Well, I’m fucked.
At least I got to eat her out. That was… amazing. Almost worth the whole damn thing. If she and I had gotten together in high school, we probably would’ve had regular vanilla sex. And I’m sure that would’ve been amazing too. But I love eating a girl out. It’s the sexiest thing in the world. And I’m really glad I got to do it to Hannah.
It seemed like she really liked it too. I thought for sure after that, she would at least give me her phone number and we’d get to do it again sometime soon.
But I have no fucking clue what happened after that. One minute she was sucking on my earlobe, and the next she was furious at me. About that stupid rose. I still don’t get why she was so angry over that. I’m sorry it embarrassed her in front of her friends that a dumb football jock had a crush on her. But it’s not like I did it to be a jerk. I did it because I liked her.
I’ll never understand women. It sucks that I had to lose her twice. I was so close this time. Damn...
And now I have to figure out what to do about this fucked up situation. My shirt… That’s off the table. I can’t button it. Not if I had a million years. There’s no point in even trying.
The hook on my pants is equally challenging. I can ordinarily do that myself, but it’s a little tight, so if I were getting dressed, I would have done it lying down. When I’m sitting up, my belly juts out too much and it’s hard to get my pants closed. I make an attempt, but it’s not going to close.
But I could get out of here with my shirt open and my pants undone. The bigger issue is the door. That is, the doorknob. I can’t turn it. I’m trapped in this stupid classroom.
But I give it a good college try. I wheel over to the door and position the balls of my hands around either side of the knob. Sometimes that works. But this knob is stubborn. It turns about a centimeter, then snaps back. And even if I was able to turn it all the way, keeping it turned and getting the door open simultaneously is beyond what I’m capable of.
No, I had it right the first time. I’m fucked.
I could try yelling for help. I’m not too optimistic about that though, because I don’t think I could yell louder than Hannah did when I was eating her out. And nobody checked on us then.
I’ve got my phone. I can try to call somebody in maintenance, although I suspect it will be hard to get through to anyone at this hour. I don’t have the numbers of anyone at the reunion. Really, there’s only one person I can call.
It’s not that late—I won’t wake them up or anything. And they live only a ten-minute drive from here. My mom could come here, find the classroom, let me out, and help me button my shirt.
This is a logical solution. It’s the only thing I can do. This is the whole reason I live close to my parents, so they can help me in situations where I get stuck. But on the other hand, I really, really don’t want to call them. The idea of having them come rescue me from my high school reunion and help me button my shirt is too awful for words. I don’t want to leave here with my mom. I spent the evening trying to convince everyone I went to high school with that I’m not an invalid, and having to go home with my mother is not going to be a point in my favor.
But what can I do? I can’t spend the rest of my life in this fucking classroom.
I’ve got to call them. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.
I’m taking my phone out when I hear the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard in my life: The doorknob turning. Somebody’s opening the door to this room. Somebody’s going to let me out of here. I’m assuming it’s probably a janitor, but for a moment, I’m hoping it’s Hannah. Maybe she changed her mind.
But it isn’t Hannah. It’s her friend, Jean.
“Ryan…” She doesn’t look surprised to see me, but when she sees my open shirt, her face turns a little pink. “Oh…”
“Don’t leave,” I plead with her in case there’s any chance she’s considering it. “Hannah… She… She got pissed at me and left. I need help.”
“Right.” Jean nods, although she looks like she wishes she were anywhere else. “I figured. That’s why I came to find you. What do you need help with?”
“My…” I look down at my open shirt. Christ, this is humiliating. “My buttons. Thanks.”
I look away as Jeanne quickly closes all the buttons on my shirt. It takes her all of 60 seconds, even though I couldn’t have done it in my entire lifetime.
“And my pants are open too,” I mumble.
She grunts as if she tries to get them closed. I hold my breath, worried she might not be able to make it happen. It takes her a few tries, but she manages to do it. She’s probably judging me, but unfortunately, there’s no way to get rid of a quad gut. You can’t do sit-ups when you don’t have any working abdominal muscles.
“Thanks,” I say. At least I’ve got some of my dignity back now. A tiny bit. But I’m still feeling shitty about what just happened. “I think I’m gonna head out now.”
Jean chews on the tip of her thumbnail. She holds out her hand. “Wait, Ryan. I… I think you should talk to Hannah again.”
Is she joking with me? “I don’t think so. She walked out on me, you know that?”
“Yeah,” she sighs. “She had this stupid plan to get revenge on you tonight. I told her not to go through with it, but she’s really stubborn.”
“I don’t even know why she’s so pissed off.” I look up at Jean, hoping she can shed some light on it for me. “All I did was send her a rose back in high school. Is that so awful? Was that really so humiliating for her?”
Jean averts her eyes. “That’s not why she’s upset with you.”
“No? Then why the fuck is she so upset?”
“Because you stood her up.” She still isn’t looking at me. “You said you were going to meet her after school on Valentine’s Day, and you didn’t show up.”
What? What is she talking about? “I never told her I was going to meet her. I just sent her the rose!”
“I know, but…” Jean shifts between her feet. “There was a note on the rose asking her to meet you.”
“I didn’t write her a note!”
“Yes, I know.” She takes a deep breath. “I wrote the note.”
That stops me in my tracks. This is starting to make some sort of sense, but not entirely. “You wrote Hannah a note on the rose saying I was going to meet her?”
She nods. “I was on the rose distribution committee, so it was pretty easy to do.”
Jean starts chewing on her thumbnail again. “Because. I was scared if Hannah started dating you, I never see her anymore. I thought she’d abandon me for the cooler kids. Hannah was my best friend…”
I feel my face getting hot. I can’t believe Hannah was mad at me all those years over something I didn’t even do. “That’s what you do to your best friend?”
“I’m not proud of it, OK?” She frowns. “I tried to talk her out of doing this tonight.”
That’s when what she’s saying hits me. Hannah never actually liked me. She was never attracted to me tonight. She didn’t try to get me alone so that she could ravish me. She only took me to this room to get revenge, which she did pretty expertly.
I had thought that she wanted me, and she got mad at me only at the end. But it turns out that was me being delusional. How could I have thought such a beautiful girl could actually like me? What a sucker.
Wow, I thought I couldn’t feel any worse, but there it is.
“You should go talk to Hannah,” Jean says. “I’ll tell her the truth. I’ll tell her it was all my fault.”
“No, thanks.” I push my hands against my thighs, trying to sit up straighter. I’m slumping way too much right now. Christ, how could I have thought she liked me? Stupid stupid… “I think I’m just going to head out.”
I look up at her sharply. “Really, what’s the point?”
She doesn’t have any sort of answer for me. No surprise there.
All I want right now is to go home. I want to forget this night. When Ethan asks me about it, I’ll tell him how great it was. In other words, I’ll lie through my teeth.
I don’t want him to know how right he was.
I thought I would feel great after telling off Ryan.
I’ve been waiting for this moment for 10 years. Ever since he humiliated me that night at the diner. I can still imagine his friends laughing at me for how stupid I was. I wanted so badly to hurt him as bad as he hurt me. And now I’ve done it.
But somehow, I don’t feel any better.
The only time I felt good was when we were talking. And when we were kissing, and I thought something more might come of it. Or when he went down on me. Oh my God. I’m still shaking from that one. I felt good then. Better than I’ve ever felt in my life.
Now all I feel is empty.
I go to the bathroom, and I spend like 15 minutes just staring at myself in the mirror. I look like a completely different person than I did in high school. But the sad part is, I’m not any happier than I was back then. Yes, guys like me better now than they used to. But none of those relationships ever went anywhere. Every guy I’ve ever dated has been a jerk.
Ryan isn’t a jerk. At least, I wouldn’t have thought he was. If I didn’t know what he did to me.
I take several deep breaths, trying to calm myself down. I can’t stay here any longer. I’ve got to find Jean and ask her to take me home. And if I can’t find her, I’ll just get an Uber. I have a feeling if I stick around, I’m going to do something I regret.
Except just as I’m coming out of the bathroom, I run into Jean.
“Hannah!” Her brown eyes are wild. “I’ve been looking for you!”
“I wanted to find you too,” I say. “I need to get out of here. I did what I needed to do. Can we go home?”
“No, not yet.” She chews on her lip. “Hannah, there’s something I need to tell you. It’s… important.”
I wince. “Can it wait? I’m just… My head isn’t in the game right now. I need to get out of here.” I squeeze my eyes shut. “I’m not happy about what I just did.”
“I let Ryan out of the classroom,” she says.
I’m not even angry. I should have let him out. I wanted to. But I couldn’t face him after what I just did to him.
“I think you should go talk to him,” she says.
I snort. “Look, I’m sorry about what I did to him. But he was a jerk to me. You know what he did.”
Jean looks down at her brown shoes. “That’s what I need to talk to you about. Ryan… He didn’t do what you think he did.”
“What do you mean?”
“He sent you a rose.” She raises her eyes. “But he didn’t put that note inside about meeting him at Pete’s. I… I’m the one who wrote that.”
What? “You? But… why?”
She takes a shaky breath. “Look, I was 17 years old. No guy had ever shown even the tiniest bit of interest in me. It was so obvious Ryan was crazy about you and…”
I stare at her. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me…”
She shakes her head. “I was jealous, OK? He was this great guy and he was super hot and popular and… I figured you’d start going out with him and leave me behind. So that’s why I sabotaged the whole thing.”
“What the fuck, Jean?” I want to throttle her. “I can’t believe you did that to me!”
“I didn’t think he would show up there and you’d think he was laughing at you.” She bites her lip. “I just thought you’d be angry for a few minutes and then get over your crush. I didn’t realize how upset it would make you.”
“So you could’ve told me the truth!”
“You would have hated me…”
“Well, great.” I shake my head. “Congratulations, because I hate you now. I can’t believe you, Jean. I can’t believe you would do something like that to me. You were my best friend.”
Her eyes fill with tears. “I wanted to tell you. I really did. I was going to tell you before you did anything to Ryan tonight, but then it all happened so fast.”
Ryan. Shit. I can’t imagine what he must think of me right now. All he ever did was send me a rose to let me know how much he liked me. And I acted like he was worse than Hitler.
I look up at Jean. I’m so furious at her right now, but I don’t have time to deal with it. I’ve got to find Ryan. I’ve got to make this right before it’s too late.
I don’t get to my car a minute too soon.
All I want is to go home. Go home and get in bed. And try to forget this day ever happened. I never even got a photograph for Ethan. Hopefully, my phony descriptions will be enough.
Except while I’m trying to transfer into my car, I’m getting distracted by thinking about what just happened. So distracted that I forget to lock my wheels and almost fall on my ass. I catch myself at the last second. That would be the one thing I need to make this night complete. Falling out of my wheelchair onto the ground and needing to call somebody to help me get back in the chair.
After I almost fall, I just sit there for a moment in my wheelchair, the balls of my hands pressed against my eyes. Most of the time, I do feel like I have a good life. I love my job and I have friends, and most of the time, that’s enough. But I can’t deny that my dating life has been awful since my injury.
I’m lonely. I want that connection with a woman. The connection I thought I felt with Hannah, until I realized it was all a lie. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life alone. But I don’t know what to do. Women just aren’t interested in me. I can’t blame them. It’s a lot to take on.
I could deal with not being able to walk. Not be able to use my hands. Peeing into a fucking bag. But I hate the fact that my disability keeps women like Hannah at arm’s length. It’s not fair. With all the shit I have to deal with, why that too?
All right, Porter. Get the hell over yourself. She’s just a girl. No big deal.
If I say it to myself enough times, maybe I’ll start to believe it.
“Ryan! Ryan, wait!”
It’s Hannah’s voice. I already know what this is about. Jean told her what really happened, and she wants to apologize. Which is great, but it doesn’t change anything. Having her say she’s sorry will only make me feel worse.
I managed to lift my face out of my hands. Hannah is running towards me, her blond hair flying behind her back. She looks even prettier when she’s a little disheveled. More like the old Hannah. I force a smile.
“Hey,” I say.
She slows to a halt in front of me. “You… you were leaving.”
“Yeah. I’m not exactly having a good time.”
She squeezes her fists together. “Ryan, I’m so sorry about what I did. I didn’t know—”
“Yeah, Jean told me. It’s OK.”
“Oh.” Her brows knit together. “You’re not mad?”
“Mad” doesn’t describe what I’m feeling right now. If I’m angry at anyone, it’s Jean. She kept me from a few months of happiness with Hannah before my whole life fell apart. “It’s okay, Hannah. I’m not mad. It wasn’t your fault.”
“But it was really immature of me to…”
“It’s fine. I said it’s okay.”
“You seem upset.”
I lift my eyes to look up at her. That’s me—always looking up at everyone. “I’m not upset.”
“The thing is…” She tugs at the hem of her short black dress. “I had a huge crush on you in high school.…”
“Yeah, me too.”
A smile touches her lips. “And seeing you tonight, I realized…”
I narrow my eyes at her. “Realized what?”
“That maybe I’m not over that crush.”
I flinch. “You don’t have to say that.”
“I know I don’t. I’ve been trying not to feel this way all night.”
“Look.” I shift my weight in my chair. “I know why you brought me to the classroom—”
“No, you don’t.” She shakes her head. “I was ready to forget all about that stupid rose. I don’t know what got into me. But I know that I don’t want tonight to be the last time I see you. We got screwed out of being together once, and I don’t want it to happen again.”
My heart speeds up in my chest. What is she saying?
“If you can forgive me for what happened tonight,” she says, “I’d really like to see you again.”
Before I can say anything to that, she slides back into my lap, into that perfect spot. And then she’s kissing me again. And it’s just as good as it was back in the classroom. It’s amazing, actually. So amazing that when our lips separate, I feel a little short of breath. I have to gulp for air.
She bats her eyelashes at me. “So? What do you say?”
“I suppose,” I say, “we could exchange numbers.”
She grins at me. “That would be awesome.”
She cuddles up closer to me. I can’t believe the night is ending this way. Ethan was wrong. My high school reunion was amazing. My life is amazing.
Oh shit… Ethan.
“Hey,” I say. “I need to prove to one of my patients that I manned up and went to this reunion tonight.” I dig my phone out of my pocket. “Would you mind taking a selfie with me?”
Her eyes light up. “I’d love to.”
Hannah takes my phone from me and holds it at arm’s length as she presses her lips onto mine. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the flash go off, capturing this moment forever.