So in summary, The Best Man is on hiatus indefinitely. If anyone wants to start posting on Sunday, the day is yours.
That said, I wanted to have something for you. So below is an early chapter I really liked from (Almost) Happily Ever After that, if you haven't read the book, will hopefully be entertaining to you. I tried to make it as devvy as possible. There's a stairlift, you guys. I really tried.
Libby and Will go to Coney Island
Will drives us out to Coney Island. For someone like me, owning a car in Manhattan is a huge liability, but Will loves his Toyota Prius. It has hand controls, which is obviously the only way he’d be able to drive it. Public transportation is difficult when you’re in a wheelchair—accessible stations occur only sporadically and the accessibility can get shut down without any notice. Also, getting a cab is impossible. He seems to really like driving, which is a good thing considering you will never see me getting behind the wheel in this crazy city. I only keep my driver’s license around for identification purposes or when I borrow a car to go visit my parents upstate.
On top of that, Will’s got handicapped plates (obviously), so we get all the good parking. We’re lucky to have the plates because it’s probably the last nice day of the fall and parking looks like it would be a nightmare. And I’m currently wearing The Most Uncomfortable Sandals in the World. They were gorgeous when I saw them in Macy’s and I still love how they look, but it turned out that… well, you know.
Nathan’s isn’t so much of a restaurant as an extremely elaborate hot dog stand. A giant sign above the metallic stand proclaims it to be the “original” Nathan’s, in case I had any delusion that I was eating at one of the many horrible Nathan’s knock-offs that arose in Manhattan. Bright yellow signs announce all the deliciously fatty fried foods you can order to accompany your deliciously fatty hot dog. I’m going to have to do fifty laps running around the block tonight to work off whatever I eat here.
“I can’t believe you’ve never been here,” Will muses as we join the line of patrons waiting to order food. “How do you have any city cred if you’ve never been to Nathan’s?”
I nod. “It’s definitely been a hole in my life.”
“Really unacceptable,” he says with a grin.
“Well,” I say, “maybe if you had more free time, you’d have taken me here by now.”
Oops! How did that pop out? Well, now it’s out there and Will gets this wounded expression on his face. But he sort of deserves it. This is the first thing we’ve done together in over a month. I mean, I know he has to work hard at his job, but he promised to always make time for me. He promised.
“I’m sorry, Libby.” He hangs his head. “You’re right. I haven’t been around much lately. I’m going to talk to Saperstein on Monday about my hours lately. It’s not fair to you, and honestly, I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.”
“And maybe we can finally get married?”
Oops, that also kind of popped out.
So at the end of most fairy tales, what usually happens? The heroine and the prince kiss and then they get married. Like, immediately. Next day. They weren’t big on long courtships back in the fairy tale era. So I imagined that my happily ever after with my handsome prince would involve wedding bells.
Except Will hasn’t been able to find time to make it happen.
Seriously, what kind of guy literally cannot make time to get married? It’s not cold feet or anything, because I know for a fact that Will really wants to get married. He has zero interest in his “freedom” or in other women. At first, we were planning to have a really big wedding, except we could never find a time that worked with his schedule. Then I said we would do something smaller, with just close friends and family, but every time I picked a date, he had to nix it. Finally, we agreed a City Hall wedding was the best thing. I got us a marriage license and I figured we were good to go.
Let me put it this way: I now have an expired marriage license in my underwear drawer.
“How about this?” Will says. “Let’s get married tomorrow.”
I stare at him. “Seriously?”
He grins and rubs his knees, which is something he always does when he’s excited about something. “Sure. Why not?”
I allow myself to get excited too for a moment, then I remember: “We don’t have a marriage license. Also, it’s Sunday tomorrow and I’m pretty sure City Hall will be closed.”
“Oh.” He frowns. “We don’t have a marriage license? I thought we got one.”
“Will, it expired.”
He groans. “Libby, I’m really sorry. I’ve been awful, right?”
“Sort of, yeah.”
“This week, we’re going to get a new marriage license.” He nods to himself. “And then I’ll take a weekday off to get married. This month.”
“You’re going to take a weekday off?” I widen my eyes in mock horror. “What on earth will Saperstein and Hitchcock say?”
“Saperstein and Hitchcock can go to hell,” Will says, with slightly more vehemence than I expected.
The line is moving really slowly, and Will gets antsy and starts being incredibly touchy feely with me. It’s adorable and something I’ve missed the last several months. Honestly, I didn’t even realize how much I missed my boyfriend until we’re actually getting to spend some time together. I know his most recent clients were really demanding, so I hope things will get better now.
I’m going to be honest about something here: Will being all over me in public attracts a lot of stares. It’s not like I’ve never made out with a guy on the street before, but when I’m in Will’s chair and he’s kissing me, you’d think Beyoncé were performing with the way people stare. Sometimes I want to snap at them, “What is so goddamn interesting about my boyfriend kissing me?”
But I get it. A guy in the wheelchair making out with a girl is not something they see every day. Will gets it too. He’s dealt with it almost his whole life. He says it bugged him when he was a teenager, but now it barely seems to register with him anymore.
When we get to the front of the line, Will orders a hot dog with the works. I tell the cashier, a pimply kid who looks like he should be in my biology class (and getting a higher score than me on the midterm), “I’d like a cheeseburger please.”
“A cheeseburger?” Will tugs at my arm. “Libby, we’re at Nathan’s. Get a hot dog.”
“I don’t feel like a hot dog,” I protest. “I want a cheeseburger.”
“Yeah, but…” He shakes his head. “That’s like going to the Cheesecake Factory and getting a slice of pie. Or going to Pizzeria Uno’s and getting a steak. Or… or going to Nathan’s Hot Dogs and getting a freaking cheeseburger!”
“You’re very passionate about this,” I note.
“Best hot dogs in New York,” he says soberly.
I do sort of feel like a cheeseburger, but he’s probably right. Plus it’s clear that if I don’t get a hot dog, I’ll never hear the end of it. I’m very skeptical though that the hot dogs are better than the ones at the hot dog cart on 23rd street. I don’t know what it is, if they’ve got some special rat droppings seasoning the dogs, but those things are yummy.
After I’ve placed my hot dog order, I tell Will I need to run out to the car to get my sweater. The sun disappeared behind some clouds and it’s getting nippy. He gives me his keys and I sprint over to the car, which is fortunately nearby in its handicapped spot. I grab my sweater from the front seat and am busy locking the doors when I hear someone yell at me:
“Hey! You can’t park there, Miss!”
I look up and see a middle-aged couple standing in front of my car, frowning at me in disapproval. I feel my cheeks growing warm. “Um, I…”
“It’s a handicapped spot,” the lady says to me.
Well, duh. There’s a gigantic blue sign in front of the spot with a wheelchair symbol on it.
“It’s okay,” I say, and I gesture at the plates.
The woman narrows her eyes at me. “Whose car is this? Your grandparents? You can’t just park it here because you have the plates.” She nods at the man next to her. “My husband’s got a bad knee and had to walk three blocks to get here because of people like you taking advantage.”
“My boyfriend is disabled,” I mumble.
They both look skeptical.
“You know, I should call the cops on you,” the lady goes on. “Make you move that car for somebody who really needs the spot.”
At this point, I’m afraid to even leave the car, because I don’t want this crazy, indignant woman to slash our tires. Luckily, before things can escalate further, Will wheels up with a greasy bag that says “Nathan’s” on it. While he looks adorable, he also very much looks like a guy who rightfully requires handicapped plates on his car.
“Hey, what’s going on, Libby?” he asks. “I thought we were going to eat outside over there?”
In spite of how flustered I’d gotten, the look on the woman’s face when she lays eyes on Will is absolutely priceless. I almost want to whip out my camera to photograph it.
“Oh,” she sputters.
Will still looks confused so I explain to him in a loud voice, “They were upset that I parked in the handicapped spot.”
“Well, we didn’t see you,” the woman explains to Will.
“Oh.” Will scratches his head. “Well, aren’t you going to apologize to my girlfriend then?”
It’s obvious that until he said something, they had absolutely no intention of apologizing to me. But now that he’s sitting there, staring at them accusingly, the woman mutters that she’s sorry. I almost laugh when they’re walking away and her husband snaps at her, “I told you to keep your big mouth shut. Why do you always have to be such a busybody?”
Will grins at me. “I can’t even send you to the car without you getting into trouble, can I? Now let’s eat these hot dogs.”
It is a good hot dog—I’ll give him that. Best hot dog in New York? I don’t know. I’m telling you, that cart on 23rd street is amazing.
After we eat, we go out to the boardwalk. The Coney Island boardwalk overlooks the beach and the ocean, although it’s mostly too cold for many people to be out there aside for a few brave souls. The air smells like a combination of salty ocean water and fried food, since practically every other store is advertising the same unhealthy meals that we just devoured at Nathan’s. I can also buy myself some saltwater taffy or get my fortune told.
Hmm. I wonder what my fortune is.
Probably better not to know.
“Can you win me a prize?” I ask Will as we come across a stand where you can throw darts at balloons and pop them to win a prize.
The deeply tanned man with far too many gold teeth who is running the stand perks up at my interest. “It’s very easy,” he assures Will. “You pop one balloon, your sister wins a prize.”
“I’m his girlfriend,” I say. This happens too much for me to even get annoyed over it anymore. I look over at Will, who rolls his eyes.
“Oh, sorry,” the guy says quickly. “You two… you got a resemblance.”
We don’t. At all. Trust me.
“So whaddaya say?” the guy says to Will. “You wanna win a prize for your pretty girl? I’ll even give you a practice throw.”
“You mean a practice throw with the darts that actually work?” Will raises his eyebrows at the guy. “Before you swap them out for one with a dull point?”
The guy is quiet for a minute, then his face breaks out in a grin that shows off at least six gold teeth. “Okay, you got me. But I woulda given you the real darts. Help you look good in front of your girl.”
Will laughs, and the two of them end up shaking hands and chatting for a while about how the boardwalk “isn’t what it used to be,” whatever that means. In the end, the guy gives me a small stuffed penguin and Will slips him a bill of some denomination.
Unfortunately, I’m still wearing The Most Uncomfortable Sandals in the World, and it isn’t long before I can feel the blisters forming on my toes. Christ, why do they make shoes that are this uncomfortable? Although I suppose that by buying them, I’m part of the problem rather than being part of the solution.
They don’t make shoes for men that are this uncomfortable. I mean, Will is wearing sneakers that look orders of magnitude more comfortable than my shoes, and he doesn’t even have to walk at all. He can’t even feel his feet.
Hmm. Maybe I should ask him to trade.
“Libby?” Will says.
“Yes?” I reply, trying to hide my grimace from pain.
“Why are you limping?”
Okay, I can’t stand it another second. I pull my shoes off right then and there. It’s honestly the best feeling in the world. Even though my feet are resting on the splintery boardwalk, it’s like I’m standing on a cloud.
“My shoes hurt,” I say lamely.
Will raises his eyebrows at me. “Ride?”
I settle down on his lap and wrap my arms around his neck. I feel the heat of his body against me, and before I know it, we’ve started making out. God, he’s a good kisser. If I were in a poison apple-induced coma, Will’s kiss would definitely wake me up. And I genuinely don’t care that people are staring.
“Actually,” Will breathes in my ear, “there’s something I need to show you.”
“Is it in your pants?”
He rolls his eyes. “No. I’m serious, Libby.”
“So… show me.”
“Well…” He smiles crookedly. “It’s not here. We’ll have to get back in the car.”
“Okay,” I agree. “But can we get soft serve ice cream first?”
I mean, you can’t go walking around on a boardwalk without getting some soft serve ice cream, right? That would be like going to Nathan’s and not getting a hot dog.
It’s a thirty minute drive to whatever Will is so eager to show me. I’m patient for about fifteen minutes then I finally blurt out, “Where are we going?”
“Windsor Terrace,” he tells me.
“Where’s Windsor Terrace?” I ask.
“It’s near Park Slope.”
“Where’s Park Slope?”
Will gives me a look. “Really, Libby? Do you actually live in this city?”
“Excuse me,” I sniff. “Sorry that I’m not up on all the cool hot spots in Brooklyn. Sheesh.”
“Park Slope isn’t just cool,” he says. “It’s one of the most popular places to live in the entire city. It’s a great neighborhood with nice restaurants and excellent schools.”
I make a face at him. “Are you a real estate agent or something?”
“No.” He rolls his eyes. “Anyway, Park Slope is prohibitively expensive. But Windsor Terrace is right nearby, not nearly as expensive, and it’s a great residential neighborhood.”
It takes me a second to realize what he’s saying.
“Wait,” I say. “Have you been looking at houses? In Brooklyn?”
“Sort of,” he admits. “I mean, I haven’t actually looked at any houses, but I had a few conversations with a real estate agent, and she left me the key for one place so I could take a look on my own.”
“She just gave you a key?” That’s amazing. When my best friend Mia was looking to buy apartments with her husband, she told me that the real estate agent was looking over her shoulder every second, like she was afraid Mia might swipe something.
Will shrugs. “I guess I seem trustworthy.”
That’s probably true. Will is a wealthy, Jewish lawyer in a wheelchair—he definitely doesn’t look like someone who’s going to ransack an empty house in Windsor Terrace.
“So…” I stare out the window at the other cars speeding next to us, trying to make sense of this. “You want to buy yourself a house?”
“No,” he says, “I want to buy us a house.”
He glances at me and smiles. “Yeah, the two of us. Me and my future wife. Like, to live in. The usual stuff.”
“But…” I still feel uneasy. “You already own an apartment. In Manhattan.”
“Right,” he agrees. “But this is bigger. And it’s got a fenced-in yard, in case you want to get…”
“A dog!” I exclaim. Will knows I’ve been desperately longing for a dog since I moved to the city, but his apartment doesn’t allow it. And even if they did, it would be borderline cruel to keep a dog locked up in such a small space. Unless it was a really tiny dog.
I have to say, I love living in Manhattan. But I wouldn’t mind commuting in from Brooklyn if I got to have a dog again.
“Exactly,” he says. He adds, “Also, it’s got three bedrooms.”
I grin at him. “Petunia and the dog can each have their own rooms.”
“Yes,” he says vaguely. “Petunia and the dog. That’s exactly what I was thinking about.”
That just sort of sits between us. I’m nearly thirty-three and Will is thirty-six. We’re getting to an age where people have kids. I want kids and I’m fairly sure he does too, but for some reason, it’s something we never, ever talk about in any sort of realistic way. I’m almost afraid to. Mostly because I’ve been off birth control for nearly two years and… well, that says it all.
Still. I’m not going to think about that. I’m going to think about getting a dog. The biggest dog I can find. A big, mean dog that’s frightening to burglars and also possibly to little children.
I think the two of us are both pretty excited by the time Will pulls up in front of the house in Windsor Terrace. I’m going to be honest though—it doesn’t look as great as I thought it would. When I imagined a house, I was imagining something more like the house I lived in as a child, which was big and sprawling, with a long driveway as well as a front and back yard. But this house is narrow, more of a brownstone really, and smooshed between two other houses. Just from the outside, it doesn’t appear to be much bigger than Will’s apartment.
“I don’t like it,” I announce.
He sighs. “We haven’t even been inside yet.”
I study the offending house carefully, and something occurs to me: “It’s two stories!”
“Yeah, I realize that,” he says. “The lady who used to live here had some medical issues and they apparently already have a stairlift installed. That’s why the real estate agent thought it would be good for me.”
I look over at Will, and I can tell he’s disappointed too. But we already drove all this way to get here, so we may as well go inside.
There are actually also two steps to get into the front door. Stairs are not the easiest thing for Will, for obvious reasons. He can go down them okay, especially if there’s a railing, but up is hard. With one step, he can do a wheelie and jump over it without any trouble. Two can be tricky, but these are small so it doesn’t look like it will be too difficult. Usually though if it’s more than one step, I end up pulling him up backwards. If it’s an absolute emergency, he can do it himself by holding onto the railing, but he says it kills his shoulder.
Will is able to do a wheelie and hop up the steps to the front door with only slight difficulty. The bigger issue is that the landing at the top of the steps is too tiny for Will to keep his chair on while he’s opening the door. He ends up having to go back down the stairs, wait for me to open the door, then come back up to join me.
“Didn’t you always want a home that you can’t actually get into?” I say.
“We can fix that,” Will says, although I don’t hear much confidence in his voice.
We enter the house, and the first thing I think to myself is: Oh my God, it’s so small. What appears to be the living room is much smaller than Will’s living room in his apartment. The kitchen is only like a half-kitchen that attaches to the living room. We barely have room to enter the place without practically bashing into the staircase. It’s so small.
And the second thing I think is…
“What is that smell?” I say, covering my nose.
Will gives me an apologetic smile. “The agent mentioned to me that one of the pipes backed up and leaked onto the floor. But she said they’re getting it cleaned up.”
“It smells like sewage!”
“I think you’re exaggerating.”
I’m not exaggerating. Trust me. This place smells worse than the Hudson River.
Will notices the chair attached to a railing at the bottom of the stairs. He picks up a remote that’s lying on the seat and studies the controls. “You want to look upstairs?”
“I guess so.” I really don’t. “Have you ever used one of these things before?”
“Sure,” he says. “Didn’t you notice there was one at my parents’ house? They got it installed after my accident. It wasn’t my favorite thing, but it wasn’t that bad.”
Will pulls on a lever and the seat swivels to face away from the stairs. He lifts the armrest on the seat, and transfers his body over in one swift movement. He then grabs his legs and pulls them onto the footrest attached to the chair. He buckles himself in, then pulls the lever to get the seat back in position.
“Can you bring my chair up the stairs?” he asks me.
“Let’s see if that thing works first,” I retort.
“It will work,” he says with confidence that belies the expression on his face.
He punches a button on the remote. The seat sputters a bit, then starts to very, very slowly ascend the stairs. I absolutely can’t imagine him using this thing on a daily basis. I swear to God, two flowers could copulate in the time it takes him to ascend one foot.
“It might need new batteries,” Will says.
The seat manages to make it another foot in the air, then it just…. dies.
“Shit,” Will says.
I wonder if this is an insensitive time to say “I told you so.” Oh, to hell with it. “I told you so,” I say.
“Yeah, yeah,” he sighs.
I don’t offer Will any help because I can’t imagine what I could do, and I know he can handle it on his own. Hell, his upper body is strong enough to get up a whole flight of stairs without a stairlift if he had to. But dragging himself down the stairs one by one clearly isn’t the most fun thing in the world. By the time Will gets down to the bottom of the stairs, and transfers back into his chair from the floor, I can tell he’s on the same page as I am about Sewage Manor.
“We’ll keep looking,” he says.
“Good idea,” I agree.
There’s no amount of dogs in the world that could get me to live here.
To be continued in (Almost) Happily Ever After