Mark sat at the edge of the small dance floor, watching his friends having fun out there. The alcohol had been making its rounds all night and it showed now in the way everyone was acting a fool.He had kept himself in check not overdoing it with the booze. His body wouldn’t take it very well. It was his 30th birthday and everyone had felt he needed to come out and party. They had basically forced him to celebrate his birthday despite his protest.
In a way they were right but it had taken a lot of convincing for him to come out to the bar. The last time he had actually celebrated his birthday had been for his 25th birthday. At that party he had had no idea that within the next five years his life would get turned completely upside down and he would soon be celebrating all his birthdays in the sitting position, watching life happen around him from the seat of a wheelchair.
It was shortly after his 27th birthday when he was riding in a Humvee in the convoy taking him and the Infantry unit he was assigned to, to their camp in the desert about two hours away. At least ten vehicles ahead of him unknowingly dodged the IED and with everyone ahead apparently making it safely along the dirt road, Sergeant Phillips, the driver of their Humvee seemed confident enough to roll along with the rest of the unit, edging through the dust and heat of the Afghan desert.
Mark didn’t even see it coming and the blast was enormous, throwing him against the roof of the vehicle, shrapnel flying all around him, screams of agony and pain disrupting the silent monotony of the convoy.
The unit quickly surrounded the blown-up vehicle in a protective perimeter, and with their M-16’s pointing at anyone trying to come closer and keeping native Afghan onlookers away.
The medics in the unit got there within moments and with all their gear tended to the casualties and the injured, all six of the soldiers in the Humvee having been affected by the blast. The Humvee was torn to shreds and so were Private Lopez and Sergeant Kemplin, dead on impact. The IED explosion had ripped their bodies apart like paper.
Mark remembered seeing Sergeant Phillips lying close to him screaming in terror over and over again that they had hit an IED. He was in complete shock; his arms having been torn off still holding the steering wheel and now scattered among the pieces of the Humvee and not attached to Sergeant Phillips anymore. Sergeant Wilkins and Lieutenant Glover were crawling from the burning pieces of metal, some of it lodged in their skin and as Sergeant Wilkins made his way over to Mark, Lieutenant Glover tended to Sergeant Phillips trying to apply tourniquets to the two bleeding stumps that were left of his arms.
While the unit kept securing the perimeter the medics saved four lives, stabilizing them to be airlifted by helicopters to the nearest Military airfield.
Mark remembered silence surrounding him shortly after he saw an armless Sergeant Phillips close to him. It was a silence like he was underwater, like he knew there were voices but they were suppressed to an extent where he couldn’t make out words or commands. He also felt like his head was detached from his body. His body had felt like a piece of lead, fixed to the ground, no movement possible and needing to be lifted by four medics onto the stretcher that would take him into the helicopter. He passed out during the transport into the helicopter, strapped down and his head held immobilized in a cervical collar, three medics running alongside him, one holding an IV bag while moving. The last thing he remembered were the helicopter blades spinning over him like four gigantic knives getting closer and closer and seemingly about to cut him to shreds as well.
When he finally somewhat came to he woke up in a US Military hospital in Germany, the place where they all ended up before being transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center in the US.
He was in an ICU hospital bed, a Halo drilled into his skull, preventing any movement of his head, a back brace keeping his body still, bandages around his hands and one leg in a full-length cast. It wasn’t the broken leg that bothered him or the bandages around his hands cut from the shrapnel but the Halo was serious and he knew it the moment he realized the fixture on his head.
When the doctor told him his diagnosis he wasn’t too shocked because he had expected it. The emotions overcame him after the doctor had left his room, leaving him with the words, “You will be all right son. You can still live a fulfilling life being paraplegic. At least you survived with all your limbs still attached. Remember you did this for your country and people will recognize you for that.”
This was almost three years ago and now he sat here trying to remind himself that he had done this for his country but he couldn’t really find the connection and while watching his friends slow dance with their wives or the girls they had brought or met at the bar, Mark took a large sip of the beer in his hand. He was on his third cold one for the night but it didn’t really compromise his judgement yet. Even after the injury he was still able to drink quite a bit but nowadays his body would usually make him suffer in the form of severe spasticity if he did overdo the booze or the beer so he stayed away from it mostly.
He had come out of the whole ordeal with a Spinal Cord Injury, completely severing the cord at the T-4 vertebrae from the impact of his head and chest hitting the roof of the Humvee. When the rest of the vehicle shot upwards in the blast it compressed his spine crushing him between the top and the bottom of the vehicle. He had been lucky that he hadn’t injured his Spinal Cord further up in his neck. His neck had merely been broken but there had been no injury to the Spinal Cord. Even in the trauma he had endured it could have actually been a lot worse. He was still able to move his hands and arms and live mostly independent.
Mark finished his beer and set the empty bottle on the table next to his wheelchair. He was done drinking and he was almost ready to go home. The driver for his ride home was still out on the dance floor, one of his best friends, Patrick with his girlfriend Jessica. He had left his own car at home that night since his friends had insisted they would take him out and Mark should be able to drink if he wanted to because it was his birthday.
Out of nowhere the woman appeared. He hadn’t seen her in the place before.Her voice was soft, “Hey.”
Mark looked up at the girl somewhat surprised, “Hey.”
She stood there in front of him wearing a very short black leather skirt and a glitzy green tank top. Her straight red hair was down to her waist. She had a small purse over her shoulder. Her legs were bare and smooth looking and ended with her feet in some very high heeled black sandals, straps wrapping around her calves where they were fastened right under the knee.
He quickly scanned her up and down and really didn’t know what to think of the girl and the situation. He hadn’t been with anyone in a while and was open to maybe have a little flirt or conversation.
The red head asked, “What’s your name?”Mark couldn’t help grin a little at her bluntness and asked in return, “What’s your name?”
She smiled a seductive smile, “I asked you first…”
He smiled and nodded in agreement, “Okay, fair enough. I’m Mark. Now you…”
Chiara looked over at the empty bottle and then back at Mark.He understood the hint and asked her, “Can I buy you a drink?”
At her nod Mark spun his wheelchair around lifting his caster wheels off the ground for a wheelie at the same time and made his way to the bar, Chiara coming up behind him.The bar was somewhat high for him but as Chiara stood next to him he told her, “Tell’em what you want and could you order me another Sapphire please.”
Chiara ordered their drinks and when the bartender set them on the counter, Mark held a twenty dollar note up to him and the bartender took the money from his hand and Mark told him to keep the change.
Chiara took her cocktail glass with some mixed drink she had ordered and was about to hand Mark his beer when he said, “Let’s move away from the bar and find a chair you can sit on so you can be face to face with me.”
He wheeled ahead and found a small table with two chairs close to where he was originally sitting with his friends. He was able to wheel up to the table and Chiara sat down in the chair next to him.Mark leaned forward some with the bottle in his hand. She tapped her glass against his bottle and without moving their eyes from each other they both drank.
When she set down her glass, her eyes stayed on him serious and seductive.Mark wiped over his mouth with his hand, and shook his head some trying to figure out what was going on but smiling at her, “So, do you come here a lot?”
Chiara shook her head and answered, “No, it’s my first time.”
Mark still smiled, “Really? Well, I guess that’s a good thing for me then.”
She smiled but then looked away shyly at his comment.
She didn’t say anything and he wasn’t all the way sure how to start a conversation. He had been out of practice for a long time when it came to talking to women. Since his accident he had only had one semi relationship with a girl he had met during rehab. They had a couple of months where she tried to make him feel better about his new identity but in the end the whole relationship wasn’t built on love but on some kind of sexual experiment that back fired on Mark because he realized he wasn’t capable of lots of things in the bed anymore that had been a very normal thing for him before he got injured. Since the realization of this harsh truth he had mostly stayed by himself and only flirted here or there with a girl but not letting them get much closer to him than maybe some kissing.
Now with Chiara next to him he wasn’t sure what to say. After all she had approached him and now stayed somewhat silent as he felt a little nervous.He took another sip and met Chiara’s eyes on him when he set the bottle down.
She moved her hand to his on the table and stroked over it softly, then looked at him and said, “You’re really hot.”Mark looked from their hands up to her and said somewhat unsure, “Thanks...you’re very beautiful.”
She took her hand from his and leaned over closer to him, then moved her mouth next to his ear and said, “You’re especially hot in your wheelchair.”
He wasn’t sure what to think about her direct comment and kept his eyes down as she stayed next to his ear and whispered, “Let’s go outside away from all these people.”
Her hand softly brushed over his face as she moved away and she just looked at him waiting for his reaction.Mark felt nervous now because he didn’t know what to make of Chiara’s direct approach and what all this was about. She didn’t wait for his reply though and got up, ready to head outside.
He looked over toward the seats where he was with his friends earlier and he saw Patrick and Jessica sitting there and Patrick met his eyes. Just then his other three friends came back from the dancefloor and everyone watched as Mark gestured from Chiara towards the door, somehow trying to convey to them that he was about to get some fresh air with this woman by his side.
All of them grinned and laughed and gave thumbs up. It was such an odd situation and even though Mark was nervous at what Chiara expected outside he didn’t want to decline spending some time with her alone, maybe getting to know her some more. He had no idea who she was and what she wanted with him.
She walked in front of him and Mark was eye level with her legs and feet with painted toe nails in the high heel sandals. She seemed wrongly dressed for the bar environment where the girls really only wore blue jeans and tank tops. Mark saw guys check her out as she confidently made her way toward the door and with that keeping a path for Mark following in his wheelchair, pushing his rims hard to keep up with her. He couldn’t really make any sense from the situation.
Outside Chiara walked down the ramp and he followed her, partly off his casters and partly on them, holding his rims to break the speed going down the ramp. She turned around and smiled at him and he followed her like a puppy trailing a treat.
Something about the situation kept his mind occupied. Chiara looked around some on the bottom of the ramp and then made her way behind the building to a small park lined with trees and brush, even a few vacant picnic tables.
She leaned on a tree with the glass in her hand as Mark wheeled up and a little out of breath parked close to her, “You really hurried to get out of there, didn’t you?”“Well, I wanted to be alone with you.”
He had held his beer bottle in between his thighs and now took another sip from the bottle, then holding it in his hands on his lap.
Chiara looked down to the ground and to Mark’s surprise she sat down on the grass. It was still a warm early autumn night but he really didn’t know how this was going to go down. She started to unstrap her sandals.
When she patted the grass next to herself, he was definitely caught off guard, “Why don’t you sit down next to me?”He looked down to her, “Sit down…on the grass?”
She nodded, “Yes, you can get out of your chair, can’t you?”
Mark’s voice sounded somewhat shaky, “Ahem, yes, I can get out of my chair but it involves some difficulties and for me to get down on the ground like that will be a bit tricky and especially getting back up into my chair again.”
Chiara looked at him with a seductive smile, “Would you do it for me?”
Mark was hesitant, “Well, before I get down on the ground, why don’t you tell me a little bit more about yourself? I don’t get down on the ground for just anyone.”
Chiara lowered her eyes and took a sip from her glass. She didn’t answer him though and Mark was concerned that he had sounded rude with his comment and in a friendlier tone he explained, “I mean, I would love to get down there with you…but it’s a little bit an issue. I wish you would tell me a little bit about yourself. Are you from here?”
She looked up at him and then to his surprise she came over to him and kneeled in front of him on the ground and without saying anything she let her hands run over his legs and her eyes stayed down watching her hands on his jeans.
She almost whispered, “I would love to make your birthday special.”
When he heard her say “birthday” he stopped her hands from moving over his legs and asked tense, “Hold up! What do you mean with making my birthday special?”
He held her hands by her wrists and she looked up a little nervous and said lowly, “Ooopseee…”
Mark felt a slight anger creep up and asked tensely, “Who are you?”
She hushed, “Just a girl.”
He still held her hands and his grip got tighter as she pulled her hands away from him, “Ouch, you’re hurting my wrists.”
He quickly let go of her hands and shook his head some, “I’m sorry, but how do you know it’s my birthday? Why can’t you just tell me who you are?”
She looked up at Mark and said somewhat sternly, “Because it doesn’t matter who I am. This is about you and giving you a good time. Tell me Mark, how can I make your birthday special? Are things still working for you? I would really love to give you a good time.”
Everything started to dawn on him and he definitely felt irritated now, “What the hell are you talking about?”
Instead of answering though Chiara tried again and moved her slender hands up to his thighs, letting her hands rub over his legs and toward his crotch.
She whispered, “Can you feel any of that?”
Mark couldn’t control his temper anymore and pushed his rims backwards, making his wheelchair back up from Chiara. She balanced herself and with a sigh stood up.
Mark asked, “Who the fuck are you and what do you want from me?”
Chiara was definitely beautiful in a naughty way and even though he didn’t mind the view at all, the situation did cause him stress and anger.
Instead of answering though Chiara started wriggling her tank top over her head exposing two perfect breasts held by a skimpy looking black lace bra. In between her breasts she had a tattoo of an angel with the wings halfway covering her breasts. On her flat stomach she had a group of butterflies etched into her otherwise pale skin.
“You can have me Mark, any way you want.”Mark left his hands on his rims, about to make his get a way and she added, “How about a blow job? Would that be something for you?”
Mark couldn’t control his anger anymore now, “No, a fucking blow job is nothing for me either. You need to get out of here and leave me alone. Whatever your fucking deal is I don’t know but I’m out.”
He started to spin his wheelchair around and Chiara sounded nervous, “Mark, wait!”
He already had his back turned to her, “What?”
“Please turn around.” Her voice was trembling and soft.
Mark spun his wheelchair around again facing Chiara. She had slipped into her tank top again and was digging around in her purse.
Eventually she pulled out money and she shyly walked over to him and handed him the money, “Here you go. I can’t take it.”Mark looked at the money dumb founded and asked with a tense sigh, “Can you please tell me what is going on?”
All the sudden she sounded different, more personal and also shy and weary when she explained softly, “Mark, I’m a hooker. Your friends wanted to do something special for your birthday and this is why I’m here. I’m sorry you had no clue and it didn’t work out. This is the money I got paid to do you a favor and I can’t take it.”
He laughed lowly with sarcasm, “What the fuck? Who paid you?”
“Some of your friends. I’m sorry.”
She stepped closer and held the money toward him. When he didn’t take it, she dropped it on his lap and grabbed her high heels and purse from the grass. As she walked by him, she let her hand brush over his cheek once again, “You’re a very attractive guy and I’m sorry it didn’t work out. I would have loved to see you get down onto the grass with me. Even just to hang out and talk.”
With that she walked away, barefooted with her heels dangling from her hand and her red long hair flowing in the breeze. Mark turned around and looked after her.
He was still astonished about the situation and thoughts of “Why?” and “Who?” kept running through his head as he tried to make sense of how his friends could have thought to do him a favor with hiring a hooker to give him pleasure in some unknown ways.
He spun his wheelchair around all the way and saw Chiara walk away and he called after her, “Chiara, wait up!”She stopped in her pace and turned around with a smile that was lined with sadness though.
Mark started with a stutter, “I’m sorry too…I had no idea and…and I didn’t know how to act. I haven’t been in any situations with…with women lately.”
Chiara smiled, “It’s all right. I get it, maybe your friends should have thought of another birthday present for you.”
All the sudden, he didn’t just want to see her leave and he felt bad for her in a way, “Maybe…but…you…”, he paused, took a deep breath and continued, “…you are very beautiful and I would have never guessed…that…” He stopped, feeling silly if he continued.
Chiara finished his sentence, “…that I was a hooker.” She smiled at him, “Thanks, that actually makes me happy.”
Then she walked away and Mark tried to think of something else to say. He didn’t have any words,
With his hands on his push rims and his mind racing with thoughts of what to do or say he just watched her walk away. He stuffed the money in his jeans pocket and pushed his rims to set his wheelchair in motion. Chiara was jogging over the parking lot and in the distance, Mark saw a male figure leaning on the side of a car, smoking a cigarette and blowing the smoke up in the air.
As Chiara reached the person Mark saw them exchange a few words and was shocked when he witnessed the guy slap her face a few times, causing Chiara to tumble slightly and then he saw her walk around to the side of the car where she got in the passenger side.
When Mark saw the guy hit Chiara he pushed his rims harder and wheeled over the parking lot with speed trying to get to the car. At the same time, he didn’t know what he would be doing if he would get to the car and to the guy that had slapped her. Nowadays he was not exactly a predator anymore but much more the prey.
He barely got out of the way as the car fiercely backed out of the parking space and took off with squealing wheels.
Mark was angry and mad and all he could do to express his emotions was curse loudly, “Fuck!”
He pulled the money out from his pocket and with shaky hands he counted and came up with $ 250. It was money that Chiara had lost out on because of his not letting her do the job she was hired for. It was money that her pimp had lost out on but she was obviously paying for it with his abuse.
Now his birthday had turned from somewhat all right to being a disaster. In a way he was angry at his friends who had arranged for Chiara. How could they have thought he would go for something like that?
He pondered going back inside the bar and throwing the money on the table and confronting them with their stupid idea but then again, he felt depressed and didn’t really feel like being around anyone for a moment longer.
He stuck the money back in his pocket and put his hands to his rims wheeling over to where a taxi was parked, waiting for customers. As the driver saw Mark approach he stepped out of his vehicle and came around to open the door for Mark to transfer into the backseat of the taxi. His wheelchair fit into the seat next to him and when the driver got in and turned around asking where he wanted to go Mark told him his address.
He couldn’t stop thinking about Chiara now and somewhat nervously he asked the taxi driver, “Excuse me, I have a question?”He saw the taxi driver look at him in the mirror, “Yes?”
“Do you know if there are any places in the city to find a girl for money?”
The taxi driver smiled into the mirror, “I do know of those places. Do you want to change your route sir?”
Mark sighed, “No, just wondering.”
The taxi driver stated, “It’s not too far from here, all our drivers know. It may cost a little extra if you want to go there though.”
“Okay, thanks, but I am sticking with my original route.”
Feeling the money in his pocket he couldn’t stop shaking the thoughts that maybe he needed to find Chiara and give her the money. He debated sending a group text to his friends that he was on his way home and maybe thanking them for the birthday present. With a sigh he dropped his phone next to him on the seat and didn’t send a message. He leaned his head back and let his mind spin as his legs were jumping up and down on the floorboard in front of him.