Thursday, November 29, 2018

Update to the Consolation Prize

Hi everyone! 

Happy Thursday. I know last week was a pretty big week for Scottie and Will, but here's hoping this week can top that. I promise this isn't quite the last chapter, but we're getting there :( 

Excited to hear what ya'll think about their reunion. Please comment with thoughts, feelings, frustrations, and feedback. I love it all, and you guys. Feels like we've been on a hell of a journey together! 

With love—Chapter 25 

And for those catching up or re-reading: 
Table of Contents 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Monday, November 26, 2018

The One

Hi, This is a first for me and I'm unsure if it's worth continuing with or not so I would be grateful for some feedback. It's a little story that I have had in my head for a while. 

Thanks in advance. 

New chapter "Will Love Prevail"

Hi my friends,
thanks to everyone still reading "Will Love Prevail".
I have been thinking a lot about this story for a long time and on Thanksgiving morning last week I woke up very early in the morning, insecurity jumped on me and I panicked thinking about the story and the upcoming chapter for today.
My mind was racing at the receipt of the story and not knowing what people think. Because of the theme of the story, the language, and the way it was going to continue I thought long and hard and sat down and over the last couple of days I started rewriting everything for the new chapter this week.
Everything I had initially written is now going to change. When I started writing a brand-new chapter for today I started feeling panicky but at the same time I think I can pull it off and make this a story you all want to read still.
Basically with the new chapter I completely changed the way the story will go and I am kind of starting at zero again. It's kind of a big deal when you have a story pretty much finished for many chapters to come and then start anew again. My previous stories were all finished before I started posting them here. Maybe I should have done that this time.
I felt people wouldn't want to wait too long for Mark and Chiara to finally get together. Of course it's difficult to know what people think. And I can tell you that Mark and Chiara wouldn't have gotten together yet for a long time but instead the story was turning tragic.
Anyways, I give you the next chapter Chapter 5  of "Will Love Prevail" and hope you like it. Let me know if you feel inclined to it.
Thanks for reading, you mean a lot to me.
Hugs, Dani
Here is the TOC

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The One, Chapter 2

Chapter 2


Ben

I hit it off with Sophie straight away, there were no awkward silences and we seemed to be into a lot of similar things. Well at least the things I used to love. Sophie told me all about her passion for travelling and her beloved football club. There was nothing more I loved doing than jetting off to a different country every time I had a break or playing football on a weekly basis. Even if it was just 5 a side. I’d not taken a step out of my country since the accident or should I say roll. And as for football, I struggle to watch the game on telly now never mind play or visit a stadium.

At that moment I realised my glass was empty, my heart started to race as I thought about Sophie realising I had to use a wheelchair so soon. I gave John a look and he instantly seemed to understand what I was going to say. “Drink anyone?” I asked.
“Pass me your card mate and I’ll go. Saves these beautiful ladies from moving,” replied John.
I silently mouthed “cheers” to John who in turn winked at me. Immediately, my heart started to slow down and I turned back to Sophie to continue our chat.

Sophie

I couldn’t believe my luck. After the initial shyness Ben did some serious flirting with me and we seemed to like all the same things. Could this be it? Could he be my Prince Charming?

Suddenly, Clare shouted, “drink up ladies, the taxi is here.” My heard sank, I didn’t want this to be the end of my night. I don’t think I’d ever had this connection with anyone. The girls stood up to put their coats on and John got up to say goodbye. I knew it was now or never. I’d never done anything like what I was about to do before. “Pass me your phone Ben,” I demanded sounding so confident. Without saying a word Ben passed it to me. I opened it up and typed in my number. I handed it back to him now shaking and said, “Hope to hear from you soon”. I leaned in and slowly placed my lips of his rosy red ones and cupped his jaw with my hand. “Goodnight sexy,” I said as I turned around and left the pub.

Ben

I couldn’t stop smiling, this had been the best night out since... God since I can’t remember when. Just then John came back from the door after saying goodbye to the girls. Sam has stayed with me otherwise I would have looked like the ignorant one. John looked at me with a serious face and I knew what was coming next. “Why man? Why didn’t you tell her?” he asked.
“You know why!” I snapped loosing all excitement about the situation.
“Ben you do know this can’t go anywhere if she doesn’t know the truth,” said John in a sympathetic tone.
“I know it does but I just wanted one night. One night where I was normal again. One night where I wasn’t pitied.” I cried.
“Ok you have had your one night now. when you message her you can tell her the truth,” demanded John.
“No, I’m not messaging her. My fun is over so let’s just leave it at that.” I replied in such a serious tone I knew the boys wouldn’t question it anymore tonight.

Update to the Grinch

In this chapter, will Noelle finally discover that Jeremy is the neighbor she despises?  Find out....

Chapter 6

Table of Contents

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The One Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Sophie
Four days later and there was still no message from Ben. Why? I thought to myself. We had got on so well. Maybe he didn’t see me as girlfriend material and just as a bit of fun on a night out. Well I’d show him, we were off to a Halloween party at the local and I planned to dress to impress. I didn’t know if Ben would be there but I sure wanted him to regret not messaging me if he was.

Slowly, I walked down the stairs and smiled at Clare. “Wow you look stunning!” she stated never taking her eyes off me. “If I was that way inclined I’d make a hit on you right now sexy lady.” Immediately, we both started to laugh. I knew I looked pretty decent because I’d never seen Clare react like that. I was wearing a red wrap around lace dress, a pair of thick black tights and a load of eye make up. I had spent ages curling my hair and to finish off my outfit I placed my devil ears headband on my head and got Clare to safety pin my tail. Just then the taxi beeped out side so I put on my knee length boots and carefully walked to the taxi.

Ben

“No I’m not coming,” I screamed back at John.
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get a move on. Sam and Dan will be waiting for us. Dan said how it will be like old times the four of us together.” Said John.
“No go without me. You’ll have more fun without little ole cripple me,” I replied sounding like a petulant teenager. John laughed at me and stamped his feet saying,”It’s so unfair”. Whilst flicking his bottom lip. “You sound just like Kevin from Kevin and Perry. If you don’t get your wallet and coat I’m going to push you out of the house and drag you to the pub with my bare hands.
“Ok I’ll come but I’m only stopping for an hour and I’m driving,” I stated.
“Ok deal!” John replied looking smug with himself.

We arrived at the pub within 10 minutes. John quickly came round to my side of the car and placed my wheelchair on the floor. I carefully lifted each leg up and placed them on the floor. Slowly I moved to the edge of the drivers seat and leaned forward to grab hold of my chair. In one swift motion I lifted myself off the drivers seat and into my chair. I quickly picked up each of my useless legs and placed them in the centre of my leg rest. John looked up at me and said, “shit it looks like it’s going to be busy. It’s Halloween, I totally forgot.”
“Well when we get in. Get me into a corner  and out of my chair because there’s nothing worse than getting constantly banged into,” I explained. I knew John knew the real reason was Sophie but he wasn’t going to say anything because it had been difficult enough to persuade me to come at all.

Sophie

I quickly scanned the room and immediately I saw him. Sat with a lad I didn’t know and two other girls. John spotted us and followed us to the bar. He gave Clare a peck on the cheek, whispered something in her ear to make her smile which is something I’d have to ask her about later. He then came and said hello to the rest of us.

 The bar man approached us and then John made a beeline for me. “Soph I know you must be mad at Ben but please give him some slack. He’s been through a lot recently and he’s nervous around women. Especially beautiful ones like yourself.”
“What I load of rubbish,” I snapped back.”How can anyone as attractive as Ben be nervous around women? I’m not stupid, I know he only wanted a bit of fun that night. I can take the hint. I’ll be civil tonight but that’s it with us two.”
“Sophie you have this totally wrong. There’s been a lot of changes in Ben’s life over the last 10 months. I’m not going to explain what they are but they knocked his confidence. Yes before he knew he was a good looking lad who could have his pick but he no longer sees himself as that person. Please just give him a second chance,” pleased John.
“Like I said I’ll be civil but I don’t believe half of what you’ve said. He’s not even got off his arse to come and apologise. He could have at least done that, “ I replied angrily.

I slowly stepped out of the bathroom. I had said I needed to go visit the ladies but it was more so I could compose myself before seeing Ben. As expected John had asked us to sit with them and the others had said yes. Donna had looked at me with eyes that said sorry. I’d given her a secret nod so she knew I was ok about things. As I reached the table I realised I did know one of the girls, it was Nicola who worked at the local dentist and her colleague Lisa.

Nicola turned to face me and said, “Hi Sophie, it’s nice to see you. I haven’t seen you in ages. Let me move over so you can get in.” I looked up from where she was moving from and saw Ben. “No it’s ok I’ll sit on the end,” I replied.
“No nonsense we’ll move down,” she said. She then put she hand up to shield her face and said, “plus Lisa is hoping to get lucky with Dan over there.” I quickly scooted along the bench, not once making eye contact until I was sat to the left of Ben.

Ben

Wow! I don’t think I’d ever seen anything as beautiful in my life. Her hair glistened in the light and her cleavage showed enough  to make me want to rip her clothes off there and then. I shook my head, what was I thinking? If she knew the real me, she’d never want half a man. God she doesn’t probably want me after last time anyway. I looked at her sad eyes and knew I was responsible for them. “Sorry,” I said. God how pathetic am I? Sorry is the best I could do?
“Sorry? What for? You don’t have to be sorry for not wanting me but you could have at least told me,” she said with a disappointing tone. “I get I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.”
“No Sophie, stop there! You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. I’m just not in a good place right now to drag someone into my life. I’m sorry I was a coward and never told you,” he pleaded with puppy dog eyes. “Truce?”.
“Ok truce but never lie to me again. The truth is always better!” Sophie replied.

Friday, November 23, 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.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Chapter 5 The One


The One

Chapter 5


Update to the Consolation Prize

Hi everyone! 

It seemed like the general consensus last week was to have a Thanksgiving post—so here we are with Chapter 24. Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments. They make my week each and every week. 

I think this might be the chapter that you've all been waiting for—but don't worry—it's not the end. Here's hoping you like it. Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

Happy reading to everyone, and Happy Thanksgiving to those in the States! 

Chapter 24 

And for those catching-up: 
Table of Contents 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The One Chapter 6


The One - Chapter 6 



New Devo Diary

It's time again for the biweekly update to Devo Diary. In this chapter, a former hookup unexpectedly reappears, and also I try again to have a relationship with a girl, with the encouragement of my lesbian friend who is going through some drama of her own.

Devo Diary Chapter 49: Betty

Table of Contents

As always thanks very much for reading and please do leave a comment!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The One Chapter 7


CHAPTER 7
 

Sophie

 
“So are you going to tell me what’s happening with you and John? Don’t say nothing is happening because I’m not stupid,” I asked Clare.
“Ok we’re hoping to give it another go. Don’t say anything to anyone because it’s early days,” Clare pleaded.
“Secreted Sade with me,” I replied and gave her a little shoulder barge. “I hope it works out for you Clare because you deserve some happiness.”
“John said he was hoping to get the lads here tonight. I wonder if they came.” quizzes Clare.
“I’ll give Ben a text and see if they are here,” I said.
 
 

Monday, November 19, 2018

New Chapter "Will Love Prevail"

Hi friends,
happy Monday!
Thanks for reading and commenting last week, you guys are awesome.
Here is the next chapter for "Will Love Prevail"

Chapter 4

Mark is finally going to see Chiara again. Enjoy and let me know how you like the chapter. Thanks so much to all of you.

Hugs, Dani

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Update to the Grinch!

In this chapter, Jeremy and Noelle meet once again.  Will she realize he's the neighbor she hates?

Chapter 5

Table of Contents

Would love feedback, as this is a work in progress!  Also, in the last chapter, there was a scene where Jeremy was talking to his elderly neighbor and I was worried about the scene going on too long and maybe getting boring.  Thoughts? 

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

Begin Again—Part II



 Part II 
April—24 Months After 

Alice wakes up with a terrible headache. They’ve been normal since the concussion. She’d lied a bit to Patti during her interrogation back in October, but that really didn't matter now. The concussion was more serious than the doctors initially thought. She’d had memory issues, pain, confusion, exhaustion. They prescribed her medicine. It barely made a dent. She couldn’t shake the knowledge that severe depression, when left untreated, had strikingly similar symptoms.

She snoozes her alarm four times before she finally sits up and runs her hands through her long dark hair. It’s 10am, but she wants to roll over and dive deeper under the covers and sleep for the rest of the day. It wasn’t unusual for her to do since she lost her job back in February. She’d been tutoring Spanish to kids in her building to make up some of the lost wages, but it was barely enough to cover her rent. She is flat out broke, even with the money she’d had to borrow from her parents. She closes her eyes for a long minute and takes a deep breath.

But today is his birthday, and today she’s going to get out of bed, take a shower, get dressed, and put a fucking smile and some makeup on her face because today isn’t about her—it’s about the man who ripped her heart out who she happens to still be married to.

<> 


On the way over to see Jack, Alice’s phone rings. It’s Paula, and Alice knows that she shouldn’t pick it up, but her concern over Jack wins out and she answers.

“Alice,” Paula’s voice is wounded. Alice swallows hard and presses the gas through the yellow light in front of her. Jack is fine. A complete jackass, but fine.

“Paula, I’m almost there.” Her voice is hard.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“I don’t care, Paula, I’m coming,” Alice snaps sharply, struck quite suddenly with the realization that when she married Jack she’d never envisioned speaking to his mother this way. It’s so upsetting—what they’ve become—that she loses her breath for a second.

“He’s in a bad way.”

“Well then that makes two of us,” Alice hisses as she presses END and throws her phone onto the passenger seat. The radio is playing an old Fleetwood Mac song and Alice heaves a sob so astounding that she almost has to pull over. It comes out of her as she listens to the words, wondering, desperate and feral, why they couldn’t both have simply died when the car flipped over the embankment.

“You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day
Another lonely day
You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day”

<> 

Even though Paula warned her, Alice knows she’s made a mistake the second she walks through the door. She has a cake in one hand and a wrapped gift tucked under her arm. Paula’s gaze is cold as she steps aside to let her in. She doesn’t say anything. She feels as if she’s said all there is to say. She’s sick of it all, too. Jack’s stupidity. Alice’s persistence.  

“Where is he?” Alice asks coldly. Paula closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She’s aged years in the last month and Alice wonders if she would look like that had Jack not left her. The thought sends a shiver down her back. Paula nods toward the back porch, and Alice turns her head, as if expecting to see him lounging in the hammock with a cold beer in hand. All she can see is the back of his manual chair—the smaller, less bulky one without the headrest. It makes her happy, for a flicker so small she almost misses it, that he doesn't need it all the time now. They didn't know if he'd ever be able to support his own head. 

“Great,” she mutters, shoving the cake at Paula. “It’s ice cream, mint chocolate chip, his favorite. Either put it in the freezer or dump it down the garbage disposal. I don’t give a fuck.” Paula flinches at the word fuck—she never cursed—but Alice is so sick of what her life has become that she feels nothing but more venom pooling in the back of her mouth.

“I’m trying to keep him off sugar, he gets—” Paula begins but Alice holds up a hand and closes her eyes.

“Garbage disposal it is then.”

And with that she crosses the living room and kitchen and throws open the sliding glass door with as much force as she can muster. It doesn’t slam and that pisses her the fuck off. Paula stands frozen with the cake watching the two of them face off on the deck, the words muffled by the glass.

“You didn’t want me to come today?” Alice barks, stepping out into the chilly heat of the early spring day. It’s cold and clear, and the wheelchair—still so foreign and unwelcome is framed against the clear sky. Jack can’t turn his neck much, but he does slightly, taking her in from top to bottom. He swallows hard and exhales. His tracheotomy scar at the base of his neck shimmers slightly in the sunlight.

“Of course, I didn’t,” he replies, turning back to face the yard.

“And what? You’re just going to watch the fucking squirrels all day?” Alice asks meanly. He snickers and rolls his eyes. He used to be such a hand talker, and it punches Alice in the gut that his arms lay still, strapped down into the molded armrests of his chair with so much to offer but no way to give it.

“No, Eli is going to take me out later. We’re going to get good and wasted at the Lion’s Den.” Jack is smug and bitter, his words acidic enough to burn holes.

“Oh, that sounds fucking fun,” Alice retorts, her whole-body trembling. Jack still won’t turn to look at her and it makes her want to shake him. He shrugs, the only slight movement he has below his neck. “Does your mom know?” Alice presses.

“Oh why do you have to bring my mom into it?” Jack’s cheeks go slightly red, and the vulnerability of it reminds her of the man she married. Biting her lip she shakes her head.

“That was your doing. You brought her into it, Jack.” He doesn’t reply right away and the tension between them feels tighter than ever.

"Can we not do this right now?” he asks. Instead of answering, she rounds on him and stops cold, realizing there’s no real fight in him. He looks tired and wrung out, like a used rag. And that makes the fight go out of her.

“You look terrible,” she whispers, hugging herself to fight the urge to hug him, pulling him into her arms and cradling him until she’d taken away every ounce of pain.

“I haven’t moved my body in more than two years,” Jack replies, voice giving way to his rawness.

“No, you haven’t shaved in weeks. You haven’t washed your hair. You haven’t gotten dressed, Jack.” Het tone is slow and sad at the end, and something snaps in Jack at her anguish.

“Do you know how hard it is for me to get dressed in the morning?” he asks, incredulous at her audacity when she’d spent weeks watching the parade of degradations that was people dressing him in the hospital. Screwing up, putting his pants on the wrong legs, tangling his arms, reattaching his ventilator all wrong. It had become, of all things, a tiny prick of humor in the continuous barrage of indignities and slugs of bad news.

“Do you know how hard it is for me to get dressed in the morning?” she counters, her voice climbing. He stares at her, seeing her—really seeing her—perhaps since he found out she was okay after the accident. She is heaving, her shoulders rising with each breath. There are dark circles under her usually vibrant eyes. They look duller somehow, the rich blue without sparkle, even in the brilliant light. She’s lost a ton of weight. He realizes the perfect breasts he used to ironically tease her about are almost entirely gone. So is her once perfectly round butt. Her cheekbones are sharper than he’s ever seen. Her normally fitting pale skin looks too pale—almost ashen. Swallowing hard, he checks himself for being so entirely selfish.

“Are you seeing someone?” he asks after a second.

“What the fuck kind of question is that? Of course, I’m not.” Alice takes a step back from him, her brow furrowed in anger.

“A therapist, Alice.” He continues, his voice calming.

“Oh,” she replies slightly surprised. “No.”

“You should.” She longs to reach of him, but keeps her arms around herself, squeezing tighter.

"Are you?” she asks with disbelief.


“Of course,” he says unflinchingly. “The hospital set me up with someone and I’ve kept at it. Otherwise I would have killed myself by now.”

“You have no way of doing that,” she reminds him, a bit playfully. Thinking back to the early days when they were just so happy to be alive, in any state.

“I could find a way,” he responds with a smirk, even though it isn’t funny. It is something Alice thinks about every day, and the only time she finds comfort in his inability to do anything for himself.

“He will be completely dependent for everything—dressing, walking, eating, bathing, toileting, most likely breathing.” The doctor’s words come back like she’s hearing them for the first time, crystal clear and as numbing as they were the first time she heard them.

If he can’t feed himself, he can’t kill himself.

“You’d be hard pressed to find a cliff around here to drive your chair off,” Alice jokes, "the city of Boston isn't exactly full of hills and sudden drop-offs." Jack just smiles sadly. They don’t say it, but abruptly they’re both thinking it—considering their car had rolled down an embankment right off the highway coming back from a weekend camping in New Hampshire—it wasn’t impossible.

“There’s no way you blame me more then I blame myself,” Alice offers lamely, cutting the silence, her throat tight. She has no idea what else to say.

“I don’t blame you,” he says flatly. He used to scratch his head when he lied but he’d lost his tell along with everything else. Alice feels suddenly more unmoored than she did when she first walked in.

“I call bullshit on that one, Peck.”

“My thoughts are the only thing I have left, Alice, don’t you dare try to tell me what I’m thinking.” His voice isn’t mean, but it’s firm and Alice doesn’t try to fight him.

“Fine, think whatever you want. But I’m a person, too. And I also have thoughts.”

“Alice.” Jack whispers.

“I’m making a choice,” she continues with conviction.

“Please.” He begs.

“Jack, I’m choosing.”

“You don’t know what you’re choosing,” he warns.

“I’ve seen everything. This isn’t new. I was there, remember? I stuck around.”

“This is every day, every minute.” He hears his voice and it’s so thin and thready it makes him slightly uneasy. “You don’t know what you’re choosing.”

“Who, tell me, ever fucking knows what they’re choosing and what will happen when they marry someone?”

“I just know you don’t want this,” he says finally, his brows meeting in the middle as he looks down at his lap. His once hard stomach hangs heavily over the top of his pants. His old body as elusive as smoke.

“Neither of us wants this,” Alice volleys back, and it’s so bitter Jack’s face crumbles.

He doesn’t say anything and neither does Alice. After a few minutes pass Alice shivers in the breeze and the sliding door opens. Paula is standing there, her face creased and cold.

“I think it’s time to go, Alice.” She leaves no room for argument. Alice nods.

“Happy Birthday, Bud,” Alice suggests sadly, leaning in to give Jack a kiss on the cheek. His skin is soft under his beard, and warm and so familiar, but she pulls away and walks through the door without looking back.

“I’ll be back to get you in a minute,” Paula says, “it’s too cold out here.”

“Take your time,” he whispers, but no one hears him. No one ever hears him anymore.

<> 

Before she can get out the door Paula cuts her off, gesturing her back into the kitchen. Alice puts down the gift she meant to hand Jack on the hall table and crosses her arms over her chest. She’s wound up and jumpy, her legs twittering like she used to feel when she did a line of coke back in college. A hazy memory of her and Jack in the bathroom at a house party together, him all limbs and muscles, leaning on the sink nonchalantly as she used her credit card to make perfectly straight lines, barges in, unwelcome and so sweet at the same time.  

“What is this? Architecture?” he’d asked, lips curling into a drunken smile that lit up his whole face. Her blue eyes start to cloud with tears, and she wipes them hastily away as Paula rummages around in her purse for something. Turning toward her, Alice knows what’s in Paula’s hands before the words even come out of her mouth.

“No,” Alice says flatly.

“Please, Alice, he asked me to ask you to sign these.”

“His mouth still works,” Alice hisses, “he can ask me himself.”

“Please, just take this.” She pushes an envelope into Alice’s hands. Reluctantly, she takes it, wondering how it came to this. As she looks down at the packet, her eyes narrowing, it begins to morph, taking on the dark form of failure in the only thing that ever really mattered.


<> 

It turns out that Eli saying “good and wasted” meant he and Jack had two beers each. And there’s just something about drinking a draft beer through a straw that your friend has to hold up to your mouth that makes it considerably less “good.” Which gets you considerably less “wasted.” The whole thing feels staged and wrong. Forget swigging. Jack could barely even sip.

He didn’t finish his second drink and it took Eli a full 20 minutes to ask what was wrong—and Jack had to instigate it. Jack knew he was being a stubborn dickhead by waiting for his mostly spacey friend to realize he wasn’t having a good time. But it pissed him off. But then again, was it really Eli’s fault? This is what they used to do together. They’d go to work, leave to play soccer in their co-ed league, then hit the bar for a few beers before either going back to the office or heading home to pass out. And most nights, that meant Jack would come home to Alice in one of her little silky PJ sets, curled up on the couch with a glass of pinot noir deep in a new novel. One thing would lead to another and he’d have her out of that PJ set faster than when they were in college. The few years after their wedding and before the accident were the best they’d had together. 

She was his, and he was hers. He loved knowing every inch of her body and every ebb and flow of her thoughts. It was the kind of intimacy he didn’t know even existed. And sitting in the bar, slightly buzzed but unable to feel that welcome weakening of his knees, only that minor headache that creeps in with a few drinks, the sadness that washed over him at what he’d lost—not his body, his independence, nor his dignity, but her—is crushing.

“Man, can you take me home?” he asks suddenly.

“Dude you okay?” Eli asks quickly, his eyes lingering on the game a little too long, like the way that everyone’s eyes lingered on Jack nowadays.

“Nah, I need to go home, man.”

“What’s up?” he asks, suddenly worried, scanning Jack up and down, looking for anything kinked. “Do you need me to empty your leg bag?” he questions, slightly uncomfortable. Paula had reluctantly let Eli take him out on the condition that he didn’t have more than 3 beers and that Eli be fervent about making sure Jack’s leg bag didn’t get too full. But in that moment, Jack resents him so much—when he really should be resenting his fragile body—that he swears he sees red.

“No, I don’t need you to empty my fucking leg bag. Just take me home,” he scoffs. He’s sitting in his manual chair because he didn’t want to take the fucking wheelchair van that he had to use to go anywhere and his power chair didn’t fit in Eli’s car. So here he was, his hands resting useless in his lap, at the mercy of someone else. Like always.

“Dude the game is like…” he says, turning frantically to the screen for a second, “over in like seven minutes.”

“Please don’t make me ask again, Eli.” Eli turns and takes Jack’s face in, then nodding once signals the waitress for the check.

<> 

 “She said she wouldn’t sign,” Paula argues.

“Mom,” he replies tiredly, “you were supposed to get her to sign.” The irritation in Jack’s voice is apparent, and Paula huffs in exasperation. Jack is propped up against a pile of pillows in his bed while Connor continues to rotate his now-bandaged left ankle in professional silence, as if he wasn’t privy to this particularly uncomfortable conversation.

Paula was already mad going into this after witnessing how Eli manhandled Jack to get him out of the car. Eli’s offenses mounted as he went from bumping Jack’s head on the ceiling of the car to twisting his arm to dragging his legs across the pavement to meet the chair that rolled down the slight angle of the driveway when Eli—to no one’s surprise—failed to engage the brakes. Jack was frustrated, but he swallowed it like a bad shot of whiskey. Paula had enough fire for both of them.

“What did you want me to do?” she practically spits at Jack, “force her hand? I’m not a miracle worker, Jack.” Jack wheezes loudly then, closing his eyes at the too-bright bedroom lights, takes the deepest breath he can manage.

“I know.”

“This is your mess,” she snaps before she can stop herself.

“I know,” he says again, this time more quietly, biting back the tightness in his throat. He tries to take another deep breath but can’t get it. He knows he’ll never get the same kind of deep breath—the kind he really needs—again.

“She’s going to keep at it,” Paula replies, half sadly half angrily.

“She’s going to stop eventually.” Jack is sure of it.

“It’s been almost 18 months!” Paula’s voice is incredulous. Jack hears a weird tremor in her tone. Could it be? Her own pain?

Jack, then, all at once, feels terrible. His dad left when Jack was ten, his brother Neil was twelve, and his little brother, Billy, was seven. He left the family for another woman, and according to Paula, he left without thinking twice. And now here was Alice, fighting tooth and nail to get her completely helpless, entirely ruined, totally stubborn, asshole of a husband back.

Was that just refusal to admit failure? Alice had always been quite stubborn in her own right. Or was that love?

He swallowed. Connor had moved on to sliding Jack’s sweats over his uncooperative legs.

“I know how long it’s been,” he says as he watches Connor work, filled with both resentment and gratitude.

“If you want a divorce, get a divorce. But it has to come from you. She made that clear.” And Jack knew she was right. It was downright embarrassing. More embarrassing than having to have you ass wiped by someone else. Having your mom ask your wife for a divorce was absolutely the most embarrassing thing he’d ever done, and he’d been so bitter and angry and hardened that he hadn’t even realized it.

Paula didn’t say anything for a long time, and Connor continue to get Jack ready for bed. Then she turned and left the room without saying anything. Jack sighed and closed his eyes. 

"Do you want to talk about it?" came Connor's unfamiliar voice. He didn't talk much when he worked, a few questions here—always about Jack's care—or an offhand innocuous comment there. It was one of the things Jack really appreciated about Connor. His other main PCA, Anora, wouldn't shut up. But this concern from Connor? This was new. 

"Nah man," Jack replied without opening his eyes. He had no idea what Connor was doing to his body and he preferred it that way. "Thanks though, but you do enough." Somewhere in the distance a siren wailed for someone else, but Jack felt it so acutely he could have sworn it was for him