Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The One Chapter 4

Chapter 4

 Ben

 God I’m such a coward. I’ve got the best woman in the world here and I can’t even be honest. She might have wanted me even after all my floors. God who am I kidding? She definitely would have ran a mile.

Suddenly, Sam jumped up in a drunken mess and I quickly realised I had been using him to keep myself up right. I instantly felt myself slid sideward and the next thing I knew I’d side planked the back rest.   God I wanted to die. Why wouldn’t the floor open up and swallow me whole? Sophie laughed, turned to me and said, “how much have you had to drink? Come here, let me help you up you drunken sailor.” I stuck my hand out and used Sophie and the table to regain my balance. “Thank you. I’m obviously more drunk than I thought. Think I need to slow down. Water next for me,” I replied smiling but secretly knowing I’d only had one alcoholic drink.
“Ok, I’m off to the bar. Water is it,” stated Sophie.  Just then Sam came back and plonked himself next to me. “You bloody idiot, you got up and I was using you as support and I face planked,” I snapped.
“Sorry mate! I didn’t think,” slurred Sam.
I looked at Sam with sudden fear in my eyes. “What’s up mate?,” Sam questioned.
“My leg bag. I forgot to empty it before we came out. Will you have a quick feel and see if it’s full?” I pleaded suddenly feeling very worried. Sam bend down and gave my bag a squeeze. I would have done it myself if I wasn’t worried about loosing my balance again. “I’d say about three quarters full. You want to go empty it?” asked Sam.
“No I’m fine. I’ll just not drink anymore,” stated Ben.



 Sophie

The night quickly flew by and I couldn’t believe how at ease I was with Ben. I laughed so much my belly hurt and quickly forgot about his rejection. I confidently said to him, “pass me your phone again.” Ben looked at me confused. “Don’t worry I’m not trying it on with you but I’m going to ring myself so I have your number because I’d like to stay friends.”
Ben smiles and replied, “I’d like that as well.”
“Right taxis here so we need to go,” explained Clare. I turned to look at Ben and said, “Bye” as I walked off.

The taxi had been gone 10 minutes when we arrived at Donna’s. She quickly got out of the taxi and waved goodbye to us. That’s when I realised that I’d left my coat with our house keys on the back of the chair in the pub. I apologised to Clare and we made a detour back to the pub.



 Ben
Soon after the girls had gone Lisa and Nicola also decided to call it a night. Once they had gone I mentioned to the lads that I was tired and ready for home. All 3 decided they were ready so we started to pack up for the night. I quickly slid along the back rest and transferred into my chair which John had brought back to the table. Once I was seated I heard the unmistakable voice of Sophie say hi. I quickly looked up to see a very nervous Sophie. “I forgot my coat which has our house keys inside,”she stuttered. “Ben I’m confused, where’s the wheelchair come from?” Immediately, I saw the puzzle fit together in her head and her face change to disgust. I tried to control my emotions and did the only thing I could think of. I pushed as quickly as I could to the toilet and locked the door behind me.



Sophie

“I’m confused, does Ben always use a wheelchair? Why’s he hid it? I don’t understand!” I babbled.
“Sophie to cut a long story short yes he does. He’s not got his head around it and feels he’s treated different when people don’t know’” explained John. “I need to go see him but I promise to come round tomorrow and explain it all. I’ll ring Clare to sort a time. Sorry you had to find out like this”. I stood there in shock and confusion as everyone disappeared around me.




Ben

“Open the door Ben. Open it now I’m worried. If you don’t open it In 10 seconds I’m kicking the door in and you are paying the bill for a new one,” shouted John. I knew he wasn’t joking so I answered him. “Are you on your own?” I asked feeling my voice begin to shake again.
“Yes she’s gone home and I told the lads to get a taxi. Now open up!” John demanded.
I undid the latch and slowly rolled back. John peered around the door and I took one look of him and lost it. He knelt down and put his arms around me. “God man you know I don’t do hugs or crying. You are privileged here!”
“I saw it. I saw the look in her eyes. Once she saw me In my chair she looked at me in disgust,” I sobbed.
“Don’t be silly! There was no disgust there. Confusion yes but no disgust,” stated John. “Let’s get you home and you can think it through and then you can message Sophie in the morning.”
“I’ll agree on the first part but no way can I deal with anymore disgust or pity so there will be no message from me,” I replied.
“Whatever you say,” sighed John.

Monday, October 29, 2018

New story "Will Love Prevail"

Hi friends,
thanks for responding last week to my return intro.
I have actually debated long and hard these past few days if I really could pull it off again and I also debated with which story of the couple I'm working on I would come back.

I am coming back with a story that I had posted a first chapter of about two years ago. Back then it was just an idea that had jumped in my head and I jotted it down very quickly but at that time I had nothing else written on the story. It was only an idea. I had named it "Happy Birthday", maybe some of you remember. I deleted that single chapter from here and rewrote it over the last couple of months and of course added on to the story.  It is written in third person.

I also renamed it. "Will Love Prevail" is what I came up with just these last few days. This is kind of a tragic story and also somewhat dramatic. There is violence, sexual content, and bad language, just a heads up. It's still a boy meets girl story and I'm sure you will find similarities to my other stories but I can't help that. I don't know anything about other disabilities besides paraplegia and personally it is my preferred disability so we are meeting another paraplegic main character, Mark.

Mark is an ex Infantry soldier who got injured in Afghanistan. He is living his life as a paraplegic to his best abilities, still dealing with his demons but managing okay. For his 30th birthday his friends get him a special present, a hooker named Chiara. Meeting Chiara turns his world upside down but also gives him a purpose again and awakens feelings in him. With Chiara coming into his life though he is literally rolling into dangerous territory.

I'm nervous giving you this story because I am not sure how it will be received. My hope is that some of you are going to like it and for you I will post. Thanks for your support! Happy reading!

Here is Chapter 1   (unfortunately I had problems linking tonight, couldn't really get it and don't remember how I used to do it, so you may actually get nothing with this link....would you please let me know if that is the case)

Thanks, Hugs, Dani

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Update to The Grinch

Thank you so much for your comments last week!!!!  I'm hoping this story will be one of those ultra-cute holiday romances.  In this chapter, we learn more about Jeremy's disability:

Chapter 2

And if you missed it, this is Chapter 1!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

New Devo Diary

Hi everyone, it's time for a new chapter of Devo Diary! The last chapter ended with me vowing to only date disabled guys from now on, and now in this chapter I'm making good on that promise by going on a date with a deaf guy.

This chapter is kind of a stand-alone, so even if you haven't read the previous chapters, it will still make sense by itself. It was really hard to write this one, and it ended up being much longer than usual, but I think it was important to keep it all in one entry. It brings up a lot of major issues in dev/dis relationships.

Devo Diary Chapter 47: Seymour the Cyborg

As always thank you for reading and commenting!

Monday, October 22, 2018

How the Grinch Stole My Heart: TOC

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Hi there


Hey everyone, 

it's me, Dani. How is everyone? I missed being here. 

I can't believe it's been 2 years since I last posted. 

There are a few reasons for this - 2017 my oldest left the nest and it was super stressful and emotionally draining with lots of planning, some travelling and heart strings getting pulled into all directions.

On top of it I actually dealt with some health issues and had to start on getting all that sorted out. 2018 continued in the same fashion with a breast biopsy (everything was good), a brain MRI (everything was good), panic attacks (got that taken care of with the help of a counselor and am now a gym rat..lol), training for a new department in my job, and recently my mom who is possibly in the early stages of dementia visiting me for a few weeks. 

Honestly I also felt somewhat insecure about coming back because I'm only an amateur writer, Englisch is not my native language, I don't have any formal education in writing, and it seemed the Blog had enough submissions that were a lot more professional including published work, than what I have to offer. I still enjoy writing and I hope some of you who read some of my previous stuff on here are still around. I have been working on and off on several stories and I think I'm ready to share something again.

It looks like Monday is a day up for the taking and I'm thinking about posting again. I write on the side because work, kids, house, pets, husband, friends and life in general is a lot sometimes.  

I'm actually nervous posting this here because it will establish a commitment to fulfill on my end, regularly posting for the people who care to read it, taking the time to keep writing and working on all my stories to finish them. I am determined to come back and being here with you will push me in my writing efforts again.
Hugs, Dani   


Sunday, October 21, 2018

NEW STORY: How the Grinch Stole My Heart

Hi all!  This is my latest Christmas story.  I was going to wait until November to post, but it's SO QUIET here, I decided to go ahead and start posting now.  It's a cute Christmas story with an enemies to lovers theme.  It's a work in progress and you guys have been soooo helpful with your suggestions, so would love to hear them or just if you like/dislike!  In the meantime, please enjoy.....

How the Grinch Stole My Heart


Jeremy

Thump.

I close my eyes, trying to shut out the sound of a ball hitting the wall just outside my apartment.  It’s the second time in two days.  The second goddamn time.

Thump.  Thump.

I feel a seedling of a headache starting in my left temple.  I open my eyes and stare at the computer screen in front of me, filled with code.  If I get a migraine, there’s no way I’ll be able to get any work done.  I’ll be lucky if I can get out of bed.

Thump.  Thump.  Thump.

I grit my teeth.  I know it’s a lot to expect absolute silence at three o’clock in the afternoon on a Sunday, but there’s something about that sound that gets me.  The fact that it’s not quite rhythmic.  The way sometimes there’s a gap in the thumps and I think it’s finally stopped, but nope, there it is again.

I know who’s doing it.  It’s that kid. That goddamn kid. I don’t know his name, but his family moved here a couple of months ago, and ever since winter hit for real, he’s been playing out in the hall with his rubber ball.  He throws it against the wall as hard as he can, then he catches it.  You’d think he’d get bored of it eventually, but he never does.  He never.  Fucking. Does.

Thump. Thump.

I don’t want to be the asshole who yells at a little kid for tossing a ball around in the hallway.  I don’t want to be that guy.  Nobody likes that guy.  Remember Dennis the Menace and his grouchy old neighbor, Mr. Wilson?  Dennis the Menace was always messing up Mr. Wilson’s lawn or knocking down half his house or pulling down his pants to reveal polka dot boxers, but somehow Dennis was still the hero.  Did anyone root for Mr. Wilson?  No, nobody did.

I don’t want to be Mr. Wilson. I don’t. I’m just really sick of the sound of that goddamn ball.  I’m not going to be able to pay my rent if the kid keeps it up.

Thump!  Thump!

To hell with it.  I’m going to say something.  Maybe the kid can go throw a ball on the floor above or below.  Or anywhere else besides right outside my fucking door.

I take a breath, steeling myself for the effort it will take to stand up.  I reach with my left hand for the forearm crutch I always keep leaning against my desk when I work.  I lace my left arm through the metal loops, then slowly haul myself to my feet like I have hundreds of times before.  I have a false start, where it seems like I’ll fall right back into my chair, but I don’t. 

I’ve gotten good at this over the last several years.  I barely remember a time when standing up from a chair didn’t involve any effort at all.  It feels like that was a whole other life. 

I guess it sort of was.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Update to The Consolation Prize

Hi everyone! 

Please enjoy this week's update. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, unfortunately, and there's a good chance I won't be able to post next week because of work travel with limited access to internet. I will try my best, but if not, I'll see you guys two weeks from today. I'm sorry! 

Can't wait to hear what you think though on this week's installment—please comment and let me know! 

Have a great weekend! 

Chapter 20 

Table of Contents 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Update to The Consolation Prize

Hi everyone—

Happy Thursday! This week's chapter uncovers a bit more about what happened last week, and gives us some Scottie and Will 1:1 time. 

Hope ya'll enjoy—please comment and let me know what you think! 

Chapter 19 

Table of Contents 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Update to The Consolation Prize

Hi guys! 

Here's this week's update of The Consolation Prize where things start to unravel a bit. Hope you enjoy and can't wait to hear your thoughts. 

Chapter 18 

Table of Contents 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

More Devo Diary

As promised, I'm back with another bi-weekly chapter of Devo Diary. In this chapter, I tell another friend about being a devotee, and try to date another AB guy. Plus lots more Mantis!

Devo Diary Chapter 46: The Mantis, Coda

Thank you all for reading and commenting! It's good to be back.

Monday, October 1, 2018

How the Grinch Stole My Heart, Chapter 2


Jeremy

I never would have opened the door if I had any clue what would be behind it. 

But I’ve been expecting a delivery.  Band-Aids, courtesy of Amazon.  I don’t even recall using any Band-Aids in the last several months, but yesterday I needed one when I slipped with the knife while trying to pry a bagel open, and they were all gone.  Whenever I think I’ve finally got the hang of cutting things one-handed, I end up with a nice gash on my hand to prove me wrong.  So I ordered Band-Aids.  And also, a bagel guillotine.

Most people’s deliveries are left with the doorman, who keeps them stashed in a closet behind his desk.  Lucky for me, Luis the super is nice enough to bring packages directly to my door.  He does that favor for me and four other people in the building.  All of the other tenants who get their packages hand-delivered are over the age of seventy.  Certainly none of them are in their early thirties like yours truly.

I’d tell him I’d get the damn packages myself, but who am I kidding?  I can’t carry a box while I’m walking.  After six years of this, I’ve learned not to let my stupid pride get in the way.

Most of the time.

So when I hear the doorbell ring, I assume it’s Luis. I throw open the door without even checking the peephole.  Big mistake.  One I will soon pay big time for.

Standing before me are three grade-school-aged girls.  Three girls, somewhere between kindergarten and puberty, who look as surprised to see me as I am to see them.  I assume these girls are my neighbors from somewhere within the building, but damned if I’ve ever seen them before.  That’s the problem with essentially being a shut-in—I don’t know my neighbors.  Actually, it’s less of a problem and more of a fringe benefit.

The girls are dressed identically.  Identically and impractically.  It’s below freezing out today, yet they’re each wearing green velvet dresses with short sleeves and red trim. The girls each have their hair tied into identical pigtail braids with the same red satin bows that trim their dresses.  The middle girl is the tallest and blondest of the three.  She’s the prettiest too.  I can almost see this girl ten years from now, striking down any poor schmuck who dares to approach her. When she sees me, she shoots a look at a tall woman in her early forties standing to the side.  The meaning of the look is obvious:

Do we have to do this?

The woman plasters a smile on her face and thrusts a hand in my direction. “Hello!” she says in a fake cheerful voice that grates on my nerves.  “My name is Luann Williamson and I live in 8F!”

Shaking hands.  So easy for most people.  You stick out your right hand, clasp the other hand in front of you, and then it’s over.  Bada bing, bada bang.  Most people don’t even think about it.

My right arm doesn’t move.  At all.  Not my hand, not my elbow, not my shoulder.  When my right hip started moving again, the doctors were hopeful for my arm, but nothing ever happened.  Six months after an aneurysm burst in my brain on Christmas Day, I was told the chances of ever regaining any movement at all in my right arm were “slim to none.” 

My right arm is useless.  Completely and utterly useless.

I’ve gotten good at doing most things one-handed, albeit with occasional injury.  For the first year, I was seething with resentment, but I’ve mellowed since then.  So I can’t cut a bagel without nicking a vein.  So I can’t tie my shoelaces anymore.  Eventually, you get over it and move on.

The truth is, I could deal just fine with my right arm not being around to help me if the goddamn thing weren’t such a liability.  That’s what kills me.

For example, at the moment, instead of lying quietly at my side, my right hand is clenched into a tight fist pressed firmly against my chest, my elbow bent as far as it can go, at the mercy of muscles I can’t control.  It’s hard to even put a shirt on when my arm is this tight.  It looks painful, and trust me—it is. 

It’s the cold weather that does it to me.  Not that the summer is any picnic, but the winter is always especially awful for my muscles.  Yet another reason to dread Christmas.

Since I opened the door, Luann Williamson has been trying desperately to avoid staring at my arm.  I could see it all over her face. Yet she still stuck out her right hand for me to shake.  And now I have to deal with this situation.

I sigh and let go of the handle of my crutch with my left hand to clasp her hand briefly, just so this awkward moment can be over.  Her cheeks color as our hands make contact, and she’s quick to pull away.  If I needed a reminder why I haven’t dated in years, there it is.

Christ, why the hell are these people at my door?  Are they girl scouts?  Are they selling cookies?  I don’t want cookies, but I’ll give them a wad of cash to leave immediately.

“My daughter Katie and her friends Liz and Brianna are singing carols for the holiday,” Luann Williamson explains to me.  She’s not meeting my eyes anymore.

“Oh,” I say.  “That’s nice.”

And then we stand there in uncomfortable silence.  It takes fifteen minutes of silence before I get it.

These girls want to sing for me.  Christmas songs. 

Is she kidding me?

“Luis suggested you might enjoy it,” Luann Williamson adds.

Oh.  Okay, I get it now.  Luis gave her the names of me and the other building shut-ins who were likely to be home at four in the afternoon on a Monday.  He didn’t do it to be a jerk.  He probably thought we all needed a bright spot in our day.  A little Christmas cheer.

Except I’m in the middle of working, and I really really don’t have time to listen to Christmas carols.  I’m about to explain that when the chubby little brunette on the end says to me, “What’s your favorite Christmas song, Mister?”

I stare at her.  “I don’t like Christmas songs.”

The dark-haired girl’s eyes widen.  “You don’t?”

She couldn’t have looked more horrified if I admitted to her that I’m ninety-five percent sure the Santa at the department store down the block is the homeless man I’ve seen sleeping on our corner.

No,” I say in a voice that I hope does not invite further exploration of the topic.  I glance at Luann Williamson.  “I’m sure there are other people in the building who would really enjoy this, but I’m working now.  I’m very busy.”

“Yeah, let’s go,” the blond girl, Future Destroyer of Men, mutters under her breath.

 Go, please go.  I can’t stand here while these three kids sing songs for me because they feel sorry for me. And about my least favorite holiday. 

Christmas.  Taylor used to love Christmas. 

That tree we had six years ago was the last one that’s ever been in my home.

I wonder if Taylor’s got a new tree.  I wonder if she’s got presents stacked under the tree for her new husband.  I wonder if they’re going to have sex on Christmas morning.

“My favorite is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” the dark-haired girl tells me. 

“Ugh!” the blond girl huffs.  “I hate that stupid song, Katie!”

“It’s funny,” the brunette, Katie, insists.  “You have to do it with the funny lyrics.”  She looks at me, her brown eyes wide and earnest.  Somehow she reminds me of Taylor—what Taylor might have been like when she was a little girl.  “So after the lyrics, ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose,’ someone else would say—”

“Like a lightbulb,” I finish, without meaning to. I spent a good year of my childhood singing that song.  Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, you’ll go down in history—like George Washington! When I was nine, that was the height of comedy.  I wish anything could make me as happy now as that song made me when I was a kid.

Katie beams at me.  “Yeah!  You know it?”

I didn’t mean to encourage her.  But now it’s too late.  This little girl is singing—singing her heart out.  She’s off-key but what she lacks in pitch, she makes up in enthusiasm.  She’s belting out the most boisterous version of Rudolph I’ve ever heard while her friends reluctantly sing along.  It’s cute—I’m not going to say it’s not cute.  But I’m not in the mood for this shit.  I’ve got a lot of work to do.

And even if I didn’t have anything to do, I’m still not in the mood.

When they finish the song, Katie does jazz hands.  She looks really proud of herself.  The corners of my lips twitch, almost smiling but not quite.  It’s possible I’ve forgotten how.

“Thanks,” I mutter.  “Okay, well, goodbye—”

“What song would you like next?” Katie asks me.

I look over at the blond girl, who is twirling one of her braids around her finger, her blue eyes lifted skyward.  God, Katie,” the girl says, “he doesn’t want any more songs.  Let’s just go.”

“But…” Katie juts out her little chin.  “We’re supposed to do three.”

I shake my head.  “I’ve got work to do, so…”

“We’re supposed to do three,” Katie insists.

“Look, I don’t—”

Her eyes brighten. “What about The Twelve Days of Christmas?”

No.  No.  “I really don’t—”

“Katie, honey,” Luann says through her teeth, “this man says he doesn’t want any more songs.”

“You said we’re bringing Christmas cheer to people who don’t have friends and family,” Katie says pointedly.  Well, she’s got my number.  No friends, no family.  Just me, my computer, a plant I keep forgetting to water, and soon a bagel guillotine. “You said three songs, Mommy.”

Luann lets out a strangled laugh.  “Katie…”

“On the first day of Christmas,” Katie begins, her clear voice ringing out through the hallway, “my true love gave to me…”

Why is everything this week straining the very limits of my patience?  I could have listened to one more quick song, but doesn’t this song have like a million verses?  Or at least… you know, twelve verses?  Which is a lot. 

I don’t have time for this.  And what’s more, my right leg is tightening up to the point where I’m worried I won’t be able to stand much longer.  I don’t want to face-plant in front of these girls. 

“I’m sorry,” I say, even as Katie is still belting out the lyrics, “I really don’t have time to—”

“…a partridge in a pair tree…”

She’s not stopping.  For Christ’s sake…

“I’m sorry,” I say again. 

And then?  I shut the door in her face.

Yes, I slam the door in the face of a little girl.  Who is trying to sing me Christmas carols because I apparently have no friends or family.  Two weeks before Christmas.

I’m worse than Mr. Wilson.  I’m Scrooge.

But in my defense, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a really fucking long song.


Noelle

“Henry!  Stop fiddling with your jacket!”

Walking home with my child from his school five blocks away is an exercise in learning to control my temper.  When I picked him up, he insisted he didn’t want to wear his winter coat because it was “so hot.”  After spending five minutes trying to persuade him he couldn’t go out in a T-shirt in sub-freezing temperatures, I decided to just go with it.  I assumed within one minute, Henry would crack and put the damn thing on. 

After two blocks, Henry was still happily walking along next to me in his T-shirt.  My iPhone was reporting the temperature to be twenty-nine degrees, but my child was somehow perfectly comfortable with no coat or even sweater.  Does he have some problem with his temperature regulation?  Is his internal thermometer broken?  Is that a thing?

People were starting to give me some serious dirty looks.  One woman barked at me that she was going to report me to Child Protective Services.  Finally, I was the one who cracked.  I shook Henry’s blue Cars-themed jacket in his face and barked, “You need to put this on!  It’s too cold!”

“I’m not cold!”

“I don’t care!”

Not my best parenting moment, that’s for sure.  And then once Henry put the damn coat on, he couldn’t figure out the zipper.  The cold wind slapped me in the face as I got down on my knees to inspect the little zipper on Henry’s coat.  I don’t understand why all the zippers on children’s coats are dysfunctional.  Is that too much to ask for?  A working zipper? 

Of course, two minutes after I got it zipped, Henry had unzipped it because it was “so hot!”

By the time I get to our building, I’m ready to climb into bed and hide under the covers for the next week.  My job as the manager of a busy restaurant is stressful enough, especially since one of the waitresses no-showed and I had to sub in for her shift.  I’m just lucky they let me adjust my hours so I’d be able to leave early enough to pick up Henry when his afterschool program ended. 

At least the lobby is warm.  The heat fills my cheeks and my fingers tingle as the circulation starts back up.  Also, they’ve put up a Christmas tree in the lobby, which fills my chest with a warm, good feeling.  I love Christmas.  I mean, you pretty much have to if you have a name like “Noelle.” We only have space in our tiny apartment for a half-sized tree, but this one is full-sized or even plus-sized, lit with multicolored bulbs and ornaments hanging off every branch.  Unfortunately, they’ve pushed it all the way to the side of the lobby so you can barely see it.

“Katie, honey, I’m sure he was just really busy…”

I look over at the plush red couches at the far end of the lobby, where there’s a little dark-haired girl in a pretty green velvet dress, who is sobbing loudly while a woman attempts to comfort her.  Henry nudges me when he sees them, “Mom, that’s Katie from school!”  He raises his hand at her.  “Hi, Katie!”

Before I can tell my son to leave the poor girl alone, I’ve made eye contact with the woman comforting her.  She shoots me a pained look, and I feel obligated to go over there.  After all, I don’t know many people in the building yet.  I should probably try to make some friends.  It seems like Greg got all our old friends in the divorce. 

“Is everything okay?” I ask.  “Anything I can do to help?”

The woman rubs the little girl’s back.  “We had a caroling mishap.”

“I was just trying to do three songs!” Katie bursts out.

The woman sighs and tucks her blond hair behind her ear.  “The girls were trying to sing for this man on the fifth floor who… well, he was busy, I guess.  He shut the door in our face in the middle of Katie singing.”

I gasp.  “How awful!”

“We live on the fifth floor!” Henry volunteers.  He looks up at me, his eyes widening.  “Mom, I bet it was the mean guy in 5B!”

“It was!” Katie exclaims, wiping tears from her eyes.  “It was 5B!  He didn’t like our songs at all.”

“I hate that guy!” Henry exclaims.

“Henry,” I say sternly.  “We don’t say ‘hate.’  That’s not a nice word.”

“Yeah, but he’s really mean!” My son juts out his lower lip.  “He slammed the door on Katie while she was singing.  That’s rude, right, Mom?  And he was mean to me too!”

“Still,” I say.

The woman’s eyebrows are scrunched together, so I tell her, “This guy heard Henry playing with his ball in the hallway and threatened to take it away.”

“Oh wow!” She shakes her head.  “That’s terrible.  I’ve seen that guy around, and if I knew it was his apartment… well, I certainly wouldn’t have knocked.  He’s not very friendly.  I’ve shared an elevator with him, and he doesn’t even say hello.  He just grunts if you talk to him.”

“Probably better to stay out of his way.”  I offer a smile.  “By the way, I’m Noelle.  My son and I just moved in to 5H.”

I reach out my hand and the woman clasps it in her own as she smiles at me.  She seems nice.  I want to make some new friends. I don’t want to admit how desperately lonely I’ve been in the last year.

“I’m Luann,” she says.  “Katie is my youngest—I’ve got an older son too.  We live in 8F.  Welcome to the building.”  Her smile widens.  “A few grouches aside, it’s a nice place to live.”

“I love the Christmas tree.” My eyes go back to the large tree at the far end of the lobby.  It’s really beautiful.  It reminds me of the trees we used to have when I was growing up, before I was relegated to tiny apartments in the city.  “Why does it have to be all tucked away back there though?”

“I know!” Luann cries.  “I was thinking the same thing!”

The doorman, Joe, is flipping through a magazine at his desk.  Joe is always reading or fiddling with his phone or dozing off.  I feel like at the price we’re paying to live here, he should be constantly at attention like those guards in front of Buckingham Palace. I stride over to the desk and clear my throat until he looks up.

“Oh, hi, Ms. Moore,” he says.  “What’s up?”

“That tree.” I point to it with my embarrassingly bitten fingernails.  My bad habit is really getting out of control.  I hope Luann doesn’t see.  “Is there any way we could have it moved so that it’s where people can actually see it?”

I can see it,” Joe says.

Helpful.  Very helpful.

Katie has stopped crying and joined my son to admire the tree up close.  Just looking at that tree makes me tear up.  Honestly, this holiday has been rough for me—it’s the first Christmas since my divorce.  But it’s funny how something simple like a beautiful Christmas tree could make me remember there are still things I enjoy in life, even if my ex is a total wanker.

I’m going to enjoy this holiday.  In spite of Greg. 

“You could move it right there,” Luann suggests, pointing to a spot more central in the lobby.  “That would be a much better spot.”

“There’s no outlet there.” Joe shrugs.  “Gotta plug the tree in, right?”

Luann raises her eyebrows.  “You don’t have an extension cord?”

I have to hand it to Luann.  She doesn’t let up until Joe digs out a huge extension cord that traverses the length of the lobby and repositions the tree in a more central location.  Luann steps back to admire it.

“That’s so much better!” she exclaims.

Joe looks doubtfully at the tree, then down at the extension cord.  “Someone could trip on this cord.”

Luann snorts.  “Don’t be ridiculous.  It’s just a tiny little extension cord.”

I’m not so sure.  It does seem possible someone could trip on that cord, but Joe finally shrugs and leaves it as it is.  I suppose if he thinks it’s okay and so does Luann, it’s probably fine.

To be continued next time, when Jeremy and Noelle finally meet.....

How the Grinch Stole My Heart, Chapter 3

Jeremy

Every week, on Wednesday night, I get groceries delivered from Peapod.  There’s a discount if I’m willing to accept the delivery any time during a six-hour window, and since I never, ever leave my apartment, I always opt for the longer window.  The Peapod delivery guy comes into my apartment, deposits my groceries on the kitchen counter, and I tip him a tenner. If the delivery guy is running ahead of schedule, sometimes after he sees the ten-dollar bill and gets a good look at me, he’ll offer to help me put the groceries away.  I never say no.

Of course, I don’t cook most nights.  Make that, I don’t cook—ever.  The groceries are mostly cereal and milk, bread, cold cuts.  If I want a hot meal, I get delivery.  I live in Manhattan, where the choices for takeout food are endless.  There’s no shortage of able-bodied delivery guys willing to bring food directly to my door, thus enabling my inevitable trajectory toward being completely homebound.

Tonight, I feel like a burger.

A juicy cheeseburger, grilled to a medium, slathered with cheese and bacon.  I don’t work up much of an appetite sitting around my apartment all day, so I skipped lunch, and now I’m starving.  I might even get a side of French fries.

There used to be a diner five blocks away that was my go-to for a good burger, but they shut down during the summer, so I haven’t had a decent burger since then.  The only burger I’ve had recently came with the Number Five meal at McDonald’s.  Yes, even McDonald’s delivers now.  Really, there’s no reason to ever venture outside.

I asked Luis about it, and he told me that there’s a diner a few blocks away that makes a decent burger, so I look up the number and give them a call.  The girl who answers the phone sounds very young, and I can hear her popping her bubble gum on the other line.

“Uh, hi,” I say.  “Do you deliver?”

The girl cracks her gum loudly.  “Yup.  What do you want?”

“Bacon cheeseburger.  Medium.  Side of fries.”

“Okay,” the girl says.  “And how do you want that burger cooked?”

I grit my teeth.  Medium.”

“Oh.”  She pauses to hopefully write it down.  “And do you want any fries with that?”

My temple throbs.  Maybe I should just hang up and get Thai food.  “Yes, I do.”

“Name?”

“Jeremy.”

“All right,” she says.  “So it’ll be, like, fifteen minutes?”

I’m about to tell her my address but then I realize I’m talking to a dead line.  What the hell?  This is why it’s better to order online—you don’t have to deal with a gum-popping idiot. 

I call back the number, hoping to get someone else, but not at all surprised when the same girl answers the phone.  My right arm tenses up against my will, my fingers squeezing into a tight fist.  “Hey, I just put in an order for delivery,” I tell her.  “But you never took my address.”

“Yeah,” the girl says, “that’s ‘cuz we don’t deliver.  You have to pick it up.”

A vein throbs in my temple.  I asked her if they deliver. I may not be as sharp as I used to be Before, but I know I asked her that. It was the first thing I said when I called.  I want this burger, but it might cost me my sanity.  “You told me you guys deliver.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“I assure you, you did.”

I can almost hear her shrug. “Well, we don’t.  Do you want the order or not?”

Maybe I could try out Uber Eats, which I’ve heard good things about.  They’ll bring the food right to my door for a nominal fee.  If I set it up right now, I’m sure they could get the burger and bring it back to me within the hour.  If not, I could call another burger place that does deliver.

As I’m weighing my options, I get a sick feeling in my stomach.  This diner is two blocks away.  Two blocks and there isn’t even snow on the ground yet.  But here I am, frantic to find some way to have the food brought to me so I don’t have to get it myself.  If I can’t make it two blocks, I’m in trouble. 

I’m going to end up one of those people who are scared to even leave the building.   Sooner than I’d thought.

I’m too young to let that happen to me.  My lifestyle is becoming unhealthy.  Two blocks shouldn’t be an insurmountable obstacle for me.

“Fine,” I say.  “I’ll come get it.”

 

Noelle

Luann is a godsend.  I have to work late today at the restaurant, and she agreed to pick up Henry while she was getting Katie.  Apparently, Henry and Katie are getting tight.  I believe my son may have his first crush.  It’s adorable.

But other than that, my day at the restaurant is horrible with a capital H.  It’s not even the end of the lunch rush, and it seems like every customer had a ridiculous complaint we can’t figure out how to address.  Right now, I’m standing in front of the table of a man wearing a suit jacket and bowtie, with Harry Potter spectacles resting on his nose, and I’m having the stupidest argument I’ve ever had in my life.

“I can’t eat egg yolks,” the man is saying.  “It’s a health issue.  I’m surprised in this day and age you can’t accommodate such a simple request.”

“We have an egg white omelet,” I explain patiently.  “But we can’t make you a sunny side up egg with only egg whites.”

“Well, why not?” the man demands to know.

This is literally the eighth or ninth time I’ve explained it to him during this conversation, but for the tenth time, I say, “Because the ‘sun’ in a sunny side up egg is made from the yolk.”

“You’re telling me you can’t make it from the egg white though?” The man seems astonished.  “You’re not able to fulfill that simple request?”

“I…”  I don’t know what to say.  We could make him an egg white omelet and call it sunny side up, but he could say we didn’t give him what he ordered, which would technically be true, since there’s no way to give him what he ordered.  “No, we can’t.  But I’d be happy to get you an egg white omelet, or if you’d like—”

“I’m not going to debate this with you,” the man barks at me.  “If you can’t make me what I want, I’ll go somewhere else.”

Right around now, I want to snap back at him, “Good luck with that, dumbass!”  But I don’t.  If there’s one thing I learned in the service industry, it’s to take the crap with a smile like it’s a joy to have it shoveled on me.  I keep the smile plastered on my face as I say, “I’m so sorry to hear that, sir.”

And I don’t even give him the finger when he leaves.  I’ve really matured in the last decade.

A few customers have been watching our little interaction, including a man who is standing at the empty register at the front.  The manager’s daughter, Ashlee, is supposed to be manning the register and taking phone orders, but she’s inexplicably disappeared—again.  If it were possible to fire that girl, I would definitely do it, especially since when she returns after her frequent disappearances, she frequently stinks of marijuana.  In any case, since Ashlee is MIA and the waitresses are all busy, I rush over to help the man at the register.  He looks up when I arrive and…

Oh my.

Gosh, he’s nice-looking.  My breath catches in my throat at the sight of his startling blue-green eyes.  He’s wearing glasses with simple black frames, but even his lenses can’t hide them—it’s a little hard to look away.  Short dirty blond hair, slight mussed from the hat he’d been wearing.  A day’s stubble on his chin.  And he’s got the absolute sexiest one-inch white scar above his left eyebrow. 

An adorable smile spreads across his face as he lays his eyes on me.  Wow, that smile.  I don’t know if I’ve ever had anyone look at me quite that way—not even Greg. 

And then we’re just staring at each other like a couple of idiots.  I’m staring at his lips and wondering what it would be like to kiss him.  I’m wondering what it would be like to run my hand through his dark blond hair.  Or better yet, down his bare chest. 

I can’t remember falling quite so instantly in lust with a guy… ever.  My heart won’t stop thudding in my chest.

Oh my God, is it getting hot in here?

“I, uh…,” he starts to say, but then he seems to lose his train of thought.  It seems impossible, but he looks like he’s just as into me as I am into him.

I swallow hard.  I have to remember I’m at work.  Can’t start ripping my clothes off now.  Be professional, Noelle.  “Can… can I help you?”

“Oh.” He blinks a few times, as if remembering where he is.  His smile is adorably embarrassed.  “I… uh, I got a to-go order.”

“Right.” 

He lifts his left hand to rub his forehead, touching that sexy scar of his.  I wonder how he got that scar—he doesn’t look like the kind of guy who would be in a fistfight, but the thought of him slugging a guy in the back alley of a bar sends another tingle through me.  I notice one other detail: no ring.  He’s not married. 

“By the way,” he says, “that customer over there was nuts.  You can’t order a sunny side up egg with only egg whites.  The sun is the yolk.”

Thank you.”  He’s hot and he’s sane.  It’s a good combination.  One that’s unfortunately very rare in single men my age.

“Plus,” he adds, “egg white omelets are awful.  The best part is the yolk.”

Hot and sane and with good taste in eggs.  “I agree.  Especially when it’s all runny.”

“Yeah!”  He nods eagerly.  I love the way his face lights up.  “You should have just brought that guy a sunny side up egg.  Maybe that’s why he was such an ass—lack of egg yolks.”

“The customer is always right, you know?”

“I’m impressed at your patience.”

“Well, I’m very nice.”

“Yeah, I noticed.” The smile fades slightly from his lips.  “I’m not nice, so…”

“No?” I don’t believe it.  A guy who smiles like that has got to be nice. I can tell from his face. “I’m pretty sure you’re nice.”

“No, I’m really not,” he sighs.  His aqua eyes bore into me.  Even with the geeky glasses, he’s sexy enough that he could be a player—the stubble and the scar put him over the edge.  But I don’t get a player kind of vibe from him.  Everything about him cries out Mr. Nice Guy.  “I promise you—I’m not nice.  I used to be, but…”

I shrug.  “Well, everyone can’t be nice, can they?  As long as you’re not a complete asshole.”

“And what if I am?”

I look right into those intense blue-green eyes.  “Prove it.”

He lifts an eyebrow and grins crookedly.  “Prove it?”

“Yeah. What makes you think you’re such an asshole?”  When he doesn’t answer, I prompt him, “Do you torture puppies?”  I think of Katie Williamson sobbing in the lobby after her encounter with that asshole in 5B.  “Make schoolgirls cry?”

“Uh…” The tips of his ears turn pink.  “I’ve made a few schoolgirls cry.”

“Yeah, right.”

“It’s true.”

I doubt it.  He’s good-looking, but I suspect he doesn’t have it in him to be mean.  “And what else?”

“Well,” he says thoughtfully, “sometimes when I finish the milk from the milk carton, I put it back in the fridge empty.”

I clutch my hand to my chest.  “Oh my.  I may have to ask you leave, Mister.”

“Well…”

“Is that really the best you’ve got?” I grin at him as I roll my eyes.  “Sorry, but I’m still not convinced.”

“Okay, how about this: when I was a kid, I told my sister there was a boogeyman in her closet, and she had to sleep in my parents’ bed for two months.”

“Kids will be kids.”

“All right, all right…” He’s really thinking about it now, a sexy crease forming between his eyebrows.  “Um…”

“May I suggest you can’t think of anything because you’re actually a nice guy?”

He shakes his head soberly.  “No.  Trust me.”

It’s funny—usually, it’s the opposite.  The city is full of asshole guys who are masquerading as nice guys.  Even if he is an asshole, I’d have to appreciate his refreshing honesty.  Although I don’t believe it.

“You gotta give me something then.”  I spread my hands apart.  “Like, demand that I give you a bacon cheeseburger without any bacon or cheese.  Or… I don’t know… park your car in the handicapped space outside.”

He blinks a few times at that last one.  His mouth falls open, and the flush in his ears enters his cheeks.  Uh oh.

“You didn’t, did you?” I say.  “I mean, park in the handicapped spot?”

If he did… well, I’d definitely have to give the guy his Asshole Card.  Even if you’re just running in to get takeout, it’s not okay to park in those spots.  Not that I would never date a guy who did that, but I’d definitely have to educate him a bit.

“No,” the guy mumbles.  “I… uh, I walked over.”

My heart sinks.  He’s broken his eye contact and is looking anywhere but at me.  I don’t know what I said wrong, but it was obviously something.  I clear my throat, and look at the to-go orders behind me. There are three of them. “So what name is your order under?”

“Jeremy.”

“Jeremy,” I repeat.  I identify the name scribbled on the middle bag.  I lift it up—it’s light.  Just food for him, I assume. 

“Bacon cheeseburger?” I ask.  “With sweet potato fries on the side?”

He nods and reaches for the container with his left hand, still avoiding my eyes.  What the hell did I do wrong?  “Thanks.”

I slide his check across the counter.  “Cash or credit?”

“Cash.” 

Then he hesitates. 

Seriously, he better not be one of those deadbeats who “discovers” at the register that he’s unable to pay. That is the worst. If that’s the case, he’s most definitely an asshole.  He’d be even worse than the customer I had yesterday who not only decided not to tip, but took it upon himself to deduct two dollars from his tab because of “poor service.”

But then he reaches into his pocket and pulls out his wallet, which I can immediately see has plenty of green bills in it. He places the wallet down on the counter and starts fumbling with it.  That’s when I notice he’s doing the whole thing one-handed.  I hadn’t realized it before because his coat is so bulky, but now that I’m looking, I can see his right arm is pressed against his chest, the hand squeezed into a tight fist.  And now I see exactly why he got quiet when I made that stupid stupid comment about the handicapped parking spot.

I wish I could say my reaction to his visible disability is something classy like… I don’t know… not staring.  Or better yet, not letting my jaw hang open.

I’d like to say that but I can’t.

Jeremy looks up and notices the way I’m staring. He’s beet-red now.  When he finally gets out a bill from his wallet, he practically shoves it at me. “Here.  Keep the change.”

He’s tipped me over a hundred percent on the bill.  “I hope you enjoy your burger.”

He avoids my eyes.  “Yeah, thanks,” he mutters.

And then he reaches for a metal crutch that’s leaning against the counter. I had vaguely noticed the crutch, but it hadn’t even occurred to me it was his. After he’s got his forearm laced through the metal rings, he reaches out for the plastic bag containing his order.  His blue-green eyes meet mine briefly, and he shakes his head almost imperceptibly.

He turns away from me and limps in the direction of the door.  He leans heavily on the crutch, leading with his left foot, then pulling his right along slowly and carefully.  At one point, his right foot sticks on a crack in our floor, and he struggles for a moment before getting it loose.

As he puts his good hand on the handle of the door, I realize something:

I still find this man incredibly sexy.

I haven’t looked at a guy and felt this way in so long.  I don’t know what his deal is, but I don’t care.  I know it’s cheesy, but I believe in love at first sight.  When I first laid eyes on Greg, I knew he was the man I was going to marry.  And… well, that didn’t work out so great in the end, but the point is, I was right.  I did marry Greg.

I don’t want to blow it with this guy.   I really think he could be…

Something.  I don’t know what yet, but something.

I can’t let him leave.  Once he does, he’ll never come back.  So before he can get out the door, I quickly lift my hand to wave at him, offer him my most come-hither smile, and say, “Come back again if you like the burger, okay?”

He hesitates, gripping the handle of his crutch in his left hand.  He turns to look at me, but there’s no affection in his eyes.  He nods briefly.  It’s barely even a nod.  It’s a quarter-nod.  “Yeah.  Okay.”

Damn. I’ll probably never see him again.

 
Jeremy

Flirting.

I miss it.

The girl working the counter at Moonlight Diner was flirting with me.  Actually, she was more of a woman than a girl. Yeah, definitely a woman.  She had these sexy lines around her mouth that made me think she was probably a couple of years older than I am.  Everything about her was sexy, actually.  Her dark hair pulled into a messy bun behind her head.  Her suggestive smile.  The way she didn’t lose her cool when that asshole customer was laying into her.

I was very out of practice.  Women don’t flirt with me anymore.  For starters, there’s the fact that I rarely leave my apartment, which means I don’t interact with human beings much in general.  On top of that, I know the crutch and my bad arm are not what most women would think of as attractive.  The truth is, just thinking about it makes me lose all my confidence.  So I don’t even bother flirting.

But there was something about this woman—the one whose nametag pinned to her chest said Noelle. Noelle.  She’s the first thing that’s reminded me of Christmas that I haven’t hated. When our eyes met, it was like a truck hit me.  I mean that in the best possible way.  I looked at her, and all I could think to myself is, I want to kiss this woman.

I want this woman.

Really, really bad.

I haven’t felt that way in a long time.  Yeah, I still look at porn and jerk off and all that shit because it’s a biological need. But it’s really unsatisfying.  On the rare occasion I meet a real life woman around my age, I generally feel nothing.  I had thought maybe the bleed in my brain killed my libido too, on top of everything else.

Noelle proved that isn’t true. I’m still as horny as I ever was.  I just hadn’t met the right woman.  When I looked at her and she smiled back at me in a way that wasn’t at all condescending, I thought maybe I’d finally met the right woman.  Maybe I could ask her out and it would actually go somewhere instead of a stammered apology when I try to ask for another date, followed by a cold shower.

Then she made that joke about the handicapped spot outside. And that’s when I realized:

She didn’t know.

If I could have hid it from her, God help me, I would have.  But I knew it was only a matter of time.  Minutes… or more like seconds.  Sure enough, as soon as I tried to pay, I gave myself away.  When she finally noticed my right arm clenched to my chest, she started gawking at me.

Just like fucking everyone else.

I’m an idiot.  I didn’t realize she hadn’t noticed.  I thought she was the one woman who saw my disability and liked me anyway. That was a real punch in the gut.

I miss women.  I miss being close to women.  I miss kissing.  Holy shit, I really miss kissing.

And there’s sex.  I haven’t had sex in over four years.  It’s starting to feel permanent.

Something’s got to change.  Otherwise, I’m going to be single for the rest of my life.

Will Noelle discover Jeremy is actually the neighbor she hates?
To be continued....