Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Best Man, Chapter 9


Kirby

John has roped me into another best man activity today.  Believe it or not, I’m helping him pick out tuxedos for the wedding.

Really, he’s not exactly picking them out.  He’s just approving one of the ones that Ted probably randomly selected, and then handing over the list of groomsmen and their measurements that he collected. 

I almost said no when he asked me to come along with him.  The other night when we were at the bar, things became oddly intense.  I was watching him talk to that woman at the bar, making her laugh, and I got this weird flash of jealousy even as I rooted for him to succeed.  I couldn’t understand how she could have turned him down when every time he even smiles at me, I feel like…

Wow.  Why am I thinking this stuff?  I’m getting married to Ted in a few months.  Ted—a great guy who’s super cute and that I love very much.  That’s definitely going to happen.

The store is a place that just sells tuxedos, nothing else.  It amazes me that a place can stay in business with that going on.  I mean, aren’t we sort of in the middle of a recession?  Can the economy really support a tuxedo store? Is there such high demand right now for tuxedos?

I guess there is.

The clerk there, Michael, a well-spoken man with slicked back hair and a crisp white shirt, greets us at the front door, and had apparently been expecting us.  He took us to the back, and showed us a black tuxedo.  “This is a standard black tuxedo, cut slimmer through the shoulders, chest and waist,” Michael explains.  “It has high peak lapels, satin details, one button closure.  As you see, it has long sleeves, 4 button cuff detail, welt chest pocket.  The welt hand pockets have satin trim and pick stitched detail, while the interior welt pockets are fully lined.”

John just stares at him.  “That sounds fine.”

“Excellent,” Michael says, whisking the tuxedo away. “Shall I take your measurements now?”

“Uh…” John says.  “I guess.”

Michael pulls out his tape measure from his pocket and picks up a clipboard.  He frowns down at John.  “Would you be able to stand for me?  Just for a minute?”

I’m not entirely sure how Michael could think that John is able to stand.  I mean, he can barely sit up in his wheelchair. 

“No,” John says tightly.  “I can’t.”

“Could your nurse here help you?” Michael presses him.

The assumption irritates me even more than Michael’s original question. I see a weariness in John’s eyes as he shakes his head no, but doesn’t say anything to correct him.  So I take it upon myself to speak up.  “I’m not his nurse,” I say indignantly.

Michael frowns again, then looks between the two of us.  Suddenly, his eyes widen.  “Oh!  I’m so sorry.”

Well, it’s clear that Michael now thinks we’re an item.  But somehow, that doesn’t bother me as much.  I don’t correct him, anyway.  And neither does John.

Michael looks thoughtful.  I find it hard to believe that in all his years of tuxedo making, this is the first client he’s had who was unable to stand.  “Do you know how tall you are?”

“About six foot one,” John says. 

Michael writes down a note on his clipboard.  “All right, let’s see what I can do…”

Michael measures the length of John’s legs with his tape measure, as well as the width of his shoulders.  He even manages to get the tape measure under his armpits and takes a measurement around his upper chest. 

“Can you hold out your right arm for me?” Michael asks.

John lifts his right arm, but his elbow stays bent at a right angle.  Without him asking, I gently take his arm in mine and straighten out his elbow.  It doesn’t go entirely straight, as it turns out.  It seems stuck at about 30 degrees shy of a straight line.  But Michael figures it out.

“Okay,” Michael says.  “The last measurement we need to get is your waist.  Could you… are you able to lean forward for me?”

“Kirby,” John says to me.  “Do you think you could help me lean forward a bit?”

I remember the day that he asked me to help me escape from my treacherous couch and how I refused him.  Back then, I felt really uncomfortable around him and the whole thing just frightened me. I certainly can’t say I feel uncomfortable around John anymore—he’s become one of my closest friends. But now I find myself hesitating for entirely different reasons—reasons I don’t entirely understand.

“Sure,” I finally say.

I bend down and John reaches out to put his arms around my neck. I barely have a chance to brace myself before he falls against me.  His head is very close to mine, and for an instant, I feel the stubble on his chin graze my jaw.  I smell the clean scent of his shampoo emanating from his dark hair.  And I realize why I was hesitating a moment ago.

Something inside me stirs as I feel John’s chest pressed against mine.  It occurs to me that it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen my fiancé.  But it’s more than that.  It’s not that I want a man—I want this man. 

Christ, what the hell is wrong with me?

Michael, of course, isn’t ready with the tape measure, and it takes him a minute of fumbling while I hold John in place.  Finally, he gets the measurement, and I release John back against the backrest of his chest.  John’s brown almond eyes meet mine, and I wonder if he felt what I felt.  Whatever that was.


John

You’d think at a tuxedo store, they’d be better prepared.

In fact, knowing that Kirby was coming with me, I called in advance the day before.  I talked to the owner of the store, a guy named Sidney, and explained my situation to him, just to ensure everything would go smoothly.

“You’ve had other clients in wheelchairs?” I asked him.

“Of course!” Sidney said, as if affronted.

“I’m not going to be able to stand up to get measured,” I pointed out, because you’d be surprised how many people think that even though I’m in this chair, I could still get up somehow. 

“No problem, Mr. Yang,” Sidney said.

Of course, then when I actually get to the tuxedo place, Sidney is nowhere in sight.  Instead it’s some guy named Michael who has no knowledge of my conversation yesterday with Sidney and I know it’s going to be a problem. 

First, Michael thinks Kirby is my nurse.  That hurts.  I mean, what the fuck?  Just because I’m disabled and I’m with a beautiful girl, that means she’s got to be my nurse?  Then again, why do I even get worked up over stupid shit like that?  It happened enough times with Becky.  Becky was my nurse, my friend, my sister—anything but my girlfriend.  We used to laugh about it.  I don’t know why it was funny back then but it isn’t right now.

Christ, I’ve really gotten bitter.

It’s all okay though, for the most part though, until Michael wants me to lean forward.

I know that sounds simple, but it isn’t for me.  I have zero muscles in my trunk, so I rely on the backrest of my chair for support, and I’m constantly using the strength in my arms to push myself up and make sure my posture doesn’t suck too badly.  Leaning forward for a measurement is not going to be easy for me. Leaning forward a few inches takes more trunk control than I have (since I have zero).  If I lean forward, I’m going to fall forward all the way.

I’m not excited about explaining all this.

“Kirby,” I say quietly, “could you… do you think you could help me lean forward a bit?”

As I ask the question, I realize for the millionth time how absolutely stupid my crush on Kirby is.  I can’t even lean forward on my own.  The thought of her being overcome with lust for me so bad that she’s got to dump Ted is pretty laughable.

Part of me is almost hoping she’ll say no, but instead she says, “Sure.”

I put my arms around her slender neck.  I allow myself to lean against her, and I can’t help but think that at this moment, she probably feels very much like my nurse.  I close my eyes for a minute, trying not to think about what’s going on, but the coconut scent of her shampoo is doing tricks to my brain.  Her body is so soft and warm against mine. 

I want her so bad, it physically hurts.

When Michael finishes up his measurement, Kirby releases me and I lean back again in my chair.  I readjust my body, shifting my weight in the process.  Our eyes meet briefly and I get that jab of pain again in my chest.  I want her.  I can’t even pretend this is a stupid crush anymore.  I’m fucking head over heels in love with this girl.  And it’s so frustrating, I wish I could punch a wall.


Kirby

“So I heard about your adventure at the tuxedo store.”

My heart leaps at Ted’s question.  I feel my cheeks turn pink and I curse the fact that we’re doing facetime instead of talking on the phone.  But then I look at Ted’s face and realize it was an entirely innocent question.  As well it should be.

“Oh,” I say.  “Right.”

Right.  We were just looking at tuxedos.  Nothing happened.  Nothing happened at all.

“That’s so great, Kirby.” Ted’s smile touches his light blue eyes.  Which I can’t help but think aren’t nearly as nice as John’s almond eyes.  “I really appreciate you doing so much to help John out.”

“It’s no big deal.”

“It is a big deal though,” he insists.  “I don’t know how he’d manage all this without you.”  He laughs lightly. “Truthfully, I don’t know how he manages anything anymore.”

I frown at Ted’s comment. “What do you mean?”

“Well, you know.” He shrugs. “He can’t move most of his body.  I still can’t figure out how he’s able to live on his own. Or drive… Christ, that’s a scary thought.”

Well, it is sort of scary, actually—I still feel terrified every time John starts weaving in and out of traffic.  But I’m not crazy about the tone that Ted is using.  “He manages fine.”

“I don’t think I could do it,” he says. “I mean, if I were in Johnny’s shoes.”

“I’m sure you’d figure it out.”

He shakes his head emphatically. “No way.  If I ever got paralyzed like that?  Honestly, I’d kill myself before living like that.”

My jaw drops open.  “How could you say that?”

“You don’t agree?” He raises his light brown eyebrows. “Practically everything he does is this huge struggle.  And… Christ, I don’t know how he can look in the mirror and have the nerve to go out in public.”

I get this really sick feeling in my stomach. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I think he looks… fine.” 

More than fine.  John is hot.  When he smiles at me, I melt in a way I’ve never quite felt before.  I don’t even think he realizes how cute he is.

I guess Ted doesn’t realize it either, because he laughs.  He actually laughs.  Not in a mean way, but like what I said was so ridiculous, I must be making a funny joke. “Come on, Kirby.  Everyone stares at him every time he goes out.  Hell, even I feel uncomfortable being in public with him since he got hurt.  It’s like woman-repellant.”

I remember Ted telling me that John got injured shortly before he left for California.  That makes sense—the majority of their friendship took place when John was still able-bodied.  Ted hardly knows his friend as a disabled person.  He has no clue how capable John is. 

“Then why do you want him to be your best man?” I ask.

Ted finally has the good grace to look embarrassed.  “John’s my oldest friend.  I’ve known him pretty much my whole life.  If I didn’t make him my best man, I know he’d be hurt.”

I doubt that, actually.  I think John would like nothing more than to be released from his best man duties.  But it’s too late now.

“Maybe he’ll meet a girl at the wedding,” Ted says hopefully.

I glare at him through the iPad screen.  “I thought you said he’s woman repellant.”

“Kirby, I didn’t mean it like that,” he sighs. “You know I want Johnny to score.  I’m sure… there’s got to be a woman out there who will like him in spite of the way he looks.  He’s a great guy aside from that.”

“Yeah,” I agree. “He is a great guy.  He’s even going to come by to taste wedding cakes that we’re making at the bakery.”

“That’s awesome.” Ted grins at me. “Tell Maxie hello for me.”

I get this slightly nauseated feeling in my stomach, one that I’ve been noticing more and more lately.  The feeling that makes me think that maybe I don’t know my fiancé nearly as well as I should. “You mean Minnie.”

“Right.  Minnie.  Of course.”

And all I can think to myself as I force a smile for the facetime is that Ted and I maybe shouldn’t be getting married so soon.  And maybe not at all.

To be continued....

18 comments:

  1. Oh my god, i am so in love with this story. Thanks for the update!!

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  2. Is it strange to say that this was a damn hot chapter? Holy shit...

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  3. Oh how I missed John and Kirby the last few weeks! So happy with the new chapter. I'm excited that Kirby is finally waking up to Ted's true colors and admitting her feelings for John. I can't wait for the next update. Thanks for posting!

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  4. Thank you for the long awaited chapter! :)
    I had been wondering in my mind how you would make Kirby realise her feelings for John but I could never have imagined it happen at a tailor's and in such a heart-breakingly sweet (read: devvy) way... The moment when John had to lean against Kirby for support made even my heart jump! :)
    Being aware of the direction of the story, I imagined Ted being superficial but you outdid him - I couldn't have imagined him being SO shallow, which on the other hand makes the decision between two men easier for Kirby! :)
    And now I'm starting to wonder how you're going to cancel the wedding! :) With respect to this story, I'm glad that Christmas and New Year are over! :)
    Thanks for writing and sharing!

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  5. Oh, thank God!!!! I've been eagerly awaiting the next chapter. I love this story so much. You definitely get the devvy parts right. Quad/Para balance issues are so very devvy to me :) More please. Thank you!

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  6. Wow. The scene at the store was super intense. Thanks for updating again. I've been missing your story.

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  7. I love this chapter so much! Please update more, such a great story!

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  8. Sweet, tender, electric! Great writing.

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  9. Yep... not liking Ted that much. Thanks for the update, I missed it. Tc

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  10. So happy for an update. Thank you! Loving this story and loving your writing. Really special.

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  11. I really love this story and hope you will continue and won't find it so difficult to finish. I would really miss it. As for me, I like this story and Kirby and John so much more than Emily and Brody in Pretty Fat, but I always read and like all of your stories, Annabelle!

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  12. Sigh Annabelle.

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  13. I absolutely agree with the Anonymous comment before this one. I Love all of your stories and read and re-read them but this story, John and Kirby, I LOVE it the most. I hope you have a change of heart or a rush of inspiration or whatever it takes to write a great story (I certainly have no idea) to finish this because I would buy this on Amazon too. OK, begging over I'm going to read it again.

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  14. Loving it. Great writing and I agree. It was hot in the tuxedo store.

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  15. Thank you everyone for these lovely comments. I've pushed through to write two more parts for you guys, both of which are pretty intense, but after that, I may unfortunately have a "to be continued..." I definitely intend to finish it eventually, but it's hard when you're not "feeling it." I don't want to give you guys crap... I want to give you good writing :)

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    Replies
    1. Maybe you could make the story a little shorter but still give it the end it deserves... Seriously, this story is too good to be left unfinished ��.
      It's just an idea!! I really hope that our comments can give you encouragement in order to inspire you to keep on writing... I'm in love with this story.
      P.S. Do you still plan on releasing the Ugly Duckling's sequel in January? I can't wait to read it ☺.

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    2. Thank you, and there most definitely will be a sequel coming out either the end of this month or early next month :)

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