Soon after my first weekend at Toby’s and when it was clear that Toby and I were a thing, I was at my brother’s and Amber’s apartment, sitting in their living room on the couch one night during the week.
I had been invited for dinner; this had been a regular thing over the last couple of months.
We had enjoyed Amber’s excellent home cooked meal and afterwards, we were sitting in the living room with a glass of wine.
There was always something to talk about with the upcoming wedding in August and with the date getting closer, Amber was panicking with all the preparations. I kept her assured that everything would work out. I had been helping her with everything from picking out her dress all the way to the decorations. The event venue was booked and I had kept track of everything that still needed to be done. I had basically been Amber’s assistant with all of the planning and had been fulfilling my maid of honor duties with pride and joy. I was excited for Amber and my brother and was looking forward to the big day.
As we sat there chatting about the guest list once again, I looked down into my wine glass and cleared my throat before I started.
“So, I have to tell you guys something.”
Amber and Chad looked at me expectantly and I took a deep breath.
Chad asked with a worried tone, “Is everything okay?”
I met their serious expressions and explained, “Everything is great. For the wedding though, there’s going to be a change.”
Amber shifted nervously on the couch and her expression was full of concern. I bathed in the tension for a moment longer.
Amber now blurted out in panic, “What is it? Did we forget something? What did we forget? I knew it - the flowers, the flowers are not going to be possible…we should have chosen the hyacinths…”
I cut Amber off, not wanting to torture her much longer, but I couldn’t keep a smile from brushing over my face.
“No Amber, the flowers are perfect, everything is well. It’s just…there will be one more guest.”
Both looked at me questioning and Amber remarked, “I don’t want to invite Paige. I told you she’s dead to me. Did she text you?”
I couldn’t keep up the game and laughed.
“It’s not Paige; it’ll be me – I’ll have a “plus one”.”
I looked at them to see their expressions change.
Chad had put his arm around Amber when she got worried, and now he grinned.
“What do you mean?”
I smiled still and Chad said, “Just spit it out, sister.”
Amber’s face had changed from worry to expectation and she asked, “You’re bringing someone?”
I nodded and explained, “Yes, I’m bringing someone; his name is Toby.”
Reading Chad’s expression, I saw he was excited, “Shay, what the…who’s Toby?”
Amber smiled, “Oh my Gosh Shay, tell us more!”
I took a deep breath, before I explained, “Well, I guess I can say that Toby is my boyfriend. It’s still new, but we’re super happy. We know each other from the shelter.”
I saw Chad’s expression change to worry and quickly explained further, “He also volunteers there. He has a normal job at Amazon during the week, but on Saturdays he helps at the Mission. We met there and we recently became close and are not just friends anymore.”
Amber was happy.
“This is so awesome Shay. I’m so freaking happy for you.”
She jumped up and came over and hugged me, mumbling, “That’s so very awesome. I want to hear more and I totally want to meet him soon.”
I looked over Amber’s shoulder and met my brother’s eyes. He smiled warmly and nodded at me.
Amber released the embrace and went back to her seat, took her wine glass and held it up.
“To Shay and her happiness!”
We tapped our glasses and drank.
Amber repeated, “So hopefully we can meet him soon.”
Chad had his arm around Amber and agreed, “Yeah, I hope the same. Maybe we should go out to eat sometime soon. How about Friday or something? What does he do for Amazon?”
I told them about Toby’s job and how we had met at the Mission a few weeks earlier. I deliberately avoided telling them about Toby being in a wheelchair. I decided I wouldn’t mention anything about Toby’s climbing past and the accident.
Chad knew about my interests, but Amber didn’t know about this, so I decided not to tell them just yet that Toby was in a wheelchair. I was worried that Amber would possibly think it strange that I had another boyfriend who was in a wheelchair.
Chad walked me out to my car later that night.
We stood by my car and Chad had both his hands in his Jeans pockets, looking at me curiously.
“So, Toby - a new man in your life?”
I leaned on my car and looked down to my feet, then up at Chad, “I’m very happy - happy as I haven’t been in a long time.”
Chad nodded and said warmly, “I’m stoked for you. I can’t wait to meet him. You should’ve known though that you’ve to ask my permission first. We had a deal that before you date a guy, I have to check him out first. It has always been like that, but it seems to me you’ve been neglecting that deal lately.”
We laughed together and when I met Chad’s eyes, he said, “Nah, just kidding! He must be an awesome guy.”
I kicked a few rock pebbles on the ground.
Chad tipped his head to the side and asked gently, “Is there something on your mind? I didn’t want to ask a while ago inside, but I’m getting a vibe like there is more to you and Toby.”
I pressed my lips together and inhaled deeply through my nose, before I replied, “Toby is in a wheelchair. He’s paraplegic.”
I should have known that Chad would be nothing but kind and understanding. He nodded knowingly.
“I had a feeling.”
He pulled his hands out of his pockets and stepped closer, holding his arms out. I fell into his embrace and we stood there.
Chad was holding me and said over my head, “It’s perfectly all right.”
I mumbled in his embrace, “I didn’t want to say anything inside with Amber, because she may think it’s strange or something. You know, because of Jordan in a wheelchair and now…again…”
Chad nodded, “She’ll understand.”
We stood there silent for a moment, before Chad asked, “Did you tell Toby about Jordan?”
I stepped out of my brother’s embrace and answered, “I told him everything. He knows about Jordan and he’s very understanding. He’s got a tough past as well.”
“How long has he been in a wheelchair?”
I quickly gave Chad the run down on how Toby became paraplegic and Chad was very interested and sympathetic.
“Wow, that must have been rough.”
“It was and he’s been through a lot more on top of his injury.”
I nodded and Chad said, “I’m curious, but it’s late and Amber probably wonders why I’m taking so long out here.”
I smiled and nodded, “Yeah, you should go in. I’ll tell you more some other time and I do want you guys to meet Toby soon.”
Chad added, “I’m really looking forward to meet and get to know him. I can definitely feel how happy you are and I see a glow on your face.”
I smiled and lowered my eyes, then looked back at Chad, “Toby makes me very happy. I think I’m falling in love with him.”
Chad smiled and we hugged once more and he said, “It’s going to be a great summer!”
I was relieved that I had confided in my brother. I could always count on Chad; he was always there for me.
I texted Toby that night and let him know that I had told my brother about us. Toby knew a lot about my family already. He knew I was close to my brother and he was looking forward to meet him and Amber soon.
A few days later, I had my weekly face time with Charlie in Portland. I was curled up on my couch with my computer on my lap and the Skype screen open. Charlie was sitting in his apartment, looking into the camera of his computer.
Ever since he had left Seattle, he had kept clean shaven and it made him look so much younger. He smiled and looked happy and healthy.
Charlie told me about his daughter and how she was doing. He told me about his work and I told him about my week.
I had been debating to tell him about Toby. I was nervous in a way, but I also wanted to ask Charlie about Toby’s brother Cal.
After we were caught up on our news, I started, “Charlie, I wanted to talk to you about something?”
Charlie turned serious. He probably expected me to talk about Jordan as we did quite often when it overcame us.
“Yeah, of course. What’s up?”
I stammered, “So I have this friend at the Mission…his name is Toby. He also volunteers there, we are…we're really good friends.”
I stopped because I was nervous and debated if I should tell Charlie that Toby and I were together.
I didn’t have to debate anymore, because Charlie said, “In really good friends, do you mean like…like maybe you’re together?”
He didn’t sound angry or annoyed, he sounded just like a friend would sound, curious and excited.
I looked at Charlie for a moment, nodded and explained softly, “We are together. We were friends but it’s more now. He’s…he’s very good to me and I’m very happy.”
Charlie smiled on the other side and nodded, “I’m very happy to hear this Shay. I’ve been hoping so much you would find happiness again, you know. Like Jordan…like I know he was special to you and you loved him…but you know, you should also move on. You’re a young, beautiful woman and you deserve nothing but happiness and…like have a good life with a good man.”
I had tears in my eyes, “So you’re not angry with me?”
Charlie blurted out, “Shay, my girl…of course not…fuck no, why should I be angry, I’m not angry…I’m fucking excited. Is he…he’s a regular guy, isn’t he? Like not doing dope or stupid shit like that? I don’t want that for you.”
Charlie still had his explicit language, saying exactly how he felt, no filter
I quickly assured him, “No, he’s not doing drugs or anything. He smokes pot sometimes but that’s all. He has a regular job and a good life. He’s got a place of his own and a car.”
“Good, good…I’m glad to hear that. Pot is not a big deal…you know, it’s no problem as long as he doesn’t turn to other stuff. But it’s good he’s got his shit together with a normal life and all that.”
I took a deep breath, “He is... he’s in a wheelchair though.”
Charlie tipped his head, “Really? What’s with that? Are you attracting those guys on wheels or what?”
I laughed softly, “I don’t know. He just happens to be in a wheelchair too.”
I explained to Charlie how Toby had ended up in a wheelchair. Charlie listened attentively.
When I was done telling him about Toby’s accident and injury, Charlie remarked, “So he’s paraplegic like Jordan was?”
“Yes, but he’s healthy and doing good otherwise.”
“That’s good. I’m happy for you. I hope I can meet him sometime. I’m planning on coming up in August maybe, but it kind of depends on Abi and the baby. I want to be here for her and she’s due in July.”
I was happy to hear this.
“That’s awesome Charlie. I think your daughter and the baby is definitely priority. I wanted to ask you something else.”
“Sure, what’s up?”
I told Charlie about Toby’s brother Cal and what had happened and how Toby was looking for him.
I finished, “So I was thinking that maybe you could have a clue or maybe have met him before when you lived up here.”
“Do you have a picture of the kid?”
“I actually do, I can send it to you.”
Charlie nodded, “Yeah, let me see. Send it to me.”
I pulled out my phone and found the photos of Cal. I sent them to Charlie’s cell phone and I watched as Charlie checked his phone on the other side.
He looked at the pictures and looked back at the computer, “He does actually look familiar. I can send it to my homies up there in Seattle, the ones who have a phone at least.”
I was surprised, “He looks familiar to you? He could look a bit different now, possibly.”
“Yeah, I feel like I’ve seen him before. Just can’t remember where or when. I stayed in Olympia for a while and maybe that’s where I’ve seen the kid, I’m not all the way sure though. May I send it to my guys up in Seattle and Olympia?”
“Yes, you may. Toby would really like to find his brother again and bring him home.”
Charlie sighed on the other end, “Well, we all know a little about that kind of shitty story, don’t we? We’re all trying to find our way home somehow but many are lost and forgotten. It’s good when there is still family that actually cares.”
I took a deep breath, “You’ve found your way home.”
He nodded, “I sure have and I thank God for it every day.”
We were quiet for a moment until Charlie confirmed, “I’ll send his photos out to people I know. I hope we can find him.”
“You’re the best, Charlie.”
Charlie waved his hand in the air, “I’m not no best, just an old broken fart trying to make things right while I’m still here in this fucked up world.”
He laughed and I joined him.
I talked with Charlie a few more minutes and he promised he would update me if he would find out anything about Cal.
After we had finished our Skype session, I right away texted Toby that I had talked to Charlie and that he now had Cal’s picture.
Toby started coming to the Mission on Sundays as well and it wasn’t long until everyone there knew that we were a couple. We were going to keep volunteering there. Toby still always hoped to maybe find his brother again and he talked to many of the homeless who came to the Mission, always asking if they maybe had seen Cal. He showed them his picture, but unfortunately he didn’t get any leads.
No one seemed to know him or have seen him. I knew this weighed heavy on Toby, but despite all of this he was strong and always positive.
Toby and I were inseparable and really spent as much time together as we could. When we weren’t together, we were on our phones, texting or chatting.
My brother had mentioned to Amber that Toby was in a wheelchair and she had been completely understanding and not once questioned my choice of boyfriends. She had simply found it to be a coincidence that I had met another guy in a wheelchair. That’s really what it was; I hadn’t been looking for anyone when Toby had basically rolled into my life at exactly the right time.
On a Friday night in the beginning of June we were meeting my brother and Amber for a double date downtown at a South American restaurant. Toby and I had taken off from work that day and had already spent all day together.
Summer had arrived in the city. It was bustling with life on this Friday night. People were strolling through downtown; tourists were invading the city for summer break; the restaurants and bars were occupied with patrons. It was six in the evening, but the sun was still high over Elliot Bay and a warm summer breeze brushed over the city.
Toby and I had taken the bus to the nearest stop and as we arrived at the restaurant, Amber and Chad were already waiting for us outside, close to the entrance.
As we approached, my brother and Amber smiled and waved. I knew Toby was nervous to meet my brother. He knew I was close with Chad and he had been worried about my brother’s approval of him. I had assured Toby that it was not like that. Even though Chad and I were very close, he would never interfere in my dating life or with my relationships. If anything, he would advise me and give me his opinion, but in reality, it had always been my decision whom I was dating. Chad had always just been a protective brother and was always available if I needed to talk or vent. He had never judged on who I had been dating in the past. Ever since Jordan, Chad had wanted nothing more for me but to be happy.
I sensed Toby’s nervousness as we now came up to Chad and Amber.
I hugged my brother and Amber and then introduced Toby to them.
Toby reached his hand out and I could see his hand was trembling as he reached out to Amber first, then Chad.
Chad was calm and friendly, “Hi Toby, it’s great to finally meet you.”
Toby nodded, “Likewise.”
Chad laughed, “We’ve heard a lot about you.”
Toby laughed embarrassed and glanced at me, “Oh boy.”
Amber smiled, “Only good things.”
Toby had dressed for the occasion in a nice short sleeve button up shirt and his good jeans. Chad led us into the restaurant and we were shown to the table that had been reserved for us out on the patio.
It was tight for Toby to get through to our table. Some people had to push their chairs in to give Toby enough room. I could see that this situation was difficult for him and I didn’t miss my brother’s glances at Toby trying to get through as discreet as possible.
As for Jordan, Chad had never met Jordan or seen him in his wheelchair, so this was actually new to my brother as well.
The restaurant had forgotten to move one of the chairs out of the way for Toby even though when Chad had made the reservation, he had told them about this.
They had to move a chair and since it was somewhat crowded, the waitress had to lift the chair over her head and carry it out of the way. Chad was obviously annoyed with this; Toby didn’t say anything about it. I knew he was trying very hard to not draw attention but guests around still looked over.
As we finally sat at the table, Chad apologized, “I’m so sorry Toby, I did tell them when I made the reservation”
Toby waved it off and laughed, “It’s all right, thanks. Stuff like that always happens. Even when I’ve booked tickets to events with seating in the accessible area. I get there and they don’t have it in their computer or whatever. Happens all the time, places inaccessible or issues.”
Chad shook his head, “Man, that would be frustrating.”
Toby replied, “It is, but there’s not much I can do. I mean with some things I could file a complaint or something, but most times it’s not worth the trouble.”
Chad took a deep breath and exhaled, then said, “Well, anyways, it’s nice to finally meet you.”
Toby was still nervous, I sensed it.
“Yeah, same here. Shay has told me a lot about you and Amber. I know there is a wedding on the horizon.”
Amber smiled and now said, “Sure is and with that, we want to officially extent to you our invitation to our wedding.”
She pushed an envelope across the table and it had Toby’s name on it.
Toby smiled and took the envelope, “Thanks, I really appreciate it. Shay has told me all about the wedding plans. It sounds like it’ll be a great day.”
Amber nodded, “I just hope the weather will be nice since the venue and the wedding is outside and inside.”
I smiled, “Amber, we’ll have great weather, just keep believing.”
Amber laughed, “I am and I’m also praying on it every day.”
We had a good time together; our food was delicious. We had some drinks and Toby loosened up after a while. We talked about all kinds of things from the wedding to Toby’s work and my upcoming new job. Amber and my brother treated Toby like they had known him forever. They made it easy for him to let go off his insecurities with them. I was happy and at times I just sat there watching them talk and laugh. For most of the evening, except when we were eating, Toby held my hand under the table.
The dinner date with Amber and my brother had been a success and when we parted that night, I knew they had fully accepted Toby as my boyfriend. My parents hadn’t met Toby yet but sooner or later it would happen as well. Again, I worried slightly about the fact that Toby was in a wheelchair, but I hoped that my parents wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. I had talked with Chad about this and he said he didn’t think they would have any issues with it.
After dinner we took the bus back home to Toby’s place. I had been staying with Toby when we had nights together. It was easier for him in his apartment. He had visited me at my apartment, but as for bathroom accessibility and overall, it was easier for me to stay at Toby’s place when we spent the nights together.
We were happy to be at home. Our week had been busy with both of us working and we had only been texting and chatting on the phones. Before we had met Chad and Amber for dinner on that Friday, we had spent some time in the city. Toby was healthy and fit for a paraplegic, but being out and about was still exhausting for him and as we had spent our day shopping and enjoying time together, he was relieved to finally be at home. I was on my two legs and was exhausted, so I knew my boyfriend having to push the wheelchair rims all day, was tired for sure.
At Toby’s place, I was glad to take off my sandals and get comfortable. Even though it was summer, the floor in his apartment was still slightly warm and it felt good on my feet.
I fell onto the couch in the living room, sighing, “Phew, I’m stuffed from dinner, but it was very nice to hang out with my brother and Amber.”
Toby came rolling over to the couch.
“I’m glad I finally got to meet them. They’re very nice. I hope I made a good impression and that your brother approves.”
“He had approved the moment I told him all about you and how happy I was. You also got a wedding invitation.”
Toby had the envelope with the wedding invitation and opened it.
I explained, “I helped with the invitations by the way.”
Toby pulled the card out and read over it.
It was the official wedding invitation and after he had read it, he looked at me, “Very nice.”
I held my hand out him and he handed me the card. I had helped Amber with the design of the invitations and as I looked over it once again, I still liked what we had picked out.
They even had put Toby’s name in the invitation and underneath the official printed text, they had handwritten a small personal note to Toby.
I smiled and looked at him.
“I’m looking forward to them getting married and can’t wait to be there with you.”
Toby smiled, “I haven’t RSVP’d yet that I’m attending, have I?”
I sat up and said in a pretend tense tone, “Well, I don’t think this should be a question for you, mister.”
“Of course, I’ll attend…with the most beautiful brides’ maid at the party.”
I smiled and emphasized, “Maid of Honor!”
Toby nodded and grinned, “Excuse me…yes, with the most beautiful Maid of Honor.”
I laughed now and added, “And the Maid of Honor bringing the hottest guy as her plus one.”
He lowered his eyes and smiled.
I sat up and climbed onto Toby’s lap. I had had two glasses of wine at the restaurant and felt slightly tipsy. Toby locked his break and wrapped his arms around my waist.
I looked into his green eyes and smiled, “I’m so happy you’ll be my plus one at the wedding.”
I ran my hands through his hair and he pulled me closer. We fell into a kiss for a few moments.
When our lips separated, Toby loosened his break and said softly, “Hold on.”
I slung my arms around his neck and lay my head on his shoulder, as Toby pushed his rims and backed up, then turned into the hallway to his bedroom.
He rolled up to his bed and said softly, “I have to make a quick visit to the bathroom. You should get comfy on the bed and wait for me.”
I scrambled off his lap, watching him wheel away.
“I’ll be right back out.”
He disappeared in his bathroom and closed the door behind him.
I sat on the bed, let myself fall onto it with my legs still hanging over the side. I stared at the ceiling and thought about the evening and about Toby; I never wanted to be anywhere else but with him.