Sunday, September 30, 2018

Last update to Mr. Trouble

This is close to all I've written of Mr. Trouble (there's maybe enough for one or two more chapters), and since I'm not feeling overwhelming enthusiasm lately, I think I'm going to stop there.  I've been sort of feeling blah lately, maybe it's SAD, but I might just take a month off from posting.  In any case, for those who are following, here is:

Chapter 3

Entire story

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Consolation Prize—Chapter 17


They got back to the city on Saturday night—much later than expected. After hitting terrible traffic on the way down 87, they were able to bypass the worst of it by skipping Manhattan and shooting straight for Brooklyn. Pete and Lise dozed in the back after a tense few hours. Neither Will nor, Scottie wanted to inquire as to what was bothering them, so they allowed the tight silence to weigh on all of them as they sped south.

Once they’d both fallen asleep Scottie and Will shared a happy moment of relief at the lighter air around them. The unknown couples quarrel percolating in the back seat seemed to be, temporarily at least, put on hiatus. Will turned on some nondescript music and they settled into a relaxed silence.

Scottie, meanwhile, couldn’t quite pull herself out of her own head—she felt like she was still stuck up north with Will’s family. She kept replaying the last few days in her head and it was all becoming too much—her overwhelming sense of loss being replaced by something slightly better that she couldn’t quite put her finger on just yet. She felt as if she was in some kind of trance that had yet to be broken as the Manhattan skyline clicked by cinematically.

An hour after they entered the perimeter of the city, they finally pulled into the garage under Will and Pete’s building. The lights were aggressively florescent and unforgiving, and they were thoroughly spent. Will’s shoulder was still bothering him slightly, and he didn’t want to push himself too hard, especially after the long drive. So, Scottie assembled his chair after pulling it out of the trunk and Pete helped him into it with a professional ease that Will had rarely seen from his often-squeamish brother. Safely situated and in control, he was able to wheel himself smoothly to the elevator, the push rims sliding seamlessly through his open palms, taking advantage of the slight downward slope of the concrete.

Once upstairs, both Lise and Scottie disappeared into Pete and Will’s bedroom’s respectively to get ready for bed. Scottie kissed Will quickly while they both heard a door slam. Scottie shrugged and shook her head, and despite her growing closeness with Lise, decided against trailing her. She was clearly still harboring some kind of pent up anger toward Pete.

Pete, on the other hand, instead of following her in her huff, dropped himself heavily on the couch with a sigh and grabbed the remote, flipping the TV to life. Will grabbed his laptop off the counter where he’d left it, and rolled into the open family room. He eyed the couch for a minute, wondering if it was worth it to transfer, but ultimately decided he’d rather not go through the trouble.

“You’re working now?” Pete asked dubiously as he turned up the volume on ESPN Sports Center. The broadcaster’s voice was loud and clear and grating. Will cringed slightly as he typed his password, knowing he had a mess of emails to sort through, especially with how short Emily had been with him before he left for the holiday. He hoped some time off with her husband, who she supposedly loved, and her family would do her some good—but he didn’t let himself hope too much.

“It gives me peace of mind to know what I’ve got to get through this week,” Will answered honestly as he began to filter through his inbox. Pete guffawed and bent his arms with his hands behind his head in an exaggerated pose.

“Aren’t you supposed to be a lawyer?” Will asked mockingly.

“Indeed, and now I’ve paid enough dues to get first and second year associates to work the weekends for me,” he replied smugly. Will knew he wasn’t kidding, and he was slightly envious of Pete’s ability to unplug. With a boss like Emily, work leaked and blurred well outside of work hours. Business mixed freely with pleasure and Will, of all people, should know. He remembered more than one occasion where she’d produced her laptop out of nowhere after sex. They were still naked and sweating and she was trying to discuss a client while Will was trying to beat down his embarrassment at his lower half. He shuddered remembering it and instinctively shut his computer. He didn’t want to be like that anymore. He resolved to set better boundaries.

“Forget it,” Will said placing his laptop on the coffee table, “I’m beat.”

“Wanna watch Sports Center then?” Pete asked, an odd note of anticipation in his voice. His eyes remained stubbornly on the TV screen rather than on Will.

“Absolutely not,” he answered smartly, pivoting and starting to push himself lightly out of the room, cognizant of his shoulder with every rotation.

“Hey, wait up a second,” Pete said quickly, almost desperately. Will stopped short and spun around, his brow furrowed in expectation.

“Okay…” he replied, dragging the word out, with a tinge of irritation. Pete sat up straighter and rolled his neck, closing his eyes and moving his shoulders up and down. He was stalling. “Pete?” Will pressed, wheeling slightly closer to his brother, who refused to look at him. Instead he studied his hands, with particular focus on his right thumb nail, which had been bitten down as far as it could possibly go.

"You need to stop that,” Will said after a moment. He didn’t care that he was nagging. Pete clearly didn’t want to tell him something and if he was going to waste his time then he deserved a ragging.

“What?” Pete asked, still not looking up.

“The nails, Pete, it’s a mess,” Will reproached, leaning forward slightly and resting his forearms on his thighs. His right leg tittered slightly but he kept it in place by pressing his weight on it.

“Oh yeah, someday, sure,” he responded, absently. The sportscaster in the background shouted at an alarming pitch and cheers ensured. Then an entirely unnecessary horn blew. The fanfare wasn’t amusing after an almost 6-hour drive and an irritating interaction with the sudden king of coy.

“Can we turn this the fuck off?” Will snapped, reaching instinctively for the remote.

“No!” Pete reacted, jumping to his feet to beat Will’s grasp.

“Wasn’t a fair fight,” Will said sharply as he watched his brother place the remote on the other side of the couch and sit back down. Pete finally looked up at Will and it was like looking in a mirror. Will leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest.

“Sorry,” Pete replied quietly. Will had to lean back in and strain slightly to hear him over the commentary. “I don’t want Lise to hear this. She’d kill me if she knew.”

“Knew what?” Will asked, going slightly cold at the implication that Pete was about to drop something drastic on him. He selfishly wished Pete had waited until tomorrow morning after he’d had a chance to shower and get a good eight hours of sleep to drop this mystery bomb.

“Knew that I was telling you this,” Pete admitted, wincing visibly as if the words were actually causing physical pain. Will waited, not sure he should say anything. He wanted to let Pete get there on his own. “I just need to tell someone,” he said finally. He was wringing his hands in his lap and his right leg was shaking uncontrollably, reflecting Will’s. He chuckled internally because it almost looked like he was having a spasm of his own.

“Okay, so tell me if you’re going to tell me,” Will pushed, his anxiety rising. He fought to keep it at a reasonable level, knowing it would be impossible to erase completely, as he’d learned too many times before. Pete took a deep breath and leaned forward, putting his face in his hands and rubbing vigorously.

“You’re going to hurt yourself,” Will reprimanded, grabbing one of Pete’s wrists harshly. “Just let it out, Pete. Whatever it is, it’s going to be fine.” Pete nodded absently and sat up straighter. The flash of the TV cast an eerie bluish flickering glow over his features.

“Lise is pregnant,” Pete stated flatly. He was staring blankly past the TV at the wall. Will was shocked, but not in an entirely terrible way.

“That’s great,” Will started but then immediately backpedaled at the incredulous expression on his twin’s face. “I mean, obviously how great it is depends on how you feel.” He paused, waiting for Pere to fill the gap, but he didn’t budge.

“Pete,” Will pressed, “how does this make you feel?” Will slowly reached for his brother’s knee and shook it slightly to knock him out of wherever he’d gone. “Look, it’s not like you’re sixteen and you knocked up Holly Moser under the bleachers.” That did it. Pete snorted at Holly’s name. They’d dated sophomore year in high school and Pete admitted, quite early, that he didn’t like her personality at all. She was incredibly pretty in the way that youth grants but had a terrible mean streak. He had been afraid of breaking up for her for almost six months.

“I’m scared shitless,” Pete confessed quietly.

“That’s fair,” Will replied earnestly. “I don’t blame you.”

“And she’s pissed.”

“At you?”

“I don’t know,” Pete answered helplessly. He shrugged and rubbed his hand roughly over his face again.

“Was she not on the pill?” Will asked. “You did use some kind of protection, right?”

“Of course, we did,” Pete snapped, “I’m not an idiot. She’s on the pill, but I read online it doesn’t work 100% of the time.”

“Right,” Will agreed, wondering how it was possible that Lise was the 1% case where the pill didn’t work. He felt a selfish twang in his chest as he considered what the doctors had told him after he’d been paralyzed.

“You might have some trouble getting a woman pregnant since we still don’t know if you can ejaculate, but even if you can, those boys won’t be strong swimmers.” He remembered the cheesy smile on the doctor’s face—as if he thought this was funny or even amusing. To Will, it was the least funny thing he’d ever heard. He’d always wanted to be a dad, and it crushed him that if and when he ended up with someone, she would have to go through what was bound to be a fertility nightmare just because he couldn’t hold up his end of the agreement. Will could ejaculate, but it was very rare and pretty weak.

Biting his lip, he returned to his brother in their living room, shoving his own self-centered insecurities into the box he kept them. This wasn’t about him. This was about Pete.

“So, she’s pregnant,” Will repeated quietly. Still, Pete shushed him. “Okay, I’m sorry.”

“She said her mom was really fertile. Got pregnant every time she tried on the first time. Lise is blaming herself,” Pete said sadly.

“Wow,” Will replied, his mind drifting devastatingly to his own “slow swimmers.” He wondered if he would be able to get Lise’s mom pregnant. Then admonished himself for mentally impregnating Lise’s mom. “Well, it’s definitely not just her fault, considering it takes two.” Will laughed and Pete returned a frail smile.

“I just don’t know what we’re going to do,” he replied miserably.

“How far along is she?” Will inquired.

“Eight or nine weeks, we’re not sure. She took a test at mom and dad’s. We haven’t seen a doctor yet, but we’re guessing she’s due around the end of June.”

“Pete, just my point of view here. I’m assuming you want it?” Will asked sarcastically. Pete nodded and rolled his eyes.

“You’re 30. You’re both lawyers. You’re in love. You’ve got time to prepare.” Will stated matter-of-factly. “There isn’t any reason I can see not to have the baby and raise the baby together. Right?” Pete bobbed his head slowly. “Am I missing anything?” He shook his head and looked down at his hands.

“I just don’t feel ready.”

“I’m not sure you’re ever going to wake up one day and just be ready, you know?”

“I guess not,” Pete replied flatly, “I’ve never really thought about it.” And it occurred to Will, that Pete probably hadn’t ever thought about it. He was never a planner. The future never interested him. He was here for the now, the present, and he swung through his life from branch to branch without a care in the world. Things came easily to him, and they always had. This surprise pregnancy had profoundly fucked up the easy-going algorithm he’d unknowingly figured out for his life. It was the kind of bulletproof youth paired with his laid-back nature. Will’s youth and carefree attitude had been shattered along with his spine, but Pete’s had hung on for years and years. It was bound to be shaken up at some point.

This was that point.

“We’re happy but confused. We wanted it to be on our terms,” Pete lamented, responding to Will’s silence.

“Things rarely happen on your terms in life, little bro.” Pete gave a weak laugh at the dig as Will reached over and rubbed his brother’s back. He was slumped forward. Inhaling sharply, he pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“I just told you what I think,” Will replied.

“No but, what do you think about me being a dad?” he questioned, his voice shrinking to a whisper as the question worked its way out of his mouth. The TV was still blaring, and Will wished he could flip it off.

“I think you’re going to be a great dad, Pete. I really, really do.”

“I just wish you were going to be a dad first,” Pete said earnestly, looking over at Will with a frustration in his face that wasn’t there before. Will wasn’t sure how to answer. His tongue was thick in his mouth. He wasn’t ready to be a dad yet, but if he managed to get Scottie pregnant, he’d do everything he could for that baby. He’d throw himself right into fatherhood headfirst, without a safety net.

“What? Why?” he finally managed to say. And much to Will’s surprise, Pete managed to look shocked.

“So, I could copy you, duh,” he replied with a tone that made it clear he thought this was the most obvious thing in the world.

“What?” Will asked, feeling dumb and confused at the same time.

“I always thought you’d make a great dad, and I was gonna copy you, so, you know, I didn’t fuck it up too bad.” Will felt a chill ripple through him and yearned, in a kind of primitive way, for the chance one day. He smiled sadly and patted Pete on the shoulder.

“Pete, you’re going to be great. Both of you. I have no doubt.” Pete grinned, and Will could almost see the excitement inflate him.

“Fuck,” he said in disbelief.

“Fuck is right,” Will answered, his smile creeping from sad to hopeful. He didn’t know if he’d ever be able to be a dad, but he did know he’d do everything to be the best damn uncle in the world. 

<> 

Opening the door to his room, Will thought he might be sick. He was having a hard time processing what Pete had told him. He needed some quiet and some sleep.

He expected to find Scottie curled up in his bed, buried by the oversized grey comforter she had quite a knack for hogging—but she wasn’t. The room was dark, but there was light peeking out from under the bathroom door, which was shut. Will could hear the shower running.

“Scottie?” he said, knocking lightly and leaning his face against the door. “Can I just grab a few things in here?” He could do some of his routine in the hall bathroom, but he would need to get into his own bathroom before he got into bed. What he really wanted to do was climb into the shower with her, but they hadn’t done that yet, and he felt self-conscious at the thought of how clumsy he’d be with his floppy slippery legs, not to mention the crippling nervousness he still had to beat down whenever they had sex—which admittedly wasn’t very often. They preferred to fool around, usually ending with him going down on her. She seemed to be satisfied, and if she was satisfied, then he was, too.  

“No, don’t come in,” she answered in a thick muted voice. She was close to the door, so she definitely wasn’t under the water. He found himself in a family place, reminded of the first time they’d met—without even knowing they were meeting—when he’d knocked on the bathroom door at Wave Hill. Then again at his apartment the next morning, when she slammed this same bathroom door in his face. He’d found himself tentatively knocking, afraid he’d scare away—not like she’d be able to climb out the bathroom window on the 8th floor, but still. But this time felt slightly different. She sounded more vulnerable and less apologetic.

“Scottie, I’m sorry, but I’m coming in.” He deftly turned the knob and pushed the door open, and there she was, curled up, compact, and crying. She was sitting on the closed toilet with her knees pulled up to her chest, arms wrapped tightly around them, face obscured by her dark hair cascading down over her legs, and she was absolutely convulsing with racking sobs.

“Jesus Christ,” Will gasped, grabbing the push rims of his chair and gliding swiftly to her with one stoke, coming to a smooth stop right in front of her. She shuddered once more and lifted her head slightly, face blotchy, red, and soak.

“Your cheeks,” she whispered wetly, trying to sniffle at the same time. Will’s hands flew to his face to find his cheeks had warmed and colored from a potent mix of the news he’d just received and the swelling steam swirling around them.

“They’re red?” he asked. She nodded and gave him a feeble smile. He grinned back and tilted his head down slightly to be at eyelevel with her. It was odd adjusting for someone else when he was so used to everyone adjusting for him. “Yeah well,” he continued, reaching to wipe her cheeks with his thumbs. She let him, closing her eyes for a second and savoring his coarse touch. “Yours are pretty red as well.”

She stifled a laugh, suddenly feeling incredibly stupid for falling to pieces in his bathroom. Carefully, she unfolded herself, straightening her long legs out on each side of his wheelchair and reaching timidly for his hands. He took them in his and rested them on his lap, pulling her closer. She obliged and pressed her forehead against his, her eyes closed, her breathing ragged.

She was wearing a white ribbed tank top without a bra and a pair of Calvin Klein white underwear, and Will felt his breath catch in the back of his throat. She had never looked more beautiful. 

“What’s wrong, Thea?” Will asked, his voice low and soothing. The sound of the water pounding the tiles and the heat of steam oddly comforting and intimate.

“Your family,” she whispered, leaning back slightly to look him in the eye. Will felt his heart drop. They were too much for her. They were scaring her away. His arms suddenly went cold and numb and he felt panicky at the sensation of not having feeling anywhere in his body.

“Jesus, I’m so sorry, they can be…” he managed, but his voice trailed off as she started to shake her head.

“Stop it, silly, I mean, your family is, is,” she searched for her next word, throwing her eyes to the ceiling and furrowing her brow.

“A lot?” Will offered. She laughed and sniffled at the same time, tears welling in her eyes again, magnifying their magnificent color, threatening to spill over.

“Amazing,” she interjected. “They’re amazing, Will.”

“What?” he asked, dumbfounded. “My dad acted like a total dick.”

“I know, I know,” she admitted, finding a smile in her pout. “But at least he cares enough to act like a dick,” she argued.

“But,” Will protested weakly, not knowing quite how to navigate the conversation. He was impressed at her ability to read between people’s line and dig into their nuances.

“He cares, Will,” she whispered in awe, like it was the most incredible thing she’d ever seen. “They all care.” And watching the admiration and wonder carved across her face, Will realized that this was all novel for her. He reproached himself for not seeing it sooner. He’d shown her what a real family—visceral, and rude, and incredibly raw at times—was like. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And she’d seen the good above all else.

Scottie searched Will’s face for an indication that he had heard her, but he just had this blank look, wide-eyed, mouth slightly agape.

“Will?” she said quietly, reaching up to wipe a rogue tear on her face but there was steam all around them now, and her face was so damp it was hard to tell what was tears and what was condensation. He had averted his gaze for a moment, down to their intertwined hands in his lap, but he slowly looked up and met her eyes and shook his head.

“I love you,” he avowed suddenly, without a shadow of doubt. “I love you so much.” Scottie went to speak but found that all of her words had been swallowed up. She sensed the tears again, heavier, happier—a release. They bowled down her cheeks with abandon, and she pulled her hands from his to cover her face. She was losing control.

“It’s okay,” Will assured her, “It’s okay, come here. You don’t have to say it back.” He pulled her closer, frustrated with his legs and his inability to get nearer to her because of his chair.

“Will,” she sniffled, “Will.” She was hiccuping and pulled back from him, rubbing at her face furiously. The steam had dampened her hair and it was sticking to her forehead. Will chuckled and reached up to wipe it away and tuck it behind her ears. Heavy with moisture, it stuck.

“It’s okay,” he whispered reassuringly, rubbing her upper back with his good arm.  

“I love you,” she said unequivocally, interrupting him. “I love you more than words can even…” She trailed off and started sobbing again. Will’s heart was so full in his chest he couldn’t breathe. Or maybe, it was the steam churning around them. Either way, it was a heady mix. He leaned in, scooting forward slightly precariously on the seat cushion, to kiss her. She met him halfway and took his lips in hers. He kissed her hard, running his hands through her wet hair with the kind of urgency that might come with it being their last. But it wasn’t their last. Not even close.

Scottie sat back after a few minutes and held his gaze, her green eyes smoldering. Slowly, sensually, she lifted her arms straight up in the air and held them there, suspended. The look on her face was one of invitation.

For possibly the hundredth time that night, Will felt his breath catch deep in the back of his throat. He reached over, equally slowly, and gently pulled her tank top over her head, revealing her perfect boobs and smooth stomach. She stood slowly in front of him, baring herself completely, as he leaned forward, kissing her along the waistband of her underwear, then slowly pulling them down her long legs. She stepped out of them gracefully and leaned down to nip his ear. He felt the electricity shoot through him and he shuddered as goosebumps ran down his arms.

Then, Scottie reached for his shirt, tugging it over his well-defined chest and pecs. He hesitated, feeling awkwardness and self-consciousness rear their ugly heads for a murky second. He took a deep breath, and instead of stopping her, making some kind of sorry excuse for his broken body, and leaving her to shower alone, he chose confidence, and raised his arms too, allowing her to pull his shirt over his head. She loved him.  

They’d never showered together, and Will didn’t feel particularly sexy, but she’d seen him naked a bunch of times now. She knew what his body was capable of, and what it wasn’t, and they’d had fun exploring the gap between those two extremes. If they wanted to branch out of their usual, a tab of Viagra and a rubber band had been able to work wonders since Will was only able to have reflex erections with direct stimulation. His complete injury prevented him from having psychogenic erections anymore, so even as he looked at Scottie in front of him, his penis was uncooperative, as usual, but for the first time he could remember, it didn’t bother him. All he could see was her. She was the most captivating thing in the world.  He hadn’t taken anything, but that moment didn’t seem to be about sex. It was deeper and oddly even more intimate than they had ever been together.

There was a tenderness in Scottie that Will had never seen before, and Scottie too noticed a novel vulnerability in Will, radiating from a place of strength, that made her believe they’d taken a serious step forward in their relationship in a mere matter of seconds. It was exhilarating.

Will bent down to depress his brakes then leaned back in his chair, taking all of her in, moving his eyes up her body as if he were part of a sacred ritual—all smooth skin and slender limbs. She leaned toward him, reaching for his pant button and zipper as he pressed his body upward and lifted his butt out of the seat just enough, so she could reach behind him and slide his briefs and pants down at the same time. They pooled at his ankles and she took each leg in her hands and gently threaded his feet out through the fabric, placing them softly back on the footplate. Will couldn’t feel her hands but watching her touch him was like fireworks—colors, sparks, and heat.

Unlocking his brakes, he reversed slightly, and she stepped forward and straddled him, wrapping her legs around his sinewy back. He was thankful for his considerable trunk control, otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to support her so well as he wrapped his arms tightly around her body and ran his hands down her back. He loved having her whole being pressed against the parts of him that he could feel. She smelled damp and peppery as she laid her head on his shoulder and dipped her face into the crook of his neck. He inhaled deeply, committing this glorious moment to memory.

Then, he wheeled carefully into the roll-in shower, getting as close to the hot water’s spray as he could without getting his chair absolutely soaked. Scottie trailed kisses up his neck and onto his cheek as she reluctantly stood and stepped backwards into the hot water, transforming from a human—her form sharp and immediate—into a water deity—shadowy, ethereal, and untouchable. Needing to be near her in a visceral, primal way, he reached for his shower chair greedily. After a deft transfer, he used his considerable arms to push his chair back out of the shower, and scoot himself under the water. Scottie watched him with wonder, admiring his broad shoulders and the swell of his biceps, triceps, and chest muscles rippling with use. She knew all too well from her time with Will that it wasn’t easy being paralyzed, but sometimes he simply made it look that way. He was amazing, and he loved her.

He loved her. She couldn’t stop saying it in her head, turning the promise over and over, running it through the lens of her life. He loved her.

Slowly, after warming up from head to toe, she lowered herself onto his lap and pressed her mouth to his, and he took her in his arms, pulling her against him, skin to skin. The hot water came down like a wild kind of rain, their bodies slick, the steam fogging the glass, wrapping them in their own kind of paradise, suspended in the moment, where they were intertwined, soaking wet, and each other’s completely.

Update to The Consolation Prize

Hi guys—

Hope everyone's weeks are good. I think that ya'll are really going to like this chapter—I know I certainly liked writing it. We get to see a little bit from Pete then end with some Scottie and Will 1:1. Can't wait to hear your thoughts! 

Chapter 17 

Table of Contents 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Update to Mr. Trouble

Thanks to everyone for the encouraging comments last week!  I've got a few more chapters written, so at the very least, I'll post those.  For those of you who read last week, you realize this is a different kind of story for me, in that both of the main characters have disabilities.

Chapter 2

And for those of you who didn't read last week, Chapter 1 is here.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Consolation Prize—Chapter 16


The first thing Will heard was Barry yelling for someone to call an ambulance, his voice gravely and far away. Realizing he was on the ground, Will struggled to orient himself, but his head spun something awful. 

Then, he heard his dad curse loudly—and unnecessarily—over the hurried whisper of a Greek prayer in his mom’s worry voice. Will had heard enough of Ari’s worry voice to last him for the rest of his goddamn natural life, thank you very much.

“Fucking Christ,” John muttered. 

“Didn’t you go to church this morning?” Olivia sniped back, her worry manifesting itself in anger. 

Will blinked a few times as he felt Scottie’s hands on his back. It was all happening in slow motion, like everyone was swimming through mud. Barry insisted again on calling an ambulance, and before Will could open his mouth, Scottie jumped in like an old pro. She had to talk him down not once, not twice, but three times. Will reminded himself to kiss that girl later.

“I’m fine,” he finally managed, pushing himself with his tender arm up into a seated position with Scottie’s measured help. “I’m fine,” he said again, this time his voice more assured. 

Wynn had insisted they all go home. Will had insisted they stay. 

“Stop being a martyr,” she argued tersely. 

“Stop being my nurse,” Will recoiled like a cobra. Wynn gave him a stony stare and a great big huff. He rolled his eyes. His shoulder would be fucked up whether he ate dinner or not, and he didn’t want to think about the complications that would undoubtedly arise from falling not just once, but twice. He also didn’t want to deprive everyone of a good meal and rob his father of the dinner he’d been looking forward to all week. 

No, they had to stay. 

He decided firmly—his disposition iron. A plan was hatched to get him back in his chair and into the restaurant that Will didn’t like, but he was realistic enough to know that he didn’t have much of a choice. Had the same thing happened among friends, he’d be laughing as one of them picked him up like a damsel in distress. He hadn’t fallen in years, and in one fell swoop he fell in front of the girl that had taken his hear and ripped it in two all those years ago, and his entire family. Just his luck. Much like with Kristin, with his family, he felt stripped down, raw, and vulnerable. Bursting into sloppy tears felt far more likely than laughing. 

As Pete and his dad hoisted him off the sidewalk, his shoulder continued to throb that hot red you see in prescription drug commercials. He had to grit his teeth to keep from groaning as Pete lifted him under the arms. His dad took his legs with the kind of expression better suited to having a steaming pile of dog shit dropped in his lap.  Scottie, his patient and reassuring shadow, followed with his chair. 

Once at the top of the steps, John and Pete awkwardly positioned Will over the seat cushion, plopping him down with a thump. No one spoke, but Will heard his mom sniffle and felt as if he might vomit up the empty contents of his stomach right there. He lifted his limp legs from under the knee and situated them on the footplate in slow deliberate movements. The way his dad kept looking at him surreptitiously as if he was made of glass. Will wanted to scream “look me in the eye goddammit” but he couldn’t muster the willpower. He wished he’d just shattered into a million pieces instead of being the headliner, the man at center stage, the leading role in this macabre chain of events.

There was now a small crowd of people gathered around, waiting to enter the restaurant but enjoying the entertainment, as he gingerly tried to wheel himself through the front door Pete was holding, but his shoulder was so sensitive he winced without meaning to. Scottie and Olivia both caught it, but Olivia was considerably shorter than Scottie—clocking in at 5’2”—so her height lined up better with pushing Will’s chair. Since it didn’t have handles and the seat was incredibly low, Olivia still had to bend over to grip the thin bar along the back rest. 

The show must go on. 

At least, that was what Ari kept saying once they’d all been seated around a large round table overlooking the lake and a couple of bottles of wine had been uncorked and poured generously. Will resented the use of the word “show” quite frankly, but he kept his mouth shut. Thankfully the path had been cleared for them, probably by Barry in his booming voice, but Will could barely look up as he was wheeled like an invalid through the crowded restaurant by his baby sister. He couldn’t even imagine the shade of red his face was as he waffled between terrible crippling humiliation and timid gratitude toward his family. It was an odd cocktail. 

The conversation stalled. Ari kept snatching worried glances at Will who did his best to keep his face neutral, despite the ache in his shoulder and the additional heat perpetually threatening to rise into his cheeks. Scottie held his hand under the table and he silently thanked god for sending her to him. He wasn’t religious but meeting her when he did sometimes feel like divine intervention. 

Things eased up after drinks had been had, Pete even made a joke about Will’s fall that cracked some of the tension and made Will genuinely smile for the first time the entire meal. He was struck with the desire to just simply be like everyone else. Just a guy, out with his girlfriend and his family. Not a guy made of glass, who couldn’t walk, and caused a big scene at the entrance of a popular restaurant. He let himself wallow in his private pity party for a glorious and depressing minute before he bit back the longing.  

The food was rich and plentiful, and with his chair tucked out of view and the earlier incident overshadowed, Will did feel, for a few minutes, like everyone else. 

Then they had to help him back down the stairs, and with getting in the car. He was thankful that Pete insisted in just scooping him up rather than getting their dad involved. Will didn’t think he could take his dad’s nervous energy and disdainful mask again. Pete eased Will out of the car once they got back to house, and pushed him up the ramp like goddamn Speed Racer. 

“Easy there, Pete,” Will joked as he bumped him dramatically over the threshold. 

“Hey, little bro, I’m in charge here,” he argued playfully while situating him in the kitchen and grabbing him a cold beer, popping the cap and handing it to him. Another drink reminded him that he had to cath, and he hoped it wasn’t too late as he frantically glanced down at his crotch—no accident yet—then tried to hide his panic unsuccessfully. 

“What’s up?” Pete asked slowly. They were alone in the kitchen as everyone had gone to their respective rooms to change into more comfortable clothes. He could hear Wynn and Sean laughing in the family room. Will didn’t want to draw attention to it any more than he had to.

“Uh, would you mind giving me a push to the bathroom,” Will asked, hating that he had to do it. 

“Oh yeah, duh,” Pete replied nonchalantly as he placed Will and his beers on the table and bent down to get a grip on the back of the chair. He rolled him up to the hall bathroom and stopped, awkwardly stepping toward the door. 

“My bathroom,” Will corrected him sternly. 

“Oh, oh, oh, my bad,” Pete stumbled over his words and took over pushing again. Scottie was coming out of Will’s room in leggings and an oversized sweater. 

“What’s happening?” she asked eyeing Will to make sure he was okay with it. 

“Just need to hit the bathroom and grab some sweats, I’ll meet you out there.” Scottie nodded and kissed him while Pete cleared his throat just to be a dick. 

“Oh, piss off,” Scottie teased, rolling her hair around her index finger as she turned toward the kitchen. 

Pete got Will into his bathroom and next to the toilet. Will could tell that he was unsure about what to do next and incredibly uncomfortable with the whole thing. Smirking, Will leaned back in his chair, grimacing slightly at the pinch in his shoulder as he crossed his arms over his chest. 

“So, I’ll just meet you outside?” Pete asked, shuffling his feet backwards toward the door. 

“Actually,” Will replied tentatively, “I think I’m going to need help in here.” 

“Help?” Pete’s face went pale as he audibly swallowed, looking from left to right, then running his hand through his hair, then offering a nervous laugh. 

“Yeah,” Will continued, “you remember what the nurses explained right after I got hurt right? How to catheterize myself? I’m pretty sure you were in the room.” Pete just nodded blankly. “I’m just going to need you to unzip my pants, and take this tube,” Will informed him as he grabbed a fresh catheter in plastic from the dopp kit on the shelf behind the toilet. “And you’ll just take my dick out, and slide this tube into it, and hold the other end over the toilet, make sense? You’ve gotta be really careful though, it’s you know, my penis you’ll be handling.” Pete’s face had drained of all color, and he reached absently for the bathroom counter to steady himself. 

“Uh, maybe I should grab mom or something,” Pete offered, running his hand through his hair again. 

“No, dude, come on, I can’t have mom touch my penis,” Will quipped, trying to hide the smirk that was creeping onto his face. 

“I guess I could,” Pete started tentatively, looking up from his shoes, which had suddenly become the most interesting things in the room, and caught the shadow of Will’s smile. 

Wait a minute,” he said, voice trailing off. 

“I’m kidding you dipshit,” Will goaded, “get the fuck out of here, I’ll just be a minute.” 

“Fuck off man,” Pete shouted and slammed the counter. “Fuck the fuck off,” he said again, this time he could barely get the words out he was laughing so hard. “You got me good.”

“Oh, I know I did,” Will replied smugly. “Remember when you wanted to get mom?” Pete grinned and shook his head. “Like I’d let you touch my dick. Get out of here.” 

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Pete mocked, turning on his heel. “Hurry up and stop milking this. 
I’ve got delicate sensibilities over here.” 

“That’s for damn sure,” Will argued with a smile as Pete slammed the bathroom door. He'd always been incredibly talented at self deprecation, and the awkwardness between them dissipating, finally, like smoke.   


<>

Scottie put together a bag of ice and jokingly duct taped it to Will’s shirt so he didn’t have to hold it there. 

“Let’s preserve his other shoulder, shall we?” she quipped, confidently. Will thawed slightly as everyone laughed. He started to breathe a bit easier as Wynn set up their annual scrabble game and Ari opened another bottle of red wine. 

“If you think you’re getting off easy little brother, you’re sorely mistaken,” Pete teased while Lise chattered away with Olivia, Wynn, and Shawn. “You’ll get no pity from me this time.”

“You’ve been letting me off easy all this time? I guess that explains why you lose every year,” Will countered deftly. Scottie laughed and put her hand on Will’s good shoulder. 
“And, he’s never had me before,” she said with a smirk and a cock of the head. 

“You know, Lise was the state champion in California in Scrabble,” Pete bragged proudly. 

“What did you say?” Lise asked, cutting Wynn off in the middle of a story. 

“Is that so, Lise?” Will asked. 

“What do you think? It’s Pete we’re talking about here,” she asked sarcastically. Scottie 
laughed and nodded. Pete had been known to embellish the truth from time to time. It 
seemed to be increasing in frequency.  

“It’s not true,” Will said flatly. 

“It’s not true,” Lise confirmed, hitting Pete on the back of the head playfully. 

“Ow!” he whined, rubbing the spot. “Bro hit me up with some of that ice.”

“Can’t,” Will replied, shrugging one sidedly. “It happens to be duct taped onto my shirt,” he continued, glaring at Scottie who stifled a laugh. 

“Okay kids,” John bellowed as he entered the room carrying a bunch of glasses, followed by Ari with a tray of cookies. “Let the annual game begin. Olivia,” John continued, eyeing his youngest daughter, “looks like you’re the only one flying solo this year.” 

“I prefer it that way,” she answered haughtily, cracking her knuckles and rolling her neck in a circle—the picture of an athlete. Everyone laughed and settled down at the table for the game. 

Despite what had happened earlier, it seemed, at least for the moment, that all was well, and calm, and warm. 


<>


Will woke up abruptly in the middle night, his eyes wide, sleep sloughed off like removing a jacket. He sat up, moving slowly and calculatingly. His shoulder put up a fight as he slid off the bed and into his chair, but he tried to only use his good side situating his legs. Scottie was still soundly asleep, her chest rising and falling in rhythm. Her hair was spread out over the pillow and her lips were slightly pursed. Will was happy he couldn’t reach her from where he was sitting because he was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to resist kissing her. 

Carefully, he wheeled himself out of the room, pushing, quite literally, through the pain, and clicked the door closed behind him. There was a glow coming from the kitchen down the hall which Will assumed was just a forgotten light. But as he got closer he realized it was his dad. He was sitting at the kitchen table, leaning back in one of the chairs, a glass of whiskey in front of him. His gaze was squarely focused out the window into the darkness over the water. 

“Hey,” Will said as he rolled into the room.

“Will,” John replied, startled and slightly embarrassed, his already ruddy cheeks coloring slightly. It was 2:24 in the morning and he was wide awake and sufficiently drunk. “Sorry, you surprised me.” Will opened the fridge and pulled out a beer, backing up slightly to close the door, then pivoting toward the kitchen table, moving smoothly and riding out the glide as long as possible. 

“Sorry I didn’t mean to,” he apologized as he twisted the cap off the bottle. “I didn’t really expect anyone to be awake at this hour. 

“Yeah,” John said shrugging. “Well, here we are.” Will nodded thoughtfully and took a long sip. 

“How’s?” John asked after a moment of quiet, gesturing with his head at Will’s injured arm. Will sighed and put the beer down on the table to rub the offending shoulder. 

“I just need to rest it,” he insisted, hating what that meant. 

"Let me get you some more ice.” John was up before Will could protest, dumping cubes from the tray into a Ziploc bag, and breaking up some that had stuck together with his hands. He came up behind Will and placed it delicately on his shoulder. His gentle tenderness was entirely out of character. Shuddering slightly at the cold, Will pressed it into his long sleeve white shirt and took a deep breath. It felt better already. 

“Thanks, dad.” Will’s voice was haggard, the exhaustion etched in his words and around his eyes as he closed them, savoring the feeling of the chill running down his arm. John sat down across from his son and studied his face. He looked slightly older than his 30 years, but only slightly. He did look tired though, and worn thin. 

“Hurting your shoulder isn’t good is it?” John asked slowly. Will opened his eyes and snorted. 

“No, not good,” he replied sardonically. “I use it for everything. I’m completely dependent on my arms.” 

“And you can’t put any weight on your legs to, well, help?” John asked. Will stared at his dad with his mouth slightly ajar. His furrowed brow and the question on his lips only barely touched on his confusion. 

“Dad,” Will said slowly, “do you know what it means to be paralyzed?” He realized, suddenly, that his father probably had a clinical understanding of what it meant. He’d heard the doctors when it first happened. He’d probably chanced a few Google searches but chickened out before long. He had never asked Will a direct question about it. Not once. The insight hit him in the gut like a punch. 

“Well I, of course I know what it means,” he answered awkwardly, getting caught on the word know. 

“You know what the doctors said,” Will allowed, “And to be fair, everyone’s injury is different, some people can stand, or feel, or put weight on their legs.”  

“Okay,” John said triumphantly, clapping his hands. “So I’m not totally off here.” 

“Right, but do you know what me being paralyzed means?” He harped on the word me, trying to get through to the man who could barely look him in the eye for months afterward. His discomfort was palpable—for years it was profoundly apparent. It had diminished, just by simple exposure, but it still lingered like a bad smell. 
And then, what he said next, surprised Will, who thought he knew exactly how this conversation would go—silence ensuing, whiskey finished, glass dropped in sink, lights turned off for fear that Will wouldn’t be able to reach the switch. 

“Well then, tell me.” Will blinked to make sure he wasn’t in some kind of grotesquely realistic dream. But when he opened his eyes again, John was still sitting across from him, swirling the whiskey in his glass, but looking at Will in earnest, his face open and sincere. 

Will took a deep breath and gripped onto this chance. He didn’t know when, if ever, he’d get another one. So, he told him. 

He told him what it was like to not be able to feel anything from the waist down and how it sometimes felt like his legs belonged to someone else. He told him what it was like to get spasms somehow exactly when he needed his body to cooperate. He recollected how he initially coped with the news and began to work with—instead of against—his new body. He admitted to being humiliated in the beginning when he was unable to care for himself, feeling like he’d become an infant again overnight. But then he admonished himself for how long he wallowed in the beginning, and described meeting his friend Jack, a C3 quadriplegic, in rehab and how he’d flipped Will’s entire perspective on how much worse it could have been—he could have had all of his independence stripped away. 

He laughed as he told his dad about falling at Royal Palms in front of Kristin. He detailed how he got around the city—from driving his hand-controlled car, to attempting to hail a cab, to going six stations out of his way only to find out the elevator was out of service. He described all the little tricks he’d learned to get up and down stairs, over curbs and door jams, and through tight spaces and across rough terrain. He found himself riffing with his dad when they discussed being at butt level with everyone and how seeing up everyone’s noses was even less pleasant than it sounded. He meticulously recounted the myriad of tiny degradations whenever he had to fly. He finally admitted that he hated being stared at everywhere he went, and wished that sometimes he could just disappear. 

He told his dad what a pressure sore was, and how it was a constant fear. He listed the various medications he took, what they did, and the side effects that bothered him. He introduced him to what a catheter was, and how he had to be diligent about using one every 4 hours. He explained what a bowel routine was and confessed it was probably the worst part about being paralyzed, in his opinion. Sex naturally came up next, and Will was honest—more honest than he would have anticipated, although, he could never have anticipated this conversation in the first place. He lamented that Viagra only worked part of the time. He talked about how amazing Scottie had been about everything, jumping into a relationship with him without batting an eye. He confided his fear that he wouldn’t be able to father children with her. He whispered that most days, the only thing that bothered him was that he just wanted to be able to walk hand in hand with her down the street, and look her in the eye without her having to crouch down or take a seat herself. 
But as they came to the end of the outpouring, the flow slowing down to a trickle, Will realized that this was all incredibly important for his dad to understand him and how he got to where he was, but it wasn’t the closing statement. 

“I’ve made peace with it all, though,” Will heard himself say, and the second it came out, he knew it was true. His life had gone the direction it had not because of and not in spite of his accident, but he couldn’t argue that it didn’t change him. If he could change history, he wouldn’t. 

“Weirdly, I knew that,” John replied thoughtfully, taking his last sip of whiskey. 

“You did?” Will asked, slightly stunned. 

“You just, adapted, and pivoted,” John said flatly. 

“Anyone would,” Will argued. 

“See, that’s where I think you’re wrong,” John refuted, “I don’t think anyone would.” Will stared at his dad for a long time, then looked down at his hands in his lap. Taking a deep breath, he nodded and picked his gaze back up. Before Will could speak however, his dad put his hand on his knee. Will couldn’t be totally sure, but he wagered this was the first time his dad had touched a paralyzed part of him on his own volition. He felt his cheeks redden considerably. 

“Thank you for talking to me about everything. That can’t have been easy.” John leaned close to Will and lasered in, blue eyes meeting blue eyes. 

“Thanks, dad,” Will whispered, his voice cracking. 

“It just hurts me to see you like this.” 

“But I’m not hurting anymore.” John crossed his arms and gestured to Will’s shoulder with his chin. “Okay, okay, aside from that.” Will laughed and his Dad cracked a weak smile. 

“You’re my hero, kid,” John continued, “and I’m sorry if I’ve been hard on you. It’s just, well, I can’t really explain where it comes from. I don’t know how to act, so I act like an asshole.” His voice corded at the end, narrowly getting all the words out. 

“You do,” Will reproached with raised eyebrows. 

“Watch it,” his dad teased. Will put his hands up in apology. 

“Okay, okay.” 
“This just isn’t the life I saw for you.” His voice is heavy and sad and strangely full of self-blame. 

“Do you think it’s the life I saw for myself?” Will asked, incredulously. His dad raised his eyes to meet Will’s and he shook his head imperceivably. “It isn’t the life I saw or expected for myself either, but that doesn’t mean it’s less good.” John nodded, taking his son’s words in one at a time. He was wise, and John wasn’t sure why that surprised him so much. He, after all, had been through quite a lot. 

Scottie stood on shaky legs in the safe shadows of the hallway. She’d been woken by the door closing and was concerned about Will needing help reaching the ice. So, she had tip-toed out of bed after him, only to find herself frozen, leaning against the wall, covering her mouth, a victim to the quiet flow of tears down her cheeks as she listened to every word. 



<>


Thanksgiving came and went without incident. It was a day with too much food, too much wine, and early bedtimes. The day after Thanksgiving, Will’s shoulder was finally feeling a bit better and the first thing he did when he woke up was make an appointment with a specialist back in the city. He and Scottie were driving back that next afternoon, and he wanted to enjoy his family without thinking about his shoulder or the disastrous start to the week. The day after Thanksgiving had always been his favorite day of the year. It was this quiet pocket where the world still seemed stopped for the holiday, but there was no pressure, no agenda, no itinerary. Each year they’d spent the day lazing around, eating leftovers out of big bowls where everything got wonderfully mixed together, and playing cards—and this year was no different. 

Will found himself stretched out on the couch with Scottie sitting cross-legged at the other end with his feet resting in her lap. She hadn't confided in Will that she'd heard his conversation with his dad, and she didn't plan on it. She was able to slink back to bed before he left the kitchen, sliding silently under the covers like a shadow. She wasn't sure if she would tell him somewhere down the line, but right now it needed to remain between Will and his dad. It wasn't her place to have heard—to have listened. And, she knew that. But, what was done was done. Once it began she couldn't tear herself away, desperate for some kind of justice, or kindness, for the man she loved so much. Turning to watch him, she felt light with joy and heavy with yearning at the same time. She couldn't quite explain why she felt so sad while also feeling so happy.  

Taking a deep breath, Scottie returned to the present. She, Wynn, Lise, and Olivia had been ultra-competitive all-day playing hearts, and they were down to what was looking like the final game. Pete came in and handed Will a beer, taking a seat on the armchair to his right to watch the showdown. 

Olivia, who’d come in dead last in scrabble, unexpectedly came out on top—but just barely. She dumped the queen of spades on Lise in the final hand, which was so unexpected Lise shot up to her feet and covered her face, yelling “no, no, no, no no!” through her hands. Olivia could barely believe it. 

“I’ve never won!” she shouted. Scottie tossed her cards on the table with a deep sigh. She’d come in second, with only a few more points that Oliva. She and Will had won the scrabble game the other night with the final word “flatulent” much to everyone’s outrage and dismay, and that was where the true glory in this family was. 
Wynn huffed and  rolled her eyes, twisting her long hair around her finger. 

“Obviously Olivia cheated,” she joked, leaning against Sean’s knees. He was sitting on the other couch, which situated perpendicular to the couch Will and Scottie were on, and he absently was cracking up without taking his eyes off his phone.

“I don’t think she was the one cheating,” Sean said directly to Wynn with raised eyebrows. 

"Hey,” she warned. 

“You forgot I could see your hand, baby.” He smirked. 

“What’s all the commotion?” Ari asked, appearing in the doorway.

“Olivia just came out on top, and no one’s happy about it,” Will offered, scooting back into a better sitting position. Scottie rubbed his calf absently, and even though he felt nothing physically, he appreciated the incredible normalcy of the gesture. She pushed her wild hair behind her ears and caught him staring. 

“What?” she asked. He shook his head, a whisper of a smile on his lips. She rolled her eyes. “Okay, Mr. Nash.” 

Meanwhile, Ari was working her way across the room. 

“Olivia, don’t let them ruin your fun,” she said wisely as she kissed Olivia on the top of the head and settled into the other side of Sean’s couch. “You’re the underdog, and that’s why they’re trying.” 

“And they underestimated me because of the whole scrabble fiasco,” she replied, slightly embarrassed. 

“Well, honey, that really was a fiasco,” Ari teased and ruffled her hair as she protested loudly. 

“Hey!” 

John appeared in the doorway and seemed hesitant to enter the room. 

“Get in here, love,” Ari cajoled. John laughed nervously and puttered into the room, surveying it for a place to sit. He hesitated for a half a second and Will felt their conversation from last night, acute and hovering. His dad was clearly still thinking about it, perhaps trying to actively implement change, because after that momentary hiccup, he brusquely asked Will to move over. 

“What?” Will asked incredulously, snapping his head to glare at John. 

“You’re taking up the whole damn couch!” he goaded playfully. Will found his face split in half by a genuine smile because before last night, his dad would have treated Will like he was a box of breakable plates, taking a seat on the wood floor, despite his bad back, before asking his disabled son to make room for him—something which he could and would easily do for his dad. John would, and had gladly shoved Pete aside, but never Will. 
But that night was different. Will felt foolish as he hoped against hope that it stuck. 

And if It proved not to last, he’d remember what his mom said to Olivia. He was the underdog, and he wasn’t going to let anyone ruin his fun—even his dad.