Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Consolation Prize - Chapter 10

Easing the door open into the cool dark, Scottie saw two large shapes in front of her—two sets of bunk beds. Will’s breathing was low and even, like a metronome, and Scottie was mesmerized by the rise and fall of his chest. His chair was up against the side of the bed and it looked so odd empty. One of his arms was under his pillow and the other was lying across the bed. She was struck with a potent urge to just crawl into bed with him and curl up, nestling herself in the crook of his arm. He was wearing grey sweats and socks, lying on his side with the covers nudged off and a pillow wedged between his knees. He shifted slightly then let out a loud snore. Scottie laughed to herself, stumbling a bit over to her bag. 

She unzipped it as quietly as she could and undid her jeans with her other hand, slipping them and her underwear off and pulling an oversized t-shirt over her head and a pair of Calvin Klein underwear up her legs. She quickly splashed cold water on her face in the bathroom and ran a toothbrush over her teeth. She felt confident getting into the other bottom bunk, resisting the urge to join Will, but she shouldn’t have. BAM. 

“Jesus, fuck,” she yell-whispered, rubbing the spot where she had smacked her forehead on the base of the bottom bunk. “Fuckkk,” she whistled quietly. Will stirred and, lifting his head off the pillow, he half turned to look at her. She gave him a single wave and a pinched smile and wondered absently if her subconscious did that on purpose.

“Hi,” he said, sleep hanging on his eyelids. 

“Hi,” she said back.

“You okay?” he asked softly. She nodded, feeling shy all of a sudden. 

They looked at each other, the silence full of so much and Scottie felt a twinge in her chest. Will propped himself up on his elbows, twisting toward her, without breaking her gaze. The room was quiet and dark, with moonlight and a cool breeze streaming in through the open window. Scottie made it to him in two steps and he pulled her down onto the bed urgently, tucking her hair behind her ears before pressing his lips onto hers. Scottie’s body buckled as she reciprocated, biting his lower lip, as she gracefully kneed him hard in the thigh while trying to straddle him. 

“Fuck, sorry” she said, laughing under her breath, pulling away from him for a painful second. 

“For what?” he asked, pressing his forehead to hers. 

“I just like, rammed my knee into your thigh.” She shook her head, but he shrugged, tenderly tracing the side of her face with the coarse pad of his thumb. 

“Perks of being paralyzed,” he murmured, and Scottie laughed hoarsely as he kissed her again, more insistently this time, hungrier. She returned voraciously, arching her back and once again, attempting to straddle him. That second attempt was slightly more graceful, and she was successful. He slipped the t-shirt over her head and repositioned himself underneath her, pausing to run his eyes over her. Will felt his breathing quicken as she looked down at him. She was so beautiful framed against the dark, all hooded eyes and taut skin. He wished he could flip her over and fuck her the way he knew she wanted to be fucked, but instead he just laid there resenting his dead legs. She leaned down, her hair brushing his shoulders and nibbled at his neck, thrusting him back into the moment. 

His hands were on her breasts, working her nipples between his fingers. She exhaled as his breath grazed her neck and her skin tingled hot as he ran his tongue down to her collar bone. Pulling his shirt over his head, she laid both of her hands flat against his incredibly muscular chest. She ran them over his strong shoulders and down his hard back, brushing the knotted scar that ran down the middle of his back, wanting to touch every inch of him. He pulled her closer, so they were pressed against each other, skin on skin, his hands threading through her tangled mess of hair. She felt utterly open and it was so foreign it threatened to take the breath out of her lungs. 

Without warning she pulled away and sat back on her heels, concentrating on her breathing. Will’s heart plummeted. Had she changed her mind?

“What’s wrong?” he asked, hearing the desperation in his voice and hating the way it sounded, reaching for her hand. Scottie squeezed his back, running her thumb along his callused palm. 

“Just, I’m, I’m overwhelmed,” she managed to say. He smiled gently and ran the thumb of his other hand down the outside of her shoulder, letting the relief envelope him—so pure and invigorating that it felt like a bump of cocaine, a relic of his early 20’s. Goosebumps prickled their way down her arms. 

“Come here,” he said quietly, scooting over just enough so she could fit right where she’d wanted to when she walked in. Laying down next to him, he wrapped his arms around her from behind, kissing the back of her neck. 

“Sorry about my hair,” she said offhandedly. 

“I love your hair,” he muttered, running a hand through it again. Scottie exhaled, letting herself unwind and bleed into him. His hand slid into her underwear and she trembled at his rough skin as he slipped a finger inside of her. She gasped, heart ramming against her chest, as he kissed her shoulder and moved against her. They fell into a rhythm, Scottie’s body pressing against his, her hand wrapped around his back, pulling him with her as she writhed at his touch. A fine line of sweat ran down her spine as her mind went gloriously blank, warmth rushing through her like wildfire. Will held her snugger against him as she gasped lightly in his ear. He bit her playfully as she shuddered, caving into him. He kissed her cheek and Scottie rolled over to face him, their noses almost touching. 

“Hi,” he whispered. 

“Hi,” she whispered back. Her cheeks were flushed pink and her eyes were shimmering as Will cupped her face. 

“This is the room for the grandkids, Scottie,” he teased, playing scandalized by her suggestive tone. 

“Those poor grand kids,” she said, kissing him tenderly at first, then more urgently. He ran his hand through her hair again, enfolding her in his arms, pulling her closer. She followed because she couldn’t get enough. 

Her feet were hanging way off the bed, and oddly, it didn’t bother her at all.  


The next morning came too soon, rushing up to meet them with haste. Scottie felt Will stirring against her, his skin warm on her bare back. He kissed her on the shoulder and tucked her hair behind her ear, so he could reach her cheek, too. Sun streamed through the half-closed curtains and the cyclical crashing of the waves played through the open window. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. She closed her eyes again, trying to file this moment away to revisit later. She felt utterly at peace, like she was in the right place—between talking with Max and stumbling into bed with Will—and she hadn’t felt that way in longer than she could remember. 

Will shifted himself into a sitting position and looked down at Scottie. Her hair was spread across the pillow, thick curls brushing her olive skin, the sun illuminated the dappling of freckles over her nose. She was so beautiful that he could barely believe she was sharing a twin bottom bunk bed with him. He was still stunned that she’d climbed in last night. 
Rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands and stretching his arms against the bottom of the top bunk, he confirmed that it wasn’t a dream. Shifting his weight, he pulled his chair as close as he could to the side of the bed and adjusted the angle. He expertly transferred his butt onto the seat with practiced ease, pulling his legs out from under the covers and dropping them onto the footplate a little bit crooked. It didn’t matter since he was about to shower, but he’d never leave them like that. It bothered him to no end. And it bothered him that it bothered him so much. He knew it had to do with maintaining a little bit of control over a part of him that he no longer had any. He sighed as Scottie stirred, rolling over and snatching his wrist. Her slender fingers warm on his skin. 

“Hi,” she whispered, a smile emerging through sleep. She blinked a couple of times and gave a slight yawn. 

“Hi,” he said softly, wanting to lean over to kiss her, but the bed was too low for him to pull it off without transferring back. He had a feeling she was about to slip back into the folds of sleep anyway.

“Early riser, huh?” she asked, voice thick. He nodded. He was. He always had been. His internal clock ran a tight ship. She smiled and rolled her eyes. 

“I’ll see you in a few hours then,” she said. Will kissed her hand and let her roll back over, feeling a slight pang in his chest as he made his way to the bathroom. He had this fear that had lodged itself in deep in his mind that she would wake up and change her mind about him. She made him self-conscious, and it was only partly her fault. She did have an inexplicable hold on him. He’d spent the better part of the last eight years, veritably fucking around—he never pushed for anything serious. It was his own insecurity about his body that still lingered, even after a so many years of being this version of himself. He didn’t understand why she would be interested in him—especially when he had a literal clone of him walking—ahem—walking, around.

 He knew he was attractive. He’d never had trouble with women before, but there was always a moment when they saw the reality of his paralysis. Even Emily. He cringed remembering the first time she saw him completely naked, his legs too thin for the rest of his body. She didn’t say anything. She knelt down in front of him and kissed him fully, unafraid to touch the paralyzed part of him. But he noticed the flicker in her eyes, the nanosecond of hesitation, the micro expression of pain. Though she grew more comfortable with him, he never forgot that moment, that raw heat of wanting to hide himself and his atrophied legs, despite the passive range of motion he did daily and the special bike he’d bought to get his legs moving a few years ago. The diffidence wedged itself under his skin. He knew Emily would never leave Steve for him, and he wondered, rather, masochistically, how much had to do with the desire not to saddle herself with him for the rest of her life. 

Katie had been his first since getting hurt, and he’d seen the shock in her eyes when she’d walked in on him in the bathroom, in the middle of sticking a catheter into his dick. She’d flinched, her face going icy, skin white as a sheet. 

“It doesn’t hurt, if that’s what you’re worried about,” he’d said, knowing full well that it wasn’t what she was worried about at all. 

And then there was Kristin. He felt a need to prove her wrong. He was still a whole man. But, as he pulled out his travel shower chair, which was really just a bench he laid over the sides of the tub, he felt like the vulnerable kid she’d ripped in two. Will bit his lip at the memory. The pain physically cut through him and took his breath away. Leaning over, with his face in his hands, he concentrated on breathing. 

“Let it go,” he said, realizing he’d said it out loud instead of in his head. “Fuck,” he continued out loud. Why not? 

Lifting himself up with his right arm, he shimmied his sweats down his hips and legs with his left, tossing the clothes onto the floor even though they would be annoying to pick up later. He turned the shower head on and hot water pounded the bathtub as he hoisted himself out of his chair and onto the bench, lifting each of his legs over the side of the tub individually and dropping them with an unceremonious thump. He put two folded towels on his chair—one to sit on, and the other to dry himself off—and pulled the circus themed curtain closed. This was the grandkid’s room after all. He felt like the cartoon lion, roaring in its cage, that was repeated in a horizontal line all the way across about a hundred times. The steam filled his lungs as he rubbed shampoo through his hair letting out an exhale that he felt like he’d been holding in for weeks. 

Kristin had told him she couldn’t be with half a man, and that had haunted him. She’d gone through the motions when he was in the hospital. She could barely look at him, recoiled when she touched any paralyzed part of him. He’d held on because he’d been desperate, unable to care for himself, giving into the quicksand surrounding him. He lied to himself, because some truths were better left untold. Who could ever love him? For months after, that was the first thing he thought when he woke up every morning. 
He’d thought he would marry her. He thought she’d stay by his side, but he’d been so terribly wrong. Perhaps that was what most upset him—the fact that he thought he knew her. But then, the other side of him understood why she did what she did. He didn’t think he would walk away from her had things been reversed, but how could he be so sure? He had no choice but to adapt to his new life, but she did. She had a choice. He didn’t want her to go almost as much as he didn’t want to saddle her with the burden he had become. 

His heart ached when he thought of her sobbing at the foot of his bed. Breaking up might not have been what either of them wanted in an ideal world, but they weren’t living in an ideal world—it might have been what both of them needed. Will had been too caught up in self-pity to understand the magnitude of what he had been asking of her.
And seeing her again? Hearing her wrenching apology over the phone? A wound he thought had healed was sliced open, hot and bleeding. 

“Let. It. Go,” He said, punctuating every word, slamming his fist against the shower wall. He took three deep breaths and closed his eyes, beseeching himself to stop pacing the dusty floorboards of his painful recollections. Resting his forehead on his fists and his elbows on his legs, he made himself feel the present, emerge himself in it, as the water beat down on his back, numbing hot. He felt his muscles unclench just slightly. It was an almost undetectable beginning, a whispering, of release. 

Scottie was lying in bed—his bed. He wanted to emerge from the bathroom and situate himself back where he was confident in all parts of himself, not just his disability. So, what if he was paralyzed? So, what? It didn’t mean he couldn’t live exactly how he wanted to live. It didn’t mean he couldn’t be with exactly who he wanted to be with. He decided, right then and there, that if she gave him the chance, he wouldn’t hesitate. He wouldn’t apologize—not for a second.


“You’re being a stubborn asshole,” Pete growled, tossing a piece of fresh cut pineapple in his mouth. Will didn’t say anything. He didn’t care that he was being stubborn. 

“Pancakes,” Nora sang as she flitted onto the patio with a large platter of steaming pancakes and a bottle of real Vermont maple syrup under her arm. 

“And bacon,” yawned Scottie, appearing behind Nora with a bowl of bacon. She was wearing an oversized grey t-shirt that Will recognized as his. He couldn’t help but smile to himself. Scottie caught the tail end of it and gave him a meaningful look. 

“Why’s the bacon in a bowl, darling?” Max asked, looking up from his New York Times crossword, his glasses sliding down the slope of his large nose. 

“Bowl bacon is the best way to serve bacon,” Scottie replied casually, reaching for a piece on top and popping it in her mouth. 

“The grease has somewhere to pool all together,” Will interjected, leaning back in his wheelchair. 

“Excellent dipping sauce,” Scottie chimed. 

“Excellent,” Will finished. Max looked from Scottie to Will and back to Scottie before looking back down at his paper, pen poised over 42 across, with a smug smile spreading across his face. No one else seemed to notice the exchange. 

“Shut up you git,” Scottie whispered as she tossed herself into the chair next to Max, nudging him in the shoulder and chewing another piece of bacon absently. Max snickered and shook his head at the paper.  

“Sixteen across a real tickler, Max?” Cory asked. 

“Something like that,” he replied, folding the paper and pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. Nora sat down and pulled a plate toward her, loading it with eggs and fruit. 

“So, what’s Will being a stubborn asshole about this time?” she asked as she speared a strawberry with a bit more force than was necessary. Will visibly rolled his eyes. 

“I don’t—” Will started. 

“He doesn’t want to go down to the beach with us,” Pete interrupted. Their voices sounding eerily similar when they both spoke at the exact same time. Scottie saw Will close his eyes for a second and take a deep breath. Nora eyed Will for a second and scowled. 

“I mean, if he doesn’t want to have fun with us, then don’t force him,” she quipped. 

“It’s not—” Will started but then stopped, resigned to being ganged up on. 

“Scottie will stay up here with you,” Max said lightly. 

"Yeah, she hates the beach,” Edwin continued. Pete laughed and shook his head.

“Who hates the beach!?” he practically shouted, throwing his hands up in the air. Scottie raised her hand guiltily. Pete cocked his head and raised his eyebrows, clearly expecting an explanation. Scottie sighed and laughed. 

"I don’t hate the beach,” she protested weakly. 

“Bullshit,” Max cut in swiftly. She turned and stuck her tongue out at him.  

“Fine,” she said after a minute, “I don’t love the beach. My family went to the Cape one summer and well, it wasn’t a good trip. It was my first time at the beach, I was 14 or something. And I just can’t get the association out of my head.” Her mom was too high to leave their motel room and Sara and Scottie had tried to go without her. They found their way, but it had been cloudy and humid, and Sara got knocked over by a wave, swallowing a mouthful of seawater. Scottie had to hold her hair back while she puked it all up. Then they got locked out of their room and had to sit under the roof overhang in the pouring rain until their mom stumbled out at 3AM to get ice. 

“I didn’t know that,” Nora said, perking up a bit, “you never talk about your family.” 

"Yeah well,” Scottie shrugged evasively, slightly irritated with herself for revealing too much. “I also don’t like sand or seaweed. I’d much rather swim in that beautiful pool over there.” She gestured across the tall grass to a brand-new pool that had to have been a recent installation. 

“Hey, pool is officially open,” Miles said as he chewed on the inside of his cheek. “It does look pretty inviting.” 

“You all are insane,” Pete argued incredulously. “Look at the ocean. Look at it! It’s right goddamn there. Pools are for pussys.” 

“I suppose I’m a pussy then,” Will begrudged. His dislike for the beach wasn’t inherent. It had blossomed over the last eight years as he was relegated to giving up his independence since it didn’t mesh well with sand. He was either stuck on a towel next to someone he wasn’t keen on talking with or scooting his butt across down to the water’s edge only to be stuck bobbing on the surface as everyone waded feet above him. 

“Come on little bro,” Pete pressed, “I’ll give you a piggy back ride down there.” Will furrowed his brow in skepticism, his mood curdling a bit in the warmth of the day. He didn’t have the energy to explain that he’d rather avoid the indignity of having to be carried down the steps and across the sand.

“Hard pass on that one little bro,” he replied sardonically, but he was smiling. Scottie’s gazed bounced back and forth between the two brothers like she was watching a ping pong match. She felt that familiar ache of missing her sister. Missing the girl that hadn’t surfaced in the years since she started using. Swallowing hard she reached for another piece of bacon, but when she took a bite it tasted all wrong. Quietly she put it down on her plate and wrung her hands in her lap. She was feeling anxious and couldn’t really hear the conversation happening around her. 

“Look,” she heard Will say, “I’m going to start at the pool and we can see where the day takes us, okay?” Pete murmured “the fuck we will,” then “ow” as Lise hit him upside the head. 

“He just wants to spend time with you, Will,” she offered helplessly, “and he refuses to outright say it.” Pete shook his head as Will chuckled. 

“See?” Pete said, “I don’t even say anything to this one and she can read my goddamn mind.” Scottie glanced sideways at Will and he slid his hand on her knee. 

“I know the feeling,” Will assured him, squeezing her knee. She immediately felt some of the anxiety she’d been stock piling slip away.

“Anyone know a seven-letter word for sacrifice?” Max asked absently, eyeing the crossword he’d opened back open over his food. 

“Mangia,” Miles argued, smacking the paper out of the way of his plate and pointing to the bacon. Max never ate enough. 

“No that won’t do it,” Max said smugly, looking up at the group. Nora shrugged and slipped her sunglasses on, looking down at her freshly manicured nails. Cory’s mouth was too full of eggs to answer. Pete and Will were still glaring at each other across the spread. Rahil and Anita were still sleeping, and Maggie and Aaron had gone for a beach run. Miles gave an exasperated sigh. 

“I can’t win,” he whined. 

“And neither can I,” Max grumbled, “this is one of my final words. Anyone?” Scottie smirked. 

“Compromise?” she asked. 

“By God, darling, you did it!” he exclaimed, running his pen quickly over the page and kissing her on the cheek. 

“You didn’t know that one, huh?” Will asked knowingly, leaning toward Scottie. His heavily calloused hand still rested comfortably on her knee and she seemed to like it that way. She turned and smiled at him. 

“Yeah,” she supposed, “I think we’ll start at the pool then maybe meet you guys down at the beach later.” The thought of spending this glorious day with Will and only Will was simply too compelling to pass up. 


While Will was changing, Scottie busied herself in the kitchen filling the dishwasher. She felt comfortable with Will, but she wanted to give him as much privacy as he needed. Self-consciousness seemed to radiate off of him at certain moments, and she wanted to give him the space he needed to slowly let her in. She would wait for him because she had this feeling it would be so incredibly worth it. 

“What’s going on with you and Nash?” a familiar voice slipped under the sound of running water. Scottie calmly picked up another dish and began to rinse it. It was large and sticky, but she grasped it to keep from smacking Cory. The condescension in his tone was incensing. 

“Why are you so concerned?” Scottie heard herself snap, voice cracking at the end. Cory leaned against the counter next to the sink and crossed his arms, staring at her sideways. Scottie refused to turn to look at him. She worked on the inside of her cheek with her teeth instead. 

“Did you guys hook-up last night?” he asked timidly with a quiet dash of good old-fashioned jealousy. Scottie leered at him. 

“Don’t fucking worry about it, Cory.” 

“I just don’t want you to lead him on too much,” he replied, feigning concern and screwing up his face with worry. 

“Oh fuck off,” Scottie hissed as she bent over to place the now essentially clean plate into the dishwasher. 

“I’m serious, Thea,” he pressed, looking down at his bare feet. Scottie snapped to attention and rounded on him, her cheeks going red. 

“No,” she whisper shouted. “You do not get to call me that.” Cory furrowed his eyebrows and looked as if she’d just dropped a steaming pile of dog shit in his lap. 

“Relax,” he mollified, “I’m just concerned about my friend.” 

“Concerned about your friend my ass,” Scottie mocked. 

“He’s fragile.”

“He’s an adult.” 

“Girls like the novelty of dating a crippled guy,” he offered as if it were the only reason in the world a woman might find Will desirable. 

“And that’s what you think this is?” Scottie challenged, hands on her hips, incredulous and rearing to fight. “You think I’m using him for, what was it? The novelty?” Cory stared at her dubiously and pursed his lips. She was struck, quite suddenly, with repulsion. She couldn’t remember what she’d ever found attractive in him. 

“He’s just been disappointed a lot,” Cory argued. 

“Oh yeah? By who? You?” she bit into him, feeling triumphant when his face went pale. 

“That was fucking low,” he murmured after a long moment. Scottie turned the water off. The dishes were only halfway done, but she was tapped out on charity. 

“You know what’s fucking low?” she countered, voice rising and thin. “This.” 

Cory took a deep breath and opened his mouth to shoot back, venom on his tongue, but Will rolled quietly into the room. Sensing the heat radiating from the pair of them, he slowed to a stop and turned, surprised at how red Scottie’s face was and how livid Cory looked. Confusion leaked into his features. 

“What’s up?” he asked slowly, looking from Scottie to Cory to Scottie again, hoping she’d communicate something to him—anything. 

“Cory’s being an asshole,” Scottie answered without taking her eyes off Will. “He’ll tell you about it if you want. I’m going to change.” And with that she pushed past Cory without a passing glance and disappeared into the kid’s room, slamming the door behind her. 

“Cory?” Will questioned. But Cory just shrugged and shook his head. 

“Just something I said to Nora,” Cory lied, rubbing his face in his hands. Will stared at his friend, a prickle of unease rising on his neck. He could smell dishonestly but he didn’t feel like he was in the right position to push it. Whatever Cory was lying about felt bigger than the moment he had seen, and if he was going to find out, it wouldn’t be right here in this kitchen. 

“I’m going for a swim,” he said simply, putting his hands on his push rims and gliding onto the porch. Bumping down the back stairs, a ramp conspicuously absent, he thought about Cory visiting him in the hospital, right after his accident, and how he still rubbed his face when he lied.  


Scottie pushed open the screened door after changing into her bathing suit to find Pete standing on the porch, staring out toward the ocean, his face a pensive mask. She still had to remind herself that he wasn’t Will. He was a completely separate person, despite having Will’s exact face. 

They could hear the rest of the group laughing on the beach, but it felt so far away, like they couldn’t reach it even if they wanted. 

“Why aren’t you out there?” she asked him as she walked over to the railing and leaned over it, mimicking his body language. 

“Just needed a minute,” he replied almost coldly. She wondered if she’d done something to offend him. Her mind flipped through a slide show of incredibly recent memories of the last twenty hours, none of which felt particularly problematic. She turned her attention back to him and realized he wasn’t watching the ocean at all. His eyes were glued, quite obviously, to his brother. She followed his gaze. Will had just rolled up to the side of the pool. He reached down to lock his breaks and pulled his towel off his lap, dropping it on the stone along the edge. Shifting his weight slightly, he lifted each of his legs—which Scottie realized, she’d never seen without pants—under the knee and dropped them in front of the footplate. They were thin and obviously neglected, but not too thin. He was so strong and composed. His legs looked a little bit like they belonged to someone else. 
Glancing sideways at Pete, she noted the pain in his eyes—Will’s eyes. His hands were clasped in front him and there was tension threaded through his fingers. She turned back to Will as he scooted to the edge of his seat and threw himself into the water—oddly graceful and clumsy in equal measure. 

“You don’t like seeing him like that,” Scottie said as they both watched Will pull himself across the water’s surface smoothly with his arms. She appreciated the steady rhythm of it. It was a statement rather than a question. Pete turned to look at her, slowly. 

“What? Isolated?” he asked. 

“Paralyzed,” she replied softly. Pete flinched, making it plain it wasn’t a word he was comfortable hearing. 

“Of course, I don’t,” he replied sharply. 

“I wasn’t implying you did,” she responded slightly defensively, mentally chiding herself for taking his tone personally. She knew he wasn’t angry at her. 

“I just,” he said as he peeled his eyes off her and down to his hands. Scottie noted that their hands might just be the most differentiated part of them outside of Will’s disability. His were calloused, rough, and strong with well-kept clean nails. Pete’s hands looked as if they hadn’t ever done much physical labor, and his nails were bitten down almost to the quick. “His life could have been so different,” he whispered wistfully. Scottie nodded slowly. 

“You could say that about anyone though,” she replied, rubbing his shoulder. 

“I know, but, this is different. It was so hard on everyone. On our family.” He let out an exhale, his whole body slumping forward, and ran his hand through his wavy hair. 

“I don’t doubt it,” she consoled.

“Sometimes I think that he’s handled it better than any of us,” he mused, a slight smile skirting his lips. Scottie beamed back at Will’s form in the water. His strength gave her hope. 

“Well, he had to adjust his entire life. He had no choice. He couldn’t ignore it.” She felt Pete stiffen slightly next to her, but she didn’t turn to look at him. He sighed. She’d struck a nerve, she knew it. “But he is quite a guy,” she finished warmly. 

“What’s the deal with you two?” Pete asked, sliding back into the comfort of those middle school questions that never quite dissipated. Scottie smiled and blushed. “Ah,” he continued expressively, “so my brother got what he’d wanted after all.” Scottie eyed him suspiciously, thawed by the simple thought that Will had talked about her to the most important person in his life. 

“We’re taking things slow,” she offered, “but it feels…I don’t know…serious.” Pete smiled a genuine smile, the first he’d had on his face since last night. But it fell as Will heaved himself up out of the water onto the side of the pool and scooted himself back toward the pool shed with his hands, dragging his useless legs along for the ride. He leaned back, holding his upper body up with strong abdominals, reaching for a pink noodle from a stack on the grass, and then reversed the process, tipping himself fluently back into the glittering water. Pete grimaced. 

“He shouldn’t be doing that,” he sighed, scoffing. “He could hurt himself and not even know it.” 

“He’s a grown man, Pete,” she replied. 

“I know that, but he pushes himself too far sometimes,” he pressed back. 

“He probably knows his limits better than anyone,” she countered. Pete stood up straight and turned around abruptly, facing the house, his back to Will. 

“I know, it’s just so hard to watch him sometimes…” he hesitated and rubbed his face with his hands. “It breaks my heart.” 

“Imagine,” Scottie supposed softly, “how hard it is for him to watch you.” Pete turned to look at her feeling slightly ill at what she’d just said. The queasiness threatened to overtake him as he considered what his life might have been had the roles been reversed. He quaked just thinking of the resentment that would plague his insides. 

It became clear to Scottie, through his suddenly pale and wide blue eyes, that this was the first time that he was imagining just that.  


  1. This time, really, tears filled my eyes and spilled :'(
    Thank you.

  2. Excellent chapter! Please don't stop, I look forward to next Thursday...

  3. This is my favorite chapter of any story ever! So many emotions. Thursday's are absolutely my favorite day of the week thanks to you! Thank you for giving us this amazing story!! ❤

    1. Wow! That is such high praise considering how many great stories are here. Thank you so much for reading and commenting—it means so much!

  4. Incredibly insightful and wonderful chapter!

  5. What a wonderful story. I would definitely buy a book from you. Please write one... I need more of you superb stories ;-)

    1. Chandelier, thanks for reading! And thanks for the encouragement. I’d love to write a book...we’ll have to see :)

  6. Loving this story, the depth of the characters and the blossoming relationship. I'm looking forward to seeing how things develop between Will and Pete as well as with Scottie now!

    Can't wait for next week.

    1. Thanks for reading, Beth. And thanks for the kind words. I’m excited to keep writing with so many people engaged and looking forward to Thursday’s!

  7. This was just so beautiful. All the feelings Gorgeous sentences for these complicated, wonderful characters. I agree, a book is needed .Its a heart tugger

    1. Ah thank you so much blueskye. Really happy you’re feeling everything with the characters. I’ve grown quite fond of them—even the difficult ones.

  8. Thanks so much for the great chapter!

  9. Beautiful, lovely, perfect. Reading this story is so easy, the writing is superb. I'm in love with it. And Will. Thank you!!