Thursday, August 31, 2017

Shadowboxing, Chapter 2: At the Bus Stop



“Your stop’s on Fairway?” I asked as we moved off down Charleton. After a quick glance to confirm the absence of cars in either direction, Asher had abandoned the sidewalk for the street itself; I guessed he wasn’t a fan of the stretches of cobblestones. I paced alongside him; his wheelchair could go at a good clip.

“Yeah, the Ridge St. stop,” he confirmed, which put us at about a 10-minute walk, and then however long it would take the bus to come. Thanks to taxpayers with an enthusiasm for public transit, buses ran every 30 minutes even this late at night, but that still meant it could take an hour end-to-end for him to get home. He must have been thinking about the same thing, because he said, gesturing vaguely at the sky overhead, “Honestly, I think I could use the air and stuff. I need to chill out after that. I don’t think I’d be able to settle down if I called a cab, went home right away.”

I shrugged, not comfortable making a recommendation either way. At that point we hit Fairway, turned left onto its broad, well-lit expanse. I noted, as he regained the sidewalk, that his shakes had subsided.

New Beginnings Chapter 34

Hi friends,
this was a busy week for me and I almost couldn't get the chapter edited on time but I won't leave you hanging especially when we are nearing the end of NB. I hope the editing was sufficient for this chapter.
Thanks for everyone who is reading along still and thanks for all your comments. You guys mean a lot to me.
I give you Chapter 34 of NB. It starts out "wet" as someone called it before and hope you enjoy Anna and Shane getting close once again.
Thanks everyone,
Hugs, Dani
TOC   New Beginnings

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

In/Exhale Continues

I apologize that it took so long for this final episode of the day to get to you guys. I'm also sorry it's being posted so late.

For those of you who don't know, I live in the Houston metro area, which was recently hit very hard by Hurricane Harvey. Fortunately, our home didn't flood, but we had power go in and out and water come far too close for comfort (especially for someone who lived through Hurricane Katrina).

The bad news is I haven't been able to work much lately on any of my writing because of my health. So I don't know if I can promise a new episode of I/E next week or even in two weeks. But I'll do my best.

Previously on In/Exhale: Kai has had a long weekend. He went to Omaha to visit the hospital there, and although he agreed to check himself in in a couple days, he has his reservations. Despite his anxiety, he went to dinner at Frankie's house and was hit by a rush of emotions about the fact that he wasn't adopted. The dinner capped off with Frankie kissing Kai and revealing his long-time crush, that set Kai whirling.

This Week on In/Exhale: Kai reacts to the dinner and everything he's been struggling with lately. When powerful suicidal thoughts hit him, he makes some potentially devastating decisions.

Next time on In/Exhale: The aftermath of Sunday night. David has his important job interview with the Deaf man he met at the meeting, but circumstances in Kai's life may prevent him from making that interview despite its significance....

I hope you won't hate me too much after this episode!!

In/Exhale - February 11, 2001 - Part IV

I have to admit I'm really nervous about how you guys will receive this episode... I'm looking forward to your comments... (or maybe not?)

Thank you again for those of you who continue to support my crazy stories despite how erratic my posting has been. I have been feeling better relatively with my current med regimen and I'm hoping this will mean more time to write. As always, your comments and support really help motivate me to keep going.

-CA

PS: If you need to catch up, check out the Table of Contents. Or, if you'd like to try reading my other story, try Love UnSeen's Table of Contents.

Shadowboxing, Chapter 3: Scheherazade

“Once upon a time,” Asher said, “on the – what is it? – the seventeenth day of the tenth month of the year, a young man found himself in the happy circumstance of having arranged for himself a date. Now, this young man, being a big ol’ queermo – “ I snorted, and his smile widened “ – had resorted to use of the magical rite known as Grindr to find himself said date. He had also, for the very first time, made himself a dating profile – magical, of course – that didn’t mention the fact that he was in a wheelchair, because he was sick of not getting any dates.

“It felt like giving up, but also like not that dumb of a move. Also, I did use one photo where you could see pretty much the whole situation, so.” I had been wondering about that, and pulled my mouth to one side. Asher sighed, with heat, and thrust his hand back through his hair before composing himself again.

“Lo,” he continued, with a desultory prophetic gesture, “came the night of the date. The other guy had seemed cute and smart and interestingly employed, and they had exchanged many a humorous missive via the mystical Grindr. Our young man was way excited, got himself dressed up real nice, but not nice enough to look like he was trying too hard, and headed out early for the tavern they had agreed upon for their amorous encounter. This meant he had many, many a minute to find a seat that would sort of but not totally hide the wheelchair, and to freak out over how this guy was going to react when he saw it, the arm, etc.”

Asher paused here. Somewhere along the way he had stopped meeting my eyes. I gave him a little while, before deciding that he might appreciate a push. “So?”

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Consolation Prize—Chapter 13

The night before they were set to leave for Will’s parents’ house, Scottie found herself awake, wide-eyed, staring at the blank white ceiling. She wished sickly that her mind could be as blissfully blank. Steadying herself with a few deep breaths and scrunching her eyes closed, she hoped the tighter she squeezed them the better chance she’d have of slipping into a sound dreamless sleep. No such luck. 

She wasn’t actively nervous. The adrenaline had come and gone throughout the day like a steady unrelenting tide—and would undoubtedly return tomorrow—but she was just anxious enough to be uncomfortable and jittery. She felt as if she’d had a few too many cups of coffee right before trying to sleep, despite having exactly zero. 

Unable to quiet her hamster-on-a-wheel mind and irritated that she couldn’t get comfortable, she sat up abruptly. There was a part of her that hoped she’d wake Will in the process, but if the last few months had taught her anything, it was that he was a sound sleeper. She used to be a sound sleeper. She remembered the distant days with both fondness and an acrid bitterness. Cory used to joke that she could fall asleep anywhere, and that used to be true. She wasn’t sure why this tiny little thing could send her into a spiral. Meeting Will’s family was something she wanted, something she craved, and something she needed. She needed him, and this came with him. 

Will stirred ever so slightly, but dipped back down into the folds of sleep, his breathing as steady and reliable as a metronome. It was comforting—his stability and predictability—but she wanted him to hold her in his strong arms, pressing her against his chest, and tell it was going to be all right. But she wouldn’t wake him. She was embarrassed at her own sudden sprouting of insecurity. It felt childish and foreign and she was angry at it in the same way a kid would be angry about a mandated bedtime. She had no control and that truly pissed her off. 

She also felt a twinge of frustration for him. His shoulder had been bothering him all day, a niggling kind of ache that roped it’s way around his arm and over his upper back, and it surprised her how excruciating it was to see him in pain. She could see through Will’s façade. It was about so much more than the acute discomfort. 

He was fiercely—fiercely—independent. He absolutely relied on his arms and shoulders. They had to compensate for him losing half his body. If anything permanent or debilitating ever happened to his shoulder he wouldn’t be able to transfer on his own. He’d need help. And he’d go from a man who simply used a wheelchair to a man stuck in a wheelchair. And Scottie wagered that was something that he would never be able to accept. 

Biting her lip, she forced herself to lie back down. Pulling the covers up to her shoulders she lay on her side, staring out the window at the Manhattan skyline. The lights twinkled over the dark water as she took a deep breath. Unexpectedly, she heard Will shifting, rolling over toward her. She felt the mattress compress as he leaned down to adjust and untangle his twisted legs with his hands, pulling them behind him as he pressed himself against her back and kissed her neck. She felt her cheeks flush and her stomach flutter as he settled in beside her. He was only half awake, spinning wonderfully in a dreamy haze as he absently rubbed her back. Even in that state of mind, he sometimes couldn’t believe she was in his bed with him. 

Scottie relished his touch, the rough pads of his fingers running down her spine, feeling the still whole part of her that he had broken—her skin smooth and unscarred. She looked back at the lights and felt incredibly small, but the warmth of his body reeled her back in and kept her afloat. She steeled herself for tomorrow. She wasn’t small to him. 


<>

The sun was bright—too bright. That kind of chilly white light that made it feel even colder outside than it was. The city had disappeared and morphed into thickets of trees as they drove north through New York state. 

Scottie knew all too well that she was a flight risk—a bona-fide flight risk—but there wasn’t really anywhere for her to go. She was belted into the front seat of Will’s speeding car. She didn’t even know if trains came this far up. She’d have to find some kind of bus station. No. She had nowhere to run to, and that oddly unsettled and gave her some slight peace of mind at the same time.   

Pete was running his mouth, going on and on about something as the trees on the rural road clipped by, Lise laughed sweetly and muttered something back. Her voice sounded like tinkling bells. Will had one hand on the wheel and the other on the brake as they rounded a particularly sharp turn. Scottie felt like she was hearing everything from the bottom of a well. 

“Scottie?” Her name was hollow and far away. 

“Scottie?” There it was again. She opened her mouth and blinked. They weren’t moving any more. Pete and Lise were climbing out. How long had she disassociated? That hadn’t happened to her in years. It was almost as if she’d blacked out and now there was a hole in her memory—wide, white, and blank. She blinked again and then turned to face Will. His blue eyes were like beautiful complex marbles staring back at her. She wished, almost desperately, that they were in a getaway car. 

“Scottie?” he asked again, leaning closer, reaching for her hand. Her instinct was to pull away from him and clamp down on herself, but she fought against it like a rabid dog. She wouldn’t do it. Not again. 

“Yea?” she asked, her mouth so dry she couldn’t finish the word. Swallowing and wetting her tongue she spoke again. “Yea? Sorry.” 

“Are you okay?” His voice was gentle and careful. A thickness hung between them, as if someone was pressing saran wrap over her mouth and nose. She thought she might cry. Pete’s knocking on the window sliced through and Will whipped his head around, clearly startled. Pete gestured to Will’s chair—still in pieces—by the driver side door. He’d pulled it out of the trunk but failed to properly assemble it. 

“Christ,” Will muttered peeved, “it’s not that hard.” He shifted his weight and opened the door. “Pete,” he shouted at his brother’s back. Pete answered, “Yeah?” without turning around. Will sighed and laughed because he felt like screaming. Shaking his head he looked sideways at Scottie. Her expression sent a calming ripple through him. She was here with him. Everything was going to be fine. 

“You forgot the seat cushion, asshat,” Will snapped, running his hand through his hair before he reached down to put one of the wheels on the frame. 

“I’ll get it,” Scottie said quietly, reaching to undo her belt. She had to stand up and shake herself out. Her legs were jelly. 

“No,” Will replied quickly, “Pete can handle it. He’s a big boy. He should be less careless. I mean, what the fuck is this?” Will’s voice clicked from calm to exasperated as he leaned down almost horizontally to hook one of the wheels which had been placed slightly out of his reach. Scottie felt herself giggle and loosen slightly. Keep breathing, just keep breathing. Pete trundled back to the car, making a great show of his shambling gait and shooting Will a dirty look. 

“Oh, I’m sorry I can’t fucking walk,” he said sharply, more to himself than to Pete or Scottie, but both of them caught it and didn’t acknowledge it. It felt like the two brothers were angling for a fight, and Scottie wondered, for the first time—pulling herself out of her self-centered and apparently impenetrable bubble—if being back home brought up difficult and painful memories for Will. Her throat tightened, and she closed her eyes to keep from tearing up. Of course, it did. What was she? Some kind of fucking idiot? 

Reaching over she squeezed his shoulder as Pete tossed the seat cushion at him without a word and continued up the driveway to where Lise was waiting for him. She smiled nervously and held out her hand. He took it and pulled her in close just as the front door opened. 

“Ready?” Will teased, but his voice gave him away slightly. Scottie forced a smile. 

“Ready,” she assured him, trying to convince herself just as much in the process. She reached for the door handle and hopped out of the car just as Will’s dad stepped onto the porch. 

Giving a slight wave and timid smile as she turned to the back seat to grab their bags, she heard his father clap Pete on the back. 

“Slugger, good to see you, son.” John had a deep voice that boomed commandingly over the yard. Scottie walked around the back of the car just as will was pulling his legs out  and adjusting them on the footplate. She handed him his bag, which he situated on his lap, and he pushed himself back so she could shut the door. He looked considerably paler than he had when they had both been inside the safe haven of the Volvo. 

“Are you okay?” she asked quietly, and almost immediately regretted it. She didn’t want him to think she assumed he wasn’t okay coming home. They hadn’t really covered his feelings about home just yet. She held her breath for a second as he looked up at her, his goddamn blue eyes cutting her to her core. He was smiling, and it threw her a little. 

“Just returning to the site where my parents and I almost killed each other after I got hurt. You know, it’s bound to stir up a little of the old dirt.” He was full on smirking now and she reached for his hand hungrily, leaning down to kiss him on the lips. She lingered a little too long, considering his dad and brother were a captive audience, but she couldn’t compel herself to pull away quickly, and he, frankly, didn’t seem too disappointed. His honestly gave her a refreshing burst of relief and it flooded through her. 

“Well, well, well,” a woman’s voice floated over to them haughtily. Scottie righted herself sharply and wiped her lips with the back of her other hand. Will wouldn’t let go of the one he was holding—in fact his grip tightened like a screw. “This must be the mystery girl mom has been going on and on about.” 

“Wynn,” Will’s voice was earnest as he squeezed Scottie’s hand once and let go to wheel over to his sister, gliding swiftly across the pavement, his arms working so smoothly that Scottie couldn’t help but admire his finesse for what had to probably be the millionth time. He still had the same chair from when she had met him, and she had yet to see him use anything else. It was a sporty chair, all black and gunmetal grey with a seat back that barely brushed his lower back. Fitted to him like a glove, it was a sexy and a sleek extension of his upper body. The way he moved made her legs once again resemble the consistency of jelly. 

Wynn leaned down, her dark smooth hair draping over Will’s shoulder as she pulled him into an aggressive hug. She kissed his cheek and whispered something in his ear that Scottie couldn’t hear but he laughed his rich chocolatey laugh and pushed himself back from her as she stood. He swiveled his chair and held out a hand. 

“Scottie, this is my little sister, Wynn, and Wynn, this is my girlfriend, Thea Scott, but she prefers to go by Scottie.” Scottie’s palms were sweating, partially because she couldn’t help it when she heard Will call her his girlfriend, partially because Wynn was really beautiful—marked by a dark glossy waterfall of hair with golden highlights, freckle-free lightly tanned skin, and warm brown eyes. Scottie took a deep breath and turned to Will. His dimple was on full display and it cracked a smile on her face. 

“Wynn,” she replied warmly, leaning into a hug, “It’s so wonderful to meet you and the rest of Will’s family.” It’s funny, Scottie thought as she inhaled the floral scent of Wynn's still damp hair, in better light, everything changes. 


<> 

John watched his son hug his two daughters. Wynn came first, the over exuberant and effusive of the two, words tumbling out of her mouth a mile a minute. Next her boyfriend Sean, a nice but effectively bland shorter guy with wavy blonde hair and skin the color of milk, leaned in to hug Will awkwardly. Olivia hovered in the background, a quiet and pensive shadow, leaning down to hug her brother only after he pressed. She gave a hug in the kind of way you knew came from a loving place, but it certainly wasn't tossed in your face. She stood self-consciously to the side as Will made quick work of introducing the striking woman at his side. 

She was very tall, a good match for Will’s own expansive height had he not been confined to a sitting position for the rest of his life. She had olive skin, like Ari, but it was a touch darker and richer. But it wasn't her skin that stood out— it was her hair that caught his eye most. Wild waves and curls cascaded down her grey sweater as she hugged Wynn and Olivia. She tried to brush some of it behind her ears as she reached for Will’s shoulder and squeezed but it seemed to disobey, blowing into her face as the wind picked up. Will placed his own hand on hers and looked up at her, beaming. He looked inexplicably happy, but the only thing John could think about was that he shouldn’t be looking up at her at all. Frustrated, he zipped his navy fleece at the chill and turned his attention to his other son who stood tall in stark contrast. The disparity made his chest ache. 

“Dad,” Will said, drifting toward the bottom of the front steps. He looked up at his dad and steeled himself for a tough hello—it never felt easy between them, and he could tell simply by the way his dad was standing, that it wasn’t going to be any different this time. 

“Will,” Ari’s voice echoed coming out of the house. She was coming down the stairs and from her vantage point she couldn’t see Pete standing off to the side. Will smiled. His mom was always his mom, and hearing her say his name made him feel like a kid again in the best way. 

“Mom,” he said, voice soft as pudding. Ari took the porch steps in two steps and fell into her son’s arms. She kissed him on the forehead as she pulled away, ruffling his hair as she took him in. “You look good darling.” 

“Thank’s mom,” Will replied quietly, turning to glance over at Scottie, who’d felt that familiar swallowing of words as she looked at Ari. Ari was a well-tuned sports car—as sleek as a Maserati. She had thick black hair cut bluntly at her shoulders, a lithe toned body, light brown eyes, and the kind of skin that wouldn’t wrinkle easily. A long cream sweater draped over her skinny jeans and a large turquoise pendant gave her a kind of cozy chic Colorado mom vibe. Scottie reached self-consciously for her face. What did she expect to be able to do? Wipe off her freckles? 

“Mom,” Will continued tenderly, reaching for Scottie’s hand. She shakily took it and stepped forward. “This is Scott—“ But Ari cut him off, pulling Scottie into a hug that was equally as aggressive as the one she’d given Will. 

“I know who she is, Will,” she snapped, pulling out of the hug and holding Scottie at arm’s length, examining her head to toe with a microscope. Her sneakers, black jeans, and waffle grey sweater suddenly felt drab, plain, and over worn. “My god, Scottie, you’re beautiful. Will, you didn’t tell me she was beautiful.” 

“Mom!” Will shouted, scandalized. Scottie felt her cheeks color dark red. She laughed nervously. 

“I take offense to that Mr. Nash,” she replied to her smirking boyfriend. Ari hit Will on the backside of the head and he yelped, rubbing the spot with his hand. 

“You call me Ari,” she insisted, and then gesturing at her husband, “and call him John.” Scottie nodded and bit her lower lip. 

“I guess I’m chop liver, huh mom?” Pete asked with snark. 

“Oh hush, Peter,” she rebuked as she walked up the steps toward her other son. “You’ll get your turn.” She hugged him and Pete introduced her to Lise, whom she wrapped in a tight hug as well. Her smile was absolutely contagious, and Scottie was starting to feel breath coming a little bit easier than before. 

“Let’s all go in and eat,” Ari hollered, gesturing to the girls and Sean, who were over by the car. But as she spoke, she slowly turned back to Will, a frown buckling across her forehead. 

“John,” she chided, “Why isn’t the ramp up yet?” She spun and crossed her arms over her chest. 

“I was getting to it,” John argued. But Ari’s face didn’t shift. 

“We talked about this,” she hissed, voice deadly quiet, but not quiet enough to keep the family from hearing from their exceptionally close vantage points. 

“Mom,” Will insisted, embarrassment seeping out in between his words. “Seriously, it’s fine.” 

“It most certainly is not fine. This is your home. You shouldn’t have to wait for your father to set up a fucking ramp.” Her voice was ice cold and sharp as a cleaver. 

“Ari, easy, I’m getting it now,” John barked as he pressed past her and lumbered down the steps toward the garage. Ari huffed and looked down at Will, sincere shame written across her beautiful face. 

“Everyone, go inside and get settled, I’ve got appetizers. Wines on the counter. Dig in, make yourself at home.” She gestured to everyone, and her urgency drove people through the front door. Scottie walked her bag up to the porch and returned to grab Will’s from him. Usually he wouldn’t mind her tossing it up on the steps for him but when she reached for it he visibly recoiled as if she'd been trying to scald him with her hand. 

“No,” he said quick and awkward, “I’ve, uh, I’ve got it.” 

“I just thought with your shoulder you’d,” she started but she quickly felt the words dry up like ash in her mouth. This wasn’t about the bag at all. 

“What’s wrong with your shoulder?” Ari probed, voice suddenly urgent and soaked in concern. 

“Mom, really, it’s nothing. It’s fine, I’m fine.” Ari was about to protest, but John came around the house, putting on the grand performance of dragging a large metal folded ramp. Grunting, he dropped it over the bottom steps and unfolded it over the top two, shaking it into a locked position. It was pretty narrow and was situated at an extremely steep angle. Scottie thought Will could probably do it, but it felt like a bad idea with his shoulder and now his bag on his lap. She aggressively wrestled with the urge to offer a push like she had all those months ago at Cory's beach house. She knew if they weren't in front of his parents Will would ask. But they were, so he wouldn't. She bit down lightly on her tongue as an insurance policy. 

John held out his arms and gestured for Will to proceed as if he were the king of goddamn England. Will balled his hands into fists to keep from punching something—most likely his father in the jaw. His mom had tried to put in a permanent ramp but his dad wouldn’t hear of it. He’d built the house with his bare hands back when his own dad had still been alive. The two of them had done it together when Will and Pete were only five, Wynn was three, and Olivia had just been born. It was a labor of love. Putting a ramp on the front would, according to John in hushed conversations with Ari behind closed doors, ruin it.  Although Will wondered in his annoyance, if that wouldn’t have been, in fact, the biggest labor of love of all. 

Readying himself, Will put his hands on the push rims of his chair and took a deep breath. It would be much easier to be pushed, but asking for help in front of his parents was absolutely one million percent out of the question. He’d worked so hard to gain respect in his dad’s eyes and independence in his mom’s, and one false move could topple the whole house of cards.  So, he gritted his teeth and pressed upwards, ignoring the jolt running down his shoulder at every rotation. 

As Scottie watched Will struggle then finally crest the top of the ramp onto the porch, she realized, in order to understand the dynamic at work here, all she had to do was observe Ari and John’s faces while they watched what she’d initially gifted her attention to. It explained everything. 

Will skated across the porch and bumped himself over the threshold of the house, purposely averting his parents' gazes. After he was safely inside he took another deep breath before pivoting to face the three of them stalk still, staring, and standing out in the cold. 

“Are we not eating?” Will asked playfully. Ari’s trance was broken and she followed him into the house. Scottie walked delicately up the steps, coming face to face with John over her bag. 

“I’ve got it,” she heard herself say shyly. 

“No, no, I insist. A man always carries a woman’s bag,” he asserted with a genuine smile. “I’m John, Will’s dad, as I’m sure you’ve gathered.” Scottie felt hot under the collar as she forced a smile and produced her name and hand for a shake. She couldn’t help but think that his comment was a round directly aimed at Will. 

And then she realized, suddenly, that John had forgotten—or avoided—hugging one of his sons. 

Shadowboxing, Chapter 4: View from the Morning

Of course I ended up falling asleep right before the sunrise; so much for that romantic notion. Luckily, somewhere along the way I had ended up having the sense to tuck a pillow under my knees, so I didn’t completely hate myself in the morning. Still, my back and neck were killing me when I woke up, not to mention my wrist; it had to be from the stress of last night. It was also 11 AM, later than I could remember waking up in at least a year. Outside, the sun was shining weakly through an even, milky haze of cloud, which was about how I felt.

I swore to myself for a while before I even tried getting up, just feeling the deep, pulling pain as I shifted my back and arms minutely. Finally I got myself up onto my one elbow, levered up from there to a sitting position, groaning continuously. The only good thing that I could immediately see was the fact that I had gone to bed in nothing but boxers, which meant there was very little between me and a scalding-hot shower.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Shadowboxing, Chapter 5: Nolite te bastardes carborundorum

On the bus ride over, I learned that Asher was 26 – four years younger than me. (That was how much he’d been forcing – no, coaxing – me to talk about myself at the café, that I hadn’t learned even his age till then.) He was an only child, and hadn’t moved out from his parents’ until just last year, but not for lack of encouragement. He was close with his parents, not just of necessity, and they’d always pushed him to be independent. But it had taken him a bit longer to finish college, and after that, it had still taken him a few more years to feel ready to leave home. Once he did, his parents had helped him find an apartment – one closer to his job, and reasonably accessible – and had helped him negotiate renovations with the landlord that would help bring it to fully accessible.

He worked as a web developer for a large company. I didn’t understand entirely what that that entailed, which hardly offended Asher; he admitted that he was in it largely for the job security. “I’m not ashamed to admit that good medical insurance is slightly more important to me than being passionate about my job right now. It would be nice to find something I’m more excited about in the future, but for now I’m happy to work with nice people, at a steady job.”

I nodded slowly. I was savoring the process of building out a picture of Asher’s daily life, his family, how he thought about things. It was already clear that he was more of a thinker than me, or more of an intellectual, I guess the word would be. (After all, I spent most of my time thinking to myself, even if I hadn’t bothered finishing college.) He read a lot, for example, which I didn’t have that much patience for, and especially about art, which had always intimidated me. But it struck me that even when he went somewhere in conversation I couldn’t quite follow, I liked the nimbleness and excitement with which he thought and spoke, the way he could sort of dance back and forth across a topic, come at it from different angles. I could almost see his thoughts moving over his face like a flickering light.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Update to The Girl I Didn't Kill For

Hi all!

Thank you a million to everyone who commented on the last chapter.  I'm not sure if I'll be able to post next weekend, so I'm going to make this one extra long.  Jessie and Nick finally meet up again for the first time since his injury.

Chapter 4

Please let me know what you think!

And I finally made a Table of Contents!

Shadowboxing, Chapter 6: Night

It took me a while to realize that the way Asher had said “we’ll do it in the morning” implied, even assumed, that I was going to stay over the night. We had just about finished cleaning up after dinner, so it would have been a natural point for me to start saying good-night. Perplexed, I turned to him, working out what to say next.

“Asher, w-were you interested… in me staying over?”

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Shadowboxing, Chapter 7: Amy Opines


The next morning, when we’d finished filling out the online crime report form – Roy ended up having to take the lead, typing in half of my responses for me when I shamefully but not surprisingly wilted before the challenge of, for example, enumerating physical descriptions of the gang of four – I felt a sudden jolt of superstitious fear. Everything that had happened since I’d met Roy had been so improbably good that I had the sudden conviction that signing off on this would bring it all to a close, seal off the freak outgrowth of space-time that had allowed us to briefly coexist.

(The back of my mind also observed, helpfully, that it was likely that I was once again using this imagined crisis as a distraction from attempting to reckon with the men in the alleyway.)

As Roy and I kissed good-bye at the threshold of my front door, the question is this the last time formed itself clearly in my head, sent a chilly wave of unease through me; my back contracted uncomfortably, tilting me back and to the right. I felt as if I couldn’t look him in the eye, either. I think he noticed, too, because a look of puzzled concern crossed his face as he stood up. He said nothing, though. After he’d headed off down the sidewalk, with his rolling, ground-eating gait, I cursed myself bitterly for wasting the moment.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Shadowboxing, Chapter 8: Past is Present

That Sunday afternoon, Roy and I met up at the public library. I’d wanted to pick up a few new books that I was excited about, Gilded Age histories, and we’d agreed that a walk in neighboring Crown Hill Park sounded like a good idea afterward.

A curious thing happened on the way out. We were rolling out through the front lobby, Roy’s footsteps and those of other patrons echoing off of the polished stone around us, and before I could hit the handicapped button for the double set of glass doors out front, a man started holding the first set open for me.

He was quite striking – almost Roy’s height, lean, swimmerish in build, with sandy hair, a wide mouth, and an eyebrow piercing. As I turned to say “thank you,” I looked him over, as you do, but his pale, cattish eyes had already moved behind me and up to Roy. I saw his brows lift slightly in recognition. Then his eyes moved down to Roy’s hand, which he had rested lightly on one of my shoulders, and the pierced eyebrow flickered up fractionally. “Hey,” he said to Roy. The slight smile on his lips was hard to read.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Shadowboxing, Chapter 9: And the Night Came On


Shortly after the day at the park, when I had started to tell Asher about the worst of my past, we were sitting on his couch together, doing not much – I had been asking him about the book he was reading, one of the ones we’d picked up together from the library – when his phone rang.

He picked up, frowning slightly when he saw the number. “Hello?”

I could hear a woman’s voice on the other end.

“Yes, this is Asher Klein,” he confirmed, a little warily.

I watched as he listened for a little less than a minute. I couldn’t make out more than the occasional word. Asher’s face got tenser; I could see that he was steeling himself. “Yes. Okay. Okay, I see. No – okay, yes, I think I understand. Great. Yes, thank you. Have a good morning.”

He exhaled hard when he hung up, and paused for a moment before turning to me, tilting his head back a little to look up at me – even sitting, the difference in our heights was significant. Asher had mentioned once that his doctors were sure he’d have been small even if he hadn’t had CP. “They’ve arrested all four of the men from the alleyway,” he said, his voice carefully even.

New Beginnings Chapter 33

Hi NB friends,
I hope you enjoyed last week's long chapter. Thanks to all my loyal NB readers for commenting and reading.
I give you another long chapter this week as Anna convinces Shane to look into getting a wheelchair.
Here is Chapter 33 of NB. Let me know how you like it and as always thanks for reading.
Hugs, Dani

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

No story today

I'm sure you guys are tired of hearing that. I will have the next episode of I/E next weeek... after that, it'll depend on how I'm doing. I'm really sorry... I miss Kai and Jackson too, lol.

Thanks for understanding.

-CA

The Consolation Prize - Chapter 12

Will knew his mom worried about him. She worried about him a lot. His parents had taken his injury hard and his prognosis even harder.

There was a conversation they’d had when he’d been coming out of anesthesia after a complication had arisen from the initial fusing, a few days earlier, of the vertebrae he’d crushed. They’d thought that he was still so deeply asleep that he couldn’t hear them. He was still in the murky middle ground between sleep and waking, but he could hear them. And he’d never forget what he’d heard. 

He could remember the muffled crying, so soft and timid that in his drugged haze he thought it might have been a little girl. But then, she spoke. 

“My baby boy,” she had said over and over again, face pressed against his shoulder, her hand threaded with his. The IV tube slightly tangled like some grotesque snake between them. 

“Ari, stop,” his father’s voice had graveled over her hiccups. “For Christ’s sake pull yourself together.” His mom had let go of his hand suddenly and turned around to face her husband. He’d just come into the room and stood, statuesque, at a little over six feet. He was handsome in a gruff aged-wine way. Ari sniffled a little then nodded, wiping at the corners of her eyes. She brushed her thick black hair behind her ears and hugged herself. 

“John, it’s just so hard to see him like this,” she whispered, her voice as soft as tissue paper, as she risked a glance at Will’s shrunken pale form under the bloated blanket—lousy with hot air being pumped continuously to keep him stable.  

“To see him like this?” John snapped, keeping his voice low, but poisonous. He gestured to his son, the once strong man of his memories felt like a wisp of smoke. Then he thought of Pete, who was out in the lobby, and the man returned, alive, and full, and glowing. It opened up a chasm of ache in his chest. 

“He looks too fragile,” Ari said more to herself than to John. He kept his distance. Giving into his wife’s emotions felt dangerous—for both of them. She’d crumble if she was given an outlet. And him? He couldn’t risk even a crack. He’d never been good with these kinds of things and letting the situation’s painful truth wiggle inside of him would burn him from the inside out. 

“You think he looks fragile now?” he asked harshly. Ari turned to look at Will before fixing her gaze on her husband. Her cheeks were salty and wet, but she didn’t move to wipe them. Her hands were shaking too badly. “You remember what the doctor said.” He wasn’t asking a question. Will’s mom nodded once and scrunched her eyes closed. She didn’t want to think about it. “Imagine how fragile he’ll look when he’s in a wheelchair for the rest of his life?” John’s voice sounded cold even to him, but he had to protect himself.  Ari whimpered and shook her head. 

“He’s alive,” she murmured, clinging to anything she could. 

“He just got a life sentence,” he retorted, “he’s better off dead.” The words hung heavy as boulders between the couple, their crumpled crippled son between them, breathing steady. 

“You get out of this room,” a strong voice came. Will remembered, in his haze, thinking a third person had entered the room. A much more imposing woman than his petite mother. But she grew feet as she stood, her strength returning to her, coming from somewhere nebulous, unknown, and powerful. “Until you fix your attitude, you get the hell out of this room. This is our son, and he is alive.”

John stood still as a statue as he watched his wife in awe. She was stronger than he was. He’d always known it, but this was the moment he’d needed it most. 

<> 

His mom always called on Wednesdays when she presumed he was having lunch. Sometimes it was around 11:30. Some days it was more around 2:00. Will suspected it had everything to do with when she herself was sitting down to lunch. She didn’t call Pete as regularly.  


That particular Wednesday the call came in around 1:13. Emily was leaning over him, her honey blonde hair wafting vanilla, pointing to something on the deck he’d created for a presentation the next day. Her proximity was familiar and unwelcome. Will fidgeted in his chair and reached for his phone. 

“Ah,” he exhaled, “I should take this.” He leaned forward and unlocked his brakes, attempting to back up and away from her. 

“We’re in the middle of this,” she replied to the screen rather to him. Her brow was furrowed. Will bit his lower lip and took a deep breath. 

“It’s my mom. Promise it will be quick,” he said, then added, much to his own irritation, “she worries.” Why did he feel the need to add that he mom thought him incapable of living independently? Emily turned and studied him for a second. Will couldn’t read her expression and he didn’t like it. 

“Fine,” she conceded as Will took the call and wheeled away. His chest felt tight. Emily had been hot and cold lately. Today she was leaning heavily toward cold. Will knew without a shadow of a doubt that it had to do with Scottie. Even though Emily had been the one to end it all back in June, for the sake of her conscience and her husband of seven years, she’d maintained a presumption of ownership. Now that Will had a few months of perspective, he supposed that Emily, who did have a flair for the dramatic, had needed to let off a little steam to quell her moral misgivings, and take back a little control. Will had a hunch she didn’t mean for the breakup to stick. She hadn’t banked on Will meeting someone—someone wonderful—only a few days later. 

Will’s irritation was hard to hide some days, and that was probably why it was a good idea to never sleep with one’s boss. But what was done was done. Emily was married, apparently happily, and Will had Scottie. And as he thought of her—sitting cross legged on his bed this morning, doing an imitation of Chistopher Walken from Wedding Crashers in nothing but her bra and underwear—he smiled and loosened.

“Mom,” he answered, voice coming across solid and secure. 

“Darling, hi,” his mom’s voice was warm and comforting, despite his macho insistence that he didn’t need anyone to take care of him. 

“How are you?” 

“Well, how are you?” He could hear her chewing something quietly and he pictured her in a cream sweater and jeans—her uniform—leaning against the counter in their quaint blue and white kitchen. 

“I’m great. How’s Dad?” 

“Stubborn!” she laughed richly, her faded accent peeking it head out slightly. “He won’t let me buy a new TV for the family room but I’m sorry, I’m just going to have to do it behind his back then.” 

“I think that’s a good idea.” She started into another story—this one about the neighbor’s dog, Pepper. Will listened and commented where it made sense, but he wasn’t tracking. He was watching Emily from across the room. She seemed agitated and kept running her hands through her hair. She’d taken a phone call as well and had moved toward the kitchen. He rubbed absently at his thigh and readjusted his left foot on the footplate. 

“Mom, I actually can’t chat for long today. Big deadline coming up.” 

“You work too much,” she commented, clucking her tongue. 

“Do you say that to Pete?” Will snapped, immediately regretting his tone. 

“Of course, I do,” she replied after a few seconds, sounding wounded. 

“Sorry,” Will replied bitterly, hating himself a little bit. It was his mom after all. 

“Sweetie, it’s fine, I’m sorry too,” she whispered, and an understanding passed between them. She knew he sometimes felt babied, but like a knee jerk reaction, she couldn’t help herself, and he loved her for that. “Before you go though, I wanted to see what you were thinking for Thanksgiving.”

“Thanksgiving?” he asked. It was still a little more than a month away. 

“Yes,” she responded, back to her all-business tone.

“Now?”

“Well, I talked to Pete last night and he wants to bring Lise,” she continued cautiously, as if she weren’t sure what Will’s reaction would be. Will had still refrained from telling his mom about Scottie. It wasn’t that he didn’t want her to know about the woman who’d stolen his heart so completely, but he was nervous. He didn’t want his parents to get involved and then get hurt in all of this. They were too fragile when it came to him. Too brittle when it came to his future. His ability to live a so-called “normal” life. Would he ever get married? Would he be able to father children? He’d been with Scottie only a few months. It was still so new and fragile. 

“That’s so great!” Will replied earnest and enthusiastic. Wynn had been bringing her boyfriend for the past two years. Olivia didn’t have a boyfriend, but she was only 25. But Pete? Pete was Will’s able-bodied twin, and his mom navigated that particular snarl with the kind of caution you’d use on thin ice over a frozen lake. Will’s dad on the other hand handled it like a bull in a china shop, knocking over shelves, shattering flimsy confidence, and asking a smattering of humiliating questions with as much delicacy as a meat cleaver. 

“It is?” she asked, genuine and empathetic. 

“Yes, Lise is wonderful. It will be great to have her.” He could feel his mom exhale and smile through the phone. She was probably rubbing her temples with her left hand, trying to forget minefield she’d just successfully tap danced through. And Will was suddenly struck with an idea as he watched Emily eye him from across the room.

“Mom?” he asked, “I actually think I’m going to bring someone home too.” 

He swore he heard her cellphone clatter to the counter. 

¨        


Scottie was late. Very late. She’d been visiting her mom—who’d thrown her dinner tray directly at her head across the table. Scottie had spent the last half hour working sweet potatoes out of her hair in the nursing home bathroom. Will had texted her that it was no problem—and she was sure it was actually no problem. Will didn’t mince words, and it was a breath of fresh air. She’d learned quite a bit about Mr. Nash in the few months that they’d been dating since the beach, and one of those things was that he was incredibly laid back and incredibly candid. It was an inspiration to Scottie, who often found herself wound too tight to sleep and too marred in politeness to be honest. Still though, he’d been sitting at the restaurant for twenty minutes already, and she felt badly. 

Pushing through the front door of, she saw him waiting by the bar, fiddling with his phone. She came up behind him and leaned down, wrapping her arms around him from behind and kissing him on the cheek. 

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered in his ear, smelling the sweet potatoes she’d obviously missed in her hair. 

“You smell good,” he replied as he turned his chair to face her, a wide smile cracking his face in half. She laughed to herself and shook her head. 

“You’re terrible,” she teased. 

“You smell like Thanksgiving dinner,” he argued, “what’s wrong with that!” 

“Let them know I’m here,” she pressed, purposely ignoring his jests and he nodded, smirking as he wheeled toward the hostess who grabbed two menus, gave Will an odd once-over that Scottie had grown accustomed to, and led them to a table near the back. Will had a little bit of trouble maneuvering around some of the tighter tables, but like always, he handled it with grace when he bumped a woman’s purse. Scottie followed closely, reminding herself that he always asked if he needed help. Offering help—he’d told her a few weeks into their relationship—wasn’t necessary. She’d asked him to set ground rules and explain as much as possible. She knew this relationship would be slightly different, given Will’s paralysis, and she’d wanted to be respectful. She didn’t know how much he’d appreciated that. Everyone else Will had ever dated had assumed what he needed from them—Scottie had asked, and it made all the difference. 

The hostess asked Will if he needed the dining chair and he shook his head, opting instead to remain in his wheelchair. Sometimes he transferred out, if they were somewhere with a booth or if the table was the wrong height, but it was generally easier to just stay put. Plus, strangers were infamous for staring. Scottie had been stared at all her life. She was objectively beautiful and statuesque. Striking even. Ad she’d been affirmed many, many times by men and women alike, but she’d never experienced this kind of curious staring that seemed to follow them like a shadow. Will was a good sport about it, but like everyone, he had bad days, too. Scottie wasn’t above telling someone off, but Will, thus far, had prevented it. She heard him order some wine from the waitress—he knew what she liked—and felt him reach across the table and take her hand. Her chest fluttered just as it did when they first met. She turned to look at him and he smiled. 

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” she replied warmly, leaning forward. Will fidgeted a little, taking his hand back and shifting his weight which, Scottie had noticed, he’d done only a few seconds earlier. She was learning his cues, as they were spending almost all of their time together—both waking hours and non—and she could tell something was up.                

“You okay?” she asked slowly with a smirk. The waitress came back with a beer for him and a red for her. She reached for hers and took a small sip, her green eyes never wavering from his blue ones. He leaned back and ran his hands through his hair, squeezing the back of his neck.

“I uh,” he started, then stopped. Taking a deep breath. She cocked her head. “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” Scottie exhaled a nervous breath. There was this wild irrational part of her that thought he was going to tell her he loved her. Or that he wanted to marry her. She wanted both of those things—she’d never been so sure of anything—but she didn’t feel quite ready to face what that meant. It had only been a few months. A few wonderful months with the best person she knew. Every morning she had to remind herself that he was hers. But she wasn’t stable, and she knew it. She couldn’t saddle him with that baggage until she’d worked through it herself. It wasn’t fair. 

“I guess, Nora and Cory’s? Maybe my mom? I hadn’t thought about it too much,” she said the latter option sadly, depressed by the thought of having to spend the holiday in the drab dining hall with the stained curtains, then later having to wash not only sweet potatoes out of her hair, but gravy too.

“Oh,” he replied, his face falling slightly. “I was just going to say that I’d love for you to come home with me if, well you want to, or can, or whatever.” His nerves were frayed, and he felt like he couldn’t get quite enough air. 

“You want me to come home with you?” she asked, slightly incredulous. 

“Of course, I do,” Will replied, incredulous at her incredulity. 

“And meet your family?” she asked, tone not changing. Will laughed, his eyes widening. 

“Yes, of course!” Scottie’s heart sped up at the thought. Will had a family. A real, loving, living, breathing, non-drug addicted, whole family. 

“I,” she started then reached for her wine, taking a healthy sip. She felt the slight wobbliness in her legs from the drink and it helped. 

“Look,” Will interjected, “I understand if it’s too soon, I don’t mean to–“

“Yes,” Scottie interrupted. 
                  
“Yes, it’s too soon or?” 

“No, it’s not too soon. Yes, I’ll come. I’d love to come,” her voice was light and shaky, but she was so caught up in herself. Why was it so hard for her to believe that he wanted her to meet his family? 

“Look, you can say no,” Will offered earnestly, “I know it’s a lot and we’ll have to stay over a few nights, and our house isn’t much but—” His insecurity was intensifying like water boiling. 

“Will,” Scottie appealed, reaching of his fidgeting hand. She took it in hers and ran her thumb across his knuckles, adoring the feel of it. “I would love to come.” Will nodded once and took a swig of his beer, laughing nervously as he put it down. 

“Okay,” he said tentatively. Then, with more assurance, “okay.” 

“Okay,” Scottie mimicked to his growing grin. It was rising like bread dough. She was nervous, but her heart felt full. He wanted her. His family wanted to meet her. And she wagered that no one would throw a tray of sweet potatoes at her face, but that, she supposed, remained to be seen.