Friday, October 20, 2017

Will Love Prevail - Chapter 9


Chapter 9

In Olympia Chiara felt safe to pull off and check out the mall there. She had been quiet and Mark wasn’t sure if he had said anything wrong. He found a disabled parking spot close to the main entrance and once he was parked and had the car turned off, he looked over to Chiara, “Would you mind getting the disability placard out of the glove box?”

Chiara found the placard, realizing that Mark apparently didn’t normally have it dangling on the rearview mirror. She didn’t hand it to him but attached it to the mirror herself.
He smiled at her, “Thanks.”
“You don’t always keep it there?”
“No, I try to keep it on the low I guess.”
Chiara smiled, “Don’t.”
Mark now laughed softly, “I feel it messes up my car.”
Chiara laughed, “Why?”
Mark shrugged his shoulders, laughing still, “I don’t know. Just feels like my car shouldn’t have a driver who needs this dumb placard.”
“This placard usually catches my eye in any car.”
Mark tilted his head, “Does it now?”
Chiara lowered her eyes and smiled, “Well, I first see the car and if it has the placard, I try to see if the driver is a good-looking guy.”

Mark really didn’t know what she was saying with this. He wondered why it would matter to her if there was a disability placard in the car or not.
He smiled and thought of asking her for more elaboration on her comment but before he could ask, she said with a smile, “I’m kidding.”





He laughed slightly embarrassed about her joke. For a moment he had thought she was serious but now he felt a slight disappointment that she was apparently kidding. In his view there was no reason that the disability placard showing would increase his chances of any woman checking him out in his car. It was already bad enough for him when he usually parked somewhere and people or especially women would possibly see him getting out of his car and transferring from his hot rod into a not very hot wheelchair in his opinion.

Chiara now got out of the car and she watched very closely how Mark assembled his TiLite next to the car and eventually transferred into it. 
She really had not been kidding but as soon as she had made the comment, she had become nervous and then tried to distract with her comment about kidding. She didn’t want Mark to become suspicious at her interest in him when it came to his disability.

Everything about Mark interested her, his wheelchair, how he assembled and disassembled it, how he transferred into it, how he pulled his legs up to place his feet on the foot rest, and how he put his hands to the push rims to move the chair. Everything about Mark and his disability constantly occupied her mind. She observed his movements, she saw when he lifted up from the seat every so often, she didn’t miss the little twitches of his legs. And she loved everything about it. She could never tell him those things though.

Now Mark locked the car with the beep of his key and turned to Chiara who was waiting for him. They made their way toward the main entrance and when Mark saw Chiara’s bare feet in the flip flops, he was determined they needed to find some shoes for her.

In the mall it was warm and comfortable. It was somewhat busy on this Saturday in November. Thanksgiving was three weeks away and some places had already started on the Christmas decorations. Here and there Christmas songs could be heard playing from some invisible speakers.

Lots of people were strolling through the mall. Chiara had her small purse over her shoulder and her arms wrapped around her. She seemed anxious. Her hair was hanging over her injured eye and she didn’t directly look at people. Mark glanced at her as he was rolling next to her. He wanted her to feel good and happy but he could clearly see she was tense.

In the center of the mall Chiara slowed down looking which way to go.
Mark then asked, “What stores do you like to shop at?”
She looked at him, “I don’t know.”
“Well, I was thinking maybe we could find some shoes and some socks for you first.”
“Okay.”
Mark didn’t know this mall and had no idea which stores were in it.
He looked to the right, “Let’s go this way.”  
Chiara didn’t object and they headed to the right.

Mark pushed his rims and made sure he didn’t run into anyone. Usually when he came wheeling through people either didn’t move or if they didn’t see him at first and then realized he was there they apologized in exaggeration or Mark had to say “Excuse me” several times before people actually let him get by. He avoided these situations by avoiding crowded places altogether or if he did have to be in a crowded place, he was usually the one dodging everyone around him. He didn’t want to get on anyone’s nerves and he didn’t want to bother people. He really wanted to stay on the low as much as possible.

Chiara walked beside him, adjusting her speed to him and he adjusted his to her and he saw her look into the windows of the stores they were passing.
“If you want to go in any of the stores, let me know.”
She shrugged her shoulders and said softly, “Okay.”
Mark strengthened his comment, “I mean it, if you want to look at stuff or something we can go in those stores.”
“Thanks.”

They walked along and in front of some windows Chiara slowed down and looked at the things on display. Mark watched her and he could see she was still tense and she seemed nervous. He caught her looking around herself from under the long strands of her hair. He wanted to make her feel at ease and he wanted her to enjoy herself. Just as he was about to ask her if she wanted to go into a store, she kept walking.

He pushed his rims and rolled beside her as she looked at the windows but then kept walking. They came to “Bath & Body” and she stopped at the window.
Now Mark didn’t wait around, “Let’s go in. You can buy yourself some shower stuff so you don’t have to use my Axe.”
He laughed softly, trying to lighten the mood.
Chiara now looked up at him and he was relieved to get her nod of approval.

They went in and quickly were greeted by one of the staff members sorting shelves, “Hi, welcome to Bath & Body.”
Chiara didn’t acknowledge the girl but Mark glanced at her and nodded a Thanks.
Chiara was looking at all the items on display.
The young staff member came over, “Is there anything I can show you today?”
Chiara kept her eyes down, her hair still covering half of her face and she shook her head and said almost inaudible, “I’m just browsing.”
The girl seemed a bit thrown off by Chiara’s behavior but said still in a friendly tone, “Okay, awesome. We have a bunch of new scents and our special today is if you buy two things, you get a third one free.”
Chiara nodded again and Mark felt he had to make up for her lack of communication, “Thanks, we’ll just look around a bit.”
The sales girl added, “The men’s collection is on the side over there and we have some new awesome scents there as well.”
Mark thanked her again and she then finished with, “Let us know if you have any questions.”

And Mark nodded again with a smile, then turned to Chiara who was smelling on shower soaps in beautiful bottles.
He watched her as she walked among the displays and looked at things and smelled scents. Gently pushing his rims, he followed here slowly. The store was not exactly spacious for his TiLite to get through easily and he carefully maneuvered his wheelchair behind Chiara. 

He watched her move through and he could see she was trying very much to keep her eye and lip covered.
He said softly as she was admiring a display, “So, you heard the special. Buy two things, get one free.”
She nodded and opened a bottle and smelled on it.
Mark added, “I want you to know that you can buy anything you want.”
For a few more minutes they walked through and she then picked up one bottle of a shower gel and turned to Mark, “Maybe this one.”
Mark looked up at her and she met his eyes from behind her hair and he said, “Chiara, you can get more than one bottle. They have the special and you should get some other ones you like.”
She smiled slightly at him and he added softly, “Don’t worry about the money, okay. I got it.”
“I don’t want you to spend too much on me.”

Mark now couldn’t stop himself from reaching for her hand and he took her cold, skinny hand in his. It disappeared in his hand and Chiara seemed to be very surprised and for a moment he felt her pull her hand but he held on to it. He tugged on her some to make her look at him again and she did.

Her eyes flickered nervously and he leaned forward slightly and looked up at her, “Get what you want, okay. Don’t worry about money. I want to do this for you. You need the stuff and I got you.”
Chiara now pulled her hand away from him and for a second, he debated holding on to her but he let her hand slide from his and she wrapped her arms around herself again and nodded, “Okay.”

He lowered his eyes at the disconnect on her end again and he hoped he hadn’t taken it too far by taking her hand in his. He put his hands to his rims again and followed her as she kept looking and she chose two more bottles.
When she had the three bottles in a little basket, she turned to Mark.
He realized it meant she was done.
“Are those the only ones’ you want?”
She replied softly, “That’s enough.”

Mark wasn’t going to push her anymore and they made it to the register. Chiara avoided looking at the staff members with all her might and Mark paid for the items she had picked. They asked him if he didn’t want to get anything for himself and he declined friendly, trying to make up for Chiara’s silence.
With a small bag with three bottles of shower soap they left the store.

Out in the main corridor they turned right again and walked along the store fronts.
They reached a Payless shoe store and Mark suggested, “Let’s go in there and look for some shoes.”
Chiara hesitated for a moment and he added, “Unless you want to look at another place. We can also look at the Footlocker store or something for sneakers. I could probably use some new one’s too.”
When he had said that he saw her glance at him for a moment but then she said, “l can look in there.”

They went into the Payless Shoe Store and were greeted once again by a sales person. Chiara declined any assistance and made her way to the shelves with the shoe size 8 for women. She browsed the shelf and Mark scanned over the variety of women shoes. He really didn’t know much about women shoes at all. He never had to buy shoes with a woman. Chiara was focused on the shoes and pulled some out and looked at them, then put them back.

The store also had a special, offering one pair at full prize and getting the second half prize off. Mark wasn’t going to say anything just yet.
She pulled out a pair of black flats and slipped into them right there in the aisle. Mark looked down to her feet, the shoes looked like a fit.
She looked at him and he met her eyes, “Do you like those?”
She nodded and he was glad when she smiled again, “Yes, I’m so tired of heels all the time.”
“I can imagine.”
“I really like flats mostly.”
“Good, get them if you like them. And you can get another pair and two more half prize off.”

Chiara looked at Mark again and smiled at him. He felt his heart beat at seeing her smile. He wanted to make her smile. He wanted to wipe the constant sadness from her face.

She then pulled out some not very pretty flats and slipped them on. Mark looked down at the shoes and then at Chiara questioning her taste on those.
She glanced at him, “I love those.”

The shoes were definitely not what he found nice looking on her feet. They were really plain in a dark brown color, probably more suitable for an older lady with bad feet and bunions.
Chiara stood there and walked a few steps, Mark didn’t say anything but really couldn’t find anything good about those shoes.
She turned to him and repeated, “I love those.”
He nodded unsure and she asked, “Do you like those?”
He debated lying or telling the truth, “Well, I…I guess…”

She now laughed out loud and Mark just sat there and looked at her surprised and questioning.
She laughed more and he now smiled and fell in a soft laugh with her.
Chiara then kicked the shoes off, “Really Mark? You really thought I like those?”
He was relieved that this turned out to be a joke on her end, “I didn’t know. I mean they look comfortable I guess.”
He laughed and Chiara put the shoes back on the shelf, still laughing, “You would have bought those for me?”
He lowered his eyes and grinned, “I don’t know. Probably.”

He was very surprised now when she squatted down.
She still had a happy smile on her face and looked at him, “Mark, Mark, Mark…”
He was slightly embarrassed, “I don’t know what you like.”

His surprise remained when she actually put her hands on his knees holding herself in the squatting position and they stopped laughing now. Mark was stunned with her touching him in this way and right away he was taken back to the night at the bar when she had been in exactly the same position looking up at him and asking if he wanted a blow job. Her hands were on his knees holding herself there and they just looked at each other.

Chiara’s heart beat fast and she lowered her eyes while Mark kept staring at her. His mind was racing at what to do. He didn’t know if he should put his hands on hers or if he should say something. Chiara left her hands there and she felt his bony knees through his jeans and she looked down at her hands and she felt them tremble at touching him in this way. His legs were still and calm and knowing he couldn’t move them sent chills up her arms.

They sat there in the aisle of the shoe store by themselves and when Chiara looked up at Mark, he saw her eyes were glistening. His heart was racing and he slowly moved his hand to the side of her face where her hair covered her bruised eye. Gently he moved her hair and tugged it behind her ear and he saw both of her eyes, green and alert on him. He softly let his finger run over her cheek.

Chiara scanned his face and from his blue eyes her eyes travelled over his face and she saw how his lips were slightly drawn up in a weak smile. Some strands of his dark blonde bangs hung into his forehead and the three-day stubble framed his mouth and gave his face a rugged look. His eyes shone light blue and flickered nervously scanning over her face.

She felt her hands tremble on his knees and she was glad he couldn’t feel it. His knees were right next to each other and she looked from his face to her hands. She wanted to run her hands all over his legs and she wanted to feel every part of them and she really wanted her hands all over his body. She was frozen in her position though.

Mark didn’t know what to make of the situation at Chiara being so close to him now and letting him touch her face. His fingers ran over her cheek and he pushed her hair back over her shoulder.
He now said softly, “Once your eye and your lip are healed, you’ll never have to cover up your face ever again with me.” 
He kept his eyes on her when he said it.

Chiara lowered her eyes and Mark let his hand run down her arm and covered her hand with his hand on his knee. He felt that any moment this closeness was about to end and he held his hand there in the hopes she would stay there, and in the hopes that she would look at him again and see how much he felt for her. He felt so much for her, his heart was racing and the way she had looked at him, really the way she looked at him all the time and the way she made him feel when she was next to him and how he felt so alive and aware of himself with her there.

She made him feel like he wasn’t so broken after all, like he was still worthy of a woman’s dreamy gaze and like he could still stir someone’s emotions. Something about Chiara made him feel alive in his situation, it made him feel like he had finally arrived at a destination he had been trying to get to for the past three years. Like he had now found his place next to a woman who looked at him differently than any woman he had ever been with but in a really good way and in a way that made him feel so much.

Chiara now shifted and he was terrified to lose the connection to her and gently she moved her hands away from his knees again and he let her hand slide out from under his hand and his heart beat so fast and he had to take a breath because he felt like he didn’t get enough oxygen and he watched helplessly as she disconnected from him and stood up and he could barely stand it.

He reached out and took her hand again and she looked down to him now and he looked up at her and swallowed because he wanted to say things but he couldn’t find his voice. He held her hand tight and he didn’t let go because he wanted to talk.

And he swallowed again and with a trembling voice he barely got out, “Chiara?”
She looked at him and he held her hand, “Please…”
He didn’t even know what he wanted to say. He felt so much and so many thoughts were racing through his head.
He only managed to say barely audible with a scratchy voice, “Please stay with me.”
He didn’t know why this was what came out of his mouth.

She kept her hand in his for a moment and he looked up at her and he saw a tear roll out of her eye and it dropped to the carpeted floor in front of his feet which set motionless on the foot rest. His eyes moved to the tear on the carpet.

Chiara tried with all her power to keep her tears from streaming because seeing Mark there holding her hand and asking her to stay with him hurt so much. All she could think of that she had to do everything to stop herself from falling in love with him.   

She pulled her hand away from his and swallowing as many tears as she could she turned away from him and pretended she was looking at the shoes again. Mark had let her hand slide away from his once again and he felt his heart beat fast and he felt a knot in his throat and he felt like his body was wrapped into a tight captivity keeping him restrained in his physical self and very much also in his mental self.

It was in this moment when he wished nothing more than to be able to stand up because if he could have stood up, he would have and he would have pulled her body to him and kept her face close to his. He would have demanded her to say something. And if she would have not said anything, he would have pulled her to him and kissed her.  
But in reality, he sat confined to his TiLite, having lost the connection to Chiara and she even walking away from him along the shelves in the aisle.

He stayed put but he could barely stand it and felt like he couldn’t breathe. All the sudden the building seemed to close in on him and he pushed his wheelchair over to the side in a quiet corner and he leaned forward, his hands interlocked on his thighs and he stared at the ground and he was trying to breathe normal.

Chiara had kept walking away and now stood in another aisle in front of the shelves with shoes and fought the urge to pull each and every box out of the shelf and throw it down in the aisle. She swallowed tear after tear and her throat felt sore. Her vision was blurry, the numbers on the price tags ran into each other, she couldn’t see straight anymore and her heart hurt so much.

Mark was waiting over by the entrance and eventually Chiara emerged from the aisles with two shoe boxes and her eyes down.
Mark sat up straight, put his hand to his rims and wheeled over to her asking softly, “You found something?”
She slowly walked toward him and he looked at her with a serious expression. She was nervous to face him but could only nod without saying anything. She didn’t want him to see her teary eyes.  

They quietly made their way to the register and while Chiara kept her eyes down and didn’t say a word, Mark tried to be at least somewhat friendly to the girl at the register when he paid for the shoes.
Chiara had found a pair of flats, a pair of ankle boots and a couple of pairs of socks. Maya had not put any socks in the bag and when Chiara had come to Mark’s apartment, she had only worn nylons.

They made their way through the mall in silence, the incident from earlier lingering over them. Eventually Mark mentioned without looking at Chiara, “I want to go to the Footlocker and if you want to buy clothes, now would also be the time I guess.”

Chiara didn’t miss the tension in his voice but she didn’t say anything. He seemed only focused on pushing his wheelchair and dodging the people in his path. Chiara walked beside him and they found the Footlocker store.

They were greeted in the same way as at the other stores when they entered. Mark didn’t miss the quick, curious glances at his wheelchair. He was sure the sales person would avoid helping him with trying on shoes. If he needed assistance, he would have to specifically tell them. For now, he told them he was just looking.

Mark turned to Chiara, “You should look at some sneakers too.”
Chiara nodded obediently and while she browsed the women’s sneakers Mark scanned the wall displaying the men’s sneakers. He saw some too high for him to reach.

He looked over and the sales person met his eyes and came over, “Hi there, are there any shoes that interest you?”
Mark pointed to the one’s he wanted to look at and the sales person got the shoe down for him and handed it to Mark. Mark saw the name on his badge was Keegan.
He inspected the shoe and then asked Keegan, “Do you have them in a ten a half or eleven?”
“Yeah, I think so. Let me go check in the back.”
“Thanks.”

Keegan walked away. Mark kept looking at the display wall with all the different shoes and he glanced over his shoulder and saw Chiara was still looking at the women’s shoes.
He turned around again and rolled up to the wall, grabbed another shoe in reach and inspected it.
Keegan came back with two boxes, “So yeah, I have both sizes, ten and a half and eleven.”
He set the boxes down and Mark thanked him.

A little unsure Keegan stood there and watched as Mark pulled out the pair of elevens. The laces were not pulled through yet and he started on the first shoe.
When Keegan didn’t say anything Mark said, “I need the laces in so I can tie the shoe when I try it on.”
Keegan now quickly grabbed the other shoe, “Oh sure, I can pull the laces into this one.”
“Thanks.”

Once the laces were in, Mark pulled his foot up from the foot rest and set it on his knee to take off his worn-out sneaker. The shoe he had picked out was a low top. High tops were too much of a hassle to put on for him nowadays.
Chiara came over and held two single shoes in her hand. She asked Keegan for her size and Mark literally felt how Keegan was relieved to get away into the back to find the sizes Chiara needed.

She set her bags down and sat herself down on the bench watching as Mark pulled his second sneaker off his foot. He was slightly nervous at her sitting there watching him.
Mark was about to pull up his foot onto this knee to slip the new shoe on when Chiara asked him, “May I help you put them on?”
Mark wasn’t all the way sure how he felt about this but it would make things easier if Chiara could help him. He only managed a small nod.

To his surprise Chiara slid down onto the floor and sat there in front of Mark’s socked feet on the foot rest. At the outlook of helping him get the new shoes on his feet, she felt her heart beat into her neck, her fingers trembled, and she tried very hard to hide her excitement and nervousness.

Mark watched as she grabbed the first new shoe and adjusted the laces on it. She was sitting on her knees and once she had the laces lose enough, she gently grabbed Mark’s foot off the foot rest and pulled it onto her lap.

Chiara felt the weight of Mark’s limp foot in her hand. It felt cool even though he wore somewhat thick socks. She then slipped the new shoe onto his foot. She was absorbed in the task and every nerve in her body was vibrating at helping Mark with this. She made sure his foot was all the way in. Mark watched quietly. He didn’t have to instruct her in any of it, she seemed to know exactly what she was doing. She glanced up at him when the first shoe was on and he met her eyes.

His foot was still resting on her thighs and she stated softly, “It looks like it fits good.”
She even pushed her finger down by his toes making sure he had enough room.
Mark just looked from her to his foot in the new sneaker. It looked like it fit all right, the back seemed high enough over his Achilles and he liked the look of the shoe. It was of a black suede material and had a dark green Nike logo on the side.

Now Chiara grabbed the second shoe and again pulled Mark’s foot onto her lap and she slipped the shoe onto the foot and tied the laces. She again made sure the shoe was on all the way and Mark just watched her. Her eyes were fixed on his feet and her hair hanging down brushed over the new shoes. Chiara was very excited to do this for Mark. Both his feet in the new sneakers were still resting on her lap.

Just then Keegan came back with Chiara’s choices and set the boxes down. He looked somewhat confused at Chiara on the floor but realized quickly that she had been helping Mark with the shoes.
Nervously he looked at Mark’s feet and asked, “How do they fit?”
Mark nodded, “I think they’re all right.”
Chiara looked at Keegan, “I think they fit but maybe you can check too.”
The young man squatted down looking up at Mark, “May I?”
Mark nodded and Chiara let Keegan lift Mark’s foot.
Keegan did the toe test and also looked at the foot in the shoe altogether, “It looks like it’s the right size.”

Mark was hunched over some looking down at his feet with his hands in his lap.
He now said with a smile, “I would say I should walk around in them a little to make sure they fit right but I don’t think I have to. I can see they fit.”
Now Chiara looked at him with questioning eyes and he laughed and she also fell into a shy laughter with him.
Mark added on to his joke, “Walking around when trying on shoes is overrated.”
Because Mark and Chiara laughed, Keegan apparently also felt like he was allowed to laugh a little. But when more customers came in Keegan quickly walked over to greet them, making his getaway again.

Mark looked at Chiara on the floor and they still smiled at each other, then they both turned serious.
She lowered her eyes with Mark’s gaze on her when he said, “I’m sorry about earlier at Payless.”
Chiara kept her eyes down and he added, “Thanks for helping me with trying on these shoes.”
She looked up at him and even though her eyes flickered nervously she said softly, “I’m sorry too.”
Mark took a breath and nodded, “It’s all right. I…I don’t know…I just needed to breathe I guess.”
She nodded but didn’t say anything.

When Mark realized nothing else came from her, he turned the focus on the new shoes again, “What do you think?”
“I like them. They look good on you and it seems like they fit good.”
Mark nodded, “I’ll pull my foot up, I want to look at it up here.”
Chiara sat back on her heels and watched as Mark pulled his foot up on his knee and inspected the new sneaker and Chiara tried to take regular breaths.
He liked the shoes and he didn’t even want to look at any other ones, “I’ll get ‘em.”

Mark set this foot down again and Chiara helped him get the sneakers off his feet. She was still nervous and her fingers were trembly but she enjoyed so much doing this for Mark.
Keegan seemed relieved that he had not had to help Mark any further with trying on the shoes but happily came over now trying to sound cheerful, “So they fit? Awesome.”
Mark only remarked, “Yeah, I’ll get them.”

Chiara handed Keegan the shoes and he walked away with the box and the shoes.

She then grabbed Mark’s old sneaker off the floor and slipped his foot into it and tied the laces. Mark watched her and she eventually had both shoes on his feet and had placed his feet on the foot rest. On his jeans Mark pulled his feet up a bit further making sure they were all the way on the foot rest, his calves resting on the strap behind them. Chiara closely watched it all.

Having helped Mark with this had stirred up her body and she felt nervous and happy at the same time. Having felt the weight of his cold, limp feet in her hands and his feet not making a move or even a twitch had made her hands shake even more.
She now got back on her feet and Mark looked up at her, “Thanks for your help.”
She smiled shyly, “No problem, I was happy to do it.”

Mark glanced at the boxes with the shoes Keegan had brought for Chiara, “So which one's did you pick?”
She pulled the first pair from the box and a lot quicker than with Mark’s feet she got her flip flops off, put on a thin try on sock supplied by the store and was in the sneakers within seconds.  

Keegan now appeared suddenly, “So how do these feel?”
Chiara nodded, “They feel good.”
She then turned to Mark and smiled shyly, “I will walk around for a moment.”
Mark grinned at her and she walked around in the store testing out how the shoes felt on her feet.
She liked the shoes and they were comfortable.

Chiara sat down on the bench again and Mark spun his wheelchair around to face her. They looked at each other for a moment. Keegan had walked away again.
Mark grinned, “I can help you if you put your foot up here in my lap.”
Chiara looked up from untying the lace and smiled at him, “I think I got it.”
She actually put her foot on the bench and took off the shoes and tried on the other pair.
She got up again and walked around in the store. Mark followed her with his eyes.

Chiara chose the first pair and eventually they were at the register to pay.
As Keegan scanned the shoes Mark pulled his wallet out and asked, “Do you have a military discount?”
Keegan seemed happy he could answer with Yes.
Mark paid with his card and Keegan put the two boxes in a large bag.
Once the receipt was printed out, he handed it to Mark, thanked them and they were on their way out.

Chiara now was holding three bags and Mark told her, “We can take those to the car and put them in the trunk.”
She nodded, “Yeah, that would be good.”
They made their way through the mall again and to the main entrance.
At the door Chiara said, “I can take them over there quickly. You can just wait here.”
Mark handed her the keys and Chiara ran across the parking lot. Mark saw her from where he was at.

At the car Chiara quickly changed out her flip flops for the simple black flats she had bought at Payless. She locked the car with the beep and came jogging back over to Mark. He watched as her hair was flowing when she ran and she was breathing quickly as she reached him.
He looked down to her feet, “You changed your shoes?”
“Yeah, my feet are a little cold.”
They now walked again and Mark asked her, “Do you want to look at clothes or something?”
“I think I’m okay for now with what your neighbors gave me.”
“You sure?”
“Yes.”
Mark nodded, “Okay, I’m actually a bit hungry. Let’s go to the pub and grab a drink and some food.”
There was a pub attached to the mall, Mark had spotted it earlier as they walked around.

Inside it was somewhat crowded. The reason for this was soon obvious as it was Happy Hour between three and six and shoppers were definitely taking advantage of this. People were sitting at the bar and at the tables, the shopping bags stashed beside them or under the tables or chairs and everyone was chatting and there was music coming from the speakers.

Initially it didn’t look like there was any room to sit but then a couple got up from a small table by the window looking out to the parking lot. Chiara touched Mark’s shoulder and pointed to the table. He nodded and quickly pushed his wheelchair over to the table. Chiara moved one chair away and made it possible for Mark to wheel up to the table.

She sat herself down and Mark smiled, “We were lucky.”
“Yes.”

It didn’t take long and a waitress came to the table and set the menus down and Mark already ordered a beer. Chiara hadn’t decided yet what she wanted to drink. She looked over the beverage list and when the waitress came back, she ordered a red wine and water.

They also eventually ordered food. Mark lifted his bottle toward Chiara, “To new shoes.”
She tapped it gently with her glass, “To shower gel.”
They both laughed and drank.

Looking out the window Chiara spotted a Chuck E Cheese across the parking lot, “Oh cool, there’s a Chuck E Cheese over there. I always loved going to those places as a kid. The arcade games and picking out the prizes for all the tickets was so much fun.”
Mark looked out to where the Chuck E Cheese was, “I’ve never been in one of those.”
Chiara looked at him surprised and smiled, “Well, it’s mostly for kids. We used to go as kids and with my cousins and their kids. It’s been a long time and it was still back at home. It wasn’t a Chuck E Cheese, it was some other place like it though. You’ve really never been in one?”
“I don’t think so. I may just not remember.”

He kept his eyes on her, “So did you have a good childhood then?”
Chiara looked into her wine glass, “Not really.”
She took a sip and she then asked him, “How about you?”
“My childhood?”
“Yes, was it good?”

Mark thought for a moment and remembered how everything had been back then, “Yeah, it was pretty normal until my parents divorced, I guess. Then it got weird. We switched between my dad’s and my mom’s all the time. I was ten and my sister was thirteen. She was in puberty, I was still young so I guess I felt alone a lot. Before my parents divorced, we had an okay life, I guess. We went on vacations, played sports, had friends and two dogs. My dad had a good job, we had money and it was all good. As kids we didn’t know he was seeing other women on his business trips and stuff. Well, that brought on the divorce eventually. My dad stayed close by so he could see us but every time we were over at his place there was his girlfriend, then another one and then eventually he got a job offer down South and he moved. My mom got sick and at eighteen I was done and signed up for the Military. My sister stayed behind with my mom when I left.”
“And she never forgave you for leaving her behind?”
Mark shook his head, “No, she hasn’t.”

The food was brought by the waitress and without asking Chiara ordered another red wine. Mark didn’t question her.
They started eating and Mark then came back to the topic of their childhood, “So your childhood wasn’t that good then?”
“No, it wasn’t. We didn’t have money. My dad was never in the picture. My mom was a single parent to me and my brother. She was sick a lot throughout her life with addictions. My brother quit High School and quickly got into drugs hanging with the wrong people. I had to grow up quick.”

Chiara drank from her wine again.
“Did you graduate?”
Chiara nodded, “Yes.”
“What did you do after school?”

She finished a bite and her eyes went out over the parking lot again, “I met him when I was nineteen, so shortly after I graduated. Initially I wanted to go to school and become a veterinary technician or veterinarian.”
Mark assumed that "him" was referring to Trey and that her career goals never happened but he didn’t have to ask because Chiara answered, “Yeah, I didn’t do any of that.”
Mark said softly, “You can still do that. You’re not too old.”
Chiara leaned back and laughed softly but with sarcasm, “Yeah, I don’t think it’ll happen.”
She drank from her wine again and looked at the glass, “This stuff is good.”

Mark glanced from the glass to her face, she had been drinking quickly and was almost finished with the second glass. She also seemed more talkative.
She now smiled at Mark, “Sometimes life has other plans for us, doesn’t it?”
He nodded and she added bluntly, “I’m sure you didn’t think you would be paralyzed in a wheelchair by age thirty.”
She had her eyes on him and Mark put his fork down, “No, that was not in my plan. But it is what it is.”

Chiara now laughed a soft laugh and took another sip finishing her wine again.
She wiped over her mouth, “Wow, this stuff is yummy.”
She set the empty glass down and turned to her food and started eating again.
Mark watched her for a moment and he asked, “Do you want another wine?”
She seemed to loosen up and Mark wanted to keep her talking.
Chiara glanced up at him, “Can I really get another one?”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll have another beer myself.”
Chiara then said, “I don’t want you to drive drunk.”
Mark was surprised at her comment, “I’m good. I’ll only have one more.”
He ordered another wine for her and another beer for himself. It was still happy hour; all alcoholic beverages were half prize.

The waitress brought the drinks and took the empty wine glass and beer bottle.
Chiara was still eating, Mark had finished his meal. He leaned back in his TiLite and watched Chiara.
She looked up at him and he smiled at her.

He also thought about how he needed to get his backpack from the car and go to a bathroom somewhere to empty his bladder before it would empty itself into his underwear. Especially with the two beers he needed to cath soon.
Chiara now lifted her glass toward him and he tapped it with his bottle, “Cheers.”
Chiara looked over to Chuck E Cheese again, “We should go over there after this.”
Mark looked out, “To the arcade?”
“Yes, I bet I can kick your butt in some of those games.”
He smiled, “You think so?”
“Yes, I know I can. You’ve never been in a place like this, you don’t know how to play those games. I on the other hand have spent hours in those places as a kid. It was when my mom gave my brother and me money and just left us there while she got high somewhere.”

Mark looked at her serious now realizing that her fun time at the arcade was apparently due to reasons not so fun.
Chiara now added, “I was happy when she left us there instead of at home by ourselves.”
Mark leaned forward some, “Yeah, I guess we could go over there.”
Chiara’s face lit up like she was a little kid, “Awesome.”

She drank from her wine again and Mark realized how her face was flushed some.
He knew she was getting tipsy and he knew he had to stop her after this third glass.
He eventually paid and they made their way out of the pub.

Chiara was excited, “Are we going to the Arcade now?”
“Let’s drive over there. I need to get my back pack anyways.”
Chiara was okay with that and they made it over to Mark’s car.

Before she got in, she stood there leaning on the car and smiled at him, “You have to get all your stuff in again?”
“Yeah, you can get on in.”
“I want to watch you transfer and do all the stuff with your wheelchair.”
Mark looked up at her slightly surprised, “Nothing to see really.”
She laughed now, “Oh, there’s a whole lot to see for me.”
He tilted his head questioning and she then said, “I think it’s totally hot when you get from your wheelchair into your car.”

Mark didn’t move but looked at her, hoping for more. He was surprised at her comment. Instead of saying anything though she laughed again, “Come on, get on in already and let me watch.”
Mark opened his mouth to say something but he was somewhat confused and really didn’t know what to say.
He looked at her for a moment but then decided to just get into his car. And Chiara didn’t move until he pulled the frame of the TiLite into the car.

Then she came around to the other side and got in and she fell into the seat heavily and sighed, “That was nice.”
Mark closed his door and looked over at here, “What was nice?”
He was still intrigued at how she had said those things.
She looked over at him and smiled and like she didn’t understand how he could ask the question she answered bluntly, “You getting into your car was nice to watch.”
Mark didn’t move his eyes from her, “How is that nice?”

Chiara pouted and said in a childish voice, “Can we go to the Arcade now?”
Mark started his car and he drove around the mall to the other side where the Chuck E Cheese was. He kept thinking about the things Chiara had said and he didn’t understand.

They parked and were finally inside.
Mark had brought his back pack with him and inside the building he saw the signs pointing to the restrooms, “I have to go to the restroom first.”
Chiara walked with him, “Me too.”
He saw she was walking somewhat fast and uncoordinated. She was definitely tipsy.

Mark was relieved to find a disabled bathroom stall large enough for him to wheel in and it was also decent clean and okay to use. He washed his hands first and then pushed into the large stall.
It took him a while to get everything done but he was glad that he had done it because lots of urine had been flowing into the toilet.

Chiara was done before Mark and leaned on the wall in the hallway by the bathrooms. She felt the buzz of three glasses of wine but she was in a good mood and she had forgotten mostly about everything bad that was going on. She didn’t think anything about the things she had said to Mark but had no idea that she had triggered Mark’s mind to work and ponder about what she meant by all of it.

No one had ever told him that it was hot when he transferred into his car. He wanted to just scratch it off to Chiara having had a bit too much to drink but usually under the influence people say things that they think and a lot of times truths get spoken that would usually be left unsaid.

When he finally came out of the bathroom she stood there leaning on the wall and she looked at him with a serious expression. She didn’t say anything but just kept her eyes on him dreamy and he felt slightly nervous at her gaze.
He asked softly, “Are you ready to go in?”
She nodded and they made their way to the front again. Mark decided he would take his back pack to his car again.

Soon thereafter they had a hundred tokens to play the games. The place was packed with kids and parents. It was loud and lights flashed and flickered everywhere. There were several birthday parties going on and kids were all over the place. Mark was almost overwhelmed with all the commotion and kids ran all around him and didn’t really care how he was trying to get through with his wheelchair.  

On a stage, puppets were singing a Chuck E Cheese song and it was even louder then. Chiara’s face had a big smile on it as she looked around, holding her bag with tokens. She didn’t seem to care about any of the crazy disorder in the place.

She just walked ahead and found her first game “Wack a Mole”, “Oh my gosh, let’s do this stupid game.”
Mark looked at the game for a moment and Chiara already put in some tokens and right away she started slamming a padded hammer down on little creatures that were poking their heads out of alternating holes. She giggled and screamed with joy and Mark just watched. The noise was really a lot for him but he saw that she had fun.

She had finished her round and tickets were printed and she turned to him, “Your turn.”
Mark shook his head, “I don’t know.”
“Look at my score, you have to beat that.”
Mark put in some tokens and played his round. Chiara screamed next to him and cheered him on in the quest of whacking at as many moles as possible. He made it a mission but he didn’t beat Chiara’s score. She squealed in delight of winning and moved on to the next game.

This is how they made their way through this crazy place of mindless games and lots of noise and lights. Mark watched Chiara and she seemed to really enjoy herself. She played against some kids, she played against Mark, he played against her and she laughed and she squealed from joy.

After the Basketball game where Mark actually beat her, she laughed and as his winning score was on the lit-up board she screamed and totally unexpected to Mark she fell around his neck and hugged him and instead of standing up she let herself fall half way on his lap.

She stopped in her outburst and with her arms around his neck she looked at him for a moment.
Mark stopped and his eyes were on her face questioning. She was so close it wouldn’t have taken much for him to pull her in and kiss her. He smelled the wine on her breath but he left his hands on his push rims and debated frantically what to do.   

She kept her arms around his neck and she just looked at him. He wasn’t going to kiss her, he didn’t think he had the right and he knew she had been drinking and probably didn’t even realize what she was doing. But his heart was beating fast now at feeling her so close to him once again and he felt just like at the shoe store when she had placed her hands on his knees. Now she sat on his lap and even though he didn’t feel any of it on his legs, he was stricken with her and she was so close he smelled her hair. He kept his eyes on her and her smile faded from her face. He swallowed and he opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out because looking at her face he felt that any moment she would stop this and get up from his lap again confused just like at the shoe store.

But wasn’t her place just like this, with him, on his lap, in his arms, next to him? He didn’t know what to do to let her see that she could let herself go and surrender to him. He wanted all of her and he wanted her near him and close to him for a long time. But he felt her deep fear and all the doubts she held on to about everything and as much as he wanted to just take over the moment, he knew he couldn’t.

And the moment faded just as quick as it had come when she got up from his lap with shaky legs, straightening herself up and getting control of herself again.    

Mark swallowed and tried his best to ignore the intense pain he felt inside. He would wait patiently for her to make a move and to let herself go. He would wait for as long as it would take.  

Chiara held all the tickets in her hand and turned to him, “We can probably get our prizes and get out of here.”
He could only nod, he had expected it was going to be like this. They made their way over to the prize counter where they inserted their tickets in a machine that counted them, over six hundred tickets.
Mark handed Chiara the ticket with the number, “Here you go, your prize money.” He smiled at her.

She stood by the counter and as she looked over everything and the girl behind the counter showed her where the prizes that she could pick from were located. Chiara’s eyes landed on a stuffed animal, a black cat with a red collar around it, green button cat eyes and long whiskers, a fluffy tail and a little red tongue showing. She pointed to it and the girl handed it to her.

This took all the tickets and Chiara pulled the stuffed animal to her heart and turned to Mark, “I have my own Ranger now.”
Mark smiled, “You sure do.”
As they walked away from the counter she said, “It’s not a Ranger though. It’s a girl cat. I think I’ll call her Maddy.”
Mark wondered about the name choice, “Why Maddy?”
“I just like the name.”
He nodded, “Okay.”



8 comments:

  1. Wow -- that was great! You write the emotions of your characters so very well.

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  2. Amazing. Thank you and happy holidays.

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  3. Thanks for the update and for always posting on time.
    I really like that the main characters of your stories are not always on the bright side of life.

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    1. Thanks so much for this comment. I definitely feel more connected to the regular people with their struggles.

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  4. Only got to read this today. Really enjoying Mark & Chiara. Thanks for the update

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    1. Comments are always appreciated, thanks for reading

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