Chapter 32 – Final Chapter
Turning thirty-one felt different for Mark. He had regained some memories but some things still seemed lost and only sometimes he would get glimpses of things he had experienced in the past that he had forgotten about.
Then he would try his best to archive those memories in his mind and hoped that they would stick and he would always be able to remember them. But he could only hope, because his brain did betray him still, letting him get glimpses of things past, just to erase them again a few days later, sometimes a few hours later.
And sometimes it was the things that he really didn’t want to remember that stuck. And the dreams he had during his sleep were mostly nightmares still, and he would wake up in cold sweat and he knew he had been screaming because he would wake up and feel Chiara’s hand gently press onto his mouth, trying to keep his screams muffled so the neighbors wouldn’t wake up.
His medications only did so much to help him cope but it made life bearable. And when his memories ran in and out, came and went, the one thing that stayed a constant in his life was Chiara and her love for him, no matter how he was doing. She took every day at a time; she never knew how Mark would wake up and how he would feel. Sometimes he didn’t get up and she let him stay in bed, and sometimes she forced him to get up and get out of the apartment. It was difficult at times, but Chiara was always there for Mark.
Mark always remembered Chiara and he felt a deep love for her and he was thankful that she was there for him when he didn’t have anything to offer. Lots of times he just needed to feel her close by when he felt he was losing it or he was dealing with agonizing headaches even after he took his medications.
She was there and she would just sit or lay with him and they would maybe stay in bed and watch TV all day, or Mark would sleep, and she would sit in bed next to him with her lap top on her legs, working on her assignments and doing her homework. She spent some days in the actual class room at Seattle University but planned to take lots of classes online so she could be with Mark. She had signed up for their Associates Program and was planning to knock out all the classes for her Associates Degree as quick as possible so she could enroll in the Bachelors of Social Work Program.
Mark had good days and then they went out and enjoyed the outdoors and mingled with people or met up with their friends. Chiara’s medications worked well for her and she was actively taking part in life and getting things done.
With Mark having given up driving, Chiara had learned to drive the Challenger. She had tried everything to keep Mark driving but there had been a few more episodes, and he then insisted on her learning how to drive his car and he was from then only a passenger. He didn’t want to put Chiara in danger with him driving and even though it had had been painful for him, he had given up driving. The hand controls had come out of the car and now were waiting for a new owner at the local mobility store.
He still enjoyed sitting next to her and he would sometimes just look at her while they were driving around and he felt a deep love and strong connection to her after everything they had been through.
It was Mark’s thirty first birthday and he was blinking into the bedroom. He realized right away that his head didn’t hurt and it was a relief to wake up without pain. Living with the headaches had been exhausting and disabled him in other ways than just his paraplegia did. He realized Chiara wasn’t next to him and a faint smell of food reached his nose and he heard music playing and Chiara obviously handling dishes in the kitchen.
He pushed himself up on his elbows and looked around in the room, relieved that he knew where he was, that it was day time, and that he remembered the woman in the kitchen. And he also remembered it was his birthday. He pushed himself up on his hands and held himself there just looking into the room.
His TiLite was parked next to the bed. He looked over at the clock on the bedside table, it showed after ten o’clock.
He moved the blanket off his legs and pushed his legs over the edge of the bed, moving his body over at the same time. Pulling the wheelchair in position, he transferred over into it and pushed his rims, making his way into the bathroom.
Chiara was still in her sleep clothes and was preparing breakfast when Mark wheeled in. He was only in the shorts he had slept in and otherwise sat naked in his wheelchair. Standing at the Keurig coffee machine she glanced at him and smiled.
He was skinny nowadays, not eating a whole lot, and not feeling well a lot of times. But sitting there like this she was still stricken with him, how his skinny legs were perfectly aligned on the wheelchair, his naked feet placed side by side on the single foot rest, and how his hands gripped the push rims and the way he was always slightly hunched over.
He pushed the rims and came wheeling over into the kitchen, smiling at her.
As he reached her, she leaned down, put her hands on his thighs and looked at him smiling. Her red hair was in a lose, messy bun on her head and her green eyes dominated her fair skinned face with only the few freckles adding to it.
“I like how you come rolling in here with a smile on your face.”“Well, I woke up without a headache and I come in here smelling things and seeing beautiful things. I can only smile.”
Chiara laughed softly and he touched her waist as she leaned in and he said, “Beautiful things like you.”
“I look like a mess right now.”
“I love when you look like a mess that just climbed out of bed, especially since it is our bed.”
Chiara laughed again and she kissed him.
Mark then pulled her onto his lap and she said, “Happy Birthday.”“Thank you.”
They kissed again and then Chiara remarked, “It seems you had a good night. You didn’t wake up or anything or at least I didn’t hear anything.”
He nodded, “I did have a good night and I’m happy my head doesn’t hurt.”
Everything was better and easier when Mark woke up without pain. It made the whole day better. Chiara was glad that he felt good on his birthday morning.
“Well, I made breakfast for you.”
“I like the sound of that.”
“I like the sound of that.”
She climbed off his lap and Mark let her finish up the coffee and she then brought everything over to the dining table. A balloon with Happy Birthday was tied to one of the chairs and a note was dangling on it.
Mark pushed up to his spot at the table.Chiara had made French Toast and breakfast sausage and egg scramble. There was Orange Juice and Coffee and even fresh fruit cut up in a bowl.
Mark scanned over the table, “Wow, all that for me?”He grinned and Chiara smiled, “Well, I’m trying to lure you into eating, hopefully it works.”
She hadn’t prepared too much because she knew that he didn’t eat that much.
Mark smiled, “I’m actually hungry this morning.”“Good but before you eat, I want you to read the note on the balloon.”
Mark looked at the balloon and untied the note.
"My sweet Mark,
I want to wish you a happy birthday and this morning I woke up thinking about the first time we met on your birthday last year. At that time, I would have never dreamed how much of an impact you would have on my life and everything I had known until then.
You have awakened me in ways I could have never imagined and I’m beyond thankful that you’re in my life and that I get to wake up next to you every day. You came in as a light in my darkness and you are still and will always be everything I could wish for in a man.
For your birthday I wish nothing else but for your days to be filled with joy, for your health to be stable and your pain to be bearable on more days than less, for your dreams to come true, for us to be together for a long time, for you to be happy and for you to always know how much you mean to me.
I will never seize to love you with all my heart and I will be by your side forever.
Happy Birthday my love,
PS: After breakfast and after we are done showering, I am going to take you on a drive."
Chiara sat there with her hands in her lap having watched Mark read the letter and she saw how his hands trembled and how he carefully scanned over the note.
He looked up from the note now and his expression was serious. He set the note down and backed his wheelchair up from the table and nodded her to come over to him.
Chiara got up and walked around to him and right away he pulled her down onto his lap again and he pulled her to him and scanning her face with his blue eyes he said, “Thank you for loving me the way you do. I love you so much too.”
They fell into a long kiss and when they finally unlatched their lips, Chiara smiled, “Our breakfast is getting cold.”Mark smiled at her, “Yeah, but our kissing is always hotter than any breakfast.”
They laughed but Chiara scrambled off his lap and they started eating. Mark had a good appetite this morning, he felt good and strong and he was glad about this.
He had more bad days than good and when he felt good, he was almost back to his old self and he felt like he could be strong and get things done. But most of the times the good days only lasted a day or two and then he was back enduring pain and memory loss, confusion, and sometimes still light seizures or lots of spasms.
While they sat over breakfast Mark mentioned, “So tonight I guess the guys all want to meet at “Another Round” for my birthday.”“Another Round” was the bar Mark had met Chiara at a year earlier.
Chiara nodded with a bite in her mouth, “Yeah sure. I knew they wanted to celebrate your birthday.”
“So you’re okay going then?”
She nodded, “Of course.”
Mark’s lap top was next to him on the table and all the sudden it announced a Skype call coming in from Miriam.
Mark answered the call and his sister’s image appeared on the screen, “Miriam, hey!”Miriam smiled in the camera, “Hi little brother. Hi Chiara.”
Mark saw her kids in the background, “Hey you guys!”
They then all three started singing Happy Birthday and Mark watched and smiled at the small show. Chiara had moved her chair around some so she could also see Miriam and Miriam could see Chiara.
When they were done Mark thanked them and they started chatting.
Miriam was planning a trip to come visit Mark again at the end of the month for about two weeks. This time her kids were coming with her since they were still on summer break.
Mark had been very happy about the reconnection with his sister and they usually talked either on Skype or on the phone about three to four times a week. Miriam and Chiara had become good friends too and even when Mark didn’t feel good and didn’t talk much, lots of times Chiara chatted with Miriam and the two women had connected in a close friendship.
After breakfast they cleared the table and once the kitchen was done, they made their way into the bedroom. Chiara usually took a shower first because she was done quicker than Mark. This morning while she was brushing her teeth, he came wheeling up to the bathroom door and watched her from his wheelchair, just parked right there in the door frame. Chiara looked at him in the mirror with the tooth brush in her hand and foam in her mouth. She smiled and tilted her head at Mark.
He then pushed his rims and wheeled all the way into the bathroom. Chiara finished up with her teeth brushing and rinsed out her mouth, drying her face off.
She turned around to Mark, “Do you want to take a shower first?”“I want to take you one with you.”
Chiara now bit her lips and smiled, “Okay. What brings that on?”
He grinned at her, “An unexplainable burst of energy I’m feeling today, a thirst for you, and because I just want to start my birthday right.”
Chiara laughed softly and nodded, “Okayyyy. I like that you have such a burst of energy.”
Mark smiled and while Chiara made sure the shower chair was sturdy and positioned right, Mark wheeled up to the sink and brushed his teeth.
Chiara was slipping out of her sleep clothes when Mark was finished with his teeth brushing and he watched her as she stepped out of her pajama pants and then she stood there naked. He scanned her from head to toe and nodded with a grin.
“I’m feeling my energy increase by the second.”
Chiara laughed and she now watched how Mark wriggled his shorts over his butt and then let them slide down his legs. He leaned forward and pulled the shorts over his feet; they were now off the foot rest and just hung there. Chiara wanted to let him get on the shower chair first and she watched as he angled his wheelchair next to the shower chair and he then transferred over into it. He had the transfers down to every last move and was now sitting on the shower chair, still a little wobbly but he steadied his position and eventually was seated secure. Chiara stepped in, pulled the curtain closed, and she turned on the water and checked the temperature making sure it was comfortable.
Mark sat on his shower chair and his eyes travelled over her naked body right there in the shower with him. Chiara still had her hair up in a bun and she let the water run over herself. He never missed the small scars all over her body, reminders of her past and of the pain she had endured while she was with Trey. All her curves were just right, her skin was fair and smooth otherwise, a thin layer of light pubic hair covered her most intimate parts and her breasts were perfect sizes. Mark knew they fit in his hands just right, he had held and gently kneaded them many times.
He leaned back against the shower chair back rest, his hands resting in between his thighs and his legs in front of him, still and motionless. And he just let his eyes travel over Chiara’s body and watched the water run over her skin and drip from her breasts. She stood there right in front of him and she now looked down and smiled at him.
He pushed himself up some to sit more upright and balancing his seating with his left hand, he moved his right hand over to her hips. His eyes were on her pubes and he watched the water pearl over her pubic hair and run down her thighs. His hand gently traced over her hip bones and her flat belly with the butterfly tattoo.
Chiara looked down and watched him and she then let the water run over Mark’s shoulders, “Is the water comfortable for you?”Mark nodded and he took her hand and pulled on it, “Come down here so I can look at you.”
She let herself down and kneeled on the mat in front of him. Mark’s legs were just positioned there and falling apart, his knees pointing in opposite directions and he pushed them apart a bit more so Chiara could move closer to him in between his legs.
She now had his chest right in front of her eyes and she scanned over him. He was skinny but the small distended para belly was bulging out. She held the shower head still in her hand and now let the water run over Mark while her eyes scanned over his tattoos. She read the names of his fallen comrades inside the unit crest, she scanned over the various depictions of nature and animal tattoos.
She then let her hand run over his chest. Mark softly touched his hand to her face and he lifted her chin making her look up at him. His eyes seemed of a brighter blue in the dimly lit shower and his hair was dripping water a little. She didn’t plan to wash her hair and it was up on her head still in a bun, strands of it falling out, though framing her face.
They smiled at each other and Mark took the shower head from her and let some more water run over himself and then over Chiara, before he put the shower head in the holder on the wall.
The water was still spraying at them from the side now and Chiara sat up some more on her knees so she was closer to Mark’s face. Water glistened on their skin and Mark pulled Chiara to him. She moved all the way up to the shower chair and they fell into a kiss, the water running down between their bellies.
Mark held Chiara to him and his hands reached down to the soft curves of her behind and he grabbed her a bit tighter. Chiara had her arms around him holding him steady in her embrace, making sure he didn’t fall over to the side or slide off the chair.
They kissed for a long time, the shower was steamy and warm and their faces were glistening with a mixture of water and sweat. Mark slid forward some on the shower chair and Chiara felt his genitals touching her pubes. She felt a tremble pulsate through her body at feeling Mark’s soft cock gently pressing to her clit. His legs were positioned next to her hips, she was right in front of him. She pressed herself against him some more and held him to her at the same time.
He couldn’t move his hips to enforce any kind of friction on her clit so she held him tight and pulled him to the edge of the chair so she could rub herself against his sleeping cock. Her tits were pressed against his chest and they were kissing wild and passionately. Mark was running his hands up and down her back and forcefully grabbed her ass cheeks realizing Chiara pressing herself against him. The water was running in between them, keeping them warm and slick.
Chiara let her lips unlatch from Mark’s lips and now moved over to his ear and his neck, flicking his wet skin with her tongue. She nibbled on his ear lobe and his breathing quickened.
Her heart beat fast and her body trembled with feeling him so close. Mark latched his lips onto her neck and collar bone, biting her softly and with his kisses licking the salty moisture of sweat off her skin. He moved his hand around from her ass cheeks over her hip bones and let his hand slide in between them reaching her swollen pussy lips. Chiara pushed herself against his hand now, separating his limp cock from her clit.
She hushed into his skin, “Mark, I love you so much. You drive me crazy.”He smiled into the crease of her neck and bit her skin quickly, mumbling, “You’re so freaking hot. I wanted to give it to you in the shower today. I’ve thought about it for days.”
Chiara felt goose bumps on her skin at hearing him say the words. She smiled as she was nibbling on his ear lobe and licking his skin over to his chest.
His hand was exploring her girl parts and he ran his fingers along her engorged pussy lips, gently pressing his thumb to her clit, then rubbing around it. The water flowing between them enhanced the sensations she felt.
Her breaths came quickly and she kept lapping up the water from his chest, running her tongue over his pectorals and causing Mark chills on his arms. Her tongue flicked around his nipple and he felt a sudden stinging sensation run through his chest but disappearing into nothing right above his belly button. He paused his hand from tracing along her pussy for a moment and took in the sensation of Chiara biting his nipple and his breaths came quickly with his chest rising and falling.
He mumbled, “Chiara, shit…that feels so good.”
Chiara kept working his nipples and he held himself with his free hand on the handle in the shower wall. His eyes were closed as he was indulging in the sensation of arousal occupying his mind and wanting to release somehow.
He moaned softly and when she bit slightly harder, he even enjoyed the pain of it. He swallowed and his inhales and exhales took turns rapidly as Chiara licked his skin, bit him and pressed her tongue onto his nipple, then wrapping her teeth around it and with her finger tips carefully squeezing his other nipple at the same time.
Mark swallowed and hushed over her, “Shit…what are you doing?”
It was a curse of passion and pleasure and he wanted to keep her latched on to his nipples and the areas around them.
She did this for a while and Mark was sweating now and he felt his body vibrate at her working his nipples the way she did. And she let her free hand run up his neck and ruffled his hair, even pulling it slightly and Mark could only groan of the pleasure he felt.
He couldn’t focus on her pussy at the moment while Chiara was busy on him. It felt good for her too, she felt her pussy throb at sensing Mark’s tension and she pressed herself to his cock and created enough friction for herself that it stirred her arousal at the same time.
Mark was breathing quickly and he was dripping sweat now, his hair hung stringy into his eyes and he licked his lips as Chiara kept on feeding his mind with all kinds of images.
He barely managed to hush over her, “Let me put my fingers down there, I want to feel you from the inside. Don’t come without my fingers inside of you, I want to feel her close in around my fingers.”
Chiara heard him and moved away from him slightly, giving him enough space to move his hand back down there and he rubbed her right away and she felt her legs shake at the tension and the excitement.While she was still latched on to his nipples, taking turns with her tongue, teeth and mouth in general, Mark pressed his thumb to her clit again and then moved his fingers to her soaking wet opening.
He could barely breathe anymore at everything he felt and he wanted his arousal to go into areas that were out of reach for his brain now. It drove him crazy and without waiting much longer he pushed two fingers into her pussy and he felt the warmth enclose his fingers and the moisture run out already.
With his other hand he had to hold on to the handle but he really wanted to grab her ass.
He moaned under quick breaths, “Chiara, hold me up with your arms around my back.”
She moved her arms around him without losing the connection to his chest and Mark was able to let go off the handle and now moved his hand behind her and grabbed her ass, letting his fingers come very close to her other very intimate area in the back.
But he didn’t go there this time, but he did push a third finger into her pussy and now Chiara moaned on his skin, “Oh God Mark, I’m almost there.”He groaned as she bit his nipple and he hushed, “Good, that’s where I want you. And you’ll get it right here in the shower.”
Chiara felt his knees and legs next to her body, still and not moving, and she let the fact of his paraplegia penetrate her mind in harmony with Mark’s fingers penetrating her pussy, feeling her out and letting her experience the pressure of her opening filled out with almost his whole hand but he saved that for another time.
And her arousal built up within seconds picturing everything about Mark in her head and knowing that he was doing to her what he was always doing to her, bringing her to heights of extreme arousal with just his presence, but enhancing it with the physical explorations of her body and finding the path to her mind and to her heart, topping it off with skilled handling of her most intimate parts.
Her orgasm raced through her once again, she let her teeth loosen around his nipple, moaning into his chest and holding her arms wrapped tightly around his back, feeling scars of the damaged skin on his spine under her fingers, and giving him the stability he needed, to bring her over the edge. Mark’s face was next to her and he mumbled into her ear as he made her come hard, “Exactly how I wanted to start my birthday, give it to you in the shower and you making me feel my broken body in all the ways I can feel it.”
They stayed close to each other, the steam of the hot water surrounding them and moisten their skin with water mixing in with sweat. Chiara’s bun had come undone and her hair was falling over her back now, Mark ran his hand through her hair as he slowed the movement of his fingers inside her and let her relax into her subsiding orgasm.
She was breathing slower now, gently kissing his chest. They finally looked at each other and their faces were flushed and wet but their expressions were happy and content.
Mark let his fingers slide out of her, brought them up to his mouth, and with a grin he licked them off.
Chiara lowered her eyes embarrassed and laughed softly, “You’re so bad.”He smiled now, “I know.”
He then wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close and they gently and lovingly kissed.
“I love you Chiara.”“I love you.”
He smiled still, “Happy fucking birthday to me.”
They both laughed now and eventually did what they had set out to do in the shower initially, wash off and get ready for the day.
Chiara didn’t tell Mark where they were going when they sat in the car about two hours later. She pulled out of the apartment complex and made her way through town.
Even when Mark asked where they were going, she didn’t give it away and told him to be patient and not be so nosy.Mark sat back in the passenger seat of the Challenger and just watched the town go by outside his window.
Chiara had quickly picked up driving again once her leg had become better.
Physical Therapy had helped tremendously to get the strength in her leg back and she was not even always using the knee brace anymore. She still had to take it easy with walking and she could not run yet but she had improved very quickly and she turned out to be an excellent driver.
Once she had started practicing to drive with Mark next to her, she actually enjoyed driving again. The Challenger was a powerful car and it had become an inside joke between Mark and Chiara that since Mark had always referred to the Challenger as being female, Chiara and the car had now become besties, the two strong females in Mark’s life.
It had been difficult for Mark to be a passenger at first, but he trusted Chiara with her driving abilities and it had turned out that lots of times Mark just wasn’t capable to drive anymore with either his headaches too severe impacting his vision and ability to react quickly or just not remembering directions or where places were at.
Chiara was driving through town and he still wondered where she was going with him. She didn’t tell him anything and he was trying to figure out what direction they were going and where she could be heading.
It was when she pulled into the parking lot of the local animal shelter when he had an inkling what could be happening.
It was when she pulled into the parking lot of the local animal shelter when he had an inkling what could be happening.
She parked the car and they got out, Chiara waited for Mark to be in his wheelchair and before they went in, he looked at her, “What are we doing here?”She smiled, “You’ll see.”
At the entrance, Chiara opened the door for Mark and he pushed his rims and rolled into the lobby of the animal shelter. The building echoed with barking and lots of bustling noises.
The girl behind the reception looked up and smiled, “Hi there, may I help you?”Chiara stepped up to the counter, “I’m here for Silvia. My name is Chiara.”
“Oh yeah, let me get her for you.”
Mark just sat there watching and listening.
A few moments later a woman in an animal print scrub top came out, “Hi Chiara, how are you? It’s good to see you again.”Chiara greeted the woman in a familiar way and then Chiara turned to Mark, “Silvia, this is my boyfriend Mark.”
Silvia reached her hand out to Mark and they greeted each other.
She then said, “Okay, you guys. Are you ready to see him?”Mark looked at Chiara and she only nodded with a smile, “Yeah.”
They followed Silvia to the back and came to a door with a sign over it that read “Cat House”.They walked in behind Silvia when Mark met Chiara’s eyes and they smiled at each other.
Silvia led them to a room with several kennels on the wall and soft sounds of cats meowing were heard.
She walked directly to a kennel close to the floor on the bottom, “Here we are.”
Mark watched as she opened the kennel door and right away a small black cat with yellow eyes looked out suspiciously.Chiara glanced over at Mark to see his reaction.
He looked at the little kitten looking out and Chiara stepped next to him and took his hand, “Happy Birthday babe!”
Mark was surprised and only smiled at Chiara, then watched as Silvia was talking to the kitten, “Come on out you little fur ball.”
The kitten didn’t come out yet and still only peeked its small face out of the kennel, sniffing the area and suspiciously looking at the humans.Mark looked up at Chiara questioning, then back at the kitten.
Chiara let go of his hand and squatted down to eye level with the kitten, “Hey there little one, are you ready to go home?”
Silvia stood by smiling now. Chiara stretched her hand out to let the kitten sniff it and when Mark moved in his wheelchair the kitten dashed back into the kennel.
Silvia then said, “You can get him out Chiara. It’s okay.”
Chiara carefully moved closer to the kennel and she got a hold of the kitten and Mark watched as she turned around to him, still squatting and as he carefully pushed his wheelchair closer, she set the kitten onto his lap.
Mark took a deep breath and looked at the black kitten on his lap and he remembered how he had found Ranger. Ranger had been older already whereas this cat on his lap was still a kitten and now it meowed softly and he put his hands around it. He felt the smooth fur and it brought back memories of how he used to pet Ranger and how it always calmed him down when he felt tense. He had the same feeling now again, touching this little kitten.
Chiara was watching him and said softly, “It’s a boy and he doesn’t have a name yet.”
Mark didn’t really know what to say about this, he was letting his hand run over the kitten and it seemed to take a liking to it and stayed on his lap curiously sniffing him.
Mark said lowly, “Hey there little guy.”Silvia now explained, “He was found two weeks ago in a parking lot by the mall, roaming around the cars. He most likely was born somewhere amongst the cars. There were four of them. He’s about eight to ten weeks old.”
Mark looked over at Chiara who was still squatting on the ground.
Looking from the kitten on his lap to him she said, “Do you like him?”
Mark just nodded and his hand ran over the cat’s back. The kitten now had rolled up on his lap and was pressing his little paws into Mark’s thighs, the sharp claws penetrating his jeans.
Chiara now touched Mark’s knee watching the kitten on his lap, “What do you think?”Silvia walked toward the door, “I’ll give you guys some time with him.”
Chiara smiled, “Okay, thanks Silvia.”
Silvia walked out and Chiara turned to Mark again, “So?”
Mark petted the kitten and it meowed softly, but it didn’t move and it seemed to enjoy the touching and the attention. Its paws were gently pressing into Mark’s thighs but he didn’t feel the sharp claws and could only hear the kitten snatch his jeans as it stepped.
Chiara watched the kitten for a moment and then turned to Mark, “It’s not a final decision yet or anything. I wanted you to see him and I wanted it to be today on your birthday. I didn’t want to just do it without your opinion but I think he likes you already.” She smiled.Mark nodded and looked at her, “I think I like him too.”
Chiara now let her fingers run over the kittens back, its fur was soft and slick, completely black and it’s yellow eyes were thin slits now like it was going to fall asleep any moment.”
She ran her fingers over Mark’s arm then, “So?”“I think we should give him a home.”
Chiara smiled and nodded, “I think so too.”
Mark’s hand was still gently running over the kitten’s back and it felt good.
About forty-five minutes later and they sat in the car and Mark had the cat on his lap. It didn’t try to go anywhere or climb around in the car but stayed curled up on Mark’s lap. Feeling the softness of its fur under his hand made him feel content and calm, it felt good for him. They could have boroughed a small carrier from the shelter but had decided not to.
Mark stayed in the car when Chiara made a stop at the supermarket to get some cat food, a small litter box and cat litter with it. Mark still had things from Ranger at the apartment. Ranger’s cat bowls were still there and even the cat tree Ranger liked so much was still in the apartment. It had been set aside in the corner of the dining area, out of the way and out of sight somewhat.
When they got home, Mark handed the cat to Chiara before he transferred into his wheelchair.
Chiara was going to carry the cat inside but Mark said, “Give him here, I’ll hold him on my lap again.”
And the cat didn’t try to run or get away but let Mark put him back on his lap and stayed there as Mark wheeled to the apartment door and unlocked it. It curiously stretched its head up to see what was going on but stayed on Mark’s lap.
Chiara was getting the things she had bought out of the car and followed him in, quickly closing the door behind them so they cat couldn’t run out.
Inside Mark was talking to the cat, “There you go buddy, this is your new home.”
The little cat stayed on his lap and Mark pushed his rims, rolling through the apartment and showing the cat the rooms. Chiara was amazed that the cat stayed with him like that and she got busy unpacking the litter box and setting it up.
Mark came back into the living room and the cat was still on his lap, “He doesn’t want to get off my lap.”Chiara petted the cat and smiled, “I guess he’s already attached to you.”
She glanced at the litter box, “Where do you want to set it up?”
Mark thought about how things used to be set up for Ranger, “Probably best in the corner over there.”
He pointed to a corner close to the entrance door.
Chiara took the litter box over there and Mark rolled up behind her still talking to the cat, “So this is your toilet, little guy.”Mark now put the cat down on the ground and Chiara gently pushed it toward the litter box, “Go in there, little buddy.”
The kitten cautiously walked around the litter and sniffed it and after a few moments it clumsily climbed in and as Mark and Chiara stood by and watched, it actually used the litter.
Chiara smiled, “Well, that’s awesome. It’s already trained.”“Cats are pretty smart.”
When the cat was done, it scratched around in the litter box and covered up its business. Chiara and Mark then watched it roam and sniff around the apartment. Chiara sat down on the couch and Mark was parked next to her as the cat was exploring the living room and kitchen.
Chiara looked over at Mark, “Well, happy birthday again!”He glanced at her and pushed his rims rolling closer to the couch and reaching for Chiara’s hand, “Thanks.”
Just then the cat came back to where they were and to their surprise it jumped right up on Mark’s lap and meowed at him.
Mark smiled and petted it again, “Yeah, what’s up little guy? Do you like this place?”
He kept talking to the cat and Chiara just watched him interact with the little animal. He seemed happy and content.
Mark eventually said, “I guess we could pull the cat tree back into the living room by the window.”“I remember that’s where you had it in your old apartment.”
Mark nodded, “Yeah, Ranger really liked sitting in it and looking out.”
Chiara got up, “I can pull it in here.”
The little cat stayed on Mark’s lap as he watched Chiara pull the large cat tree from the corner in the dining area and over the floor back into the living room. She pushed the cat tree in the corner by the window and Mark rolled up to it talking to the cat, “You can use this thing, it’s yours little guy.”
Chiara sat back down on the couch and smiled, “Maybe we should give it another name, not only little guy or little buddy or something. Do you have any ideas?”
Mark smiled at her and thought while petting the cat, “I don’t know really.”
Chiara also didn’t have any ideas but she said with a small laugh, “Well, we have Maddy in the bedroom.”
Mark looked over at her, “Yeah, based on your middle name. I don’t have a middle name.”
“He was most likely born in a parking lot at the mall…” Chiara couldn’t think of anything.
Mark stated, “I guess it would be good to know under what model car it was born.”
Chiara laughed, “You would name it after a car.”
Mark shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know, just trying to think of something.”
Chiara sat there and thought about any ideas for a name.
In her head she was running through ideas and Mark sat there watching the kitten and thinking of names while it explored and sniffed around the apartment
Chiara then suggested, “Since it was at the mall how about O’Malley.”Mark looked over at her and he nodded, “That’s actually a cool name.”
Chiara then smiled, “It’s also a cat name in a Disney movie I used to love watching as a kid.”
Mark smiled at her, “Okay, let’s name him O’Malley.”
The kitten now came over toward Mark again and it rubbed around the foot rest of the wheelchair and Mark looked down to it, “Hey little guy, you have a name now.”
The kitten meowed and with his yellow eyes looked up at Mark, “Are you hungry O’Malley?”
Chiara laughed and asked, “Do you think it’s a good idea?”
“Yeah, I like it.”
She then got up, “Well, I guess a small celebration is called for, let me get him some food.”
In the kitchen Chiara got some food into a bowl for the cat and as she stood by the breakfast bar she asked into Mark’s direction, “Should I put the bowls here?”
It was the same spot where Mark had kept Ranger’s bowl in the old apartment and he nodded.
Chiara set the bowls down, “Here O’Malley, get some kibbles.”
Mark spun his wheelchair around and watched as O’Malley made his way hesitantly over toward Chiara but as soon as he sniffed the food, he stuck his little head into the bowl and they heard him crunching on the kibbles.
Not to startle the cat, Chiara walked over to Mark in the living room and he right away pulled her down onto his lap and they both watched O’Malley for a moment before he turned to look at Chiara, “Thank you.”“You’re welcome, Happy Birthday again.”
Mark pulled her close to him, “I love you.”
“I love you.” They kissed while O’Malley was enjoying the food.
O’Malley explored the apartment the rest of the afternoon and Mark either watched him, petted him or talked to him. He realized how having a cat in the house again actually felt good and it calmed his mind and loosened him up. Chiara was happy that the cat seemed to attach himself to Mark already. It had been her hope that the cat would be good for Mark and help him on days that maybe weren’t good. In the coming fall semester, she was planning to spend some more time in the classroom and she wanted Mark to have a companion again.
At the bar that night all of their friends were there, sitting around a large table and having a good time celebrating Mark’s birthday with him.
Chiara was chatting happily with Jessica and Mitch’s now steady girlfriend Tara, and across the table she met Mark’s eyes on her. He was parked with his TiLite at the table and he had been watching her and feeling very happy. It had been a good day for him and looking at Chiara now he realized once again how beautiful she was and how much she meant to him. It was the right night for it all.
Chiara smiled at him from across the table and Mark then nodded toward the door while looking at her. Chiara tilted her head questioning and he then pointed from her to himself and then toward the door to go outside. Chiara smiled and she then talked to the women for a moment before she got up and came over to Mark.
She leaned down to him and said into his ear, “You’re really hot.”
Mark grinned as she flicked his ear quickly without anyone noticing.
She then added, “Especially in your wheelchair.”
He still smiled. Chiara’s perfume surrounded him and he faintly smelled the alcohol on her breath as she leaned next to his face. They had caught a ride with Patrick and Jessica so Chiara could drink something and didn’t have to drive that night.
Her long hair tickled his arm as she was right there in front of him, looking at him with her green eyes. The bar lighting was dim, a disco ball was over the small dance floor, the light was reflecting in her eyes. Mark said, “Let’s go outside away from all these people.”
Chiara smiled mischievously and Mark put his hands to his push rims and he nodded her to go in front of him. Quickly Mark told his friends that they would be outside for a little while and everyone smiled.
He then followed behind Chiara through the crowded bar. She wore tight jeans and he had her behind right in his line of view. Her feet were in heels and she wore a tank top. Mark watched her as she walked in front of him. The crowd dispersed as she came through and cleared the path for him at the same time.
Chiara walked down the ramp and Mark followed behind her, partly on and off his caster wheels, holding the push rims back to break the speed of his descend down the ramp.Chiara turned around and smiled at him, then quickly made it to the bottom of the ramp. Her long hair was flowing behind her and Mark followed her to the back of the building where she then leaned on a tree and watched him roll up.
She looked him up and down. Mark sat there in his TiLite, wearing jeans, his good sneakers and a black T-Shirt with a button up shirt over it, sleeved rolled up and unbuttoned. Strands of his bangs were hanging into his forehead and he scanned Chiara with his blue eyes and when their eyes met, they smiled at each other.
Mark now watched as she slipped the heels off her feet, keeping her eyes on him the whole time.
She let herself down onto the grass and her green eyes flickered in the street light, “Why don’t you sit down next to me?”Mark rubbed his chin and grinned at her, “Sit down on the grass?”
Chiara smiled seductively, running her fingers through her hair and gazing at Mark, “Yes, you can get out of your wheelchair, can’t you?”
Mark now lowered his eyes and smiled as memories of a night very similar to this one came into his mind.
He nodded with a grin, “Yes, I can get out of my wheelchair but I don’t get down on the ground for just anyone.”
Chiara now laughed softly as she also remembered these same words coming from Mark a year earlier when things were so different.
She now crawled over to him and was on her knees in front of him, looking up at him with big, green eyes, her red hair framing her face.
Her hands were on his knees and she looked up at him, “How can I make your birthday special?”
Mark exactly remembered this line and his heart beat faster now as he moved his hand behind himself on the wheelchair seat and then pulled out the small box.Chiara’s mischievous and seductive smile now turned into an expression of nervous anticipation. Mark sat there slightly hunched over holding the small box in his hand.
Chiara felt her hands tremble on his knees, her heart was beating in her neck now and she swallowed as Mark fiddled with the small box and opened it right there on his lap in front of her.
As he opened the lid, a beautiful silver ring inset with green gemstones was embedded in the box and at seeing it, Chiara felt her vision get blurry.
Mark cleared his throat, all the sudden he felt nervous himself, and he then looked at Chiara and started, “I have an idea how you can make my birthday special.”
Chiara shook her head in disbelief at the anticipation of what he was going to say.
Chiara shook her head in disbelief at the anticipation of what he was going to say.
Mark swallowed trying to sound confident.
He took a deep breath but couldn’t help the trembling of his voice, when he said, “Chiara, it has been exactly a year ago when I met you for the first time. Back then I had no idea how you would change my life but I knew when I laid eyes at you for the first time that there was something about you that I needed. It was something about the way you looked at me like no other woman had looked at me anymore after I had ended up in a wheelchair, paralyzed. It was the attention you paid me and how your eyes were observing and curious at meeting me. There was something special I felt at that moment and I just felt the need to get to know you and find out why you made me feel different than any woman I had met before. I used to be a different person until I got injured and became paraplegic and I also used to be different until I met you. You struck something inside of me that had been lost and you gave me a purpose again. I was determined to meet you and it was difficult when you were lost to me again for a while but I couldn’t stop thinking about you, and I wasn’t going to stop until I found you again. I needed to know why you looked at me in that special way and what it was about you that made me feel different. My life changed when I met you and I know it has been difficult and I know I’m once again different than I was before but you made my life complete when you came into it and I hadn’t felt whole for a long time.”
He paused and swallowed again. Chiara sat there watching him and her eyes were filled with tears and she tried to smile.
Mark then nodded and with a sigh continued, “Over the past couple of months even though it has been painful and hard, you were there for me twenty-four seven and I can’t imagine being without you ever again. You’re the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. I love you so much and you complete me. I really hope you want to spend your life with me and make me the happiest and most complete man in the world. I promise I’ll do anything in my power to make you the happiest woman in the world and I hope I can complete you in the same way.”
He stopped and took a trembling breath, “Chiara Madison, do you want to be my wife?”
Tears were streaming over Chiara’s face, she sniffled her nose but smiled under tears, bursting out, “Oh my God Mark, yes, I want to be your wife and nothing would make me happier than to spend the rest of my life with you and by your side as your wife.”
Mark now smiled and nodded while he took the ring out of its bed with trembling fingers himself. He then took Chiara’s slender left hand in his and gently slipped the ring onto her ring finger. It fit perfectly.
He looked up at her from under his bangs, “I love you Chiara.”She sniffled her nose again, “I love you Mark.”
He then gently wiped a few tears away, “Don’t cry.”
Chiara could barely speak, “Tears of absolute joy.”
He smiled and ran his fingers through her hair.
They looked at each other and then Mark said softly, “And I may actually get down on the ground next to you if you want. I don’t do it for just anyone but I will do it for my future wife.”
Chiara now laughed under tears and backed up some from Mark. Mark set the break on his wheelchair. She watched as he first pulled his legs up some with his hand under his knees and let his feet slide off the single foot rest and they now touched the grassy ground, but visibly had no grounding or weren’t going to support Mark’s body.
He then pushed his butt forward on the seat and his legs flopped over to the side. He leaned forward somewhat far and with a fist toward the ground he then pushed his butt off the wheelchair seat, his fist bracing his coming off the wheelchair and now his whole body sensibly slid to the ground while his legs just followed along.
Chiara was sitting on her knees by the tree and she felt her heart beat into her neck at watching him get on the ground. He was taking some quick breaths in the process of vacating his TiLite. His jeans were jumbled around his legs and now he sat there on the ground holding himself up with his hands by his side.
He turned his head to look at her and under his bangs his eyes flickered at the knowledge how Chiara felt about all of this. And Chiara’s heart was racing as she witnessed how he then pulled his butt across the ground and dragging his still legs along with it as he made it over to the tree and finally leaned on the trunk of it with some deep breaths and looking at Chiara who was next to him on her knees still, barefoot, her heels strewn on the grass next to them.
Their eyes met and she now moved over to him and as he sat there, he asked her with a grin, “Did you like this?”
She could only nod and he then pulled her to him and before he kissed her, he said, “Good, you’ll be seeing this paraplegic dude for the rest of your life. You are and will always be the only person who I will ever get down on the ground for.”
Mark then pulled Chiara to him and they fell into a long kiss sealing their love for each other. Chiara felt the ring on her finger as she had her arms around Mark’s neck.
The ring was soon going to be joined by a matching piece that would forever bear witness to love prevailing against all odds, and through the good and bad, sealing the ultimate bond of Chiara and Mark for a very long time.