Sunday, August 27, 2017

Shadowboxing, Chapter 6: Night

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

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


He finished racking the last bowl in the dishwasher, and turned his wheelchair to face me. “Oh, geez, yeah. I didn’t mean to be so presumptuous.” He must have been thinking about what he’d said, too. “Um, geez.” He looked down and started rubbing his hand through his dark curls again. He looked so cute. I felt bad for enjoying it, his clear flusterment, but I couldn’t not, at least not when it was relatively harmless like this. Finally he said, “I really didn’t mean to presume on your time, or – or willingness. But I think I would really enjoy it if you stayed over, although I don’t know if I want to… do anything.” He looked up at me, gauging my reaction.

Again, I wasn’t sure if he’d caught me looking him over. I said, “I would love to stay over, too.” His eyes lit up. “And we don’t have to ‘do anything’ like that,” I affirmed quickly. But because he clearly wanted me to, was almost trembling with expectation in that moment, I took two steps forward, leaned down, and kissed him on the lips.

It was a good kiss.

After, I stayed leaning lightly on his armrests for another moment. Asher was flushing delicately, and his eyes, alive with joy, searched my face. “But more of that would be great,” he said.

We shared a smile, as if we held a secret between us. Then we kissed again.


***


While Roy was in the bathroom, I grabbed my cellphone and texted Amy. She was one of my closest and most long-time friends, and also lived only three blocks away.

I had first texted her that day – “Amy!” – when Roy and I had been about to leave the café, while he had been, again, conveniently in the bathroom.

“Asher!” she’d responded almost instantly; she must have been looking at her phone.

“This is a Responsible Check-in,” I had texted, feeling giddy; my fingers felt a little shaky. “I’m about to bring a guy back to my place. I don’t know him that well but I like him a lot.”

“!!!” she texted back. “ASHER!!!!!!!!”

“I don’t feel concerned. But just in case can I call you if anything starts feeling weird?”

“OBVIOUSLY. Thanks for being responsible, chiquito. But ohmahgawd, WHO IS THE GUY? Tell all.”

“His name is Roy…” I texted back. I was being coy, but also genuinely bashful.

She texted back a garbled keysmash of excitement, and then “More!!!” At that point Roy came out, so I just typed “More later, bus now,” and hastily pocketed my phone.

Over the course of the evening, I’d slipped her updates during down moments – not quite the juicy details she was looking for, but enough both to assure her that everything was going fine, and to let me start testing out what I knew about Roy, and how we seemed to do together, against someone else’s instincts. I could count on Amy to be both protective and wildly supportive in the right measure, so seeing her reactions, either skeptical or “go get ‘em,” helped me feel more secure in my own read of the situation – which was that I liked Roy a lot, we had improbably good chemistry, and he hadn’t done anything that made me feel unsafe, in fact the opposite.

But he was still weirdly hard for me to read. Even though he was terrible at hiding his emotions, so that watching his face sometimes felt like watching a movie, just with the sound off, and even though he had started talking more and more (a thrilled flutter went through my stomach when I thought about the low gravel of his voice) – I still felt like I couldn’t wrap my head around everything that was going on under his quietness and intensity. You’ve only known him for less than a day, I reminded myself.

Now, I pulled up my texts with Amy again, laid my phone on the kitchen table to type into it. “We finished dinner,” I sent.

She responded within a minute. “And???”

“I asked him to stay over. Not in a sexy way though.”

“OooOOOOOOOOOoooh I’m still gonna die. You’re sure you asked him tho? No pressure?”

“No pressure,” I confirmed. “I asked him. And he doesn’t make me feel rushed or you know seem to have 'expectations.’” Even typing “expectations” made me flush, pathetically. I continued, “Thanks for listening Amy. It means a lot to me.”

“Babe I’m here for you. Also this is so much better than TV.” I snorted. “Just pay attention to ANYTHING that makes you feel unsafe. Take it seriously! k?”

“Yes! Thank you,” I responded. And then, after thinking it about it for a little while, I typed, “We kissed…”

She sent back another keysmash, even longer this time, and then, “How was it?!”

I couldn’t bring myself to crack open Roy’s privacy – I highly doubted, for example, that he was in the bathroom frantically texting one of his friends about how our kisses had felt. So I answered, “Maybe I’ll tell you in person. Gotta keep you on the hook. I go now. Thanks again, you’re the best.”

“xoxoxo, be wise,” she sent.

I smiled down at my phone, then stashed it between my legs and began the moderately tricky operation of pulling off my shirt one-handed – first left sleeve off, with the help of teeth applied to cuff, then over the head, and finally the attack on the right sleeve.

I was just about done extricating myself when Roy emerged from the bathroom, holding his folded clothes in one hand, and wearing just a white undershirt and plaid boxers. He saw my gaze and immediately said, sounding guilty, “I would have asked you for sssss – ssss – sss… sweatpants, but – wasn’t sure anything would fit.”

His stutter on the “s” in “sweatpants” (I’d noticed that he seemed to do the worst with S’s and R’s) was the toughest it had been all night, I thought; getting himself out of it, he seemed to have to rock himself backwards, even closed his eyes and shook his head a little, as if trying to reset the system. I felt a pang of sympathy and concern, but was also extremely, undeniably distracted by his body.

“Wow,” I said, unable to stop myself. Roy looked great in clothes, with his broad shoulders and chest, square hands, long legs, but without – he looked like a rock. He wasn’t built in the way I associated with the rounded, glossy look of bodybuilders or movie stars, but had the kind of allover, dense muscle that made me think of rugby players, guys who really used their whole bodies. (Unlike me, said a devastatingly unhelpful voice in my head. My legs jerked upward; I willed myself to ignore it as they slowly relaxed down again, one more slowly than the other.)

I’d noted before that his complexion was slightly dark, not tan exactly, but a kind of light brown; I could now see that his arms and face were sunned much darker than the rest of him. His arms and legs were also pretty well covered with fine, curling hair that glinted slightly blonder than his head-hair.

“Roy,” I said – again I couldn’t help it, even though he was getting visibly embarrassed, “I have to ask. Were you in the army or something? What do you do to look like that? Is it just your job?”

He was shifting from foot to foot, eyes sliding off to the side. “Job helps, definitely. Wouldn’t be happy not doing physical sssss – sstuff. And I did think about Marines, but I used to h-have asthma. Just as a kid, but they’re assholes about that. A-anyway, a llll – lot of it now is that I box.”

“Box…? Oh – boxing!” I leaned back in my chair in surprise.

He looked at me anxiously. “What?”

“I – I don’t know,” I admitted, “it totally makes sense, but for some reason I just wouldn’t have guessed. Boxing, huh. I find that insanely charming for some reason.”

“Charming?” His brow was furrowed.

“It just seems kind of old-fashioned, like midcentury. Like, black-and-white photos of prizefighters.” I leaned forward and propped my chin on my hand, smiling at him. “I guess why I like it is, it seems to go with how – old-fashioned I find you, in a nice way.”

“Old-fashioned?” His brow was still furrowed, but at least he didn’t seem anxiously self-conscious anymore, just deeply puzzled.

I laughed, at myself. “I don’t know, you’re kind of… courtly, I guess I would say. Don’t forget, you rescued me. And, I don’t know, the way you wait to see how I do things before you see if I need help with stuff like the dishes, but you’re always ready to help. The way you watch me without staring – this is all self-centered stuff, sorry. But it’s all things that matter a lot, to me. So, thanks.”

He reflexively nodded a “you’re welcome,” without looking convinced. He had even folded his arms, and was leaning forward onto the balls of his feet, as if leaning into his confusion; his face was almost comically thinky.

I smiled to myself and moved my wheelchair off into the bedroom. It was only slightly after ten at that point; I had already warned Roy a few times that I kept early hours. It was important for me to stick to a regular schedule, because it significantly cut down on the chances of my having a bad spasm day. (Another reason that Friday night/Saturday morning’s hijinks had been so delightful for me.) His perpetual, restless energy made it easy for me to guess that he wasn’t a stranger to two or four in the morning, even though his work, he’d mentioned, often required early hours of loading and planning. Even still, he’d made it clear, without exactly saying it, that he was interested in going to bed with me (just not that way).

My heartrate started speeding up as I pulled up alongside the bed, and bent down to grab my transfer board from where I kept it slotted between nightstand and bed. I was already so nervous, and excited, about the idea of someone else being in bed with me, that I suddenly doubted my ability to even sleep.

See it through, soldier, I said to myself. I looked over my shoulder at Roy, who had appeared in the doorway, only marginally less thinky-faced, and then willed myself to focus on the transfer, swiveling my chair to face the foot of my bed. I flipped up my left armrest, and carefully started sliding the smooth plastic board under my butt, so that it provided a continuous surface between me and the bed. As I began scooting one-armed across the board and onto the bed, Roy watched me with that neutral interest that I found immensely soothing – not gaping, just looking to understand how I did things. He even gave a small nod of second-hand satisfaction when I completed the transfer and slid the board out and back next to the nightstand. I let out a breath, pushed my hair back, and smiled up at him. “Would you mind getting the lights?”

He reached out and flicked them off. “Thanks,” I said. I had been feeling self-conscious about the next step, so only then, in the dark, did I lie back and start the struggle to remove my jeans. Vanity and I had a confused relationship: I took pride in taking care of my appearance, knew that it gave me a better chance of being taken seriously at first glance. But it also made it harder for me not to carry with me an awareness that certain parts of me – like my shrunken, knock-kneed legs and bent feet – were objectively not attractive. As usual, I deliberately pushed the thought away and focused on the physical task.

I sat up again to manipulate my jeans down over my stiff ankles and feet, and then glanced up as Roy’s dark shape moved across the room to peer out through the drawn blinds across the window on the far side of the bed. There wasn’t much of a view, just a shallow parking lot fringed with young trees, but when I looked up again, jeans finally off, he was still staring out, a slash of light across his eyes from the slit in the blinds he’d opened.

I pillowed my knees and then wasn’t sure what to do next, so I laid back and sort of closed my eyes. My heart sounded, and felt, like a drum section.

I felt the other side of the bed depress. Roy let out a long sigh in the darkness, and then suddenly his warmth and mass pressed all along my side. He reached a heavy arm out across my waist, pulling it gently snug against my other side, tucked his face against my shoulder, snuck his knees under the edge of mine, nudging the pillow slightly out of the way. His breath blew out against my neck as he sighed again, even more deeply.

“This okay?” he said. He already sounded sleepy, to my surprise. During all the other time we’d spent together, he just seemed constantly on alert, keyed-up even when he was clearly enjoying himself.

I had tensed at first, sending pangs through my back, hips, wrist, the works, but now had the sensation that I was slowly melting. Waves of delicious heat were rolling off of his body. His arm across me was so heavy that it felt like a blanket. “Yeah,” I said.

“You feel great,” he said. His voice rumbled through my chest, a lion-sized purr. “Tell me if I get too much.”

“Will do.”

“G’night.”

“Good night, Roy.” He pressed his face closer to my neck, and I moved my hand up to stroke his cheek, running it across the slight rasp of stubble. I closed my eyes. I felt like an insufficient vessel for the happiness that I felt.




17 comments:

  1. This story is lusciously powerful. Great writing!

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    1. Wow, what a yummy description. I'm so glad you're enjoying it, Pepper!

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  2. Love it! That pretty much says it all. Thanks for posting. :)

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  3. Asher is not the only one melting here :) Awww, love it. Roy getting all cuddly, that moment when Asher undressed... and the last sentence is so, so perfect.

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    1. The little undressing scene, I actually rewrote just before posting - I wanted to get more into Asher's psychology; of course it was just a happy accident that it ended up being devvier, too...
      So happy to have contributed to Lovis-melting! :)

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  4. I'm really loving this story, the characters are just so sweet. I look forward to your updates every week!

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    1. Thank you thank you, Queenkala! I'm so glad the boys have an audience.

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  5. ugh, I need more of this. I *love* the dynamic you are establishing between these two and I am very curious to see where the story is going.

    And, side note, I hope you realize your next scheduled posting day is Valentine's day!

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    1. Oh my, what an excellent point - I hadn't noticed next week's timing at all. I'll have to plan a little something.

      So happy you're enjoying; thank you, Anon! (And I'm curious to see where it goes, too... still so many possibilities.)

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  6. Love this. Face comically thinky. Great line .It can't be over .

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    1. I had fun poking at Roy a little bit this chapter. Stoic beefcakes make for excellent unintentional goofballs. :)

      Definitely not over! Less than halfway through, I think...

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  7. Did I read correctly that this is the last chapter? Noooo!! I have so enjoyed this story and now I'm totally invested in this developing relationship between Asher and Roy. Please tell us you're planning a series of sequels!

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    1. Oh no, I didn't mean to provoke panic - no fear, there will be many more chapters. This is just the last of the several chapters that have continuously followed their first date.
      Thank you so much for commenting - I am so happy to know that you've been enjoying their romantic developments!

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    2. Well thank goodness for that! Gearing up for a ridiculous day at work on Wednesday ... I will happily savor the next chapter as my treat at the end of the day.

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