Saturday, July 23, 2016

New Beginnings - Chapter 10

Chapter 10

 The next morning I woke up to my phone playing its ringtone and I was startled and almost pushed over my bedside lamp as I tried to reach for my phone.
Assuming it was Nadine, I answered sleepily, “Hello?”
I glanced over next to me on the bed, Shane lay there and blinked his eyes into my direction.
On the other end of the phone I heard a male voice, “Hi, is this Anna?”
“Yes it is.”
“Hi, ahem…my name is Jordan Thereaux. I’m looking for my brother Shane Lenalier. I got your number from a friend who told me that Shane may be with you.”
I was definitely surprised now and sat up, “Yes, Shane is here, hold on.”
Shane looked at me questioning as I held my phone down onto the blanket and said lowly, “I think it’s your brother. Jordan?”
Shane lifted his head, running his hand over his face, “Jordan?”
I nodded and handed him the phone and he said again, “Jordan?”
I watched him for a moment as he started talking to his brother. Shane’s voice was low but sounded somewhat eager. I got up to go to the bathroom.
I could hear bits and pieces of the conversation on Shane’s end. Things like, “I don’t know yet…” and “How much?” reached my ears.

I walked back into the bedroom just when Shane finished the conversation. He dropped the phone on the bed and fell back on the bed again, moaning with a low curse.
“What’s going on?”
“My back locked up on me…I can’t move right now.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Nothing yet, I’ll wait for a few moments, it may loosen up again.”
“Do you need any medication?”
He shook his head and just laid there.
I crawled over to him, “So was that your brother?”
“Yes, Jordan...”
“What did he want? How did he get my number?”
“He got it from Mitch.”
“Oh, so what did he say?”
“Nothing important, just checking in with me.”
I felt that was not all there was to it and I asked curiously, “And what else did he say?”
He looked over at me, “He said he was looking forward to me coming home this weekend and that he possibly has a job lined up for me in Morgan City.”
I sat up and smiled at him, “That’s great news.”

He looked at me with his dark eyes, swallowing as to speak but then didn’t say anything.
I said softly, “Shane…”
“I could start on Monday.” He stared at the ceiling of my bedroom.
“Oh my Gosh Shane, that’s great news, right?”
I cuddled next to him and added lowly, “Don’t worry about anything. We’ll be okay. You’ll have a job, you’ll make money and I’ll come and see you whenever I can.”
He wrapped his hand around mine resting on his belly, “I can’t even imagine right now to go back to work and to be down there, without you.”
“You can do it for me….for us…We’ll make it work.”
Shane just nodded then and I asked furthermore, “What kind of job is it?”
“A dispatcher for this construction company my brother Scott works for.”
I tried to sound encouraging, “That sounds like a good deal. I assume this is a sitting down position which would be perfect for you. It’s so thoughtful that your brother is doing this for you.”
Shane still sounded unsure, “I suppose it is.”
“Does your brother know about us?”
Shane shook his head, “I don’t think he knows that it’s anything serious. He called Mitch first, he probably told him and he also gave Jordan your number. For Jordan it’s not a question that I’m coming home to Morgan City. He has been in touch with me mostly and he came to see me a few times at Mitch’s house.”
My fingers traced the tattoo on his chest and I decided, “Shane, how about I take you to Morgan City on Saturday, maybe stay until Monday, make sure you’re all right and help you settle in and then we go from there. I’ve to start working next week too.”
Shane kept his eyes on me and softly touched my back, “I can’t even imagine not having you next to me anymore.”
We kissed for a few moments. Shane still couldn’t move but he had to get into the bathroom. I got the muscle relaxer from his back pack and he took it while lying in bed.
“Now I just have to wait for it to kick in and then quickly make my way to the bathroom.”

While Shane waited in the bed for his back to loosen my phone played its ringtone again and when I looked at the display I saw it was the funeral home and I was pulled into this other side of my life again. Mr. Carlyle informed me that Jay’s remains were ready for pick up or burial, whichever I decided. I hadn’t thought about Jay too much in the few days with Shane, he had kept my mind occupied enough and now it all came through again and I felt somewhat off after I hung up with Mr. Carlyle. Shane had overheard the whole conversation and instead of saying anything he just reached his hand out to me from his laying down position and pulled me to him. I rested my head on his chest and a few tears dripped onto his skin and ran down on his sides.

We laid there for a few more moments until Shane was able to finally sit up and eventually made his way into the bathroom. I had dropped the back pack in there so he would have whatever he needed. I still had no real idea on how he was using the bathroom. He had a hard time making his way over to the bathroom, his feet were dragging on the floor and I saw how hard the muscles in his arms were working to get him there. He was fully focused holding his crutches and staring down onto the floor watching his feet drag along.
While Shane was in the bathroom I got breakfast ready and also called Nadine, telling her I was coming by the club that night and that I also would bring Shane. Nadine still had her suspicions about him. She didn’t trust the whole situation and if she would have known the things I knew about him she would have tried her hardest to talk me out of being with him. I had not told her a lot about Shane yet, she also didn’t know about his disability. I had not mentioned his leg braces or crutches, none of it. I had no idea how she would react when she would meet him. I was hoping very much Nadine and Rob were open minded and accepting of Shane. It felt like I was going to introduce my disabled boyfriend to my parents. I had not even mentioned Shane to Al and Cindy yet either.

Shane came into the kitchen without his braces, and he sighed with relief when he got to sit down on the chair. He didn’t look at me as I watched him sit down. As close as we had become, he still had that shyness about him, most likely the insecurity about his situation. I could tell he still had a hard time with me seeing him like this. His inhibition though drew me to him even more so. I knew he wanted to do the right things around me and he wanted to be confident but it was difficult for him. He was lacking some confidence and I knew he would need reassurance from me often to make him see that he was still a man a woman would very much want to be with. That woman was me and I was very much into him and everything about him, including his paraplegia. I knew he still had to get to fully accept his situation and I would help him with that.
Over breakfast we talked about the day and what we could be doing.
“Have you actually been around New Orleans at all or have you pretty much only seen Charity and Mitch’s house?
Shane smiled, “You got that right…I haven’t seen anything here. I don’t know this city very much. I’ve been out with Mitch but not in the city, only out where he lives.”

“We could go to the Aquarium?”
Shane shrugged his shoulders, “Didn’t you want to go to your work place today?”
“That’s tonight.”
“Oh, okay…well, whatever you want to do, I’m in. Just remember if it involves a lot of walking be prepared to take a lot of breaks.”
I thought for a moment and suggested, “Well, if we go to the Aquarium I could call ahead and find out if they have wheelchairs or those scooters to borough.”
Shane looked at me somewhat unsure, I could see he didn’t like the idea at all.
I got my phone and looked at him warmly, “It would be all right Shane. If you can’t walk that much a wheelchair or scooter would be perfectly fine.”
He rolled his eyes, “Usually they have those ugly things.”
I called the Aquarium and they confirmed that they had wheelchairs available for use and I reserved one right away.
I finished the call and I smiled at him, “Okay, you’ll have a wheelchair there.”
Shane wasn’t really excited about the whole thing but he didn’t protest.

After breakfast we took a bath together. Even though it was somewhat difficult we managed and Shane let me help him without any incidents or any protests. I knew he was reluctant to accept my help but it would have been risky for him to get into my tub on his own. It was slick, it was not accessible and I assisted him to get in and out. We didn’t have sex, but only washed each other with lots of caressing and kissing.
It was around noon when we were finally dressed, Shane was in his braces again and stood out on my balcony looking over the courtyard and the pool, where a couple of kids were playing.
I came out to him and wrapped my arms around him from behind, “Are you excited to go to the Aquarium?”
He replied with some sarcasm, “Yeah, I can’t wait to roll around in an ugly ass wheelchair.”
I remarked somewhat tensely, “Shane, if it’s really such a problem, then I’ll cancel the wheelchair and you can walk the whole time.”
I sounded more irritated than I meant it and he looked down to his feet.
I quickly added, “Maybe it won’t be an ugly ass wheelchair, maybe it will be an all right one.”
“Anna, any public place where they rent wheelchairs or scooters usually has ugly and old stuff.”
“Well, maybe you could get your own one day.”
“I wish I could…which brings me to another little situation.”
“What is it?”

He waited for a moment and I wrapped my arms around him more, “What?”
“I only got like 50 bucks left and I ain’t getting paid until next week.”
I had been wondering somewhat about Shane’s financial situation but now I said, “Don’t worry about it, okay. I got you. Where does your money come from anyways?”
“Welfare right now…I get $ 450 a month and I gave Mitch $ 250 every month for letting me stay there and feeding me and all. I applied for Disability benefits but haven’t heard anything yet.”
“So it works out perfect with the job. Do you know how much they’re going to pay you?”
“$ 9.25 an hour is what Jordan said.”
“That’s good Shane, it’s not the world but it’ll help you get back on….” I stopped in the middle of the sentence.
Shane turned around and smiled at me, “Until I get on my feet again…”
“I’m sorry.”
He still smiled, “Don’t worry, it’s actually kind of funny.”

He was beautiful when he smiled and leaning down he kissed me while holding on to his crutches.

Traffic into the city was somewhat heavy. The thunderstorms of the night had subsided but the sky was still filled with thick, dark clouds which looked ready to burst again. The sun tried to peek through a little but was quickly covered by clouds again. The exhaust of all the cars hung over the city and spread an unpleasant breeze. We made our way down to the river front where the Aquarium was located and I drove around in the parking lot to find a close enough spot.
When we passed the handicapped parking Shane mentioned, “I guess I should get one of those handicapped placards you can hang in your car.”
“I don’t know if you could get it for any car.”

“Well, if your car is the one I ride in mostly, maybe I could. I’ll have to check on that.”
I dropped Shane off at the entrance and found a parking spot.

Inside the lobby we walked over to the counter and I got our tickets. I told them about the wheelchair reservation. Shane stood there quietly, he didn’t say a word. The girl from behind the counter left and brought a wheelchair around. When I glanced at Shane I saw the aversion on his face, and he tried very hard to avoid looking at the girl or me. The wheelchair wasn’t really bad at all, it wasn’t exactly great or slick but not half as bad as I imagined it could have been. It was a plain black framed Invacare chair, nothing special.
The girl was friendly, but I could see her curious glances at Shane’s legs, “Here you go, sir. You can leave your crutches here at the entrance with us and we’ll keep them secure for you.”
Shane looked over at me, “Maybe I can just try it without the wheelchair.”
I looked at him pulling my eye brows up, “Shane, I don’t know…it’s up to you.”
He glanced at the wheelchair again and gave in, “I guess I’ll use it.”
He let himself down into the wheelchair, handed me his crutches and I handed them to the girl. He unlocked his braces and pulled his legs up and set his feet onto the foot rest. The girl made Shane sign a paper for the crutches’ safe keeping, wished us a good time, and walked away with Shane’s crutches.

Seeing Shane in the wheelchair put images in my head how it would be if he would actually have a nice sporty wheelchair. He wouldn’t need his braces anymore and that made me a bit sad. Then again he could still use his braces for short distances or around the house but the wheelchair outside of the house if we would go somewhere. The thought of a nice wheelchair for Shane was exciting and I had some ideas. After getting accustomed to the wheelchair Shane pushed the rims and it rolled easily over the smooth flooring. We made our way into the exhibits. Shane did well with pushing the rims. The wheelchair wasn’t hard to maneuver and was discreet and quiet. I mostly walked beside Shane rolling next to me. We made our way from one tank to the next and looked at all the different fish and water animals.

It was beautiful. Shane was observing everything with interest. He had never been in an Aquarium so he thoroughly enjoyed it. He seemingly forgot all about the wheelchair and pointed out fish and other water creatures to me, excited and smiling a lot. He seemed very happy. I watched him and my heart was filled with joy of being with him. He could fully focus on looking at everything without having to balance his gait, watch his feet or move his rigidly braced legs. He did great with the wheelchair.

It wasn’t too crowded in the Aquarium, a few groups of young summer camp kids chattering happily and noisily, the counselors hushing to them to use their inside voices. Shane and I watched the commotion. I didn’t know many people with small kids and I had never thought or planned on having kids. My own bad childhood was deeply manifested inside my mind. Finally being taken out of the bad situation we lived in and being placed in foster care was the best thing that had happened to me and Jay. Even though my foster parents had been great and had been loving and supportive, some things from before just couldn’t be erased. I really wasn’t sure if I could ever love a child with all my heart, as I had not experienced real motherly love myself. As a child and before we had been taken away I had always tried everything to show my mother that I loved her but I had not received any love in return. Jay had been through the same and instead of love we had been neglected by our broken mother. It was always painful for me to see loving mothers with their children and I felt cheated out of my innocence by having had a horrible childhood and emotionally detached mother. I didn’t think I could be a good mother to any children. Over the years the rage against my mother had turned into pity and the pain had turned into disappointment. When Jay had been alive still we always talked a lot about our feelings toward our mother and together with the help of our foster parents we had somehow coped.

I was lost in thoughts when Shane appeared next to me, “Hey.”
I was standing in front of a large fish tank and turned to look at him in the dimness of only the Aquarium lights.
His dark eyes were on me, “What are you thinking about Anna?”
“I was thinking about my childhood.”
Shane shifted in the wheelchair and turned toward me, “Sit down.”
I sat on a bench nearby and Shane pulled the wheelchair right next to me, “Good stuff or bad stuff?”
I sighed, “There was no good stuff.”
Shane took my hands in his and lowered his eyes, “I hear you.”
He rubbed over the back of my hands with his thumbs.
I turned toward him and asked him, “How did you deal with things that happened when you were a kid?”
He shrugged his shoulders, “I guess I didn’t really deal with it. I just don’t think about it.”
“Was it very bad?”
Shane nodded and looked at the fish swaying by behind the glass wall, “I guess so…we didn’t know what was normal. What about your childhood?”
I replied softly, “It was bad until we got taken away and placed in foster care.
“At least you got taken away, I wasn’t that lucky.”
I looked at Shane and met his dark eyes, “I never understood why she didn’t love me.”
“Your mom?”
I nodded and Shane added, “She probably did love you in her own way.”
I shook my head, “I don’t think she did. What about your mom?”
Shane shrugged his shoulders again, “You know, I’m not sure. My mom was a mess. I don’t remember her showing a lot of love and affection toward us, she was so engulfed in her addictions. Drugs, alcohol, always asshole men in her life. Every once in a while when she was sober she would hug us or something.  We were left to our own devices a lot, older one’s taking care of the younger ones. There was a lot of abuse from the guys she had around.”

I asked softly, “Have you ever thought about having kids of your own?”
He thought for a moment, “The opportunity never came up…or I guess I didn’t let it come up. I don’t know…” He stopped and took a deep breath, then added, “Now it’s over for me anyways.”
He kept his dark eyes on me questioning, “Do you want to have kids?”
“I don’t think so.”
He nodded and I looked at him closely and asked him, “Why is it over for you?”
He swallowed and looked at the fish again, then back at me, “I most likely can’t have any kids now. Paraplegia messes all that up…it doesn’t really happen for most paraplegic guys unless they go to some kind of extent to do all this crap with artificial insemination or whatever it is they have to do. Depending on the level of injury, a guy’s junk on the inside and outside is pretty much done. Very rarely a paraplegic guy can father children in a normal way.”
“So even if you wanted kids it probably wouldn’t work?”
He nodded, “Right.”
I leaned closer to him and said lowly, “Shane, I’m so glad we’re together.”
He smiled, “Me too.”
We sat next to each other, held hands and watched the large fish swim by us, looking at us from behind the glass and probably wondering how weird we looked.

We enjoyed the rest of the Aquarium and made our way back to the exit around five o’clock. I heard thunder outside again. While we had been inside it had started to rain again.
The girl behind the counter came around to us and brought Shane’s crutches, “Did you enjoy the Aquarium?”
We both nodded and told her that we did have a good time. Shane slid his arms through the crutches again. I saw the girl watch him very curiously as he pulled himself up from the wheelchair and with a click his braces locked in the straight position. I knew Shane felt her eyes on him and he didn’t like it one bit. I felt bad for him but at the same time I was proud to be the one with him. I had seen women check him out quite often and he did definitely draw attention with his braces. He was an attractive guy and this was something people didn’t see a lot. I knew women were curious about him in the leg braces, just like I had been when I had first seen him at Charity. I didn’t know what it was but there was something about Shane that made me feel things I had never felt before with a guy.
The girl took the wheelchair and told us Good Bye, smiling big at Shane and acting a little nervous. I almost felt a slight jealousy at her checking him out the way she did and when we were outside I stated, “Okay, she was like totally into you.”

Shane didn’t say anything but only grinned. It was raining outside, the humidity was extremely high. I told Shane to wait at the entrance and I hurried across the parking lot to get my car. It didn’t take long and quickly I drove over and he got in as quick as he could, which was not very quick.
In the car I turned to him, “Are you ready to check out my work place now?”
Shane answered, “That was the plan, wasn’t it?”
I heard some doubt in his voice, “Right, I just wanted to make sure you were still okay with it.”
“Yeah sure.”

The Maison de la Maitre wasn’t too far from the Aquarium. It was right off Bourbon Street, in the center of the French Quarter. I called Nadine on my phone and told her we were on our way over there and that I was bringing Shane. She was excited to see us soon.
I was nervous about taking Shane to the club and was hoping he would be okay. I found a spacious spot in my regular parking.
Just as Shane was about to open the door I stopped him, “Shane?”
He turned toward me again, “Hhm?”
“Are you really all right going in there?”
He shifted some and nodded, “Yeah, I’m fine.”
I sighed, “Nadine and Rob don’t know about….about your legs…I don’t know how they’ll react, but I hope it won’t be a big deal.”
Shane swallowed, “What do you want me to do?”
“You don’t have to do anything, I just wanted to give you heads up.”
“I appreciate it but it is what it is. If anyone has a problem with me then I’m sorry. They can go fuck themselves.”
I could hear the tension in his voice and leaned over to kiss him.
The heat in the parking garage was humid with the smell of gasoline and exhaust mixed into it. Shane came around to my side slowly.
I touched his arm, “You okay?”
“Let’s do this.”

At the back door there was a number pad and I had to punch in the security code. Shane walked in as I held the door for him. He stopped right as he was inside. There was a short hallway leading right into our staff lounge area. I walked into the lounge and a couple of our girls were there and when I walked in they jumped up excited and hugged and welcomed me. Everyone was happy to see me, and I was happy to see them, my extended family.
I saw them glance at Shane and down at his legs.
I didn’t waste any time and introduced him, “Girls, this is my boyfriend Shane.”
They all scanned him from head to toe and were obviously intrigued. No one asked anything though, instead they all welcomed him with broad smiles and small waves. I told Shane their names and he just nodded a low greeting. I put my arm around him, as I knew he was probably nervous standing in front of a group of very hot girls eyeing him curiously.
My friend Zoe walked up to him, smiling, “Shane, welcome to this chicken pen.” 
I tried to make him feel less vulnerable, but I wasn’t sure if it worked.
“Well, we’re going to say Hi to Nadine and Rob.”
Zoe replied, “They’re in the office I think.”
As we walked away I could see the girls checking Shane out and I almost pushed him out into the hallway. I knew the girls were watching us and while we walked away slowly Shane whispered, “How bad are they staring?”
I smiled and whispered, “Very bad.”

At Nadine and Rob’s office I knocked and I heard Rob, “Come on in.”
I opened the door and Nadine jumped up from the couch, “Sugar, I’m so glad to see you.”
She hugged me tightly and Rob came around from his desk and did the same, “It’s good to see you Anna.”
Nadine added, “I missed you so much. How are you?”
She hugged me lovingly and kissed my cheek.
Shane stood behind me and when Nadine was done she stepped back some and both she and Rob looked at Shane.
“Nadine, Rob, this is my boyfriend Shane.”
I could tell Shane was very nervous.
Rob walked right up to Shane and patted him on the shoulder, “Shane, nice to meet you.”
Shane smiled insecurely, “Likewise.”
Nadine was hesitant for a moment and I saw her quickly glance at his legs, up his crutches and slowly she walked over to him.
She smiled, “Well, well…now I know why she was so excited telling me about you.”
To my surprise she hugged him warmly as Shane couldn’t really shake any hands.
Nadine added, “It’s so very nice to meet you Shane.”
Shane smiled and replied, “Nice to meet you too ma’am.”

Rob gestured us to take a seat and I saw how Nadine watched Shane very closely as he sat down. He adjusted his legs and found a comfortable position. After he had slid his arms out of the crutches and leaned them next to him I grabbed his hand and held it in mine. His hand felt sweaty, I knew this was awkward for him. I wanted to make him feel okay.

Nadine sat down next to me and laid her arm around me, “I’m so glad to see you Anna. How are you sugar?”
I told her how I was doing and how things had been.
Rob had seated himself behind his desk again and put his feet up on his desk, crossing them, “So you two met at Charity I heard?”
“Yes, Shane had been going there for a while but we just met. As much as we both were there over the last couple of months, we hadn’t met until just recently.”
Nadine asked Shane, “Did you meet Anna’s brother Jay?”
“No ma’am, unfortunately not but Anna told me a lot about him already. It sounds like he was a great guy.”
I cut in, “I did tell Jay about Shane though. He knew that we had met and he was happy for me.”
Nadine sighed, “That’s good…”

Rob wasn’t shy and asked Shane, “So what happened to you Shane? Why the braces?”
Shane swallowed and answered, “I was in a car accident about a year ago. I suffered a Spinal Cord Injury along with other injuries.”
Glancing at Shane’s legs Rob added, “So this is permanent then?”
“Yes sir, I can’t walk without the braces and crutches. I’m paraplegic.”
I squeezed his hand in mine, because I knew how difficult this conversation was for him.
Nadine remarked, “I’m very sorry to hear that Shane.”
Shane smiled insecurely at her, “It’s all right. I’m okay but thank you ma’am.”
Rob cut in again, “Talking about bad timing when you guys met. Everything that happened for our Anna lately, it’s a shame.”
Shane stated, “Yes, she has been through a lot lately. I want to be there for her.”
I said with confidence, “I’m very thankful I met Shane when I did. It has helped me so much, he’s great.”
With that I kissed his cheek making my point. Shane looked down embarrassed and Rob smiled at us.
Nadine stated warmly, “I’m so happy for you both.”

Nadine asked, “So tomorrow you have to go to the funeral home?”
I nodded, “Yes.”
“Do you want me to meet you there?”
“I think it’s all right. Shane will go with me, right?”
I looked at him and he nodded, “Of course.”
We talked some more about Jay’s ashes and that I was going to keep them at home for now.
Then we talked about what was new at the club and Nadine ended, “So at seven tonight we’ll get a bus load of Asian business men in here. It’ll get super busy.”
I nodded and told her about coming back the following week.
We chatted some more and I felt they liked Shane. Of course they did not know all the things I knew about him but it didn’t matter. Even though I was close to Nadine and Rob they didn’t need to know these things. I didn't want to worry them.

Eventually we decided to go out to the club and maybe eat something before all the guests would arrive and it would get busy.
Shane got up from the couch locking his braces and I tried to distract their curious eyes, “Let’s see what Marvin can whip up for us for dinner.”
Rob smiled, “Oh I’m sure he’ll make you happy.”
Marvin was our chef at the club. He always did a great job preparing delicious Cajun and Creole dishes.

As we closed the door to the office behind us and stood out in the hallway I moved up to Shane and I pushed him toward the wall. He leaned on the wall, holding on to his crutches and looked at me somewhat surprised.
I pressed my body to him and placed my hand on his hands holding the crutches, “You did good.”
“Did I?”
“Yes sir…” I laughed lowly making the comment pertaining to how Shane had addressed Nadine with ma’am and Rob with sir.
I smiled, “Like a good Southern boy.”
I sighed and added, “I’m sorry I’m putting you through all of this.”
He shrugged his shoulders, “It’s fine, don’t worry. They’re all right. Just don’t put me in front of all these chicks anymore.”
I leaned in and kissed him.

Shane and I made our way out to the main lounge, the actual club with a long bar, a small restaurant, a smoking lounge, the stage with lots of tables and chairs all around it. The stage extended out into the room to the left and the right, making it possible for the girls to get up close to the guests. The music wasn’t too loud yet, but two girls were up there on the poles dancing. Not too many customers were here yet. It was a weekday after all. The club could hold about 200 people. It wasn’t cheap to get in either, $ 60 to get in. Our club was on the high end with attractive and classy girls and not just some cheap and dirty establishment.
We had four bartenders, two DJ’s, bouncers at the doors, even waitresses who didn’t dance and we had about 20 girls. While the girls were on stage the only touching that was allowed was when someone wanted to slip some money into their outfits. Private dances could be ordered and were taking place in one of the four back rooms just for that. Private dances cost at least $ 100 for half an hour and everything over 30 minutes was extra.
On this Thursday evening there was only a small crowd of men sitting around the stage but the busload of Asian guests was to be expected soon.

My eyes adjusted to the dimness of the club, the most lighting was right at the stage and on the girls. I looked over to Shane who just stood there looking around.
I touched his hand and he looked at me, “Let’s get something to eat.”
Shane nodded and followed me. He made his way somewhat carefully and kept looking down, obviously worried about the lack of lighting and the dark terrain under his feet.
I turned to him, “Here, we can just sit at the bar and eat here too.”
We found two bar stools and I asked him, “Can you make it up there?”
Shane eyed the bar stool somewhat concerned but leaned his crutches on the bar and with his hands and arms somehow pulled himself up on the stool.

I climbed on the stool next to him and right away I heard our bartender Darren’s voice, “Hey Anna, it’s good to see you. How are you doing?”
He came over and leaning over the bar we hugged and Darren planted a kiss on my cheek.
I turned to Shane, “Darren, this is my boyfriend Shane. Shane, this is Darren, best bartender in town.”
We laughed and Darren reached his hand over to Shane and they shook hands.
Darren smiled, “What can I get you guys to drink?”
Shane got a beer and I opted for a Margarita. Darren handed us the menu and even though I already knew what I wanted to eat I let Shane look at the food choices.
We decided on the Crawfish Etouffee. Darren set our drinks down in front of us. Tyler and Brian, the other two bartenders came over and greeted me happily with hugs and kisses, then also said Hi to Shane. I was a little worried about the closeness I had with the guys in front of Shane but he just sat there and didn’t say anything.

He sat on the bar stool, his braces unlocked, his feet on the barstool with his knees apart some. I moved my barstool closer to him and set my feet on his barstool in between his legs. I took his hands in my hands and watched as he turned his eyes toward to the stage, then looked back at me seriously, “So usually you’re up there as well?”
I nodded and answered lowly, “I mostly only dance on Saturdays, sometimes on Fridays. The other days I help Nadine and Rob run the club and everything. Sometimes I just sit with our guests or do private dances.”
His eyes were dark when I said the last thing. He pressed his lips together and nodded. I rubbed my thumbs over the back of his hands and tried to read his expression but his face was serious and didn’t tell me much.

Darren set the steaming bowls of Crawfish Etouffee and a basket of rolls down in front of us on the bar and told us to enjoy our meals. While we were eating the club got busy and bustling with the Asian guests arriving. The music got louder as they all scrambled in and found the best seats in the house.
Shane turned his head to look at the club and I smiled at him, “It’s getting busy now.”
Nadine came up to us after a little while.
She had changed into a very sexy outfit and hugged me from behind, “Hey honey, you want to work tonight?”
I was somewhat startled at her question and I saw Shane’s surprised look but Nadine said quickly with a laugh, “I’m just kiddin’ sugar. It’s going to be busy tonight though. Let me say Hi to all these people.”
She was on her way to welcome all the guests.

Rob came out right behind his wife and stopped quickly between me and Shane, “You guys doing all right?”
I nodded, “Thanks Rob, yes.”
He smiled, “It’s going to be a busy night, have to keep those guests happy.”
He looked at Shane and seemed to sense his apprehension to this whole situation when he said with a hand on Shane’s shoulder, “Shane buddy, you okay?”
Shane only nodded weakly and Rob continued, “Our Anna here is a special girl and you’re a very lucky guy to have met her. Believe me, we take care of her here at the club just like we take care of all our girls. Anna is hard working and reliable, down to earth and true to herself. She’s like a daughter to me and Nadine. You seem like a good guy for her and I’m happy to see you two together.”
He patted Shane’s shoulder, “I guess what I’m also trying to tell you here is not to worry about Anna working here. I know it’s not easy to date a girl like her, but she deserves that one and only guy too, you know. Try to stick around for her Shane.”
He patted Shane on the back again and Shane nodded, “Yes, sir.”
Rob laughed, “Well, let me chase down that wife of mine.”

I lowered my eyes as Shane looked over to me. He took my hand in his and tugged on it for me to look at him.
“I love you Anna.”
I smiled at him, “I love you too.” I kissed him again and then we turned back to our meals.

Just as we finished our food the show moved to another level as Nadine was up on stage welcoming the guests to the club and announcing the girls for the night, also advertising membership and going over the policies of the club. The audience was pumped, cheered and whistled as Nadine finished excitedly.
I watched Shane move his eyes to the stage as two of our girls started their choreography. The girls were hot and doing great, tips flying left and right soon after they started their show.
Shane watched and I moved my stool closer to him and pushed my legs in between his legs again, playing with his braces.
When he looked at me I said, “Looks like the audience likes what they’re seeing.”
He nodded but didn’t say anything and I added, “Do you like the show?”
He looked over to me with a weak smile, “Yeah, but without you up there…”
I didn’t have anything to respond to that and we watched the show go on. Darren brought another beer for Shane as his was almost finished.

Nadine and Rob were all over the club making sure everything was running smooth and no one acted a fool. I felt somewhat bad for not helping and just sitting around but there was no way I could leave Shane by himself.

I got up to go the bathroom and planted a kiss on his cheek letting him know where I was going. He nodded and watched me walk away.
The bathrooms were in a back hallway and when I came out, two guys about my age were right there in the hallway, obviously already drunk. They started talking to me and not letting me pass. They were obviously not part of the Asian businessmen. I tried to stay calm and was hoping some other guests or girls would come to the back and witness the situation.
As one of the guys grabbed my arm I demanded, “Let me get by!”
“Where’re you goin' sweetie pie?”
He stank of alcohol and came very close to my face, shoving me against the wall.
“I’m going to call security!” I tried to sound stern but felt my voice tremble.
The other guy babbled, “Oh no, I’m fucking scared now.”
He roughly shoved me against the wall and his face was right in front of mine now. I almost got sick smelling his disgusting breath.

Just then one of the girls came into the hallway and I looked over to her and called, “Can you please call security!”
She ran off and shortly after she came back with our two bouncers Dale and Joey just when the one guy was about to press his mouth on mine and hissed, “You bitch…you think you’re special or what? Fucking little bitch!”
I moved my face out of the way and the scuffle started as Dale and Joey pulled the two guys away from me.
Dale had his hand on the inside of his jacket, and yelled, “Step away from the lady, now!”
I knew they carried guns under their jackets. I moved away from the danger zone as Joey and Dale roughly took the guys down.

I felt my body tremble and my breathing was quick as I hurried through the hallway and back to Shane who was still sitting on the bar stool watching the show with the beer in his hand. He had no idea what had just happened. I was shaken up and I didn’t want him to know.
Shane turned his face toward me and I went up to him, pushed myself in between his legs and hugged him.
He held me in an embrace and I felt his heart beat under his T-Shirt, “Hey baby, what’s going on?”
“Nothing, I just want to be close to you.”
He ran his hand through my hair, all the way down my back, “Yeah, I’m here.”
He must have sensed that something was going on with me, as he held me back some and looked at me intensely, “What’s going on Anna?”

I only wanted to be in his loving embrace. I knew it would be devastating for Shane to be caught in a situation like that, because he wouldn’t be able to do much. I didn’t say anything and just pressed myself against him. I felt secure in his arms and was trying to forget about the situation.
A few moments later, Joey came up to me and touched my shoulder, “Anna, are you all right? We got rid of those assholes.”
Shane looked questioning from Joey to me and I answered lowly, “Thanks Joey, I’m fine.”
I was hoping very much Joey wouldn’t say anything else as I felt Shane’s grip around my waist loosen.
Joey smiled, “I’m glad you’re okay, those guys won’t ever set foot in here. We’ll make sure of that.”
With that I nodded, “Thanks.”
Then I turned to Shane and Joey again and introduced them to each other. I felt Shane getting tense at the conversation and looking questioning from me to Joey.

Joey greeted Shane friendly and Shane thanked him for something he had no idea about and as soon as Joey was gone he turned to me and asked tensely, “Anna, what the fuck was he talking about?”
Shane grabbed my arms and pulled me closer, his eyes penetrating and fierce, “Nothing…don’t lie to me Anna! What happened?”
He looked angry and serious and I lowered my eyes, “Shane, it was no big deal really. Let it go okay.”
He sounded mad, “I’m not letting anything go…what the fuck happened?”
His eyes were drilling into me and I stuttered, “Nothing…just two assholes…by the bathrooms. They were drunk and being stupid.”
His grip on my arm got tight, “What did they do to you?”
“Nothing Shane, nothing…please stop it. You’re hurting my arm.”

He loosened his grip quickly and shifted, then ran his hand through his hair nervously, “Anna, tell me what happened?”
“Nothing happened, Joey and Dale came right on time and took care of it. I got away. There was nothing you could’ve done.”
His breathing came quicker now and he replied tensely, “You’re right…I guess I couldn’t have done shit. I would’ve just had to watch how two drunk motherfuckers mess with my girlfriend…you’re right…I really couldn’t have done shit. Thank God for Joey and Dale.”

He was sarcastic and turned around on his bar stool and downed his beer, then showed Darren his empty bottle.
Darren set another bottle in front of Shane and I climbed on the barstool next to him and moved closer to him, and said, “Shane, look at me.”
He looked at me with a weary expression and I said, “I’m all right. Nothing happened. Please don’t worry about it.”
Shane had his hands wrapped around the bottle and stared at it. I softly ran my hand over his upper back.
He took a sip and set the bottle down roughly, then wiped over his mouth and turned to look at me, “This is fucked up. I’m so pissed right now because you’re right, I can’t do shit to protect you.”
“Nothing happened and it’s not that something like this happens all the time.”
“Before I got fucked up I would have taken on any asshole and now it drives me crazy to know that someone messed with you and I couldn’t have done anything. I don’t want anything to happen to you. I hate to be like this when it comes to protecting you. I used to be strong and would’ve beat the fucking daylights out of any dude.”
I moved closer to him, “Baby, listen to me…yes, maybe you were stronger physically before, you may have even been a different guy in a way but you’re still a strong person. Shane, I don’t know how you were before, I don’t know if I want to know really but I don’t want you any different. I want you the way you are now and I love you the way you are. It’s not that I get attacked by drunk dudes on a daily basis. I just wanted you to hold me a while ago. I wanted YOU to hold me in your strong arms, because that’s where I felt safe. I just wanted to be in your arms, Shane.”
I pulled his face closer and I touched my forehead to his and we looked at each other and I said lowly, “I love you.”
He replied lowly, “I love you so much Anna and I couldn’t forgive myself if anything happened to you and I couldn’t have done anything to help.”

We held our hands and kissed for a long time.

We were interrupted by Nadine’s voice over the microphone again as she announced two of our top girls and the whole place cheered when the music started loudly and the light show changed.
We looked toward the stage and I asked, “So, what do you think about all of this?”
He shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know. I don’t want to think about you being up there.”
I didn’t really know how to respond, he was apparently having a hard time with all of it.
After a few moments he asked, “How often do you do private dances?”
I really didn’t want to answer the question but he had a right to know and I sighed, “It depends on how busy we are and what kind of guests. I average about 5 private dances on a normal night.”
Shane looked over at me and his eyes were dark.
He took a deep breath, shaking his head, “I don’t know how I can live with knowing that.”
I took his hand and squeezed it, “Just don’t think about it.”
I had no good consolation for him but I got up and wriggled myself in between his legs again and touched his face, “Baby, just remember one thing. YOU get unlimited private dances, no charges and all the touching you want.”
I smiled at him warmly and when he didn’t say anything I leaned closer to him and looked at him intensely, “Shane, please don’t leave me hanging.”
“I won’t…I wouldn’t know what to do without you.”
We kissed again and then I just stayed in his embrace and closed my eyes, my head on his shoulder, nestled next to his neck and smelling his cologne and the tickle of his hair on my cheek.

I thought about how some of the guys I had dated in the past had acted when they found out what I did. The usual responses had been bossy and angry. They had told me to quit, had told me that they didn’t want to date a stripper and they had accused me of being a whore. Feeling Shane’s arms wrapped around me despite everything and feeling how he held me close made me believe that he cared enough about me not to assume things. I knew it was difficult for him but I needed this job. I was good at it and I made good money doing this. Maybe down the road things would change for me but right now this was not the case and Shane and I had to be strong enough to make it. He had his baggage and I had mine but together I felt we could make it and I loved him more with every minute passing. I wanted to be everything he had always imagined in a woman for him.
During a break the club bustled with all the guests and everyone seemed very happy. I could see that the girls had a great night when it came to tips, the Asian guests were not greedy to throw dollars up on stage if they could get a closer look at the girls. The music filled the club, the lights were racing over the stage in all colors and here and there a girl would disappear in the back rooms for private dances.

Nadine came over to us again and put her arm around me, “How are you honey?”
I smiled at her, “I’m good.”
She turned to Shane, “What do you think about this place sugar?”
Shane smiled shyly, “It’s very nice, the girls are great.”
Nadine put her arm around him now, “We have the best girls in town and your girl here is one of them. How do you feel about my baby working and dancing here?”
She glanced at me, then back at Shane.
He didn’t answer right away and instead lowered his eyes, then replied lowly, “It’s not easy to think about it….”

Nadine quickly squeezed him to her side and said warmly, holding him close, “Listen Shane…I know it’s not easy for a guy to date one of our girls but I can assure you that Anna cares a whole lot about you. Rob’s and my priority is to take care of our girls here and make sure they’re safe and nothing inappropriate happens to them. The girls are like family to us and their safety is everything to us. This is not a cheap, raggedy old bar with slutty strippers. Our girls are top notch and your girlfriend is one of them. Anna is one of our most popular girls here but I want you to always remember we’re not selling sex here. You’re the only man who is going to get close to this girl and you need to remember that. I have to tell you guys….”
She pulled me and Shane closer to her, “You two are absolutely gorgeous together, you’re a very handsome young man, my baby knows what’s good.”
Shane looked down embarrassed. Nadine kissed me on the cheek and then she added more seriously looking at Shane again, “Shane, because of this here, she had her heart broken too many times and I really hope and pray you can come to terms with what Anna does for a living. I don’t want to see that girl cry anymore.”

I thought Nadine had been drinking a little and almost made herself cry saying all these things. I was still moved by her words and I could see Shane’s expression serious and thoughtful listening to Nadine’s words of wisdom.
She gave us both a hug and took a tissue out from somewhere on her dress, dabbing her eyes softly, then added, “I want to see you two happy, all right?”
Shane nodded somewhat unsure and I touched Nadine’s cheek, “Naddy, we’re going to be happy…thanks for everything.”
She was obviously moved and nodded, “I’ve to go.”
Nadine went on her way again.
I turned to Shane and he blew out air, “Wow…I hope I can live up to the expectations…”
“I’m sorry she threw all that out there, she does get emotional sometimes, especially with a few drinks in her.”
He nodded, pulled me to him and held me in an embrace.

Shane finished the last of his beer and I handed him his crutches and he slid his arms into them and placed them in front of him on the floor, then slowly moved his first leg down, then the second one and locked the braces with a quick jerk.
I looked for Nadine and saw her over by the other side of the bar talking with Rob, “Let’s tell them we’re leaving.”
We made our way over there and when we approached Rob turned to us, “Hey you two.”
He held his arms out and wrapped it around my shoulders and I explained, “So we’re heading out.”
Nadine smiled, “Thanks so much for coming by and introducing Shane to us.”
She turned to Shane, “It was so nice meeting you.”
Shane smiled.
Rob asked, “So when do you think you want to come back?”
“I plan on coming back next week.”
I explained quickly how Shane was going back to Morgan City on the weekend and how I would take him. We explained that his family lived there and that he had only been in New Orleans because of his Rehab.
Rob added, “Well, I sure hope we’ll see you again soon Shane.”
Shane nodded, “Yes, sir.”

On my way out I said Good Bye to some of the girls in the lounging area in the back and finally we were in my car on the way back to my apartment. The drive home was quiet, but the traffic out to Metairie wasn’t bad. We were tired though. As I pulled into my parking lot I thought about the stairwell again and I felt so bad for Shane.
He got out of the car without saying anything and when we stood at the bottom of the stairwell he sighed, “Well, here goes again.”
I stood next to him, “I’ll walk with you.”
Shane kept his eyes down and said, “You can go up already. You know it’ll take me a little while.”
“That’s all right, I want to go with you. It’s late and dark and I don’t need you to get mugged out here.”
Shane smiled at me, “And you’re going to prevent that if that would be the case?”
I grinned at him, “Hell yes….you don’t know that I’m also a Ninja.”
We laughed lowly and I added, “Shane, I’m going up with you, that’s it.”
He put his crutch on the first step, “You really want to see me climb up these stairs?”
I touched my hand to his hand on the crutch, “Yes, I do.”

He slowly started making his way one step at a time, setting one crutch first, then moving his  braced leg up, then pulling the next one up and the crutch at about the same time. He was fully focused on the stairs, concentrating on his balance and holding himself steady. After the first flight of stairs he leaned on the wall, breathing and looking down at his legs.
I positioned myself in front of him and touched his hands on the crutch handles.
He looked up at me, “I’ll never get used to these stairs.”
I would have never thought that one day I would hate living on the third floor and it would bother me so much.
I said lowly, “I’m so sorry baby.”
Shane grinned now, “I like making you feel bad for me.”
I punched him on the shoulder softly. He moved on to the next flight of stairs and made his way slowly but steady up the second flight, then took a break again, then up the third flight of stairs. I wished so much for an elevator in these moments.

In my apartment Shane went into the bathroom first, I dropped his back pack in there with him. He took a while in there and I hoped that he was all right. He had been drinking a few beers and he was exhausted from the stairs.
I was relieved when he came out without his T-Shirt, his face looking moist and he said, “I’m done, teeth brushed an all.”

I also went into the bathroom, freshened up, brushed my teeth and finished. Shane was on the bed, his braces already off his legs lying on the floor next to the bed, just in the process of taking his jeans off. I helped him the rest of the way and also helped him take off his boxers, he then slipped into the shorts he had from the night before.
He fell back onto the bed, “Shit…I’m beat.”

I brought some water and then joined him in bed. I cuddled up to him, my head resting on his chest, he had his arm around me and I looked down his legs, laying still and silent and I felt so much for him. After a few moments, I felt Shane’s breathing come soft and regular, he had fallen asleep without saying anything else. I realized how exhausting it must have been for him. It was almost midnight now and it had been a long day.

I turned the bedside lamp off and a soft light came from outside through the mini blinds as my eyes adjusted to it. I thought about the day for a few more moments and I was so relieved that Shane had reacted mostly understanding to my job and work place. I know it wasn’t easy for him. I just knew that something had happened between us that was irreversible now and I couldn’t imagine not having him in my life anymore. I fell asleep in his arms.


  1. Atmospheric and very enjoyable! The two of them are terrific together.

  2. I liked the idea of him using the wheelchair in the aquarium, so that he was more at ease... Thanks for the update und gute Besserung!!

  3. I would love to see him use the wheelchair more often.

  4. Wow!
    Another killer chapter.
    Thank you!