She supposed it was her dad’s doing before he took off back to Europe. His last name—Scott—was truly all she still had of his, and perhaps that's why she never shed it for the name her mom had given her. He'd had an aversion to raising kids—something he, according to her mom, was never shy about. Turns out his aversion ran deeper than principal and translated into action. Scottie hadn’t heard from him since she was three years old.
She was dreaming about her dad, or the man she’d sculpted in his absence, when the sunlight’s warmth finally felt real. She stirred and her eyelids fluttered as delicate as insect wings. She concluded that she was in LA and the wedding hadn’t even happened yet. Had J.J. even cheated on her at all? She felt swollen on hope and confusion.
And then, a flapping in her heart, as the realization slowly dawned on her, dripping like a leaky faucet. The room was too warm, the light too forgiving, the bed too soft, and that wasn’t J.J.’s ceiling. She wasn’t in LA. She wasn’t at her mom’s place. She was in a cozy room, cozier than she was used to, and the sheets were plush and grey. After a few minutes of steady breathing, she determined she could manage sitting up. Once upright, she realized she was wearing a T-shirt that wasn’t hers over her thong. Her eyes slid over to the two large windows on the right side of the bed, she was greeted by a spectacular view of New York and the East river. So, ta-da, mystery solved, she was in Brooklyn.
She was inundated with memories taking the L train to buy weed behind a warehouse on Kent back in high school. But weed tumbled into cocaine which tumbled into Xanax. She hadn’t been back in a long time.
The sun was bright and bare, glittering across the surface of the water. Scottie knew it was just the East River sludge that made the water look so iridescent, but the filth was comforting. At least the rivers around New York had water. The LA river was just a cement trench, snaking invasively through the city.
She took a deep breath. Then another. She knew that she had never been to this place. And most importantly, perhaps, was that she wasn’t in Los Angeles anymore. J.J. wasn’t by her side, sliding into her without asking, finishing without reciprocating, and stumbling to the kitchen in his underwear to put the coffee on. Scottie cringed at the thought of his stale breath on her neck, amazed at how quickly she could move to be repulsed by someone she once cared for.
One step at a time.
She slipped over to the edge of the bed and placed her feet on the hardwood floor and ran her fingers through her hair. There were rogue bobby pins still in place, a shadow of a French braid, a curled tuft falling to the side of her face. She’d worked out that his was a man’s apartment. She strained to remember the end of the night, going home with someone, kissing someone, but there was nothing but blank unrolling emptiness ahead of her.
And then, a crash outside the door. Scottie recoiled a bit at the intrusion, but quickly remembered that she was in someone else’s apartment, and probably unwelcome at that. Carefully she edged it open the door and stuck her head out. She found herself in a hallway covered in a smattering of eclectic art. Rounding the corner, she took a deep breath and stepped out of the dim hallway and into the sun-bathed room. She blinked and scrunched her eyes at the sudden light.
“Morning,” came a chocolaty warm voice that jogged her memory. And then she saw him.
The limo. The bar on the Upper West Side with the shadowy lighting and undercooked French fries. She remembered that they had great gin-based cocktails but didn’t have BBQ sauce. Cory carrying Nora out onto the sidewalk, her beautiful white dress dragging through the city grime. Hailing a cab for Will and climbing in first. It got fuzzier. Being in an elevator, but not standing on her own two feet. The smell of pine. Warm skin on her cheek. Sitting on the edge of his bed as he pulled each pin out, one at a time. Him handing her a shirt. Her asking for a black one instead. Lying on his bed laughing. Laughing so hard they were crying. His rough hand on her cheek, flushed and exhausted from smiling too much.
Her stomach dropped like a pile of stones. The rest of her memory was stupidly smooth and blank.
“I,” she started, but she quickly realized that she had nothing to say and pursed her lips. She looked down at her feet and at the slightly chipped dark pedicure. Will watched her consider herself, her legs a mile long, smooth and lightly tanned from the LA sun. She felt his blue gaze on her and looked up to meet it, hair falling everywhere. He was sitting in front of her in his wheelchair wearing a white t-shirt, speckled grey sweatpants, and socks on his feet with lightly mussed hair. He found himself unintentionally smiling at her. She seemed to swell a bit before opening her mouth.
“Did we,” Scottie started, taking a big exaggerated gulp of air. “Did we at least use a condom?” Please, God, she pled dumbly, let us have used a condom. I can’t fuck with this right now. Fuck.
She had no memory of them having sex, not even a flash. But, as previous experience had cruelly taught her, that really didn’t mean a damn thing. As she looked at him she realized she wasn’t even sure if he could have sex. She assumed he could, but she didn’t know how it would work. It would have to be different, and probably not a trapeze act simple to maneuver when you were seeing through a thick gin fog.
“We, didn’t,” he answered, ears going fire-engine red. Then he saw the look on her face—all the color drained, eyes wide, mouth pursed—and his immediately darkened. He put his hands on the push rims of his chair and rolled toward her.
“No, no, no,” he said urgently, waving his hands as he came to a stop in front of her. Idiot. He chided himself. “What I mean is, we didn’t uh, we didn’t have sex.” He ran his hand through his dark hair and dropped it down to squeeze the skin back of his neck.
“Oh,” she replied flatly. He watched the wheels turning, albeit slowly, in her head. “Good,” she affirmed after a loaded moment, framed with a hair trigger. They were still staring at each other, eyes heavy, unsure of what to do next. Her shoulders dropped hard as she sighed with relief, but his expression flickered for a split second, and she reeled it in carelessly, like a vacuum cord. It wasn’t that she wouldn’t have had sex with him. She found him attractive—that morning especially—but it felt infinitely deeper than the way than she found most men. Most men she found attractive she wanted to fuck quickly and quietly, then slip out the nearest exit. J.J. had fallen into that grey area. They’d met when Sara had been comatose, Scottie was a vulnerable vessel, open and begging. He’d picked her up by her sister’s bedside, and Scottie dug into him like a cat being held over a rushing river. She felt the hot pricks of shame as she considered how flippant she’d always been with men. They were so effervescent before they fizzled and faded. Dragging Will into her warped world felt unnecessarily cruel. She had this respect for him, perhaps because of the misguided respect, while horribly undeserved, he seemed to have for her. The last thing she needed was sex, unprotected or not, with someone she not only cared about, but knew she couldn’t follow through for.
“Not that,” she stumbled stupidly, “that I wouldn’t, you know. I just, well.” Her tongue was fat and kept slipping on the roof of her mouth.
“Scottie,” he assured her, voice eerily calm, “it’s okay.” He laughed hollowly. “Really, it’s okay.” Will shifted slightly, not wanting her to feel like she had to explain herself but bracing himself against his natural assumption. The plaque of almost a decade of self-doubt was hard to scrape.
Scottie understood the delicate nuance of the situation. She was sure he’d been rejected because of the wheelchair. People had been rejected for far, far less. She was smacked with the memory of a flirtatious exchange with a guy at a bar in Santa Monica. He’d seen her from across the room, become smitten, sauntered over, saw her mess of freckles, recoiled, and promptly grabbed his beer and faked a phone call.
Scottie searched for something to say but it felt like they were just on the edge of bursting the bubble of comfortable unfamiliarity, even though she’d slept in his bed. She clenched her teeth, wondering if and how to silently slip out the door like a ghost before she let this progress any further, afraid she couldn’t keep her distance. Actually, she was rather certain she couldn’t keep her distance if she stayed. Will was even more attractive to her this morning than he had been last night. He was boring holes into her with his eyes.
“So,” he said as he wheeled around the corner to the fridge, wondering what she was thinking. Her face was pained as she stepped gingerly closer. “I have milk. I also only have cereal. To be honest, I don’t usually eat breakfast. Coffee usually.” He shrugged and pulled some boxes out of the pantry.
“Coffee,” she exhaled, “coffee would be great.”
“Of course, right,” he replied, pushing himself off the counter to the other side of the fridge where he busied himself with the coffee pot. Scottie eyed his back, the muscles of his shoulders rippling fluid as ocean waves under his t-shirt. She tried to think of the least sexy thing she could. All she could muster was mice. Little baby mice, which came from two parent mice, who had sex to have them….why was she associating mice with sex? Mice weren’t sexy but they weren’t unsexy. They just were. Fuck. Now she was thinking about sex again.
“Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?” he asked her as she picked up the Cocoa Puffs. His face was dead pan as she looked up slowly. She let out a giggle in spite of herself.
“This,” she said, voice wavering, “is the cereal collection of a 7-year-old.”
“Indeed, it is.” He picked up the box of Captain Crunch and pulled out a crumpled bag, it was rolled at the top like he’d tried to keep the cereal from going stale, but it was undone and decidedly ineffective.
“A 7-year-old whose mom never goes to the grocery store,” Scottie said, walking to the pantry and opening it—bare. There was some Quaker oatmeal on a high shelf that she was sure he couldn’t reach, a can of peanuts, some peanut butter, Success rice, saltines, and applesauce.
“BRAT diet?” she asked.
“I had the stomach flu like…six months ago? I guess?” he said uncertainly, scratching his head.
“Mmmm good to know you never clean out your pantry. I like that in a man. I’m tempted to check the fridge, but I’m afraid of what I might find.”
“You know what, that’s probably my cue to take you out for breakfast,” he replied smoothly as he pushed past her and wedged himself between her and the fridge, effectively blocking her from opening it. He’d tried to sound as casual as possible when mentioning taking her to breakfast but it came out clunky and forced. He felt her hesitation and he wanted to push through.
“Oh?” she asked, “you do breakfast on Saturdays? How unique.”
“Would brunch be better?” he replied, a smile ghosting across his face. Scottie found herself staring at his lips, wondering what it would be like to kiss them.
“This is New York,” she said in her best New York accent. Will thought it was pretty good.
“Better than expected New York accent,” he teased.
“Hey!” she snapped.
“Aren’t you from LA or something?” he asked, shifting his weight in his chair. She sighed exasperatedly and nodded slowly.
“I lived there, yeah. I’m from here, well upstate, then we moved down to the city when I was in high school. And now, well, I guess I officially moved back here,” she responded, color draining from her face when she saw the tenderness with which Will was looking at her. “I, uh,” she stumbled before Will could respond. “I think I should actually probably go.” His face fell but he nodded.
“At least have a cup of coffee before you go,” he pulled a mug out of a lower cabinet and handed it to me. “Do you take milk or sugar?” She shook her head as she poured coffee from the pot into the mug. The smell had a relaxing effect on her, loosening her tense shoulders as she cupped it with both hands and brought it up to her nose.
“Okay,” he replied, wheeling around the counter toward the bedroom. “I’ll be right back and then I can take you.” She swallowed and watched him.
“Take me?” she asked quietly, not quite understanding what he meant, but quite sure he wouldn’t hear her ask. She let out a big gust of air and slumped into one of the chairs at the kitchen table, acutely aware of the fact that she wasn’t wearing pants. Taking another tentative steaming sip, she jumped when the table buzzed. Her purse was lying half on, half off the table with the chain dangling over the edge. Embarrassed at how drunk she must have been, she reached over to grab it, digging through for her phone. It wasn’t there. She looked up and saw that her phone was lying under it, plugged into the wall.
He charged it for her? What the fuck kind of prince charming Disney movie move was that? No one had ever charged her phone for her, especially while she was passed out drunk in their bed. Was this the new chivalry? Holding doors open and footing the bill bygone?
Unlocking it, she saw the first message was from Sara, and recoiled as if a snake was lunging at the screen—one around 9pm with the other around 2am.
SARA: Sry about yesterday. Called you 20x. rite 2 VM. JJ doesnt kno where u r.
SARA: need cash.
Scottie took a deep steadying breath, forcing herself, for the first time, to digest the fact that her sister was the woman she’d walked in on with J.J. It was as if she was getting punched in the gut over and over again. That piece of shit scumbag good for nothing son of a bitch. If she ever saw him again, she’d kill him. Of course, she blamed Sara, but that was like blaming a toddler for eating a whole package of cookies. She barely knew any better. She was high all the time. With J.J., she stumbled to LA feeling blind and emotionally ruined, like a house that has long burned down. She had been self-destructive and reckless. They’d fuck, fight, fuck, makeup, repeat. It was toxic, but it was consistent. She needed that consistency. In the beginning it was rosy. She loved the feeling of his hand tracing the line above her jeans, and he made the best margaritas. He even wrote Scottie hand written notes sometimes. He always had fresh groceries in his fridge and called her Dingo because he was Australian. That buttery voice could literally call her a wild dog and her body would respond.
She hadn’t been happy, but she hadn’t been miserable. She was stable and stagnant. And her sister, the very reason she’d uprooted her life, had done it again. And Scottie followed with her famous disappearing act.
Her thumbs flew over the screen: Why don’t you ask J for cash? She bit her lip until she tasted iron. The next was a series of three texts from Nora.
NORA: I ripped my dress….
NORA: Did I blackout at my own wedding? I think so.
NORA: Someone told me you went home with Will and I told them they were high. WTF?
The heat rose in Scottie’s chest like a match in a dark room. Nothing set her off like people making judgments on things they knew nothing about. Nora’s life was a neat little gift, tied with a big obnoxious bow and she lorded it over people. Scottie wished, almost desperately, that she’d fucked Will so she could tell Nora that. She wanted to tell her that they fucked so many times they had to get a fire hose just in case they set the sheets on fire.
Scottie chose not to respond. She didn’t have anything to say. How about “You’re an idiot for ruining your dress, you were fucking wasted, and fuck off.” Silence was probably the best fuck off message she could send.
The last text was from Cory at 4:26AM, hours after they had left the bar.
A deliberate text, on his wedding night, with a typo. Scottie felt bile rising in her throat as swayed, suddenly on her feet. Thinking of Nora, putting her irritation with her in a compartment in the back of her mind, shoving it and slamming the lid, Scottie grappled with the physical reaction to their betrayal. It was overwhelming. She was shaking like a leaf, hands flapping in front of her, trying to swallow, but it just kept coming back up faster. She padded quickly down the hall, lips a tight line, and saw that Will’s bedroom door was open. He was putting her dress, neatly folded, in a canvas bag.
“Are you okay?” he asked as she pushed into the room, silent and frantic. If she vomited on him or in his bedroom, it would be the goddamn trifecta. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the freak show. He would never look her with those eyes the way he did last night.
She threw herself into the bathroom on the left and gracelessly slammed the door. He was asking something that she couldn’t understand through the thudding in her ears.
She made it, but barely. Heaving a few times she wiped, repeated, and tried hard to breathe. Will could hear her through the door and he cringed, longing to at least hold her hair back. He knocked softly but there was no response. She was still dry heaving.
Sitting back on her bare ass, Scottie ran her hands through her hair. The tile was cold and unforgiving, and she knew it was deserved. She felt like banging her head on the toilet bowl. Splashing cold water on her face, her body contorted and shivered in response.
“Scottie?” her name came softly through the door, followed by two light knocks. She couldn’t help but smile at Will’s voice. It was so sweet.
“Yes,” she managed to croak.
“Are you,” he hesitated, then pivoted. “Can I come in?”
Scottie turned to look at the door then back to herself in the mirror, running her hands down the side of her face, digging her nails into her skin just enough to leave red marks. She leaned forward to rest her elbows on the counter realizing it was much lower than she was used to. There were grab bars on the wall and the side of the vanity, and enormous shower with a bench, and it reminded her of a hospital bathroom—the one she’d used for weeks when Sara was admitted—the smell sterile and oddly comforting, like she was in control. She felt foolish for all the things she didn’t know she didn’t know about Will’s daily life, and all the simple fucking things she took for granted. She wondered again what had happened to him.
Righting herself, she stood as tall as she could and wiping some of her dripping eye make-up with her fingers. Then she noticed the pill bottles, lined up in a row. She was embarrassed at seeing them, but she leaned closer to look anyway. Most of the names were unfamiliar, but she had abused Percocet and Oxy enough to know those names well. Her head swam at the hazy memories of high afternoons in LA. J.J., upstanding moral compass that he was, hadn’t had a problem writing her bogus scrips. She liked the way drugs made her feel, but she'd never gone as far as her mom or sister—fueled by desperation into an illness they couldn't control. She’d sooner kill herself then end up like them.
She was ripped apart, torn open by the unfamiliar urge pull him into her arms, feel his warm skin against her own, and hold him until he didn’t hurt anymore. It was so foreign, like something that she’d once known but had long forgotten about.
“Are you okay?” he asked, worry in his tone. She felt enveloped in its warmth.
“Yes,” she said hastily, her voice high and tight. “Come in, sure.” The door creaked open. She could feel his embarrassment from here, radiating off him.
“Sorry.” She thrust the word out quickly.
“Sorry,” he chimed at the exact same second. They locked eyes. His were so blue and so honest.
“No,” she hurriedly interjected, “I’m sorry. I uh, I just didn’t want to puke on your floor.”
“Yeah,” he said, shifting himself nervously and putting his hands on his knees. “I just,” he continued, unsure of how to say what he wanted to say, taking in the landscape of the room, his limitations laid bare. He didn’t let people use this bathroom. It left him so exposed. He cringed catching a glimpse of at the individually wrapped catheter packs on the back of the toilet.
“Hey!” she snapped, putting the toilet seat down and sitting on it, putting her at his eye level. She put her hands in the air, desperate communicate that his embarrassment was unfounded. She knew she should be ashamed, and she felt a twinge of it creeping through her. “I barged in on your personal space. I slept in your bed, I almost ate your stale cereal, and now I’m in your bathroom. The fault is mine.” His face cracked a smile and he edged a little bit closer to her until their knees were touching—his sweatpants clad, knobby and unfeeling, and hers, golden skinned and strong. They didn’t say anything until she smiled self-consciously. There was something there, percolating, something starting, something Scottie knew she had to push away.
“I, I’ve been here too long,” she declared, standing up, “I’ve overstayed my welcome.”
“Are you okay?” he asked, looking up at her, crossing his strong arms over his chest, biceps pulling the sleeve of his t-shirt. He preferred when she was at his eye level and longed to rise to her height.
“Yes,” she replied, a little too quickly, shoving her looming emotional breakdown back into the dark hole from which it had sprung. “Yes,” she said again, voice slower that time, firmer. “But, I really have overstayed.” He shook his head but backed up to let her pass through to the bedroom.
“Hopefully I can pin myself back into this dress or…something,” she said more to herself than to him as she walked toward the bag that he had folded it in. She winced at the thought of forcing herself back into the dress and hailing a cab in her stilettos…or getting on the train…what train?
“Where are we?” she asked suddenly, turning to him as he came out of the bathroom, framed in the doorway. “I mean, in Brooklyn obviously,” she said, gesturing to the stunning view of the river. Then it dawned on her that they might be in Queens. “Oh my god,” she asked frantically, “Are we in Queens? We’re not in Queens, right?” He nursed a silent laugh and shook his head.
“We are not in Queens,” he reassured her.
“This place is a dump, by the way,” she added off handedly.
He was beaming at her when she started to feel light headed again. She tightened at the thought of more vomit, but she was convinced that she’d emptied everything earlier. Feeling behind her for his bed, Scottie stumbled into a sitting position. He saw the change in her complexion immediately.
“Let me get you some water,” he said swiveling like a professional and wheeling toward the kitchen.
“Oh, Will, that’s okay,” she insisted weakly, but he ignored her protests because she really did want a glass of water. She let him take care of her for a split second and the heat in her chest almost knocked the breath out of her.
“We’re on Kent and North 2nd by the way!” he shouted from down the hall.
Scottie took some deep breaths to combat the overwhelming and rising dread. What she really wanted was some cold gin. She’d wager that he’d have that. She needed to get home. She needed a drink and a shower and a pair of fucking pants.
And most pressingly, she needed to get the fuck out of Will’s apartment because he, this man incredibly attractive and thoughtful man who just appeared in the middle of her life, was making her feel like she’d known him forever, and that felt more dangerous than anything.
He insisted—absolutely insisted—on driving her home.
“You’re literally the only person in Manhattan, that I know, who has a car,” Scottie said as the elevator doors to the parking garage opened and revealed that almost every spot was filled with a car, like a little Hot Wheels toy garage. He looked back at her and chuckled.
“We’re in Brooklyn,” he reminded her as he pushed himself forward, “And it seems to me that most of these spots are full.” Scottie sneered at him, hustling a bit to keep up in her heels.
“Yeah, but Brooklyn, Manhattan, it’s the same shit,” she insisted.
“Is it?” he asked, turning to look at her. She rolled her eyes because it wasn’t the same thing at all and they both knew it.
“That’s mine,” he said, gesturing to a red Mini Cooper and slowing down.
“Fuck off,” she practically spat. “No it’s not.” He just smiled and wheeled right past it.
“This is mine,” he said coming up on a Volvo SUV, dark blue and small, parked in a handicapped spot.
“Yeah, I can see this a little bit more,” Scottie nodded. Then it dawned on her. How was he going to drive?
“I’m sorry,” she said, dragging out her words, as he opened the driver side door, “Um, am I missing something here?”
“Hand controls,” he replied, smiling knowingly.
“Right,” she said dumbly. Then more to herself, “hand controls, Scottie, you idiot.” he laughed as she hit herself in the forehead with the heel of her hand. The sound was like being wrapped in a blanket.
She watched him transfer into the car with practiced ease, eyes hovering on his shoulder muscles flexing under his T-shirt. He lifted his legs, dressed dark jeans, under the knee and put them in the car, then he took his sleek chair apart—each wheel, then the cushion on the seat, and then the frame, tossing them into the backseat, careful to avoid clocking her in the side of the head. It wasn’t anything like the kind you saw in a hospital, but something much slimmer and, Scottie imagined, easier to maneuver. Watching him was like watching a Nike commercial.
“You going to gawk at me all day?” he asked with a wide grin, slamming his door.
“I’m getting back at you for gawking at me earlier,” she snapped, slipping her seatbelt into the buckle and closing her own door.
Instead of having almost a complete stranger pin her back into the world’s ugliest bridesmaid dress for her walk of shame home, Will had mercifully offered her a clean grey t-shirt that smelled like soap, and a pair of dark sweatpants that were far too long and large on her— comically big.
“Ah yes, I remember you mentioning you were tall,” she’d joked as she slipped the sweats up over her thighs, fabric barely grazing her skin. The bottoms of the pants pooled at her feet.
“Ah yes, I do recall being a bit of a monster before,” he’d looked up at the ceiling and stroked his chin. “If memory serves, I was over 6 feet. I use a standing frame sometimes,” he’d said, following her stare, “and then I really feel tall.”
“A standing frame?” she asked.
“It’s this,” he hesitated, gesturing to something she’d never seen before quietly towering in the corner of the room. “It’s a thing that I use sometimes to just stand up. It’s good for circulation, bones, and not forgetting how tall I am.” Scottie laughed.
“I’d like to see that,” she’d said, not meaning to flirt but realizing in that moment that she was in deep.
“It’ nothing to see,” he said, slightly embarrassed. “My legs are stupid long, though. I had to get pants custom made sometimes before, and now it’s even worse. Since I’m sitting all the time everything has to be longer, so it doesn’t you know, show off my ankles.”
“Hey! A little tasteful ankle never killed anyone,” Scottie declared as she walked to his bed and sat down, sliding her strappy heels on her feet and fooling with the buckle. She could feel Will’s bright blues fixed on her and it made her self-conscious of her movements. She’d found herself wondering how she would normally do it if she wasn’t under his gaze. She had to remind herself that she knew how to put a pair of shoes on. Her stomach had fluttered annoyingly, and she’d had to breathe through the discomfort.
“Now this is a good look,” he’d teased as she stood up in preposterously high heels, looking like a contestant on the biggest loser.
“Thanks,” she’d replied, bunching up her hair and turning so she was facing him. She pulled out the waistband of the pants.
“I went from a size 94 all the way down to a 28,” she’d chirped.
“How’d you do it? Diet? Exercise? Surgery?” he’d asked, holding an imaginary microphone out to her.
“Reality TV,” she’d replied seriously.
“It’s so refreshing to see someone losing weight the healthy way,” he agreed, just as seriously.
“You have a full-length mirror around here?” Scottie had asked, looking around the room. It was pretty bare. He’d faltered, casting his gaze down for a split second. “I want to see what I’m up against on my trip home,” she’d continued playfully, but the mood had shifted ever so slightly.
“Ah,” he’d replied, running his hand through his hair and resting his hand on the back of his neck. “I don’t have one. I’m not too keen on those.” Scottie had felt a sharp pang in her chest, but pushed through it, determined not to go deep with him.
“Who is?” she’d asked, voice light and feathery, straightening the shirt using the small mirror above his dresser. She could see her nipples through the fabric and she was positive it wasn’t going completely unnoticed.
“Good point,” he had agreed, a little bit uncomfortably, and shifted in his chair, much like he was shifting himself as they sped across the Williamsburg bridge, windows down, Manhattan coming into clear focus. The slats of the bridge made the buildings look like they were in one of those flip books Scottie had had as a kid, and it had a hypnotic effect. The air was warm and welcome as she closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“You know,” Scottie said without opening her eyes. “This is nice.”
“That’s what I think. I mean, can’t a guy have some time on the open road in this damn city?” he asked no one in particular. Scottie shook her head, laughing.
“I still can’t believe you have a car in this damn city,” she shouted, “It’s absurd!”
“Hey, hey, hey,” he mocked, turning to look at her. She kept glancing down at his right hand, working this contraption that, frankly, made her a little uneasy. But they were still on the road, under the speed limit, within the lines, and he seemed calm as a fucking cucumber, so she kept her mouth shut. “Have you ever tried to get around in a wheelchair in this damn city?” Will shuddered at the memories of taking the train all the way to an accessible stop only to see that the elevator was out of order. Plus all the subway elevators unequivocally smelled like urine all the time. It was infuriating.
“I’m afraid you’d be the expert in that area,” she conceded, blushing.
“Well, in this damn city it’s pretty damn impossible to get a cab to stop for a wheelchair, too. Usually I have someone else hail it for me and hide behind a parked car.” Scottie cracked up at the image of him crouching behind a poorly parallel-parked Prius.
“Everything is impossible in this damn city,” Scottie ruminated.
“Amen,” he said knowingly, nodding.
Will came to a slow stop at the light as the bridge disappeared into Delancey Street. He made a sharp right onto a side street toward Houston. Scottie watched the people milling on the sidewalk. It was amazing how many people lived here. It always floored her.
“We’re just up here, on Cornelia,” Scottie said, pointing ahead as they cruised up 6th Avenue. He made the left turn and continued slowly down the street until she told him to stop. They pulled up to the beautiful old building—the one Scottie had found refuge in. They had a three-bedroom apartment—small but old and charming—that had been her grandparents. They passed it down to her mother. And now that her mother was living in a psychiatric care home and her sister was living fix to fix, it was hers.
“Must have been cool to go to high school here,” he remarked wistfully as he clicked on his blinker, squeezed the brake, and put the car in park. Scottie nodded and smiled at him. At least, she tried to smile at him. She had no idea how it appeared on her face. Her skin was too tight. She suddenly felt so nervous she could barely breathe. Unbuckling her belt, she didn’t make a move to get out of the car, her feet feeling like anchors in her heels. The silence was heavy. Scottie didn’t know where he was looking and was too afraid to steal a glance. Her hair hung around her face, finally coming completely undone from the rogue bobby pins—a protective curtain.
“Hey,” Scottie finally started, without looking up. “Why did you bring me to your place?” She wasn’t sure why she didn’t ask earlier. It clearly wasn’t to have sex, so, why? He sighed and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.
“You insisted on hailing a cab for me,” he said. “Thanks for that by the way. You actually got one to stop for us.” Scottie risked a glance and a careful smile. He winked at her.
“I’d say you’re welcome,” she replied, “but I don’t think I can take credit for whatever blacked-out Scottie did.” His pale blue eyes were on hers, honest and bare, his face soft and hopeful. Something shook loose inside her.
“Then when I tried to find out where to drop you off, you just kept saying the village…and I kept asking what village, you know, there are a few.” She laughed at herself, feeling anxious and bright at the same time. It was a heady combination. “Then you fell asleep,” he said simply. “And of course, I couldn’t leave you in the back of the cab, or on the street in one of the villages, and when I tried to wake you up you came out of it, but not entirely. I didn’t just want to send you on your way without making sure you got home.” She was listening intently and looking at her hands again, clenched in her lap. She had been left asleep in the back of a cab before by a guy. And passed out on a stoop. Coked up at a bar in a strange city. She had been left vulnerable by plenty of men before.
“Well,” she whispered feebly, “thank you.” Her voice sounded so small. He didn’t say anything back. She heard a sharp intake of breath and then an exhale. And then, his hand, rough and callused, but warm, was on hers. She snapped her head up and he was right there. So, close she could feel his warm breath, eyes locked on hers. Scottie felt that familiar swallowing of reason but still, she leaned closer to him. Then she let him kiss her.
They might have been strangers, but their lips certainly weren’t.