Thursday, November 15, 2018

Update to The Consolation Prize

Hi everyone! 

Hope it's good week. I'm excited to post Chapter 23 because we finally get to see a moment between Will and Scottie—the first since their heart wrenching breakup. And we also get to see a bit more about Pete and his feelings on everything. 

Thank ya'll for your comments and feedback last week. I love reading them all—truly makes this whole thing worthwhile. Seriously cannot wait to see what you think of this week's installment—shit gets real. 

As for next week—what do you think? Do you want a Thanksgiving post? Maybe building a little more anticipation—waiting until the week after—before Chapter 24 is a good thing?? 

Chapter 23 

And for those catching up or rereading: 
Table of Contents 

Monday, November 12, 2018

New Chapter "Will Love Prevail"

Hello my readers, 😊
first off, Happy Veterans Day to all service women and men past and present and the families who have been  alongside of them through the generations. My husband served in the US Army for 22 years and I'm very proud of him. My son is presently serving in the US Coast Guard and I'm very proud of him as well. My younger son is thinking about joining the US Air Force but I still have him with me for at least three years ❤

And to my readers, thanks so much for last week's comments and for everyone who is reading without commenting. I appreciate all of you very much. You mean a lot to me.
Here is another chapter of my story "Will Love Prevail".
I hope you enjoy and I look forward to your comments.

Chapter 3

Hugs, Dani 💖

TOC

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Update to the Grinch

So you know how they say if there's a gun at the beginning of a book, it will definitely go off by the end?  Well, in a dev story, if there's a long extension cord, it will definitely get tripped over....

Chapter 4

And also: Table of Contents

Also, this is the last day where you can get the entire Santa's Girl (Dean & Callie) box set for 99 cents with the conclusion to their story.  It will be $3.99 after that.  Buy it now on Amazon while it's still cheap!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Consolation Prize—Chapter 22

Scottie opened her eyes slowly and stared blankly up at the ornately patterned white ceiling. It really was an incredible piece of property, and she supposed that had she been in a different head space it would have bothered her to lose it. But selling it had been all she could do to keep her sanity, and knowing she’d never have to come back there lifted an incredible and substantial weight off her shoulders. 

The heat of the room was apparent, leaving a thin sheen of sweat on her upper lip, brown, and down her chest—heavy and unusual for March. A breeze wafted lazily in through the open window and sirens sounded in the distance. She inhaled deeply on the cigarette and ashed it right onto the wood floor. She didn’t live here anymore, after all. It wasn’t until she heard the thud of heavy boots that she pushed herself up on to her elbows and shook her hair out of her face. 

“That’s the last of it,” the man said. He was muscular and large, but harbored a considerable stomach stretching the white cotton of his shirt and hanging over his paint spattered jeans.

“Great,” she answered flatly, the taste of tobacco on her tongue. 

“First truck is going to the storage place in Jersey City. Second truck is going to uh…” He raised his hand and looked down at the sheet of paper, slightly crumpled, between his meaty thumb and forefinger. “Cobble Hill? Warren Street?” A large one bedroom apartment with a nice new kitchen, plenty of natural light, a huge bathroom and patio in a new building with….you guessed it, an elevator. She hadn’t even entertained looking at walk-ups. She wasn’t ready to cement the fact that Will was out of her life forever. She had to hold on to a little thread, even if it was just pressing the 10th floor button every day. 

“Yep,” she answered unequivocally and inhaled the last of the cigarette, pressing the lit end into the crevice between the floorboards. She ignored the man watching her with consternation. She didn’t have time for his apprehension. He’d told her his and his partner’s names when they’d arrived for the move, but she’d simply nodded numbly. She hadn’t been listening—the buzzing in her head had been too loud when she’d roused, bereft with the memory of waking up next to Will the first night they’d been together at the beach. 

Her dream had been so real. Will had stirred against her, his skin warm and smooth on her bare back, his hands rough and calloused, but gentle. He had kissed her on the shoulder and tucked her hair behind her ear, so he could reach her cheek. Somehow, he smelled of fresh peppermint even though it was first thing in the morning. Warm sunlight streamed through the half-closed curtains and the cyclical crashing of the waves played through the open window. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The peace that soaked through her—like she was finally in the right place—had felt so welcome and so foreign at the same time. 

Then her alarm broke through the rose-colored haze like a sledgehammer and she’d found herself shivering in an empty bed, in an empty room, in an empty apartment, in an almost empty life. The thought was enough to hollow anyone out and dump them like a husk. 

“And someone’s there?” he asked quickly, tugging her back to the hot vacant room as he turned to leave, as if he couldn’t bear to stand there with her any longer. 

“What?” she asked blankly. 

“The new apartment?” he pressed, “Someone will be there to let us up right? Cause you look like it might a little while before you get over there. Your boyfriend or something?” He had a look of slight concern, but it didn’t move into his eyes. This was just a job and he wanted to get home. 
 
“Oh, yeah, someone’s there,” she replied after a long moment, looking down at her hands. She didn’t feel the need to correct him. Max certainly wasn’t her boyfriend, but it felt irrelevant. He’d been picking her up every day since Will had told her not to come back. Max had been there for her since Will had, for all intents and purposes, essentially died, disappearing from her life in a horrific explosion, leaving dust and debris everywhere. 

The Cory she had known was gone. 

And Nora? She was long gone, too, as she should have been. Scottie, in her self-destructive swan song, had told Nora everything she’d done, sparing few details because she was a sick fuck and Nora had pressed. Scottie hadn’t been strong enough to drop the truth and go. She wanted to make sure that Nora never went back to that piece of shit life-ruining cheater. After what he’d done to Will, he didn’t deserve mercy. And Scottie had shown him none. But in doing that, she’d also shown Nora none, and ensured, quite quickly and permanently—with one final and acutely visceral “fuck you” on Nora’s end—that their friendship was entirely and utterly finished. But she supposed that she had ensured the demise of their friendship long before that phone call. She’d probably ensured it the first time her lips met Cory’s. 

The man from the moving company mumbled something and left the room as the light changed, the sun dipping low and casting shadows through the window of the apartment that was no longer hers. She’d sold it a month ago, and now had enough money to coast along without work or purpose for…well, years, she supposed. And what had perhaps felt like a blessing in the beginning, now fell heavy on her. She needed a purpose. She needed to find something outside herself in order to stay afloat. The days had turned into weeks and the weeks into months. And soon the months would turn into years and she would heal because what other choice was there? As much as she wallowed, she refused to turn into her sister or her mom. She wouldn’t let herself.  

Her phone buzzed in her pocket and she pulled it out. Max. Just seeing his name made her smile. 

“Max,” she answered warmly. 

“Baby girl, this place is fire. Get your butt over here and let’s celebrate. I’ve got champagne and City Bakery cookies.” 

“The fuck you don’t have City Bakery Cookies.” These cookies had been Scottie’s favorite cookies in the world for as long as she remembered. They were so incredible and addictive that she was convinced there had to be crack in there. 

“The fuck I do,” he said smartly. “Now let’s go.” 

“Okay, okay,” she allowed as she hung up, feeling buoyed by the fact that she wasn’t entirely alone. 

And with that tiny glimmer of what was not hope yet, but the first spark she’d been able to hook herself onto, she pushed herself to her feet, grabbed her light jacket that she really didn’t need, and her purse, and walked through the vacant rooms for the last time. 
This was a new start. It had to be. 


<>


Will sat in the unnecessarily dark bar facing the door, the beer he’d just ordered rested almost empty in front him, the glass slick with condensation. It was the middle of the day, but he was in a sour getting drunk kind of mood. He shifted nervously in his wheelchair, adjusting his weight and lifting his legs up before dropping them both down so his feet landed crooked on the footplate. Hurriedly he corrected them. He didn’t want her to see him like this—tense and self-conscious. Straightening up he signaled smoothly for the waiter and nodded toward his beer, indicating he was ready for a refill. The shrimpy kid in the apron who’d irritatingly made a huge fuss over removing one of the chairs from Will’s table gave him a thumb’s up and disappeared around the crowded bar. Will exhaled and tried to calm his frayed nerves, but laughed at his fruitless attempt. He hadn’t been able to do that for months. Not since he slammed the door in Scottie’s beautiful face. 

A lot had changed since then. Will had spent days not sleeping. He’d quit his job in a quiet, respectful way that surprised even him given everything that had happened with Emily. Pete hadn’t moved out of the apartment just yet, but his boxes lined the walls. It was happening that weekend and Will was absolutely dreading it. 

He’d been forced to consider a roommate, as the rent of this place alone would have been simply too much to spend per month. He didn’t need a place that big by himself, but would undoubtedly miss all the space. He’d miss his brother’s company even more though. He’d been feeling like he was stuck on an island ever since he found out Cory had been driving, and he hadn’t been able to shake it just yet. But Pete was moving whether Will was on board or not, so he got the fuck on board. The baby would be here in June and Will smiled every time he thought about holding the little muffin. They had decided not to find out the sex of the baby, so they’d been affectionately calling it “the muffin” in the meantime.

In the end, he decided he’d move out at the end of the month, as Pete had agreed to pay through the 31st. Will had found a good sized, accessible, one-bedroom in south Brooklyn, down in Cobble Hill. It was exactly what he’d been looking for, and he’d actually found himself excited for a completely fresh start. He missed Scottie every goddamn day, but he knew he wasn’t ready to unpack what she and Cory had done. He still was unclear about the timeline, and he supposed he owed it to her to at least ask. But he just couldn’t. He had too much on his plate right now, and if he ever hoped to have a healthy relationship with himself, let alone another person, he had to figure this shit out on his own. 

The kid appeared next to him, abruptly interrupting his thoughts, and put the glass down with shaking hands, sloshing beer over the side. 

“Fuck, sorry,” he stuttered. “Shoot sorry I shouldn’t say fuck. Fuck.” Will surprised himself by laughing. The kid stopped and stared, as if he hadn’t expected Will to react. Will would have guessed this kid couldn’t have been much past 21 years old—if that. Right around the age when Will was paralyzed. 

“Hey,” Will said, “It’s fine. Curse in front of me. I don’t care. Just relax.” Will grabbed a napkin and wiped up the spilled beer slowly, making a show of it to let him know he really was fine with the spill. 

“Okay,” he said self-consciously, laughing a little, then staring down at his shoes. “It’s like my second day.” Will followed his gaze and noted that the kid’s shoes were untied. 

“Maybe start with tying your shoes?” Will suggested playfully. 

“Oh,” he laughed, and his cheeks went red. “Right.” 

“The rest is just a learning curve. You’ll get there.” The waiter nodded and looked like he might ask something else as Will took a sip of his beer, but he didn’t get the chance, as Will almost coughed it out when she came into view. A macabre ghost from his past, standing there in the flesh. 

Kristin. 

He’d almost forgotten he’d seen her months and months ago, almost a year now, at Royal Palms. She’d appeared out of nowhere and held his hand, begging for something in her eyes that he couldn’t quite place. Now, with the full story flapping out in the open, he thought he finally knew what she had been begging him for—forgiveness and perhaps, support? It still felt slightly out of reach. 

“Hi,” she said softly, her word almost getting swallowed back before she could get it out. She didn’t look great. More exhausted than anything, she had dark bags hanging heavy under eyes and looked thin in a kind of accidental way, her shirt and pants sagging awkwardly off her boney frame. She’d always had curves—curves that Will had loved at one point. Looking at her now, with her soft blonde hair framing her thinner heart shaped face, that little birthmark below the curve of her bottom lip, and her sad green eyes, he felt a kind of disgust rising inside him. It was so potent that he had to hold onto the edge of the table. 

“Can I?” she asked timidly, gesturing to one of the empty chairs, looking from Will to the kid and back again. The kid just stood there like an idiot, unsure if he should move. The tension was like a brick wall. It seemed like nothing could knock it down. Will nodded tightly. 

“I’d get up, but, I can’t walk,” he replied sharply, crossing his arms over his strong chest and shrugging. She flinched as if she’d been slapped, but pulled the chair out anyway and slipped into it. Will noticed the waiter looking at him strangely through his peripheral vision. 

“Can I get you anything?” the kid finally asked, voice squeakier than he’d intended. Kristin smiled blandly up at his pale wide face and asked for Chardonnay. The kid nodded and slowly backed away, almost tripping over another table. The commotion didn’t peel Will away from Kristin’s face, but her gaze flickered for a second, allowing Will to exhale and ready himself. Neither of them said anything, but their scrutiny held. 
It was Kristin who broke first, peeling her eyes off the man she’d once loved and then betrayed, down to her hands. They were shaking, and her nails were bitten with chipped blue nail polish.

“Will, I just, I need to open with an apology,” she murmured, afraid she was going to lose her nerve. “What I did, on so many levels, was so fucked up.” 

“You mean cheating on me? Or letting Cory drive? Or letting Cory move and possibly paralyze me? Or leaving me…” Will’s voice failed him at that, the realization of how much she had hurt him rushing through him in one cruel wave. Her voice, at once his favorite sound, turned brassy and dissonant. He could hear her in his memory, telling him she couldn’t be with half a man. At the time, that had haunted him. He’d been so incredibly angry at her, but he’d held on because he’d been desperate, unable to care for himself, unable to understand what future he could have. Who could ever love him? For months after, that was the first thing he thought when he woke up every morning. 

But now, almost a decade away, seeing her in this light with a truth she’d felt was better left untold, her words and actions—recoiling when she touched any paralyzed part of him—took on a whole new meaning. It was if she was throwing rocks at him to make sure he never came back. 

“What was it that you couldn’t handle exactly?” he asked, pivoting away from the frustration in his voice earlier and moving into controlled anger. 

“Excuse me?” Kristin asked, tilting her head slightly as she looked at him. 

“Was it what had happened to me, that you couldn’t handle? Or what you had done?”

“I don’t know,” she replied almost immediately, clamping her mouth shut as the kid reappeared with her wine and taking the hint, promptly turned on his heel and went. Will took a healthy sip of his beer and wished for something stronger. He’d promised Pete he wouldn’t though. Not for a conversation that he’d debated having for weeks, losing sleep and losing sanity.  

“You don’t know,” Will said stonily after a minute, sliding his glass back and forth across the table. It wasn’t really a question. 

“I didn’t give myself a chance to handle what happened to you because of what I’d done.” She exhaled and tapped her fingers on the sticky tabletop. Will nodded but wouldn’t look at her. It felt like a cop out.  “I regret not stopping Cory the most, but I didn’t think about the consequences. I didn’t even fathom there could be such…permanent consequences.” 

“Right, well,” Will said, voice measured. He knew that it could have happened without Cory. He could still have landed in the chair. And he knew that if he was going to move forward, he had to make peace with the fact that it was what it was, no matter how it happened. His anger was directed at Cory, but his pain was directed at Kristin. Her betrayal was hot and sharp. 

“I was going to end it,” she offered slowly, “we weren’t right for each other. I think we both knew that. I loved you, but I’d fallen out of love with you, and I know you had to. The last time we had sex…” She trailed off, but Will didn’t need her to fill in the blank. It stood out in vivid color in his mind. The last time he’d had sex able bodied—of course he didn’t know that at the time—and it had been an utter disaster. He couldn’t get hard. He’d had to picture someone else in order to get it up—a random pretty girl he’d had class with a year before. Kristin had cried, crouched, naked, wrapped in his comforter. She’d kept saying that something was missing. Will realized, quite suddenly, that she must have been sleeping with Cory at that point, and in that moment, had a comparison to hold him against. It was like a fresh punch in the gut, even years and years later. But when she’d said it, he’d known she was right—something had been missing—but he was stubborn as all hell. He’d finished, but it was empty and obligatory. Kristin hadn’t, which wasn’t like them. That weekend they went up to Vermont, and then everything had changed. 

“I couldn’t have told you the truth about us after everything,” she continued mechanically. “But everything had changed in a second. I mean, hell, you’d just been told about your legs, and well, I wanted you to think it was more about me not being able to handle you not walking again than, hey I’m leaving you for your best friend who could…well…you know.” 

“Still walk?” he asked flatly, staring at her, realizing that instead of the shock and pain he’d felt when she’d walked in, he was starting to feel incredibly numb. “Still fuck you like you wanted?” She winced but nodded. 

“I deserve that. I deserve all of that.” 

“Did it continue?” he asked, despite his inner protests. He was glutton for punishment. She shook her head and looked down at her hands. 

“No, we, well, we tried, but it was ruined. The guilt was everything. I couldn’t look at him without seeing you.” Will scoffed bitterly and took another sip of his beer and signaled to the kid for another. He’d thought he would marry her. He thought she’d stay by his side, but he’d been so terribly wrong. Perhaps that was what most upset him—the fact that he thought he knew her, but she’d turned out to be something entirely different. Their encounter at Royal Palms. The phone call to apologize. Both took on a sickly shade of conspiracy and it made him feel sick. 

“Why’d you take his money?” he asked, without judgement. At this point, he just wanted to understand. She shook her head in disappointment. 

“Because,” she offered simply, “I needed it. You know what I come from. I wanted to run from you, from him. I still wanted my future, selfishly, even though I’d thrown a terrible wrench in yours.” Will was yanked back to his hospital bed, where she sat perched precariously on the edge, careful not to touch him. “It’s just not how I saw my future,” she’d confessed quietly, her shame radiant. She’d managed to untwist and de-tangle their futures. They used to say “our” and now she was saying “my.” She could walk away, and she did. 

“I made a deal with the devil,” she stated firmly, looking from her hands up to meet his gaze. “And as soon as I was far enough away to see it, the guilt started to get to me. Two years ago, I stopped cashing the checks.” Will looked up from his beer and shifted slightly in his chair. This wasn’t something he had expected. She smiled slightly at his shock and bowed her head. 

“It’s true. That’s why he started sending more. I had a price before, and he met it, but it was like all of a sudden I woke up, and everything changed. There wasn’t a number in the world that I would take. It wasn’t worth it.” 

“Why didn’t you come to me then?” he asked. She threw her hands up in the air. 

“I wasn’t ready,” she replied simply. 

“Not ready to face me?” 

“Not ready to face you, not ready to face what I’d done. Cheated. Stood by while something terrible happened. Kept a secret that never would have existed had I done something? I needed to come to terms with myself before I could come to terms with you. I’m so sorry it took me so long.” Will bit his lower lip and looked down at the last of his beer and drained it. He was slightly dizzy, and though he didn’t want to admit it to her or himself, he kind of understood what she was saying. His anger and pain and numbness at it loosened ever so slightly. 

“Finally, I decided it was time. I tried in person once because I needed to see you. And well, we both remember how that ended. You pulled away from me, then, you fell, which I blame myself for, and then you left, which I also blame myself for. Cory was livid at me and his temper was scary. I was scared.” She took a deep calming breath and pressed onward. “Then I called you and lost my nerve.” 

“I thought there might have been more to that call,” Will recollected.
  
“I’m a coward and I will never be able to make this right. But please just know, just just know that I never meant to hurt you so badly.” 

The macho part of Will wanted to spit back that she hadn’t hurt him at all. He wanted to rise to his full height and kick his wheelchair to the side of the dark bar and slam his hands on the table, then storm out, his stride powerful, his message received. But of course, he didn’t do that. He couldn’t do that. His legs simply sat quietly in front of him, as they had for the last decade. 

Will knew there was nothing she could say to wipe this away. They both knew it. That’s why they sat in silence for the next fifteen minutes. Will got another beer. She got another glass of wine, and they just sat together in the same place, thinking about what they had once had. Nostalgia packed a mighty shot, like whiskey straight to your head. 
Kristin took one final sip of her wine and placed the glass back on the table. She fished for her wallet and placed two twenties down on the table as she stood slowly. She paused for a second, considering if she should hug him, or touch him at all, but realized quickly that it would be too much. It was better left right here, a grey area that could be pondered later, perhaps sorted, and absolutely packed away.

“Will, you really do look good,” she stated as she studied him. He nodded curtly and put his hands on his push rims, scooting his chair back slightly. She soaked in his hair with that gentle curl, his bright laughing blue eyes, his broad shoulders, well-muscled chest, strong arms contrasted with his ever-still, neatly placed lower half that she’d never get off her conscious. He certainly knew how to make lemonade out of lemons, that was for sure. 
She raised her hand in a single wave goodbye then started to head toward the door. But she stopped abruptly and turned.  

“For what it’s worth,” her voice came out small but serious, with so much weight in her eyes that he thought it might pull her down to the very ground. It wasn’t pity in her gaze—Will had received so much of that kind of look he could pick it out from a mile away. He knew it like the back of his hand. No, but this look, this was profound sadness. This was regret. This was self-loathing that went down to the bone. Will had had his share of frustration and low self-esteem, but having that kind of hate for yourself, not based on something you couldn’t change, but something that you chosen, well, he was pretty sure he couldn’t live with that kind of dead weight dragging him around. He’d take his useless lower half any fucking day. 

“She’s good,” Kristin whispered, wiping at a rogue tear that had slipped out of her right eye. She bit her lip and pushed her straight blonde hair over her shoulders. “Scottie is a really good one. You should have seen her when I told her everything. She…I…I’ve never seen that kind of anguish. She puked in my flower bed,” she continued with a light little laugh like it was a fond memory. “Don’t let her go. I didn’t know about her and Cory’s relationship, but she was going to risk everything to make sure you knew the truth. That I feel sure of. She’s good, Will, hang on to her. Most people aren’t good.” 

Will’s breath hitched at the implication that they were still together and he let his mind drift to her, specifically the morning they’d woken up next to each other in that bottom bunk bed, when he reached for her hand from his chair, the sunlight kissing her face golden. He could smell her, and she seemed so close all of a sudden, his chest ached. 
And with that last word, Kristin shrugged and turned, pulling her light jacket tightly around her and leaning into the door, the light harsh as she stepped out onto the sidewalk and disappeared. 

Will never saw Angela Kristin King again, and that was okay. 

Update to The Consolation Prize

Hi everyone, 

Hope ya'll are having a good week. Excited to post this week's chapter. We'll get to see a little bit about the aftermath of the breakup. 

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, reactions, favorite parts, and feedback. I really love reading your comments each week. Can't believe I've been posting since May!  

Chapter 22 

And in case you want to catch-up or re-read: 
Table of Contents 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

New Devo Diary

Thanks every one for all the comments last chapter! This time around I start messaging with a blind guy online.

Devo Diary Chapter 48: Mickey Cross, part 1

Thanks again for reading and please do leave comments.

Table of Contents

Monday, November 5, 2018

New Chapter "Will Love Prevail"

Hi friends,
thanks for the comments last week. They are very much appreciated. It's really the only way for me to know if people like the story or not. I enjoyed particularly reading the long comment about action and descriptive writing. Thanks so much for that feedback.
I am not sure I will have a whole lot of action in this week's chapter. We are going to learn more about Mark though.
Here is Chapter 2 of "Will Love Prevail".
I hope you will enjoy and I thank you all for reading and commenting.

Here is also the TOC - Will Love Prevail
I will attach this updated every week.

Hugs, Dani



Sunday, November 4, 2018

Update to the Grinch!

So for those of you who were wondering what would happen when Jeremy and Noelle finally meet, that happens in this chapter.  But.... it doesn't happen the way you think....

Chapter 3

And if you missed it, here is Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Free Friday: Santa's Girl

Last holiday season, I started posting a story called Santa Crush, about an elf who gets a crush on the guy playing Santa, but has no idea about his secret.  I got such great feedback, I wrote a sequel, then another sequel.

Now for this holiday season, I decided to finish off Dean and Callie's story with a final novella that can only be read as part of the Santa's Girl Box Set:


So I don't want anyone who is a fan of the series to have to pay full price for the entire box set just to read the final novella, so I am keeping it at 99 cents (the minimum Amazon will allow) if you get it on preorder now. This is just for you guys. When it releases on Nov 12, the price will go up to $3.99.

Buy it now on Amazon.  Or else read an excerpt....

Santa's Girl

This suit fits like shit.

Suits are not meant to be worn by people sitting down. That is not to say that when you are wearing a suit, you’re not allowed to sit down. But obviously, the ideal position for someone wearing a suit (or really, any clothing) is standing up. That’s why they usually show models standing up, not sitting in a chair.

The jacket I’m wearing, for example, is too long in the back. I don’t want to sit on the hem of it, because it will cause pressure on my butt, but if I’m not sitting on it, it bunches up. The pants are wrong too. When I sit, they slide down in the back, and the fly zipper pouches out a little too much. But my mom thankfully removed all the back pockets from my pants soon after my injury, so at least I don’t have to worry about pressure injuries caused by pockets.

Like I said, it’s exhausting sometimes.

I wish I could stand. Just for this interview. I wish I could stride into VP Howard Thornton’s office, look him straight in the eyes without having to tilt my head up, and shake his hand. I wish just for today, I could leave the wheelchair behind at home.

But I can’t, of course. I can never leave the wheelchair behind. I will never be able to leave the wheelchair behind. Not short of a medical miracle.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Consolation Prize—Chapter 21


The fierce banging on the door echoed through the hallway and all Scottie could hear was the sound of her breathing and a wild ringing in her ears. She felt like she might jump out of her skin if he didn’t open up immediately. Her fist vibrated with the force of her wrath. That wrath had carried her ever since she slammed Kristin’s door and pressed on the gas.

Finally, the door opened, and she practically fell over the threshold, the forward momentum of her anger pushing her almost out of her physical body. Cory stood there, infuriatingly bewildered, a dish towel draped over his shoulder and a glass of wine in his hand. Judging by the expression on his face, Scottie must have looked absolutely deranged.

“Let me uh, take your coat,” he offered, stepping toward her. She took a hard step backward, edging away from him, and banged into the wall behind her. She hadn’t had anything to drink, but she suddenly felt very intoxicated.

“I’m fine,” she insisted coldly as she pushed past him into his apartment. It smelled like something was cooking, and the scents wafted toward her. Instead of lowering her guard, which she supposed was his intention with the home cooked meal and the glass of red wine waiting for her on the counter, she coiled herself tighter, readying herself to spring.

“Here,” he offered as he appeared behind her, reaching around her and handing her the glass of wine. His hand grazed her lower back and she went rigid at his fingers.  

“Thank you,” Scottie replied stiffly as she received it, careful not to crush the fragile stem in her rage. She clenched her teeth instead as Cory walked around the counter to face her, leaning down on his forearms and twisting his own wine glass stem between his fingers. The red liquid swirled and danced along the edges. To Scottie, it just looked like blood.

“Drink,” he encouraged smiling with all his teeth showing, like the wolf must have smiled as he considered Red Riding Hood for dinner. Scottie rolled her neck around in a circle and lifted the glass delicately to her lips. The smell made her stomach roil. Swallowing, she pressed her feet into the floor, and without a warning, or even a flinch, she threw the wine at Cory, drenching him. He sputtered backward into the sink behind him as she held the empty glass in her trembling hand.

“What the fuck,” he screamed, wiping at his face with one hand while reaching for the dish towel on his shoulder with the other. “This is a $200 bottle of wine.”

“Good,” she spat back, her shoulders heaving. She didn’t know what she wanted out of this, but she wanted him to know she knew. She knew everything.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” he yelled, his eyes bulging. Scottie was struck by how truly ugly he was, despite everything she’d ever thought about him. Despite how smitten she’d once been. The disgust of all the people who had let her down eddied together into a disgusting swamp—her dad, her mom, her sister, her high school boyfriend, her grandparents, J.J., and now Cory.

“Wrong with me?” she asked deliberately, her breathing slowing down.

"Yes,” he pressed, stepping toward her around the side of the counter.

“I know.”

“Know what?”

“You know what I know. I saw her. I went to New Jersey.”

“Saw who?” his voice went up at the end, his head cocked arrogantly to the side.

“You know.”

“You’re acting insane,” he jeered, laughing a cold hollow laugh that sent shivers across Scottie’s skin.

“I’m acting insane?” she questioned, disbelieving, voice rising again. He stared at her blankly without a flicker of guilt, remorse, or recognition. His indifference made her reckless.

“All this time,” she alleged, voice quaking, “he thought it was him. He blamed himself.” There was a pause, a full and heavy silence that reverberated between them.

“For years,” she shouted at him, “he blamed himself. Does that mean nothing to you!?” Cory flinched at her volume, but before he inhaled to retaliate, his features changed—distorted and foreign.

“Fuck you,” he murmured, his tone noxious.

“Fuck me? Oh, I bet. I bet you’d like to go down that road again,” she hissed, feeling hot shame cover her from head to toe like someone had just dumped scalding soup over her. Cory reached out and grabbed her slender wrist, pressing his fingers down into the skin. She didn’t recoil. She didn’t budge. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. She was daring him to lay a hand on her. Do it, she thought fiercely. Do it.

She was simmering as pushed her roughly and pressed her up against the refrigerator, holding her arm bent over her head. His other hand hovered over her neck as she turned her face to the side, so she wouldn’t have to look at his blotchy face. He breathing was even and steady and smelled like wine as his gaze bore into her, eyes lit and wide. Then both hands dropped by his side and he stepped back, crossing his arms over his chest. Scottie stood there, aware of him in front of her, and suddenly incredibly uncomfortable with the fact that she was alone in his apartment with him.

Steeling herself, she turned and looked directly at him, eyes narrow, hands shaking, but voice flat, firm, and low.

“You have twenty-four hours to tell him. Or I will.” And with that, she turned and slipped out of the kitchen, her feet moving much faster than she even realized until she was back out on the street, throwing herself into the driver’s seat of Will’s car. It smelled mercilessly like him.

Cory had been drunk and the awful terrible truth was that he’d been driving—not Will. Will had been asleep across the back seat without a seatbelt. And Cory had moved him.

Another car had hit them and knocked them off the road. The other driver had been struck unconscious at the impact. Will had as well, as he had taken the brunt of the force of the crash—the two in the front having been mostly unscathed aside from Kristin’s broken wrist and collarbone, and a few scrapes on Cory’s face.

Cory had been protecting himself. It would have been his third DUI and with that, he knew he was facing jail time. Will had been sober when the car flipped. Moving him into the driver’s seat while he’d been unconscious had been harmless, right?

At least that’s what Kristin had convinced herself of as she stood in the woods, shaking and in shock, watching Cory clumsily heave Will’s limp body out of the back and shove him into the front seat. There was no way to know for sure what the damage had been upon impact. But one thing Scottie did know for sure—from all the researched she’d done on spinal cord injuries back when she first started dating Will—was that the worst thing you could do for someone who had potential spinal cord damage was to move them.

And that’s exactly what Cory had done without any regard for anyone but himself.

Seeing the hand controls laying on the back seat sent a wave of sadness through her so overwhelming that she pressed her forehead into the steering wheel and cried for the first time since Kristin had told her the truth.

<> 

When Scottie finally got to Will’s more than an hour later, after crying her eyes out, taking multiple wrong turns, and finding herself in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge, she realized, as her stomach dropped out of her and her blood ran cold, that she was too late. Cory’s voice greeted her as she pushed Will’s door open, her hands shaking so badly she could barely hold his keys.

“Cory,” she croaked dryly, “What are you doing here?” He welcomed her into the apartment with a smarmy grin as he leaned back into the cushions on the couch. Will appeared from the kitchen with two beers and a bottle opener situated between his thighs. He was wearing a grey t-shirt, black sweats, and socks and his hair was wet—freshly showered. He smelled like peppermint as he reached for her hand and pulled her down toward him, so he could kiss her. Wrapped up in a heavy fog of shock and confusion, Scottie let him, but she didn’t take her eyes off of Cory as he watched their mouths meet.

“How did the storage hunt go?” Will asked her warmly, squeezing her hand before he let go to wheel over to the family room, his strong arms drawing her to him.

“What?” Scottie asked strangely, feeling disconnected from her body.

“New Jersey?” Will asked, turning slightly, “To find storage space for your grandma’s things.”

“Oh,” Cory mocked, “Is that why you were in New Jersey?” Scottie’s mouth went dry.

“You knew she was in Jersey too, then?” Will asked Cory casually. Cory nodded and smirked again.

“Yes,” he answered deliberately, “she stopped by my apartment on her way back here to uh, drop something off. Had I known she was heading right over here I would have asked for a ride.” Will frowned slightly and looked back at Scottie, a question playing on his lips. But he didn’t ask it. Instead he cracked open the two beers and handed one to Cory who sat smugly with one ankle resting on his other knee, his face smooth, relaxed, and so incredibly punchable. Scottie balled her fists at her side and dropped her coat and bag on the floor. She had to stop this before it even began.

“Come sit,” Will beckoned, “I want to tell you about my day. Fucking Emily.” He laughed aloofly and shook his head before tipping back a swig of cold beer.

“Will,” she said robotically, stepping toward him, hanging on to the last bit of her nerve with everything she could. She couldn’t lose it. She wouldn’t. Cory being here was a challenge and a threat, and she owed it to Will—the man she loved more than anyone—to expose the truth, even if it ruined everything.

“Scottie?” Will asked, suddenly concerned. He realized as he surveyed her that she didn’t look well. Her skin was a few shades too pale, her eyes sunken, and her whole body was shaking. “Are you okay?” he questioned, putting his beer down on the coffee table and rolling toward her. He pulled her onto his lap, but she wouldn’t look at him. Her gaze was haunted. “Scottie?” he pressed again, tilting his head down to get a glimpse at her face, this time his alarm rising. “Talk to me.” He shook her gently to bring her back to him. She turned slightly and caught his beautiful blue eyes in hers and took a deep breath.

“There’s something you need to know,” she whispered.

“Don’t,” Cory warned as he stood abruptly, his gaze razor sharp. Scottie ignored him and continued.

“You weren’t driving,” she confessed, feeling the words tumble out as if they were vomit. But at the same time she opened her mouth, so did Cory. Will struggled to peel apart the two statements, but his attention went to Cory’s which was “Scottie is cheating on you.”

“What?” he asked Cory, turning from him back to Scottie.

“Don’t listen to him, Will,” Scottie argued desperately, using her hand to pull his face back to hers. “Listen to me, he’s trying to distract you with lies, please.” Her voice was rising to an uncomfortable pitch as she realized she was losing Will to Cory.

“She’s been cheating on you with me,” Cory said quietly, fake shame shadowing his face.

“What?” Will asked, incredulously, pushing the wheels of his chair back as if to get away from her. She was still on his lap but Will’s eyes flashed dangerously when she reached for him again. Instead she carefully extricated herself from him and sat down on the couch. She didn’t want to have this conversation above his head. She needed to be on his level.

“Will, he’s lying.”

“Have you slept with him?” Will asked, ignoring her pleas. Scottie’s heart almost choked her and she stopped cold in her denial. She had to be honest—the pull of dishonestly was incredible and strong, but she beat it back.

“Yes,” she admitted quietly, “but it was before I even knew you, Will. It was right when I first lived here and, and, and…”She caught Cory’s smug smile out of the corner of her eye and felt the rage rise with force within her. “I was young and stupid, and Cory and I slept together, okay?”

“And you didn’t think to tell me?” Will barked, rolling away from her even further, the sting and jealousy of knowing she'd been with his douchebag able-bodied friend coursing through him.

“I was embarrassed.”

“And she was cheating on you, and betraying her best friend,” Cory added haughtily. He thought he had won, and Scottie would go down with him if that was what it took.

“How could you do that to Nora?” Will asked, his tone cracked with disbelief.

“Will I was awful to her. I was an awful friend. But this all ended when I met you. I promise you. I never cheated on you.”

“You’re going to believe that?” Cory goaded, stepping closer. Scottie reacted like a cornered cat and pulled herself up on the couch in a crouch, so she could spring forward if necessary.

“You,” Will shouted, “stay the fuck out of this. While Scottie was fucking Nora over, you were busy fucking me over, so back the fuck down.” Cory stared at him like he’d been shocked but didn’t fight back or defend himself.

“Will, I never cheated on you. I promise. You have to believe me. Cory is lying. He’s lying to cover up what he doesn’t want you to know.” Scottie hated the sound of her own voice, thin as a string, desperate as all hell, fraught with contradictions. She felt like a little girl arguing with her sister, trying to prove to an adult that what she was saying was valid. 

“What?” Will asked her flatly.

“Will, she’s lying, that's just what she does. She's a liar,” Cory interjected severely.

“I said that’s enough out of you,” Will retaliated, his chest visibly shaking. Scottie saw his knee bouncing up and down, the foot lifting off the footplate, but he didn’t notice, he was too rattled as he turned back to his girlfriend. Her eyes were like nothing he’d ever seen before and it scared him. “Tell me. Now.” Scottie took a deep breath and pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes to keep from exploding.

“Your accident. You weren’t driving. Cory was…”

“She’s a fucking liar,” Cory shouted, jumping at her. Will slid forward, striking like a snake, and checked Cory hard into the other side of the couch with his shoulder. The look on Cory’s face was utter disbelief. He couldn’t believe that his crippled friend had intercepted him like that, and if the situation had been different, Scottie would have cheered. But it wasn’t, and she didn’t.

“Don’t fucking touch her. Let her speak,” he sputtered through heaving breaths.

“Cory was driving,” Scottie continued mechanically, “he was drunk. Facing his 3rd DUI. He was pretty much unhurt, but moved you while you were unconscious, into the driver’s seat. Kristin saw the whole thing. She had been seeing him on the side at the time, so she felt conflicted. And since then, Cory’s been paying her off monthly to keep her from telling the truth. She was who I went to see in New Jersey.” Silence followed heavy and loaded.

Will’s head whirred and spun, thoughts and realizations sliding over each other like a TV on fast forward, sound and pictures unintelligible, but the nagging sensation that he needed to rewind and slowdown in order to fully understand. The whole room seemed to shift out of focus and he felt uncharacteristically unsteady in his chair, like he might topple over at any second. Cory moved him when he’d probably already injured his spine. Will knew what kind of damage being moved could have done—the difference between an incomplete and complete injury, the difference between being paralyzed permanently and achieving recovery—and the back of his throat felt thick. He didn’t remember anything about that night…but somehow, what Scottie was saying, made sense. Cory’s voice was tortured and pleading in the background.

“Get out,” Will said quietly to no one in particular as he stared down at his lap, feeling the numb weight of his useless lower half in a way that he hadn’t since he’d first woken up in the hospital. When no one moved or answered his head snapped up and he lost his cool. Reaching for the bottle of beer on the coffee table he grasped it then threw it across the room into the foyer. It hit the front door and shattered, foamy beer erupting among pieces of skittering glass.

“GET OUT,” Will heaved, his voice giving him away only at the end where it cracked and rose.

And that was when the door opened.

“What the hell is going on here?” Pete asked, bewildered, as he slowly unwrapped his scarf and stepped over some of the beer and broken glass. Lise was standing behind him slightly off to the left, her hand protectively covering her stomach. She was starting to show, and her face was equally shaken. They must have heard the commotion from the fucking lobby. Pete looked from Cory, to Scottie’s tear-stricken face, to Will, who’d gone so pale and stony his skin looked cold to the touch. Immediately overcome with concern Pete stepped toward his brother, going low so he could get on his eye level. Will edged back slightly and turned away, taking a deep labored breath before speaking.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured, “I just, please, don’t touch me right now.” Pete hovered for a second then stood up, turning to Cory and Scottie, a question in his eyes and a threat on his lips.

“Can someone tell me what the fuck’s going on here? Why is there glass everywhere? And why does it look like my brother has seen a goddamn ghost?” Pete snapped authoritatively. Scottie had never heard Pete take on that tone, and it startled her.

“I was just leaving,” Cory declared, snapping up and glaring at Scottie. With that, he turned on his heel and pushed past Lise, slamming the door hard behind him. Everyone listened in silence as his footsteps got quieter then disappeared with the ding of elevator.

“And so was Scottie,” Will added coldly, tilting his head up and looking her in the eyes for the first time since she’d blown everything to hell. She felt herself begin to crumble, like a wrecking ball had hit her and was coming back around to finish the job. Will was gripping the push rims of his chair so tightly that his knuckles had gone white.

“Will…” Scottie blanched, throwing her arms up in the air slightly then thinking better of it halfway through.

“Oh no, I am not the bad guy here, Thea,” he carved his words out individually so they all shone bright and raw with malice. He was hurting, struggling for air, struggling to understand. He felt like he was going to be sick. Covering his mouth with his forearm, he closed his eyes.

“Will,” Scottie whispered, standing up and taking a step closer to him. “You have to believe me.”

“I do?” Will asked, his eyes flying open, head tilted toward the side, voice as sharp as ice. Pete looked back and forth between them.

“Will, I’m sure…” Pete started to say but Will’s glare sliced into him and his words dried up in his mouth like ash.

“Pete, after what I just heard, I’m not sure you’re sure of anything. I sure as hell am not.” Will’s strength seemed to be fading. He was shrinking into himself. Scottie resisted the urge to run to him and pull him into her arms. Her love for him seemed to take on a physical presence in front of her.

“Will please,” she begged, hating how small her voice sounded. “I love you.”

“Go,” he countered.

“Please.”

“Get out.”

“I promise you, what I’m saying about Cory is the truth. His accusation is retaliatory. We were together, but it it it it it happened before you and I got together. Before we even knew each other.”

“I need time to process everything,” Will stated firmly, leaving no room for interpretation.

“Please just understand.”

“I need you to go.”

“Will.” It was her last word before he rounded on her, wheeling toward her and sweeping his arm toward the door. She reluctantly backed toward it, bending down and picking up her beer-soaked things. She clutched her bag and coat around her as Lise and Pete stood to the side, mouth’s agape.

“If it happened so long ago and was so over, why didn’t you tell me about it?” Will inserted his knife, twisted, and peeled back at her wound. She closed her eyes for a second and shook her head. Then she opened her mouth to speak but shut it almost immediately, giving into that familiar swallowing of words. She had absolutely nothing to say to that. She’d been afraid of his reaction, she had been embarrassed about what she’d done to Nora, but that would never hold up—not now. Not after everything. She’d deliberately hid it from him, and now that it was out in the open she was raw, exposed, and without an excuse.

“That’s what I thought,” he replied rigidly. “Go. We’re done here.” Scottie nodded and opened the door, stepping over the broken glass and the threshold clumsily into the unforgiving light of the hallway. Will wheeled up to the door and looked at her, his heart pounding so hard against his chest he thought he might be able to reach out and grab it with his hand. He was certain she could see it beating. She reached into her bag and pulled out his car keys and he took them from her, their fingers brushing for a single shining second where she felt her breath hitch. She couldn’t lose him. She just couldn’t.

Will didn’t want to do this, but he didn’t know what else to do. He needed time away from everyone to understand what had just happened—a betrayal from every angle in a matter of ten minutes. Unsure of who to believe, his head was spinning out of control. He was half expecting to slam the door only to have Pete tell him they weren’t really brothers.

Holding his breath, he commuted every beautiful inch of her to memory—the slope of her long nose, the exquisite color of her eyes, the smattering of freckles on her face and peeking out along her collar bone, the kinked ringlets of her hair, the way her sweater lay over her chest, the crooked way she stood, leaning all her weight on her right leg, the peppery fresh scent of her. Tears were welling up in his eyes as he saw them roll down her cheeks. He had to close the door. It was time.

“Please don’t come back here,” he whispered, the words hurting him almost as much as they hurt her. She whimpered an unearthly sound, a choked and cuffed sob scraping to escape her lips. She thought her knees might give out, and they did, but it wasn’t until he quietly closed the door and she heard the lock click and the slight whoosh of his chair wheeling away that she finally let herself go, crumbling into a heap in the hallway.