I wouldn’t say I’m a Facebook addict or anything, but I have several hundred friends and I usually log on a few times a day. My profile photo is of just my face, and it’s one from college, when I was quite a bit lighter. As I’ve said, I’m way better on the internet than I am in real life. Out of all the Facebook friends I’ve got, only a handful have ever been my friends in real life.
A few days after my trip to the zoo with Brody, I log on and see a disturbing update on my friends feed. Apparently, “Nadia Patterson wrote on Brody Nolan’s wall.”
Nadia Patterson is a girl I knew in high school. She was in my class, but we weren’t friends—not even close. Nadia wasn’t exactly the most popular girl in the world, but she was sexy. She had long, straight blond hair that was always streaked with several other colors, and you could always see more of her legs than you could of her skirts. I heard she got suspended once for refusing to change into something less revealing.
I wasn’t really friendly with Nadia in high school. I remember we worked on some project together for social studies class during junior year. We went to the park to work, and most of the time, I was working while Nadia was smoking a joint in plain view of everyone. But she was nice—at least she offered to share with me. (I said no, good little girl that I was.) Anyway, a few years ago, Nadia sent me a friends request and I accepted.
And then I became her.
Nadia took a lot of photos of herself. A lot. Getting a new shade of lipstick was a cause for Nadia to take and post like twenty selfies. And when guys I met online asked to see a photo of me, it was only too easy to go into the cache of Nadia’s seductive photos. Needless to say, most of the guys enjoyed the photos.
But I couldn’t figure out why she’d be writing on Brody’s wall. How would she ever know Brody? As he pointed out to me once, he was a senior when we were freshmen. Then again, Nadia seemed like the kind of girl who might have known some cute senior guys even as a freshman.
I look at Brody’s wall and I can almost hear Nadia’s sexy voice: “Brody Nolan!!!! Is that really you? Where have you been hiding yourself, Brody???? I hope you remember me! If you don’t, I’ll give you a hint: NYE 2006! Now THAT was a night I’ll never forget!”
Okay, what the hell is that? What exactly went on between Nadia and Brody on New Year’s Eve 2006 that was so memorable? I don’t even what to think about it. Christ. I skim to Brody’s reply:
“Hi, Nadia. Of course I remember you. Who could forget that tattoo? Wow, it’s been a while. Married with kids yet?”
I stare at the screen. Tattoo? Nadia had a tattoo? When she was a freshman?
And here’s the part that freaks me out. I don’t remember any visible tattoos from any of the many, many photos of Nadia. And in some of those, she was really scantily clad. So that means that Brody got to see her body in a place that isn’t generally clothed.
I try to push that next thought out of my head as I read Nadia’s response: “Haha, nope. Still living the swinging single life. And I see from your profile that you’re still single yourself, Mr. Nolan!”
Of course, I immediately click on Brody’s profile, and sure enough, Nadia’s right. Brody has not switched his relationship status from “single.” And now he’s flirting with Nadia freaking Patterson.
I switch back to their wall conversation, but I don’t see any response from Brody. Of course, that doesn’t mean he never responded. Maybe he just responded privately.
Oh Christ, I need some chocolate.
I fling open my desk drawer, noting with dismay that I finished most of the bag of peanut butter cups I bought two days ago. There are only about ten of them left. Ten tiny little peanut butter cups are not enough to make me feel better about this.
Screw it, I’m calling Brody.
It takes half a dozen rings for him to answer. I’ve nearly given up when I hear his voice: “’Lo? Emily?”
“Hi,” I say, suddenly feeling shy.
“You never call me,” he says. He doesn’t sound suspicious, just pleased. “I got really excited when I saw your name on the screen.”
Aw, he’s so sweet. And cute.
No wait, I’m mad at him.
“Brody,” I say. “Can I ask you something?”
I take a deep breath. “How do you know Nadia Patterson?”
“Who?” I have to say, maybe he’s a great actor, but he genuinely sounds like he has no idea who she is.
“Nadia Patterson,” I repeat. When he doesn’t say anything, I add, “She wrote on your Facebook wall.”
“Oh! Nadia, right.” He still doesn’t sound upset or guilty. “She went to high school with us. Hey, wasn’t she in your class or something? She was, like, really young.”
I can’t stand this another minute. “What happened New Year’s Eve of 2006?”
It all comes out in a gush of words: “She wrote… Nadia asked you if you remembered New Year’s Eve 2006, like it was really important. And then you said you did. And then Nadia said that your Facebook status is still single. Which it is.”
There’s a long pause on the other line, then finally Brody busts out laughing. “Holy shit, Emily. Are you jealous?”
I don’t know what’s so funny. I mean, he was flirting with an attractive blond on Facebook. I have a right to be jealous.
“No,” I say defensively.
“I think you are.” He sounds amused. “Wow, that’s… really adorable. And flattering.”
“Well, you were flirting with her,” I point out. Although I do feel a little dumb right now.
“Come on, that wasn’t flirting,” Brody says. “And even if it was, so what? You really think I’m going to somehow cheat on you with Nadia? First, I would never ever do that to you. Second, you think Nadia will be overcome with lust when she lays her eyes on me and she’ll just have to be with me? You really think that’s a realistic thing that might happen?”
“I… I don’t know,” I mumble. “You’re pretty cute.”
“Well, I’m glad you think so,” he laughs. “But objectively, I mean, come on.”
Fine, he has a point. And I do feel reassured that he’s not planning to cheat on me with Nadia. But at the same time, what he’s saying is a little unsettling. I had convinced myself that he asked me out because he found me attractive, as crazy as that sounds. But now I feel like maybe he just asked me out because he found me unattractive. So unattractive that he thought I might actually say yes to a date with a quadriplegic guy.
Then again, he certainly acts like he thinks I’m attractive.
Maybe Brody realizes he said something wrong, because he adds, “Emily, I think you’re so wonderful. I’d never cheat on you in a million years. I’d have to be a complete idiot.”
He sounds like he means it. Maybe I’m the idiot, but I believe him. “How come you don’t change your Facebook status then?”
“I don’t know,” Brody says. “Because I’m 27 years old, and the first thing I do when I meet a great girl isn’t rush to change my stupid Facebook status? Seriously, I’m not even sure I know how.”
“Oh,” I say. “Well, it’s not that hard.”
I actually changed my Facebook status the day after our zoo date. I debated for like an hour if I should do it, if I would be jinxing myself, but ultimately, I couldn’t resist. I’ve never had a boyfriend before, and I just wanted to scream it from the rooftops. You know what’s crazy? When I changed my status, tons of people “liked” it and actually posted congratulations. It was a little embarrassing.
“I’ll do it right after we get off the phone,” Brody says. “I promise.”
We talk for another hour, then I go get some dinner. When I get back home, I check on Facebook and see his status has changed to “In a relationship with Emily Davison.” He didn’t just tell the world he’s in a relationship—he told everyone that he’s in a relationship with me. Which is just about the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me.
I show up at Brody’s apartment at 6PM on Saturday night, feeling some combination of terrified and excited. Tonight, Brody’s PCA Mike is going to be sticking around for the duration of the evening, to help out with whatever we need. I have to admit, it’s a little awkward that we need a third party present for our date, but I know this will give us a chance to be physically closer. Which is something I’m… well, like I said, excited and terrified about.
The door opens much faster this time, and I’m greeting by a pleasant-looking guy in his mid-thirties with a crew cut. When he holds out his hand to me, there isn’t any judgment or surprise in his eyes. I wonder if Brody warned him I’m a big girl. “Hi, I’m Mike. You must be Emily.”
I shake his hand, which is strong and warm. A far cry from Brody’s hands. “Hi.”
Brody enters the foyer in his wheelchair, looking adorable as usual in a dress shirt paired with jeans. “Emily! I see you’ve met Mike.”
I nod shyly.
“Anyway,” Mike says, rubbing his hands together. “Dinner is all set up for you guys. I’m going to hang out in the bedroom so give me a yell if you need anything.”
“Oh,” I say. This feels so ridiculously awkward. He’s just going to be sitting in the bedroom, waiting around? “You don’t want to stay and have a drink?”
Mike laughs. “Thanks, but the whole reason I’m here is to help you two have a good time together. I don’t want to intrude. Really.”
“When do you need to leave, Mike?” Brody asks.
“I’ll stick around as long as you need me, Brody,” Mike says. He cuts off Brody’s protests, “Really. Don’t even worry about it.”
Mike dashes off to the bedroom. I wonder what he’s going to do in there. Watch TV? Play with his phone? Jack off? “Mike seems nice,” I say.
“He’s really nice,” Brody assures me. “I’ve had some PCAs that were shit. But he’s great.”
“What makes a PCA shitty?” I ask him.
“Lots of things,” Brody says. Spoken like someone who’s needed help with basic activities of daily living for the last eight years. “Like not showing up on time. Or at all. I had one woman who had a son who was always getting sick. And she’d wait till the last second to call me and let me know she couldn’t make it. And I’d be stuck in my freaking bed, calling around for a back-up.”
“Yikes,” I say.
“That was the worst,” he says. “But there were others who were bad in other ways. Like they were always acting like it was some kind of race—everything was so rushed. Or just not treating me with any kind of respect, you know?”
“I can imagine,” I say.
“Anyway,” Brody says. “This is not the sexiest topic of conversation. Sorry. Come here, Emily.”
I lean toward him and he kisses me on the lips, then whispers in my ear, “I can’t wait to be close to you.” His breath makes my whole body tingle.
Sheesh, he is really sexy sometimes.
The dining table is set up in the living room, although I get momentarily distracted by a book in Brody’s bookcase. It’s been removed from the shelf and is lying on top of the other books. “Hey,” I say. “Is that your high school yearbook?”
“Oh, yeah,” he says, grinning crookedly. “I took it out a while back so I could get ideas for conversation topics with you. But it was too heavy and I couldn’t get it back in the shelf normally.”
I pull the book out of the shelf and lay it down on the dining table. I start flipping through the pages of portraits until I come to the N’s. And then I see him at the bottom of the page: Brody Nolan.
“Wow, you were cute!” I can’t help but exclaim. He really was. He has this adorably goofy grin in the photo. He looks pretty similar to the way he does now, although there’s something different I can’t put my finger on. Well, his hair is shorter now. In the photo, his brown hair wasn’t long, but it was definitely pretty shaggy. It’s almost hanging in his eyes.
“Was?” Brody acts mock offended.
I look under his name, where honors and clubs are listed. He has none. I read off the quote attributed to him: “Dude, where’s my homework?” I look up. “What does that mean?”
“Oh Christ,” Brody says. “I was a little… immature back then. Maybe you should just put that back.”
I start flipping through more of the pages, looking for familiar faces. Some of the kids look vaguely familiar, but they were so far ahead of me that I didn’t really know any of them. Finally, I get to the unlabeled photos, snapped in the hallways of school, at dances, or other special events. I pause over a photo that I’m almost positive is of Brody. Brody leaning against the lockers, kissing a cute blond girl.
I just stare at the photo for a few seconds. He looked different in the portrait photo, but here he looks really different. For one thing, he’s standing. He’s wearing a T-shirt and you can see his forearms and hands, and they look totally normal. Brody looks totally normal. Not just normal—he looks really hot. Miles out of my league, if I’m being honest.
“Is that you?” I ask him, pointing to the photo.
Brody cranes his neck. “Oh, yeah. I think so. Man, that was a long time ago.”
“Who is the girl?”
He shrugs. “I don’t know. Just a girl.”
“You were kissing her,” I point out to him. “You don’t remember who you were kissing?”
“It was ten years ago,” Brody says, crinkling his nose. “Do you remember everyone you kissed ten years ago?”
I’m not going to tell him that it’s pretty easy to remember everyone I kissed ten years ago when I didn’t have my first real kiss until a few weeks ago. Of course, maybe if I looked as good as Brody did in high school, I’d have kissed more guys than I’d be able to remember.
“I guess not,” I finally mumble. I probably can’t win this argument.
Brody reaches over and manages to shut the yearbook. He reaches over and slides the book onto his lap, then he tries to lift it to get it back on the shelf. He gets it about six inches off his lap and then the book falls to the floor, bashing him in the knee in the process. That sets off a muscle spasm in his leg, which starts jumping like crazy.
“Are you okay?” I ask him. “Do you need me to get Mike?”
“No. No way,” Brody says. He grabs onto his leg and the spasm quiets. “Let’s eat, okay? Enough reminiscing. Please.”
The way he says “please” makes me feel incredibly guilt. I guess if I were Brody, I wouldn’t want to look at photos of myself before I got hurt either.
“Do you want to sit on the couch and… cuddle?” Brody’s ears turn slightly pink as he asks the question. “I can go get Mike.”
I, on the other hand, feel my whole body turning pink. Brody and I haven’t really been able to be that physically close to each other due to him being stuck in his wheelchair and me being too big to sit in his lap. The thought of being close to him that way makes me really excited. And terrified. But mostly excited.
Also, pretty terrified.
“Sure,” I say casually.
I go to select a movie while Brody gets Mike to help him onto the couch. I try to find a movie that’s romantic, so we can set the mood, but he literally has no romantic movies in his collection. I end up picking Elf, because it’s seriously the most romantic movie he’s got.
Brody returns with Mike by his side. Brody wheels over beside the couch, and undoes the Velcro on his belts. Then he leans forward and wraps his arms around Mike’s neck. Mike grabs him by the waistband of his pants and heaves him onto the couch in one swift movement. Mike helps Brody adjust his legs, and then it’s over. It was actually far less involved than I thought it would be.
“All set,” Brody says. He smiles shyly at me.
I settle gingerly on the couch next to Brody while Mike works the controls on Brody’s wheelchair to get it out of our way. “You good then?” Mike asks. “Need anything else?”
“No, we’re fine,” Brody says. He clears his throat. “You know, it’s going to be a two-hour movie. If you want to go out for a while or something, and just come back later, that would be fine. I mean, I don’t want you to feel trapped in the bedroom.”
Mike looks dubious. “But what if you need to get back in your wheelchair?”
“I’ll be fine,” Brody says again.
I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about the whole thing. As easy as it is for Mike to help Brody in and out of his chair, I’m not sure I could do it if I had to. I mean, what if there’s a fire and we have to get out of the building? Okay, that’s pretty unlikely. But what if… “What if you need to use the bathroom?” I blurt out.
“He has a catheter,” Mike says.
Well, that finally explains the bathroom thing that I’ve been wondering about since Brody and I have been dating. I really was baffled as to why he never needed the bathroom. To be honest, I’d started to think that maybe he wore a diaper. I’d made peace with that possibility, but I’m sort of glad that’s not the case.
I look over at Brody, who is blushing. “So I think we’ll be fine,” he says to Mike. “You can go out. Really.”
Mike finally agrees. As we hear the door slam behind him, Brody and I exchange looks. Despite everything, he looks really nervous. “We’ll be fine,” he says for the millionth time. Although he looks at his wheelchair like he slightly wishes he were still in it.
“I know,” I say.
He nods toward the TV. “Do you want to get the movie started?”
It’s a relief to get the television on, and break some of the awkwardness since Mike mentioned the catheter thing. I settle down next to Brody on the sofa, about a foot away from him.
“Hey,” Brody says. “You’re way too far away from me. Come closer.”
I scooch over about half a foot.
Brody raises his eyebrows. “That’s the closest you can get?”
I finally scooch over so that I’m practically right on top of him, which seems to satisfy him. He reaches over and puts his arm around me, which is really sweet. Bob Newhart comes on the television screen, but I’m having a lot of trouble focusing on the movie. I keep wondering what’s going to happen between Brody and me. I mean, he didn’t go to all this trouble of having Mike stick around just so he could put his arm around me.
Sure enough, about ten minutes into the movie, I feel Brody kiss my forehead. I lift my face to look at him, and then he starts kissing me on the lips. This is the closest our bodies have been since we’ve been dating and that makes the kissing so much more intense. He’s actually a really good kisser, although admittedly, I don’t have any basis for comparison. In any case, what we’re doing feels really good.
I feel Brody’s arm moving against my breasts, although he stays respectfully on top of my shirt. At first. Then he tries to get his arm under my blouse, but it’s a struggle for him. Finally, he whispers in my ear: “Do you think you could take your shirt off?”
I start to panic. I’ve never taken my shirt off in front of a man. I think about the rolls of fat in my belly and my flabby arms, and my stomach clenches up. There’s no way Brody will like me if he sees all that. And I can’t help but think of that cute blonde he was kissing in that photo. She obvious had a killer body—not an ounce of fat.
“Please,” he whispers, stroking the side of my face with his forearm.
I take a deep breath. I remind myself that Brody is a quadriplegic now, and he’s standards aren’t all that high. Maybe it’ll be okay…
Slowly, I undo the buttons on my shirt, until it hangs open and he has a clear look at my breasts under my bra as well as my big fat stomach. Even though my breasts are pretty big, I’m wider in the middle than I am at the bust. My mother says I’m “pear-shaped.”
Brody inhales sharply when he sees my breasts and his eyes widen. “Holy crap,” he says. “Your tits are so freaking sexy.”
I start to undo the buttons on his shirt now. Brody has a thin red-brown layer of hair over his chest and the skin underneath is very pale. His abdomen bulges slightly under his rib cage—he’s skinny, but he’s got a gut. He looks at me almost apologetically. “I’m a quadriplegic, so obviously I have zero muscles in my chest,” he explains.
I run my hand up from his belly button to his nipples and he just watches me. “I can’t really feel that,” he says.
Oh. I guess that makes sense. “So what should I do for you?” I ask him.
He grins crookedly at me. “You know what I’d really love to do?”
I’m afraid to hear. “What?”
He runs his wrist across my breasts. “I would really love to get your nipples in my mouth.”
I feel my heart speed up. “You want me to take off my bra?”
Brody nods. “If… you’re all right with that…”
How can I really say no? All he wants me to do is take off my bra. We’ve been on more than enough dates now for that to be a reasonable request. Hell, most girls would have been naked five dates ago. Brody and I are moving at a snail’s pace.
I need to get over this. I need to take off my bra.
So I summon all my courage, pull off my shirt entirely, and take off my bra.
I feel so exposed. Nobody’s seen me entirely topless in… I can’t remember how long. But Brody gets this huge grin on his face and murmurs, “Christ, Emily… you are so hot…”
He guides me closer to him with his arm, and starts kissing my neck, then makes his way down to my chest. The easiest thing at this point is to straddle him, which I do while being careful not to put any weight on his legs. I feel Brody’s lips on my nipples, and damn, that is nice! He’s really going at it—kissing, sucking, licking. His enthusiasm is unbelievable, and there's part of me that feels like if he did this long enough and if I wasn't so self-conscious and worried about squishing him, I might cum from it. But he doesn't and I am, so I don't.
While he goes at my breasts, I run my hands through his hair, over his neck and over his upper chest. I’m trying to stick to the parts of his body that he can feel. He seems to appreciate it. At one point when he takes a break from my breasts, I suck on his earlobe and neck and he goes totally nuts.
We fool around intermittently for a couple of hours, abandoning any pretense of watching a movie. Finally, we end up the way we started, with Brody’s arm around me as I cuddle against him and we watch on old episode of The Office. Except now his shirt is open and mine is still off. I still feel self-conscious, but I also feel comfortable in a way I’ve never felt before while naked.
Around 10PM, Brody’s cell phone rings on the end-table next to the couch. He answers it on speaker phone. “Hey,” he says.
“Hey, it’s Mike,” comes the voice from the phone.
“Listen,” Mike says. “I don’t want to rush you guys or anything…”
“No, that’s okay,” Brody says. “Come on back.”
When they hang up, Brody apologizes to me. “It takes him a little while to get me ready for bed, so I feel bad making him wait around. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” I say. I don’t waste a second grabbing my shirt and bra from where I abandoned them on the couch, then start putting them back on. Brody looks disappointed.
“Maybe soon you could…” He takes a breath. “Stay the night? I don’t know. It’s tricky.”
“Yeah,” I mumble. I don’t know how excited I am over that prospect either.
“I had a really great time tonight though,” he says, looking up at me as I hurriedly button up my shirt. I don’t mind Brody seeing me half-naked, but I’ll be damned if Mike gets a show. “Did you?”
“Yes, definitely,” I say. I reach out and touch the side of his face. He’s so impossibly cute from the neck up.
“You’re going to fix my buttons, right?” Brody asks.
“Isn’t Mike getting you ready for bed anyway?” I point out.
“Yeah, I guess,” Brody says. “I don’t know. I just feel stupid sitting here with my shirt open. Please?”
I bend down and do up the buttons on his shirt. I can never resist the way Brody says “please.” As I do up the buttons, I’m more observant than I was earlier and I notice several scars on his chest. There’s a large dimpled scar just below his ribs, which I finger just briefly. “I couldn’t eat for a while after my injury,” Brody says. “So that was my feeding tube. The one on my neck is from my trach.”
I stare at the oval scar at the base of his neck. “You had a trach?”
Brody nods. “For a few months. Not fun—believe me. My first wheelchair in therapy had a portable vent hooked up to the back. You have no idea how hard it is to talk around a vent. You have to, like, time everything you say.”
Seeing that scar makes me realize how much more impaired Brody could really be. I know there are quadriplegics who still use a vent. What if he needed help to eat? What if we needed Mike here for everything? Would I still be willing to date him under those circumstances? I probably would. But it would be hard.
“I think I’m going to head out,” I tell him, as I finish the last button on his shirt.
“Really?” Brody’s face falls.
“Well, Mike is going to be back soon, right?” I remind him.
“Yeah…” Brody eyes his wheelchair. It’s about five feet away, but it may as well be on the moon. “I wish I could escort you out.”
“It’s okay,” I say.
Brody gets this crease between his eyebrows. “Emily, you’re… I mean, you’re okay with all this, right? I know it’s a pain in the neck having Mike help out, and I’m sorry. I’m just trying to figure out the best way to be close to you. Maybe next time we can—”
“It’s okay,” I quickly reassure him. “I promise.”
He offers me a small, nervous smile. “Okay. I really like you, Emily. I just don’t want to mess things up.”
I love that he said that. I sit back down next to him on the couch and kiss him deeply on the lips. I know I should probably tell him that I like him too, but it sounds like such a stupid thing to say. I mean, I’m kissing him. Obviously I like him. Although it doesn’t sound stupid when he says it.