Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Let it Snow, Chapter IV

 

Nick

Willow is sound asleep by the time I wake up. By sound I mean soundly, snoring lightly and rhythmically. Part of me wants to record it so I can taunt her later, but I ultimately decide against it. Not because I don’t want to—it’s just self preservation at this point. I’ve been doing this for years enough to know better than to poke the bear. 

She’s bad enough as it is. 

Moving slowly so she doesn't wake, I drag myself to the edge of the bed, placing my feet down on the footplate and then completing the transfer to my wheelchair. I make a mental check of everything that hurts; that annoying pinch in my left shoulder, the aching muscle on my back, the leg spasms that last a few seconds after I settle my butt down the cushion. Pretty standard. The scratches on my neck.

Not so standard.

I reach inside my bag and try to convince myself that the reason why I take my clothes to change into in the bathroom isn't because I don’t want Willow to see me in my underwear. Because I don't care. It would be silly to.

It takes me a while to go through my morning routine, which is also pretty standard, and I feel once again relieved that I can fit inside the bathroom at all, even if I can’t turn around or use the shower. I had to wash myself using the sink last night. Maybe that’s why my neck hurts. 

Yeah, right.

By the time I’m done, Will is already up and dressed, nervously pacing around the room. For a moment, I assume she’s annoyed at me for taking too long in the bathroom again, but then I see that she’s on a facetime call.

“Yes, we’ll hit the road in a bit –” her eyes widen when she sees me and she rushes over to my side. “Oh, here’s Nick. Say hi to mom, Nick.”

I awkwardly wave at Mrs. Decker when Will crouches down to my level and shoves the phone to my face. “Hi, Ellie.”

“Nicky! I'm so glad you found her–" the connection falters, Ellie's face freezes for a second. "–don't know what Will would do without you!!"

"Right place, right time,” I smile my good-boy smile.

Willow grimaces, "Yeah, yeah, best car trip ever."

Her mom is oblivious to her tone, so she keeps going.

"...wonderful. Cat managed to get here before the roads closed…"

"Yes, well, someone here drives like an old man–"

Ellie cuts her in the middle of the sentence, "...so I prepared the other room for you."

She brings the phone back to her face and frowns. I use the break to wheel over to my bag and arrange my clothes and catheter bag inside without peaking her interest.

"What about my bedroom?" I hear Will asking, her voice as high as ever.

I can see exactly where this is going, and I hold back not to laugh to her face.

"See, with Cat and her husband…" I'm unsure whether the pause is due to bad connection or Mrs. Decker having some sense. "They just needed the larger bed, honey."

Will presses her forehead with her palm.

"What other room?" 

"Don't worry, the bed is yours! They'll have air mattresses."

"They? ‘They’ who?” 

"The children, of course."

Will manages to get out of the call, and I wave Mrs. Decker goodbye and see you soon—of course I'll stop by for a cup of hot cocoa. Then she falls back and stares at the ceiling.

"Fuck me."

I almost feel sorry for her. Almost.



It started years ago. But we don’t talk about it.

There’s no shyness in the morning, there’s no talking afterwards, no awkward glances as we hand the reception our keys after having breakfast. It’s like it never happened, or that it happened in a dream—except that my hands still smell of peaches. All the evidence there is left.

The chilly air outside is freezing my face. I eye the two steps into the street level where the car is parked and sigh. Normally this would be easy, but the fact that Will is standing there, waiting for me with a quizzical look on her face, makes me slightly worried that I'll slip and fall. So I throw my bag on the floor and grab the railing, controlling the opposite wheel with my free hand and bump down the two steps.

I don’t fall.

“It’s so cold.” She blows into her gloved hands, not making a single comment over it as I pick up my bag and put it back on my lap.

“You’re just underdressed.”

It’s not socially acceptable for her to stick out her tongue anymore, so she just huffs, annoyed. 

I leave her to deal with her luggage in the trunk as I get in the car, knowing that even if I wanted to, I'd have trouble helping her with it—with my core control gone, my balance is pretty shit. Thankfully, we never do that kind of thing to each other, so it goes by completely unnoticed. I'm faster with my wheels than she is with hers, and I've already started the car by the time she jumps inside.  For the next several minutes, Willow doesn’t make any ironic remarks on my driving style. Which is very unlike her. After a while, after we’re back on the road, surrounded by the tall pine trees, she finally speaks. 

“Isn’t it funny how your entire value is measured by your romantical achievements?” 

I glance at her, raising an eyebrow. She might be just talking to herself.

“Is this about having to share the bedroom?”

“Yes! With the kids!" She slaps her knees. “It’s not fucking fair.”

"Well, Cat and her husband needed a larger bed." I echo her mother's words.

"My bed. In my bedroom. Which has always been mine.” She stresses all the possessive pronouns, hitting her fist against her leg each time. I wouldn’t wanna be her cousin Cat right now—if anyone knows how much of a bitch Willow can be, that’s me. Cat is probably blissfully unaware that her beloved cousin is out here, plotting her death.

“I don’t think it applies after, you know, you move out.” I say, unhelpfully, to keep her talking. “Then it’s just your parents’.”

“I was just… downgraded. No second thoughts given. Before, I’d have priority over the bed, no matter how many days it took me to get there. Now…”

I say, just to add some wood to the fire: "Next thing you'll be eating at the kids' table as well."

She doesn’t even look at me with that ‘shut the fuck up, Parker’ look I’m so used to. She just frowns, like she hadn’t thought of that before and it’s horrifying.

“My value as a woman is only validated by a man.”

“A second class citizen.”

That seems to shake her awake. Will instinctively slaps my leg, and then retracts her hand like she just did something very wrong. Sigh. She crosses her arms, looking out the window. There isn’t much to see there.

“Well, you’re the one to talk,” she says. “You never bring anyone home for Christmas.”

“I’m not insane.”

“It seems like I have lots to learn from a fellow second grade citizen. You must have been in your fair share of kids’ bedrooms.”

A chuckle escapes my throat and I shake my head. A second class citizen alright—regardless of bringing home a girlfriend or not.

“That’s where you’re wrong, sugar. I never have to share anything.” I say, “I always stay at the Cabin. All by myself.”

The cabin in the woods down the road had been storage space for most of my life, but once I came home after rehab, my parents thought it would be a good idea to make it livable and so it was completely adapted—you can see that they thought I’d be staying there for a while. I can't say I wasn't a little bitter at first, that they didn't wanna modify the house, but now I'm just thankful to have a place all by myself whenever I come over.

Will drops her head against the window.

“Good for you.”

I suppose it is.



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