Which isn’t a whole lot, I suppose.
“I could try to use it a little more,” Brody says, although he sounds a little dubious. “My powerchair is definitely a lot easier for me. I wouldn’t feel comfortable going on any big trips with this chair, but… maybe around the apartment… I could…”
Suddenly I feel a guilty. I don’t want to be selfish. Obviously, he’s much more comfortable in his other wheelchair. “No, that’s okay. I like the other one too.”
He doesn’t argue with me.
After another glass of wine, I need to pee desperately, even though I just freaking went before I left Brody’s apartment. Seriously, I don’t know what’s wrong with my stupid bladder. I get in the line for the bathroom, and when I’m inside, I see that my cheeks are pleasantly pink. I’m definitely buzzed right now. I just wish Brody would get a little buzzed with me. I offered him some wine, but he pushed it away. That’s a stark contrast from what Sean is doing, which seems to be guzzling alcohol like his life depends on it.
When I return from the bathroom, I catch the tail end of a conversation between Ford and Brody. They don’t see me, and although I hate to eavesdrop, I take advantage of this fact to listen in.
“I’m never going to meet a girl,” Ford is saying. “I can’t believe he’s getting married and I can’t even get a date.”
Poor Ford. He’s nice, but a little odd looking, pretty introverted, and definitely very eccentric. Maybe he’d get a date if he’d lose the bowtie.
“I’m sure you’ll meet someone soon,” Brody says.
“That’s easy for you to say,” Ford replies. “You’ve got Emily.”
“I know,” Brody says. “I’m really lucky she likes me.”
I almost burst into tears when he says that. It’s too amazing that I not only have a boyfriend, but I’ve got one who really seems to adore me. Pretty good for a “morbidly obese” girl.
When Brody sees me, his face lights up. “Emily!” he says in that excited way I’ve come to love.
“Hey,” I say, grinning back at him. I boldly walk up to him and run my fingers through his hair, which makes him smile even wider.
Brody nods in Ford’s direction. “Listen, Ford says he’ll help me transfer to the sofa. Do you want to, um, sit together?”
Sometimes it’s a little odd how much planning it takes just to do something as simple as sitting down next to my boyfriend. But I don’t mind. It only makes the intimacy more special. Plus I’ve had a few drinks now, and I’m pretty touchy feely. The couch seems like a spectacular idea.
Brody wheels himself over to the couch and lines up in front of it. He goes through the routine I’m now very familiar with, in which Ford undoes his straps, he puts his arms around Ford’s neck, and Ford lifts him onto the sofa. Together, they fix his legs, and Brody gives his wheelchair a push to get it out of the way.
Once Brody is arranged on the sofa, I sit down next to him. Except the sofa is a lot softer than I expected. As my butt sinks into the cushions, I hear a spring make a frightening noise. I’m so deep in the couch that my ass is practically touching the floor.
“Thanks, Ford,” Brody says as he puts his arm around my shoulders. “You’re the best.”
Ford nods, not looking particularly happy. But I don’t have much time to dwell on Ford, because at that moment, Brody leans forward and starts kissing me. God, he’s a superb kisser.
We spend the next hour making out. I’ve never made out with Brody while buzzed before, and I feel like I can’t get enough of him. I love his lips, his cheeks, his neck, his chest, his everything. All I can think about is that it’s a damn shame that we can’t have sex tonight. Because I feel like I’m ready.
“Hey,” Brody says as he pulls away from me and looks around the room. “It’s starting to clear out. We should probably go.”
“Yeah,” I agree. I run my hand up his chest, around his neck and into his hair, and I see him swallow hard. “I wish I could go home with you.”
“Me too… so much,” he murmurs. He sighs. “But… you know, Sean can’t…”
“I know,” I say quickly.
Brody shakes his head and sighs. “Could you go get Ford to help me back in my chair?”
“Right,” I say.
I put my hands on either side of me and push against the sofa. But my butt doesn’t budge. I brace my feet against the floor and rock a little to give myself some momentum, but I still don’t move. Well, not up, anyway.
“What’s wrong?” Brody asks.
I contemplate my situation. I don’t think I can get up off the sofa myself. And obviously, Brody can’t get me up either, considering he can’t even get himself up. We are therefore both trapped on this stupid crappy sofa. And this horribly embarrassing situation must be shared with another person.
“I think I’m stuck,” I admit to Brody.
His eyes widen. “Are you serious?”
Nope, just kidding! Wasn’t that hilarious? “Yes, I’m serious!” I hiss at him.
“Right, sorry,” he says. He shakes his head, taking in the situation himself. “Christ.”
Max is the nearest person in possible earshot. Brody calls out his name a few times before he puts down his drink and comes over. He looks concerned. “Everything okay? You need help getting up?”
“Actually,” Brody says with a crooked smile, “we both need help getting up.”
Max looks at me and I feel my cheeks grow warm. “I just need a little boost,” I explain.
“Uh, sure,” Max says. He smiles awkwardly and reaches out an arm to me. “Ladies first.”
I grab on to Max’s arm. Probably when I first sat down, that would have been sufficient to get me to my feet, but right now, after an hour of sitting, I am really firmly wedged into the sofa. I can see Max’s face turning red with exertion, and I still can’t get up. All I’m managing to do is get him off balance. In a minute, he’ll be on the couch too.
“Um,” Max says finally. “Maybe I’ll help Brody first and then we’ll figure this out.”
Max manages to help Brody transfer without a problem. After he’s arranged back in his wheelchair, I can see the relief on his face. That’s probably how I’d feel if I were standing up right now instead of wedged in this goddamn sofa.
“Don’t worry, Emily,” Max says. “I’ll get help.”
When Max is looking for help, I murmur to Brody, “I’m really sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he says. “It’s not your fault.”
Except it is my fault. Who else’s fault would it be? A skinny girl wouldn’t be trapped on this sofa right now. Hell, even an overweight girl would probably be able to get up. It’s me. I’m the only one who gets stuck in couches and can’t get myself back up.
God, how could Brody be attracted to me? I can barely even look at him.
Max finally retrieves his friend Josh, the owner of this apartment as well as this woman-eating couch. Josh is in his mid-twenties, and as scrawny as Max, but at least now there are two of them. When Josh sees me, his eyes widen.
“Fuck, she must weigh, like, 400 pounds,” Josh comments to Max. “How should we do this?”
I wish the couch would just get it over with and swallow me up.
“I think if we each grab an arm and pull, that should do it,” Max says thoughtfully.
Again, I brace myself against the floor and say a prayer. I really don’t want to get another person involved in getting me off this couch. Luckily, with the two men pulling on my arms, my butt comes free with one last angry protest from the springs. I take a second to steady myself on my feet.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Josh yelps. “Look what she did to my fucking couch!”
I look down where I had just been sitting. There is a huge dent in the couch in the shape of my ass. That’s just great.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Max says quickly, before I can apologize. “It’ll spring back.”
Josh presses his hand against my ass groove on the couch. It doesn’t seem to be springing back any time this year. “It’s not springing back,” he reports angrily. “It’s broken. This fat bitch broke my fucking couch.” He glares at me. “You owe me a couch.”
Honestly, I’d happily buy him a new couch and matching loveseat if he’d just drop the whole thing right now. But when I look at Brody’s face, I can tell things have escalated to a really bad place.
“Hey, watch what you say about my girlfriend,” Brody says. I can hear that edge in his voice, the same one he had when he spoke to Norm. It makes me think of what Camille said, about how wild he used to be. That Brody Nolan wasn’t a guy that nice girls hung around. I get the feeling he wasn’t the kind of guy you could push around. Not figuratively, at least.
Josh probably would have backed down, but he’s obviously been drinking, so he just sneers at Brody, and says, “Well, your girlfriend’s fat ass broke my couch.”
“Your couch is a piece of shit,” Brody shoots back.
Brody, please stop defending me.
“My couch is not a piece of shit!” Josh retorts. “This was a fucking great couch before your whale of a girlfriend crushed it. It’s the best couch I ever had!”
“You did find that couch out at the curb,” Max speaks up.
Josh glares at Max like he wants to punch him in the face. Which very well might have happened in the next five minutes if Ford didn’t approach the group, still wearing his dapper little bowtie, and announce, “We have a problem, guys.”
Josh whips his head in Ford’s direction. “What the fuck is wrong now?”
Ford glances at Josh, then at Brody. “Sean is passed out in the bedroom. He threw up in the bathroom. Next to the toilet.”
Brody groans and drops his head. “That fucking asshole. He promised…”
The vomit issue has apparently superseded the couch issue. Everyone sprints in the direction of the bathroom, except for Brody, who is wheeling toward the bedroom. The bedroom is about as far as he’s had to go the whole night, and I can see he’s struggling a little. Each push moves him about a foot. About three quarters of the way there, he stops for a minute, slightly winded. “Do you want me to push you?” I ask.
For a second, he looks like he’s seriously considering it. “Nah, I’m fine,” he finally says.
Sure enough, Sean is lying on his stomach diagonally across the queen-sized bed. His eyes are slightly open, but only the whites are showing. A dark looks comes over Brody’s face. He wheels over to Sean and nudges him hard with his elbow. “Wake up, fucker!”
“Ten more minutes, Mom…” Sean mumbles into the sheets.
Brody grits his teeth. “Are you fucking kidding me with this, Sean? You told me four drinks maximum. You swore to me.”
Sean lifts his broad face for a second and says, “What can I say? I’m a lightweight.” Then he leans over the side of the bed and vomits on the floor.
“Fuck!” Brody yells.
I’ve never seen him look quite this pissed off before, but I guess he has a right. Not only did Sean get drunk and vomit all over a virtual stranger’s room (which Brody obviously can’t help clean up), but he was also supposed to be helping Brody get home and get to bed. Sean completely screwed him over. And not for the first time.
It’s clear there’s no sobering Sean up. Brody looks incredibly frustrated. He drops his head into his forearm and sighs. “I could help you get into bed at home,” I offer.
Brody lifts his head. “Thanks, Emily, but… it’s a little more involved than that.”
“What’s wrong, Bro?” Sean slurs. “Too good to have your girlfriend handle your bag of piss?”
Brody’s face turns bright red. “Shut the fuck up, you drunk piece of shit.”
He is really pissed off.
I watch as Brody starts making calls. First he calls Mike and explains the situation: “I’m so sorry to bother you, but I’m really stuck. Sean was supposed to help me, but he’s completely trashed. Do you think you could get me into bed?”
“I wish I could help,” Mike says through the speakerphone. “I’m over three hours away, Brody. I’m really sorry.”
Brody calls Nancy, his morning PCA, and then a guy named Steve who does back-up when Nancy or Mike aren’t around. Nobody can come over on a Saturday night on such short notice. Brody looks like he’s close to tears. Finally, he calls one last number.
“Brody, honey?” a sleepy female voice says on the other line. “What’s wrong?”
“Hi, Mom,” Brody says. “I, uh, I really hate to do this to you, but I’m stuck. Sean and I went to this party in the city and he’s passed out drunk. He was supposed to help me get home and get into bed, but obviously he can’t. I called everyone else and nobody is available. Do you think there’s any way that you or Dad could come out here in the van and help me out?”
“Yes, of course, sweetie,” Maggie Nolan’s voice says instantly. “Dad and I were just going to bed, but… well, if you need me, of course I’ll come help you. And I’ll drive Sean home too.”
“Thanks, Mom,” Brody says. “I really, really appreciate it.” Although when he hangs up the phone, he looks completely miserable.
It takes a while for Brody’s mother to drive over, but we’ve got plenty to do. Namely, cleaning up vomit. I’m side by side with Josh, cleaning up his bathroom, and neither of us mentions what happened out in the living room earlier. I feel bad for Josh, because not only is his couch broken, but now his whole apartment smells vaguely of puke even after we’ve cleaned and sprayed the room. Despite his confrontation earlier with Josh, Brody apologizes to him a bunch of times, and keeps saying, “I really wish I could help.” I actually almost believe him.
Then Max and Ford carry Brody’s wheelchair down the stairs. After Brody’s in the lobby, they go back to get Sean, who is still not quite able to walk on his own. They sit him down on a bench and he somehow manages to stay upright. I can see Brody glaring at him.
Shortly after, a familiar van pulls up to the curb. Maggie gets out of the van, looking surprisingly fresh, considering she’d been dragged out of the house at midnight. Maggie seems like one of those tough women, who can handle anything that gets thrown at her. Including one son who’s a quadriplegic and one who’s a drunk.
When Maggie sees Sean nearly passed out on that bench, she clucks her tongue. “Oh, Sean,” she says.
Sean cracks his eyes open to stare up at his mother. “Sorry, Mom,” he says sheepishly.
“This is the last time you’re doing this, Sean Daniel Nolan,” she barks at him. “Tomorrow, you mark my words, we are going to have a long talk. It’s been long enough getting over Gracie.”
Max helps her load Sean into the front seat of the car. As Max is helping Sean fumble with his seatbelt, Maggie returns to us. “Hello again, Emily,” she says, smiling at me like she didn’t just get pulled out of bed in the middle of the night. “It’s so good to see you. You look beautiful.”
“Mom,” Brody mumbles, his ears turning red.
“Oh, quiet,” Maggie says to him. She turns back to me. “Emily. May I give you a ride home, dear?”
“Uh, okay,” I say. Cabs have a surcharge at this hour, and I don’t see any on the street anyway.
Maggie gets back in the van, and lowers the ramp for Brody to board. In this chair though, he has trouble with ramps, even one as level as this one, so I give him a push to get him inside. Then I climb into the back next to him.
“Do you need any help, Maggie?” Max calls to her.
“Oh no,” Maggie says cheerfully. “I can handle my boys.”
Maggie starts up the car and we’re off—it helps that there isn’t much traffic. Sean is only barely conscious, but it’s clear she’s not going to let him have any peace over this. Even though I’m in the car and not family, she goes on quite a montage about how he’s ruining his life and hurting all the people who love him. I actually feel a little bit sorry for him.
“Brody was counting on your help tonight,” she reminds him. “Now what if I hadn’t been available? What then?”
“Sorry,” Sean mumbles.
“Well, lucky thing I was,” Maggie says. “Brody, please remind me. Do you do your bowel program at night or in the morning these days?”
Brody looks horrified. “Mom!”
Maggie glances at the back seat and her eyes widen. Apparently, she’d just plum forgotten that I was sitting here. “Oh,” she says. “Sorry about that.”
“He does it at night,” Sean finally answers, his head sagging against the headrest.
There’s a long silence and Brody won’t even look at me for the rest of the ride. We can’t arrive at my building fast enough, honestly. When we get there, I quickly kiss Brody goodnight, thank Maggie for the ride, and get the hell out of there.
To be continued...