Saturday, September 1, 2018

Mr. Trouble, Chapter 4


Maddie

“Where were you?”

Tyler is not thrilled when I roll in at just past nine o’clock.  I texted him that I was going to be late, but that only placated him partially.  He yanked the door open the very second I put my key in the lock, as if he was standing right behind the door, waiting for me.  And now we’re in the dining area, and he’s got his arms folded across his chest and appears quite stern.

I almost laugh.

“I ended up having dinner with a friend,” I say, hoping he won’t ask me which friend.

“Which friend?”

Damn.  “Um…”

Tyler narrows his eyes at me.  “What’s that?”

At first I have no idea what he’s talking about.  Then I see it: the box of penis gummies, tucked between my thigh and the armrest of my chair.  It’s a bright yellow box—no subtlety for penis gummies—with pictures of multicolored gummies on it, including one model penis gummy, which also has arms.  Well, I guess he has legs too, but they’re testicle-shaped. 

The penis gummies have testicles, but no arms.  In case you were wondering.

Tyler makes a grab for the box.  I try to stop him, but my arms don’t work well enough to do that.  He stares at the box, a look of growing horror on his face.

Penis gummies?” he reads.  “Where did these come from?”

“Good Vibrations.”

“The record store?”

I have to suppress a laugh.  “No, it’s an, um…  adult store.”

“You mean a sex shop?”  He shakes his head, his mouth hanging open.  “Why were you in a sex shop?”

“It was just for fun,” I mumble.  Also, the gummies were awful.  Liam spit them out.

He folds his arms across his chest again, looking at me sternly.  He’s over a foot taller than me when he’s standing and I’m in my chair, which makes me feel like a kid who’s gotten in trouble.  “Who were you with tonight, Maddie?”

There’s no point in lying.  The truth will come out eventually anyway.  “Liam.”

“Liam?”  Tyler blinks a few times.  “Liam took you to a sex store?”

“We just happened to pass it.  It wasn’t like it was a plan or anything.”

“Fantastic,” he mutters. 

He slides into a seat at the dining table and rakes a hand through his hair.  It’s at least better now that he’s sitting.  It’s very hard to have an argument with someone when you have to look way up at them.  I’ve told him that before, more than once.

“Maddie,” he says, “you know I love you, right?”

I suck in a breath.  I sense a terrible “but” coming. Oh my God, is he breaking up with me?  Because I went to dinner with Liam without telling him and bought some penis gummies? 

“I love you too,” I say in a small voice.

He raises his eyes.  “I don’t think you should see Liam again.”

My fear immediately morphs into anger.  What?”

“You know I wouldn’t ask that of you if it weren’t important,” he says.  “You and Liam—that’s not a healthy relationship.”

“He’s my best friend.”

“He’s a man,” he points out.  “That was all fine and good when you were eight years old.  But at your age, your best friend shouldn’t be a man.  How do you think that makes me feel?  How would you feel if my best friend were a woman?”

“I wouldn’t love it,” I admit.  “But Liam and I have known each other since we were—”

“Five years old.  I know.  But he’s not a kid anymore.”

“The two of us were the only kids with disabilities in our entire school,” I say.  “He’s the only one I knew who really got it.”

The words are running through my head, although I’m not sure if I should say them:

He’s the only person who didn’t make me feel like the weird crippled girl.

He’s the only person who always included me in everything.

He’s the only person I really had fun with during my entire childhood.

And also:

He’s the first person who I ever—

No, definitely shouldn’t tell him that one.  I probably shouldn’t even think it, just to be safe.

Tyler gets a hurt expression on his face.  “Are you saying I don’t get it?”

He doesn’t get it.  Not the way Liam does.  But I can’t tell him that.  “You’re wonderful.  But it’s just not the same…”

His cheeks turn pink. “Not the same?  What does that mean?”

“Look,” I say, “you don’t have to feel jealous of Liam.  I promise.”

“I’m not jealous,” he snorts.  “Of him?  Why would I be jealous of him?”

I don’t know exactly what that comment means, but I suspect the answer would be very insulting, so I don’t ask.  “So what’s the problem?”

“I just think he’s a bad influence on you.  That’s all.  I mean, he took you to a sex shop!  What the hell is wrong with him?”

Sometimes I get the sense Tyler thinks I’m more innocent than I actually am.  Or at least, he feels I should be more innocent than I am.  Hence his disapproval any time I drink a beer and his horror at the idea of my visiting a sex shop and purchasing penis gummies.  Tyler is very old-fashioned in a lot of ways.  He’s floated the idea of my staying home and being a “housewife” while he brings in the money. Of course, I’d never consider doing anything like that, but in a way, it’s sweet.  He was just born in the wrong era.

 “How about this,” I say, “next time we go out, we can make it a foursome.  With Liam and Erin.  You like Erin, don’t you?”

That’s a rhetorical question.  There is no red-blooded male on Earth who doesn’t like Erin.  Liam always dates really beautiful girls.

Tyler looks down at his hands and sighs.  “Okay.  I guess.”

Just as he agrees, there’s a knock on the front door.  It’s Jan—my evening PCA, come to help me with my bedtime routine.  Five nights a week, she gets me into bed, gets me undressed, and helps with some other personal care stuff.  The other two nights, I have someone else who comes.  Back when I was living with my parents, they used to help me with that stuff, but ever since I moved out on my own ten years ago, I’ve been using PCAs. 

“There’s Jan,” I say.  “Time for bed, I guess.”

Tyler smiles crookedly.  “You know, I told you I would help you with that so you don’t have to be on a stranger’s schedule.”

“You’re my boyfriend.  I don’t want you to have to do all that for me.”

“I wouldn’t mind.”

“It’s better this way,” I say. 

And I mean it.  Again, Tyler is sweet for wanting to help, but he really has no clue.  My care is not sexy.  Sometimes it’s downright unsexy.  As much as I don’t enjoy having to always go to bed at the exact same time every night because that’s when the PCA is here, everyone I’ve ever met who required the sort of help I do say it’s better to separate your personal care and your relationships. Tyler isn’t going to be attracted to me if he feels like my nurse.

As for the issue with Liam, I feel confident that if the two of them will get to know each other a bit, Tyler won’t dislike him so much.  After all, Liam is a likable guy—he was never popular per se, but everyone always liked him.  I’m sure this will all work out.

 
Liam

I’m watching our new product video on my computer and it’s great.  I like the actor we hired to talk about the software.  I showed my sister Kara a picture of him before we gave him the job and she put it best: “He’s a hot geek.”  Exactly who we want to sell our product.  Someone who looks smart but is easy on the eyes.

I used to do these videos when we were starting out, when we didn’t have the money for an actor.  I didn’t want to.  Jack and I discussed it, and I put up a big fight.  “For someone who’s a big ham, you have a very irrational fear of being on camera,” Jack commented at the time. 

“Why can’t you do it?” I muttered.

“Because you’re much more photogenic than I am,” he pointed out.  That’s one thing I appreciate about Jack—he always says exactly what he’s thinking.  There’s no overtones and undertones or any of that shit.  In any case, he had a point—Jack was butt ugly, mumbled a lot, and had trouble maintaining eye contact for more than five seconds.  If he recorded our advertisements, nobody would buy from us.

But I had concerns about my own appearance too.  Would people buy from me once they saw I was disabled?  Jack said I was being dumb, but he didn’t have a whole lifetime of seeing how people reacted to me.  I didn’t want to turn off any potential buyers.  I was charming, but not that charming. The compromise was I transferred to a desk chair and swiveled when needed to face the camera or the computer. 

The video was successful—really successful. Apparently, I’m good on camera.  Who knew? 

There were other times in my life when I’d been offered to be on camera as the photogenic token kid in the wheelchair, but I almost always said no.  The first time was when I was in grade school.  I got called to the principal’s office and was trying to figure out which of my recent activities had earned me this privilege, and then I saw Maddie waiting too.

Maddie never did anything wrong.  It was a game to try to persuade her to go along with my adventures—although even when I succeeded, she never got in trouble.  Everyone knew I was the instigator and she was the good girl.  I’d get in even more trouble for corrupting poor Maddie, but it was worth it to have her along for the ride.

Maddie was wearing yellow that day.  A yellow, cotton short-sleeved shirt.  She looked like an angel when she wore yellow.  I couldn’t have been more than ten, but I noticed how pretty she looked.  But I would never have told her so.

The principal Ms. Belcher (that name brought me endless amusement over the five years of her tenure) eventually ushered us into her office.  A woman wearing a business suit was sitting in her office and rose to her feet when she saw us, a smile lighting her face.

“This must be Liam and Madeline!” the woman exclaimed.

Ms. Belcher smiled.  “Liam, Madeline, this is Rachel Michaelson.  She’s developing a line of school products aimed at children, and she’s looking for children for her advertisements.”

“Please call me Rachel,” the woman said.  “I hear you two are some of the best students in the school.”

I laughed out loud.  It was obvious to anyone who wasn’t a moron that there was only one reason Maddie and I were called to the office together—it was clear what we had in common, and it wasn’t good grades.  My GPA was shit.

Rachel ignored my outburst and turned to our principal.  She lowered her voice a few notches.  “The boy is perfect,” she murmured.  “He has just the right look.  And those freckles—really cute.  He looks younger than ten. Parents will adore him.”

I rolled my eyes at Maddie, who made a silly face back at me.  Did this woman think we were deaf too?

“Liam,” Rachel said in a voice slower than she should have used for a normal ten-year-old boy, “how would you like to be in some of our commercials?  That means you’ll get to be on TV!”

“Yeah, I know how commercials work,” I said.  And Ms. Belcher gave me a warning look.

“Right.” Her smile faltered slightly.  “Well, what do you think?”

I jerked my head in Maddie’s direction.  “What about Maddie?  Does she get to be in the commercial too?”

“Umm….” Rachel’s eyes went to Maddie.  I hated the way she was looking at Maddie’s left arm, which was curled up more than usual today.  Maddie struggled a lot with that arm, and I always tried to help her if I could.  If it was hurting her, I’d try to help her get it stretched out. She told me that helped.  “I don’t know if Madeline is right for this particular commercial.”

“So you can put her in a different commercial.”

Ms. Belcher put her hands on her hips.  “Liam…”

But I could play this game too.  I folded my arms across my chest and gave them both a hard look.  “I’m not doing it if Maddie can’t be in it.”

Rachel must have really wanted me for her commercial because she spent nearly twenty minutes trying to convince me.  But she was only making it worse.  I insisted I wanted Maddie in the same commercial I was in or else I wouldn’t do it. 

“We can’t have both of you in the same commercial,” Rachel protested.

I raised my eyebrows at her.  “Why?  You can’t have two disabled kids in one commercial?  Is that a rule?”

And then she blanched because, of course, that was exactly what she was thinking.  I might not have had good grades, but I was smart for ten.

After anyone with half a brain would have realized she was getting nowhere, Rachel was still trying to convince me.  Ms. Belcher put her hand on Rachel’s shoulder.  “You’re better off using someone else.  Liam can be very difficult, as you can see.”

We were released to go back to class.  I was thrilled because we had missed half of math class.  But Maddie seemed angry with me.  She had that pout on her lips she got when she was very upset.

“You shouldn’t have turned her down,” she said.  “You could have been on TV!”

“I don’t want to be in some stupid lame commercial,” I said.

“But they would have paid you!”

“So?”

Maddie took her hand off the joystick of her chair to brush hair from her face.  I’d only touched her hair a couple of times before, mostly by accident on purpose.  She had really soft hair. 

“I just don’t want you to turn down an opportunity on my behalf,” she murmured.

“I told you I didn’t want to be in a stupid commercial.”

“I think you did.”

“You’re not always right, Miss Smarty Pants.”

Maddie finally cracked a smile.  The truth was, she wasn’t entirely wrong.  I might have done it if they hadn’t insulted her.  But after that happened, there was no way to convince me.

I reach for my cell phone and call Jack.  He’s number three on the list.  My parents are first, then Maddie, then Jack.  Truth be told, I probably call Jack more than any of them, but the ordering means more than just convenience.

“Liam.” Jack’s gruff voice comes out of my phone.  “You saw the new ad?”

“It’s great.”  I maximize the window to look at the logo again.  “Better than I expected even.  That guy did a great job.”

“Well, he’s no you.”

“Ha ha, very funny.

“It’s true.  That video you did is what got us off the ground.”

Jack’s and my skills complement each other very well.  He thinks my sales abilities are what made us successful, but that wouldn’t have meant shit without his business acumen.  He’s the stronger programmer, but I’m the one who came up with the user-friendly interface and fly around to companies to help them get started. 

“Anyway,” I say, “it’s definitely a go on that ad.  Want to go out and celebrate?”

“On a Saturday night?  What about Erin?”

I hesitate.  “We broke up.”

Jack snorts.  “Are you joking?  She really liked you!”

“Yeah, well…” I chew on my lower lip.  “I want to give it another shot with Maddie.”

Jack knows all about Maddie.  I never meant to tell him, but after things went down with her all those years back, I was wrecked.  I needed someone to talk to, and Jack needed me to get the hell over it so I could get back to work.  Like I said, we complement each other.

He’s quiet for a long time, which is a good indication of how brilliant an idea he thinks this is.  “Are you sure you want to do that, Liam?”

“Yeah,” is all I have to say to that.

“Doesn’t she have a boyfriend who she lives with?”

“Look, I had a revelation, okay?”  I can’t tell Jack about my confession.  He’s a staunch atheist and he’ll say the whole thing is dumb.  “She’s my soulmate.  I’ve been kidding myself, trying to be happy without her.”

“Yeah, but before…”

“That was a long time ago,” I say before he can complete his thought.  “We’re older now.  Wiser.”

“I’m not so sure about ‘wiser’…”

I roll my eyes, even though he does bring up some valid points.  Maddie is living with Tyler. If I couldn’t convince her to be with me when she was single, what am I supposed to do now that she’s practically engaged?
 


Maddie

Two months ago, soon after we moved in together, Tyler surprised me with an incredible gift: a wheelchair van.

Well, it’s technically his van that he’s leasing, but he only has it because of me.  A thirty-five-year-old able-bodied man wouldn’t pick out a wheelchair-accessible van as his first choice vehicle, but it was a sign that I was an important enough part of his life that he was considering me in his choice of transportation.

I’m unable to drive.  My only truly functional limb is my right upper extremity, and even that is very unreliable.  On good days, my right arm works just as good as… well, it works, anyway.  But if I’m having a bad day with lots of muscle spasms, even operating my wheelchair controls requires a huge amount of concentration (and bumping into things).  Bumping into things with a wheelchair is bad—bumping into things with a car is potentially manslaughter.  That’s why I moved to a city where public transportation is so phenomenal.

The only other person besides my parents to buy a wheelchair van for me was Liam.  Granted, he used a wheelchair himself, but he could have easily purchased a sedan with hand-controls since he had the upper body strength to transfer himself in and out of a car without difficulty.  But as soon as he turned sixteen and earned his license, he scraped together all his savings and begged his parents for a loan, then went out and purchased a used wheelchair van.  And he got one where the passenger side seat could be removed, so that I could sit next to him while he drove. 

Liam’s van was a piece of shit—and that’s being nice.  It was beat up, and broke down semi-regularly, which turned him into a bit of a mechanics expert because he didn’t have the money to keep getting it fixed, so he had to learn to fix it on his own.  But it worked well enough to get us back and forth from school every day, which meant I didn’t have to take the accessible school bus all by myself.  I had worried that might be the case when Liam told me he was getting a car, but he quickly reassured me by telling me what time he’d be picking me up every morning.  It wouldn’t be any fun without you.

Those were my last two years of high school with Liam.  Him driving us up and back while we argued over the radio station. 

Tyler’s van is light years nicer than Liam’s was, which isn’t surprising because Tyler’s start-up is doing really, really well.  It never breaks down, the ramp never stalls, and there isn’t a scratch on it.  Unfortunately, it’s a Dodge CompanionVan, which I’m sure is a great vehicle, but it doesn’t have removable front seats.  So that means when I go in the van, I have to sit in the back.

It’s a small thing, obviously.  It’s not like we ever go very far in it, so what’s the difference if I’m sitting in the front or the back, right?  But I don’t love it.  I wish when we drive places, I could sit in front.  I mentioned this to Tyler though, and he acted like I was being silly.  Actually, he was kind of peeved because he felt like he’d gotten this car for me, and here I was, complaining about the seating.

Right now, we’re driving to a restaurant to meet Claude and Nina, and I’m sitting in the back in my wheelchair, which is secured with EZ Lock.  On top of that, Tyler had to belt me in, which I thought was a bit of overkill since my wheelchair is secured to the car by the EZ Lock, and I’m secured to my chair with a seatbelt.  But when I pointed this out, he started reciting all these statistics about thirty-thousand deaths every year from car accidents, so now I let him belt me in.  But it means I have to wait for him to unbuckle me too before I get out of the van.

I’m not excited about this dinner.  Even though I generally enjoy going out with Claude and Nina, I’m having a bad day today with my body.  I don’t know if I’ve got an infection brewing or what, but my muscle spasms are kicked into high gear today.  Any time the wind blows on my right leg, it starts jumping like crazy.  On top of that, my left elbow, which usually stays bent at about ninety degrees, is now clenched to my chest.  And it took me three tries to get onto the ramp for the van because my right arm was spasming like I was having a seizure.

On any other day, I would have told Tyler to cancel, but we already missed their anniversary party last weekend, and I don’t want to feel like I’m the girlfriend who’s making Tyler miss everything.  So I asked Tyler to give me an extra baclofen, and here I am.

Claude and Nina are already seated when we arrive at the restaurant, and it’s clear right off the bat that I won’t be able to make it to their table.  Even though we’ve been going to restaurants together for six months, they still don’t quite consider how tricky it is for me to navigate through a crowded restaurant.  Fortunately, the hostess is very nice, and we all get relocated to a table closer to the entrance.  And even that is tricky for me with my arm acting up.

“I’m so happy for you guys,” I tell them as Nina shows off her ring. 

Nina beams at me as she tucks strands of her blond hair behind her ears. “Thanks!”

She and I are friendly, but not quite friends.  We occasionally text each other, but she’s got her own friends, and I’ve got mine.  She works for some women’s magazine that always has pictures of drapes or bedroom furniture on the cover, and that’s just not my thing—we don’t have much in common. She’s always been really nice to me though.  Sometimes a little too nice.

“Did you think about where you want to have the ceremony?” Tyler asks them.

“We were thinking about having it at St. Mary’s Cathedral,” Claude says.  “It’s where my sister got married.”

All I can think is it sounds like it has a lot of stairs.  But I’m not going to say that.

“So where would you have the reception then?” Tyler asks.

I take a sip of my water while Tyler fires wedding questions at them.  He’s sure interested in weddings.  Should I be worried about that?  Or, alternately, excited about that?  I mean, Tyler and I are living together now.  My sister Laura acted like us getting married was a done deal after I moved in with him.

Do I want to marry Tyler?

I suppose I do.  I wouldn’t have agreed to move in with him if I didn’t have any interest in marrying him. I find him attractive.  He’s a great guy with no obvious flaws.  I love him.

Okay, maybe the idea of marrying him doesn’t fill me with excitement.  I’m happy about it, certainly, but not over the moon happy.  But there’s nothing wrong with that.  Honestly, if you marry some guy just because you’re in lust with him, that’s probably a mistake.  Marrying an intelligent, attractive, kind man is a smart thing to do.  And I always do the smart, responsible thing.

I’m not Liam, after all.

Our food arrives at the table, and the waiter places a big steaming plate of cheese ravioli in front of me.  I ate an early lunch and I’m absolutely famished.  Just as I’m about to pick up my fork and dig in, Tyler pulls my plate away from me.  To my astonishment, he starts cutting the ravioli into quarters.

“Tyler,” I say through my teeth.  “You don’t need to cut my ravioli up for me.”

“Oh, I don’t mind,” he says cheerfully. 

I’d like to tell him that I do mind, but he’s already on the fourth ravioli at this point, and I don’t want to get into it in front of our friends.

Nina is gazing at us with a smile on her dark red lips.  “That is just so sweet,” she sighs.  “Maddie, you are so lucky to have such a sweet guy.”

She’s making it really hard for me to tell him that I don’t want or need to have my goddamn ravioli cut into tiny pieces for me.

“I like doing things for Maddie,” he says.  He looks pointedly at my left arm, which is folded at the elbow and my fingers have clenched into a fist. “She’s having a rough day today.”

“Hey,” Nina says, “I was just thinking the magazine would totally love to do a story on the two of you.”

“On us?” I frown at her.  “Why?”

“Because your story is so inspirational!”

I’m still puzzling this one out.  Tyler and I met when his start-up was doing some work for our company—nothing too inspiring there.  Then… we dated for a while and moved in together.  He didn’t rescue me from a burning building, nobody overcame anything.  So… how is that inspirational?

Is it just inspirational because I’m disabled so everything I do is inspirational?  That better not be the answer, but I have a bad feeling it is.

“It’s just so wonderful how you found each other,” Nina says.  “And everything Tyler does for you, Maddie.  It shows that love is out there for everyone.”

Okay, does she have any idea how insulting she’s being?  I look at Tyler and Claude to see if they’re as infuriated as me, but both of them are nodding.  See, this is why I wish Liam were here.  Because like I said to Tyler before, he is the only one who would get it.

Back when we were graduating from high school, Liam’s parents threw him a small graduation party in their backyard, and I was invited, of course.  I still remember how one of his mother’s coworkers gushed about how inspiring it was that Liam had managed to graduate from high school.  She finished her little speech by grasping his hand in her and saying, “Bless you.” 

Liam was openly rolling his eyes through the entire thing, but he kept his mouth shut until the end.  When she was finally done telling him how inspiring he was, he winked at me so quick, I doubt anyone else at the table would have noticed.  Then he looked that woman right in the eyes and said, “You inspire me too.”

The woman’s eyelids fluttered.  “I… I do?”

He nodded.  “It’s so courageous that a person with significant facial deformities such as yourself could work and go out in public like you do.  It’s so brave.”

Her fingers flew to her face, which was a totally ordinary face.  “Facial… deformities?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable by bringing it up,” he said.  “I just find it really inspiring.  I mean, I’m not sure I’d have the courage to go out in public if I were in your shoes.”

By this point, Mrs. Murphy—seated on the other end of the table—had caught wind of what Liam was doing and her face had turned scarlet.  “Liam!” she hissed at him under her breath.  “Cut it out!”

He blinked innocently.  “What’s wrong, Mom? I’m just trying to compliment Mrs. Richardson by telling her how much she inspires me!”

“Liam.”  Her voice was now a low growl.

“It’s all right, Bev,” the woman said quickly.  “Liam was just making an observation, but…” She smiled crookedly at him.  “I don’t actually have any facial deformities.  I mean, nothing diagnosed, anyway.”

“Oh!” Liam’s blue eyes widened in mock surprise.  “I’m so sorry.  I just assumed…”

Her cheeks colored.  “No, it’s quite all right.  It’s just… the way God made me.”

Mrs. Murphy was shaking her head, but I was barely able to suppress my laughter. Liam strenuously objected to being inspirational to anyone, and I feel the same way.  It makes me wish he were here to do what I don’t have the courage to do.  After all, Nina is my friend (sort of).  I can’t make up a joke about her having facial deformities.  I need someone in my corner, who doesn’t care what people think of him, who can smile and get away with just about anything.

But instead, we’re somehow planning an interview at Nina’s magazine.

The meal is a struggle for me.  Sadly, I’m grateful Tyler cut up my ravioli for me, because my right arm is bad enough that it would have been a challenge if he hadn’t.  So I guess he was right about that one.  By the end of the meal, about six pieces of ravioli end up on the napkin on my lap—I was actually tempted to accept Tyler’s offer to tuck a napkin into my collar, although I couldn’t go through with it.

After the check arrives, Claude mentions they’re going to catch a movie at the theater a few blocks away.  “Would you guys like to join us?”

I check my watch, but there’s no need.  My PCA comes at ten o’clock on Saturday, and there’s no way we’ll have time for an entire movie before she arrives.  Plus my spasms are wearing me out, and I just want to go home.  I let out a fake yawn and am about to make excuses when Tyler speaks up, “That sounds great!”

I swivel my head to stare at him in astonishment.  What the hell?  He knows I’ve got to get back in time for Kristin.  “Tyler…”

“It’s okay, Maddie,” he murmurs.  “I took care of it.”

He… took care of it?  What does that mean? 

I clear my throat.  “Sorry, guys. I’m just beat from today, so…”

“No, let’s go with them,” Tyler says.  He leans in and says in my ear, “I canceled Kristin so you could stay out.”

He… what?

I am beyond furious.  How could he cancel my PCA without asking?  And the worst part is I can’t say anything in front of Claude and Nina without letting on to the fact that I require care assistance to get me into bed every night.  Not that they couldn’t figure it out from looking at me if they really thought about it.  But you’d be surprised.

Fortunately, Claude takes the hint.  He and Nina simultaneously decide they need to use the restroom, leaving Tyler and me alone at the table.  Tyler is apparently oblivious though, because the second they’re gone, he grabs a napkin and starts to dab at my chin.  “Just a tiny bit of sauce,” he says.

“Tyler,” I growl, “did you honestly cancel Kristin without telling me?”

He blinks a few times.  “I wanted to surprise you.”

Surprise me?”

“Yes.  Whenever we go out, we always have to rush back because of your PCA.  But I’m going to help you tonight, so we can stay out as late as we want.  He frowns.  “I thought you’d be happy.”

He’s beaming at me like he just presented me with a big present.  He doesn’t get it.  He means well, but he doesn’t get it.

“Tyler,” I say as calmly as I can.  “You are my boyfriend, not my nurse.  I don’t want you to help me with all that personal stuff.”

“But it’s not all the time,” he points out.  “Just maybe once a week.  So we could stay out late together.  I mean, don’t you hate being on someone else’s schedule?”

He’s not making a terrible point.  For my entire life, I’ve been dependent on others to help me get ready for bed, so I barely even think about it at this point.  It feels normal to me to have a curfew set by whoever is helping me.  In that sense, he’s right.  It would be nice to get to stay out as late as I want.

“Maybe,” I say grudgingly.

“I love you, Maddie,” he says.  “I knew when we first started dating that helping you occasionally would be part of the package.  And I’m really okay with that.”

“But I don’t need your help.”

He gives me a skeptical look.  I suppose I can’t blame him.  After all, he helped me take my pill before we left. He drove me here.  He cut up my food for me.  But I didn’t need any of those things.  I could have managed on my own if I had to.

“I mean it.” He raises his eyebrows at me.  “I’m here for you.  Anything you need—you don’t need to feel bad about asking.”

God, I’m lucky to have him. No, he’s not perfect.  But he really does care about me.  And honestly, he also deserves to get a late night out once a week.  It’s not fair to him either to be chained to my PCA’s schedule.  He sacrifices so much for me—we should have a little fun tonight. 

“Let’s do it,” I say. “Let’s go see a movie.”

To be continued.....

13 comments:

  1. Oh No... I was really hoping for one of the other stories. But I will be waiting patiently until it's my turn.... Merry Christmas and happy new year to you. And thanks for all of the great hours you made me have in the past year with the great books you've been wiriting.

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    1. I probably won't be posting any more of this next week. We'll see, but the holidays are crazy for me and it takes time to post, so if nobody is into this story, I might just take a week off.

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  2. I truly like the characters in this story. Thanks for sharing another delightful chapter. Happy holidays!

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  3. I want to read more about Liam and Maddie, they are great characters!

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  4. I'm trying to decide of Tyler is a Dev or just a jerk.
    Poor Maddie!

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  5. I'd like to find out when/how Liam finally opens up to Maddie.

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    1. Ah... unfortunately, I never got to write that part. Sometimes a story clicks for me, other times not so much!

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  6. Me too. I really really like this story very much and am hoping for many more instalments... Thanks for writing!

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    1. Thanks! There won't be many more, but at least one more today :)

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  7. This story is wonderful. Is there, or will there be, a chapter 5?

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