Saturday, February 27, 2021

My Perfect Ex-Boyfriend is FREE

 I was going to wait to post here until the kinks had been worked out, but this is time limited.  My Perfect Ex-Boyfriend is FREE on the Amazon Kindle today and tomorrow.  

I've met the greatest guy ever.

Noah Walsh is handsome as sin. He's sweet and smart and successful and sexy--all the best adjectives beginning with "S." My six-year-old daughter worships the ground he walks on ever since he fashioned her smiley face pancakes out of bananas and blueberries. Oh yeah, and he can cook.

The only problem?

I dumped this great guy a decade ago, right after I wrecked his life.

And boy, this man holds a grudge.

Get it now on Amazon!

Thursday, February 25, 2021


The domain for our stories blog is now moved to this location.  But don't worry!  The old blog is still here if you want to see it. Also, all the stories are now listed on this page up above in our Stories Archive, both alphabetically, by author, and by disability.

ETA: All the links listed in the archive link on this page should now work. 


ETA2: Please allow some time for admins to resolve all issues. Authors of the old blog will receive an email with instructions and information soon.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Some Things Never Change Chapter I


“Morning, Jules!” Erick’s voice carries with the cold gust of the early morning. I look at my watch, 6:35. I’m late. He smiles at me as I cross the last few steps that separate us. 

“Morning, handsome!” I bend down to kiss him on the cheek, long and tender, while I hold his face with my left hand, just like I do every morning. 

Some Things Never Change Chapter II

 I avoid Erick for the rest of the weekend. He texts me a couple of times, but I don’t even open the message. I know it’s rude, but I need some space. 

It’s Monday morning though, and I see him as I approach the café. I knew he would be here. I spent the weekend trying to get my head straight for when I saw him today. Once the alcohol was out of my system, I came to my senses and remembered that Erick is just my friend. However, as I see his short silhouette concealed by the partial darkness of the early morning, his back hunched down in his chair, I realize I’m still dreading the moment slightly.

“Morning handsome,” I say my usual line but in a nervous tone.

“Did I do something to upset you?” He asks abruptly. 

He looks even more nervous than I feel. The top button of his shirt is not done, which is very out of character, and his hair is standing in every direction. His right leg’s twitching, which makes him look it all the more, although I know he can’t control that.

“Morning Jules,” I say his line to buy myself time to think of something else to say.

“Please tell me what I did so I can fix it,” he presses his palms over his thighs to try to straighten his position. Then, he attempts to run a bent finger hand over his hair, which makes it stand all the more. “Was it that stupid song? Jules, you know I was just fooling around. Did you think I… did I offend you?”

He stares at me in expectation, the crease in his brow accentuating each second it takes me to reply. l let out air.

“No, Erick. I loved the song,” I say sincerely. 

I’m such a fool. I don’t know what the hell I’ve been scared of. Erick and I are not friends, we’re family. Nothing could ever be weird between us. I place my cashmere gloved hand against his cheek. I do that a lot, I know it may seem overly affectionate. If he were any other person, I might touch his hand or his thigh right now, but this is Erick. There’s so much of his body he can’t feel, and I want him to be able to feel me. 

“You can sing Sinatra to me any time,” I look him straight in the eye to make sure he believes me. “I’m sorry about the weekend, I was… uh. I’m crazy and stupid. Please ignore me,” I puff.

“So it was Tony, right?” He sighs.

I shrug.

“Jules, I know he hurt you,” he starts softly.

“No… I...”

“A lot.”

“It’s over!” Tony’s eyes are pure rage. 

“You don’t mean that,” I beg.

“Oh yes, I do!” He doesn’t hesitate. “I can’t even look at you.” His voice is so low it scares me. 

I stare at Erick in silence for a moment. “It was my fault,” I finally say.

“I can’t even look at you.” Tony’s words echo in my head.

“That’s not… It doesn’t matter whose fault it was. Either way, he hurt you.” Erick’s looking up at me with curved eyebrows. He’s got both his hands on his rims and he pushes them slightly to roll closer to me. I stay quiet. “Badly,” he adds. 

Tony’s tall figure has crumbled on the hospital floor. He just sits there in silence. His head is bowed down. His wet eyes stare at the cold ground. Now I know for sure he will never forgive me.

“He didn’t mean to,” I defend Tony but I have a lump in my throat. Just the mention of it has brought a wave of pain back. It’s so tangible, so present, that I have to fight back tears. 

I shake my head in a useless gesture to scare the sadness away. 

“I feel awful to think that even a fraction of that was on my account,” he continues. 

“No, Erick…”

“I know it was, Jules, and I’m sorry.”

I don’t answer. I’m suddenly really cold. I use both my arms around my torso to hug myself.

“Maybe he still hurts you,” he continues, “everyday, by coming here for breakfast. Every time he kisses your cheek. Maybe his mere presence hurts you…”

I suck in a breath at his words. Maybe he does. 

“I think that’s the reason why you haven’t found a boyfriend yet. I don’t know if you’re scared to be hurt again, or if you’re still holding on to the hope that you’ll get back together. But Jules, you deserve to be happy. And I don’t think you can be until you get over him.”

My chest is tight. He’s right. And the fact that he’s never said that to me before makes it even more painful. A tear escapes my eye and rolls down my pale face. I immediately wipe it out because I still want to be tough. 

“Aw Jules,” Erick attempts to grab my free hand but of course he can’t. He ends up just striking it sideways in an attempt to comfort me. I dare to look down at him from behind misty eyes. And I find his face so comforting, so endearing. I lower myself down to his lap, which I’ve only done a few times in all these years. I fall into his arms and weep.

“What happened? Are you alright?” Tony grabs my arm hard and turns me around to face him. I refuse to look up at him. I know I have puffy eyes and I don’t want him to know I’ve been crying. 

It’s seven o’clock and the café isn’t open yet. I cried on Erick’s lap for twenty whole minutes. Well I wasn’t on his lap the entire time, but when I got off, I was still crying so he spent about ten minutes trying to comfort me by saying sweet nonsense. Finally, he started singing, Sinatra of course, until I burst out laughing. Then he tried to make tea for me, but it turns out my kitchen is completely inaccessible. At five to seven, he simply gave up. 

I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me. It’s not like I haven’t cried over my divorce before. I must have spent an entire year crying myself to sleep. Yet here I am, eight years later, and a few words from Erick send me back into an uncontrollable crying spree.

So obviously, when Tony walks in like clockwork at precisely seven, there are no tables outside. The chairs are still up, there’s no bread in the oven. Not even the coffee machine is on. Ever since I opened the café five years ago, Tony’s been here for breakfast every weekday religiously. I’m sure he’s at a loss now that his precious routine is out the window. 

“I’m sorry. I’m running late. Let me just get the table, and I’ll have your coffee ready in a minute,” I say with a surprisingly steady voice as if I were talking to a client.

“I don’t give a damn about my coffee, Jules,” he lets go of my arm now and uses his large hand to lift my chin up. He’s got long elegant fingers. “You’ve been crying. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I manage to free myself from his grasp and turn around. “I’ve a cold,” I lie.

“Jules,” he says behind me, and I can feel his breath on the top of my head. He places both his hands on my arms and slowly turns me around in what I’m sure is his version of gentleness. “Tell me what happened,” he mutters. “Please,” he adds at my silence. 

I’m looking straight ahead, which means I have my eyes fixed on his chest, since he’s more than a full head taller than me. He slides his hands from my upper arms to my shoulders and then to my face, where he encompasses it between his large palms. Then, he hunches down and for a second I think he’s about to kiss me, but he stops a few inches from my face and just stares. 

He waits patiently in that position until he realizes I’m not going to speak. He lets go of me frustrated. 

“Erick?” he circles around me to get a clear view of his friend, who’s rolled himself to the farthest corner of my tiny kitchen.

I don’t turn around to see Erick’s face, but I hear his silence. 

“Damn it, Erick! Tell me what happened to her?”

I turn around now, if only to give Erick some moral support. Tony blows air through his nostrils exasperated. Then he storms out. I think he has left, then I notice he just backed down to hang his coat. Now, he’s picking up chairs and setting them down on their places. He grabs the tables that go outside and carries them like they’re nothing. His shirt is tight around his biceps. 

I must have fallen prey to some sort of spell because I’m frozen in place. I watch him move from one corner to the other of my very small coffee shop, arranging tables and chairs, setting tablecloths and sugar bowls. My eyes follow him mesmerized. 

“What time does Jessica arrive?” my hypnotist asks.

“Uh,” I struggle to find my voice again. “At noon.”

“Ok, I’ll help you until then,” he declares.


“I’ll stay with you and help you until Jessica gets here.”

Yeah, I heard that, I’m not stupid, in shock perhaps. 

“What about the company?” 

“They can do without me for a few hours.” Tony’s voice is grave. It leaves no room for debate. Except, I hear his same voice in my memory.

“I’m not letting my father’s company go bankrupt. Better we lose the house than the company.”

Before I can argue with him, one of my regular clients walks in. He’s a bald man in his seventies who always orders a late and a croissant.  

“Mr. Bowman, I’m so sorry, I’m running late. Would you give me a few minutes?”

That seems to release me from my spot, and I quickly resume motion. I tie my apron around my waist and walk behind the counter. I notice Erick has turned on the coffee maker. He’s also taken the coffee out, but he hasn’t been able to pour it. He doesn’t look up at me when I stand next to him. He’s staring at the counter where he has piled up the supplies I use every morning, except for the ones that were stashed above his reach. 

This is his attempt to help me. He got the milk out of the fridge, he placed it next to the coffee, but he wasn’t able to free the filter basket nor the frothing pitcher from the coffee machine. He turned the oven on, but I keep the pans on the upper shelf, so he couldn’t put the bread in. 

“You head down to the office, Erick. There’s no point in you staying here,” Tony gives him the final blow.

I’m sure Tony didn’t mean to, but I can see Erick’s shoulders sag. He huffs almost imperceptibly. 

“Erick,” I start and rest my hand on his shoulder, but he rolls away. 

So Tony ends up staying with me throughout the morning. He makes himself busy taking clients’ orders, handling the register, serving food. It takes him a moment to figure out the coffee machine, but after a couple of tries, he gets the hang of it. He’s doing an excellent job. On top of that, he’s making use of all his charm to keep the customers happy while they wait, because I’m extra slow this morning. Mostly, it’s because I’m really distracted by his presence. He’s rolled his sleeves up to his elbows, and his shirt keeps tightening around his biceps. He also took off his tie and undid the upper buttons, letting me see some of his chest hair. I always thought Tony had just the right amount of hair on his chest. It’s hard not to stare. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him shirtless, and I can’t help but think that his upper body has only gotten stronger and more attractive. He was never in bad shape, but he didn’t use to exercise as much when we were younger. Now I know he goes to the gym every day after work. 

We don’t talk, except for when he lets me know customers orders, or when he asks me for the location of supplies in the kitchen. Yet it’s really nice to be working side by side with him. A few times during the morning, we brush against each other in the tiny kitchen. His elbow against my arm, his side against my back, his hand against my finger. Every time, a bolt of electricity runs through my entire body. I don’t know how I’ve managed to keep my hands off him for eight whole years when I clearly desire him so much. 

“Come here, baby,” he nibbles at my neck. “I go crazy,” he says with my earlobe between his teeth. He’s on top of me, his right hand under my pajama shirt encompassing my breast . “Crazy,” his tongue travels down my cleavage. He takes my top off and runs his large strong hands from my hips to my chest. His mouth kisses each breast. He scratches my nipples with his teeth but lets go far too soon and kisses a downwards path across my belly. The tip of his tongue draws a straight arrow to his target. 

Too soon, Jessica walks in and Tony takes off the apron he put on earlier, and hands it to her. 

“Are you gonna be ok?” He asks me with his coat between his large beautiful hands. 


“Do you want me to stay?”


I shake my head no. 

“Are you sure?” He looks down at me, a concerned look in his eyes. 

Damn, I feel like crying again. 

I nod because I don’t trust myself to speak. If I open my mouth now, I’ll probably end up telling him I’m still in love with him, and I desperately want him to stay with me, not right now, but forever. 

He stares at me for almost an entire minute. Then, thankfully, he nods back and turns around to leave. The second he’s out the door I collapse into the nearest chair. 

The day drags like a bad movie. For some reason, I feel exhausted, even though I’ve done less than half the things I do on a usual Monday. By five o’clock, I desperately want to close the place up and head home. I’m about to give in and tell Jessica to just handle things without me, when my landlord walks in.

I’ve been expecting this. My contract is almost up, and every year, Mr. Cohen raises the rent. He’s usually kind enough to let me know in person, so I’m not surprised when I see him.

The place is empty right now. A couple of girls have just paid up their check and are walking out. 

“I’m glad I caught you unoccupied,” Mr. Cohen says after the customary greetings. “Do you have a minute?”

“Sure,” I say and signal him to sit down at a table. 

“So, you know your contract ends in December,” he starts just as I had foreseen it. “As you know, the neighborhood is on the rise. They built that office complex around the corner, and businesses on this street are getting a higher revenue.  You’re a good tenant which is why I’ve been reluctant to increase your rent, but your neighbors are paying over twice what I charge you and it’s time we adjust your rate to market value.”

I start to get nervous at that introduction. I thought he would just raise me the legal three per cent. He hands me a copy of the new contract for me to review. I scan it looking for the amount and I’m horrified when I find it.

“I can’t pay this much,” I let out, unable to put my thoughts into a more formal and diplomatic sentence. This is insane, it’s roughly twice what I’m paying now. 

I love my little coffee shop, but sometimes I wonder if I’m not just keeping it open out of denial for yet another failure in my life. I mean, once you take out the monthly expenses, consumables, Jessica’s salary, and taxes, there’s barely enough profit for me to make it through the month. I would probably make more money as an employee somewhere else. There’s no way that I can afford to pay that amount of rent and keep a float. As if I wasn’t having a bad enough day, it looks like I’ll have to give in and lose yet one more thing I care about. 

I feel tears pricking my eyes again. I desperately struggle to keep them in. Maybe it’s PMS or something; I vaguely try to summon my inner calendar which I really don’t pay much attention to these days. That manages to keep me distracted for about thirty seconds before I just give up and crumble. Oh well, now I’m crying again. It’s embarrassing. I really wish I had more control over my emotions, but this is just too much. 

“What the hell?” I hear a familiar voice somewhere among the fuzz that my head is right now. 

I look up and find Tony staring down at me, a horrified look on his face. Before I can bring myself to say something, I see my husband pick Mr. Cohen up by the collar. Oh shit!

“What did you do to her?” I hear him ram at my landlord.

I try to get up, but I’m such a slow reactor. Mr. Cohen mumbles something unintelligible. I finally spring to my feet. 

“Tony,” I whisper. I had meant to yell, but somehow my voice is weak. 

Mr. Cohen has both hands up in front of him in defense. He’s going on about how his request is fair and he has no idea why I’m crying. Tony’s a good foot taller than him and he looks furious. My husband is usually a very restrained man. In all the years I’ve known him, I’ve only seen him lose his temper a handful of times. Right now, he’s scary. Both his hands are rolled up into fists, his neck is all red, and his eyes are fuming. 

“Tony,” I manage to speak up this time. “Let him go,” I beg. 

I grab his left arm with both my hands, but he’s like iron. There’s absolutely no chance I will be able to pull him back on my own. Jessica’s come out from behind the counter, but she’s keeping back, wisely, I think in the back of my mind. 

Tony takes two steps forward, pushing Mr. Cohen along with him. Now, my landlord has stopped begging and is threatening to sue him. 

“Tony, Tony,” I keep saying, but he’s not listening. 

“I’m completely entitled to raise the rent. I’m giving her fair notice. We were having a civilized discussion. Who the hell are you anyway?” My landlord lets out among his rambling. 

“I’m her husband, you bastard!”

That knocks the air out of me. I stare at him dumbfounded, unable to move an inch. So I’m not the only one who refuses to accept our divorce. 

Tony twists his left hand around Mr. Cohen’s shirt and pulls him up, while he balls the other hand into a fist and  backs it up preparing a punch.

“Don’t do this, Tony,” I beg him in panic. “You’re making things worse.”

That seems to get through to him. He breathes heavily through his nostrils for a full minute, but finally he let’s go. The moment he’s free, Mr. Cohen almost runs to the exit. Once he reaches the street, he starts ranting that he’s going to press charges for assault. Great, just what I needed. Tony takes a step towards him, and my landlord quickly walks away. I hear his distorted voice for a few more seconds until he disappears around the corner. 

I walk past Tony and Jessica into the kitchen and head for the top shelf. I take out a bottle of scotch and fill a coffee mug with it. Then I drink a big gulp. The alcohol burns my throat and makes me cough a little. I look up to find both Jessica and Tony staring at me. 

“You want one?” I offer.

Jessica looks at me like I just escaped the looney bin. I can’t think of why since I’m not the one who almost beat up my landlord without even knowing what was going on. She’s a young girl, fresh out of highschool. I guess she’s not used to this kind of drama. Does she think I am?

“Jessica,” Tony turns to her and he seems perfectly calmed now. “You can head on home. I need to talk to my wife.”

There it is again, like the last eight years never happened. Today, he’s my husband and I’m his wife. I take another large sip of my scotch. 

Jessica nods and quickly grabs her coat to leave. Then, she notices she still has the apron on. She comes back and unties it as fast as she can. She holds it awkwardly in her hands while she looks at us wondering if she should go into the kitchen to hang it. Finally, she decides against it and just drops it on one of the tables. Tony hasn’t moved an inch. He’s staring at me from across the room. On my part, I feel oddly relaxed, I’m standing behind the counter with my mug tightly pressed between my palms, drinking. Perhaps I’ll become an alcoholic now that I’ll be unemployed. 

“Jules?” Tony walks to me once Jessica’s gone. His voice is contained, I know he’s deliberately trying to soften it. “Why didn’t you tell me about it?”

I don’t know what I was expecting him to say, but that was not it. 

“What do you mean? He just showed up half an hour ago. I mean, I knew he was gonna raise the rent, but I had no idea he planned on doubling it.”

“But I thought… This morning…”

Of course, he thinks that’s why I was crying this morning, and It would’ve been so easy to let him believe that and skip the twenty questions. Sometimes I think I’m just stupid. 

“Then, why were you crying earlier?”

I desperately want to come up with a feasible excuse, but like I said, I’m slow. 

“Why don’t you want to tell me, Jules? It’s me. We tell each other everything.”

Do we? This is news to me. 

“Whatever it is, we’ll fix it,” he carries on when I stay quiet. “This too. That ashole can’t get away with this. I’ll talk to Oswald.” He wraps his hands around mine which are still holding the mug resting over the counter. “It’ll be alright, you’ll see.”

For a minute, I let him convince me. Oswald is Cross Transports’ lawyer. Surely there’s something he can do. Even if he can’t, Tony’s voice is so reassuring. The heat of his hands feels good on my skin. Even though the counter is standing between us, Tony’s body feels really close. And his presence makes me feel protected, like nothing can hurt me while he’s around. 

Except I know it can. 

“I want a divorce.” 

I gasp.  “But…”

“I’m filing the papers tomorrow.”

“Tony, I…”

“Don’t! Just don’t!”

I take my hands out from under his. 

“Thanks,” I say tightly, “but I’ll handle it.” God knows how. 

I end up closing the café early. Tony helps me clean up since it was him who sent Jessica home. But it was a slow Monday so there’s not that much to do. He insists on taking me home. I resist at first, but finally I let him.  

“Thanks,”I say when we pull over outside my mother’s house. 

Tony stares at me with a crease between his brows.

“Where are we supposed to live if we lose the house?”

“You and Sean can move back to your mother’s. If we save the company, eventually we’ll have money to get another place.”

“Me and Sean?”

“Yes, I’m not coming.”

“See you tomorrow,” I get out of the car.

“Jules?” he steps out as well. 

I turn to look at him wondering what he’ll say. For a moment I let myself fantasize he confesses his love for me. I hear him say he forgives me for everything and that he wants me back. I imagine him walking over and kissing me. But he just stays there, with one leg still inside the car.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he finally says. 

I let out the breath I’ve been holding. I nod and walk inside the house.

“Why did dad bring you home?” My son Sean asks when I cross the threshold. Apparently he was  watching from the window. 

“Just because,” I walk past him and drop my purse on the couch. 

“Did you close the Valhalla early?” 

The café is named after the band the boys had in high school. The ridiculous name used to give us a laugh everytime we stared at the sign. Maybe it was bad luck naming it like that. 

“Yes,” I don’t elaborate. “Are you hungry?”

“Are you sick?” Sean asks me. I notice the same concerned look I saw on his father’s face just a minute ago. 

“No, I’m fine, honey.”

I cook dinner and then do the dishes. My mom asks me to do some extra chores since I’m home early. For once, I welcome it because I need something to keep myself busy. When I finish, I check my watch, half past nine. I’m still feeling kind of down and I don’t want to be alone. But even worse than being alone, I don’t want to be with my mother. I knock on Sean’s room and find him on the phone. The way he looks at me like I’m interrupting something really important leads me to believe he’s talking to a girl. I leave him to it and decide to just sit in the backyard for a while. But when I’m coming out, my mother follows me and starts talking about bills and how tight money is, and how she wished I got a real job and that she knows I could do so much better. She says I was the smartest girl in highschool and she always thought I would end up being the CEO of some company. 

Sometimes I really hate my mom. I mean, I love her, but most of the time, I hate her. 

“I’m going out,” I announce. 

“At this hour?” She asks outraged.

“Yeah, mom,” I roll my eyes.

“Where are you going?” 

Anywhere but here. “I won’t be long.”

I walk out of the house without a destination in mind, but as soon as I reach the street, I know exactly where I’m going. 

“Good evening, Mrs. Sanders,” I say to Erick’s mom when she answers the door. “I know it's late, but can I see Erick?” 

His house is only about thirty feet from mine.

“I think he might already be in bed,” she says, but she clears the way to let me pass. 

I cross the house all the way to the back where a bedroom was built for Erick after the divorce. Yeah, he too suffered the loss of the house, because after his accident, he had moved in with us. I knock on his door. 

“Come in, ma,” he answers thinking I’m his mother. 

I walk in without correcting him. He doesn’t raise his eyes right away. He’s sitting on his chair wearing only boxers and an undershirt. His legs are tied up by a strap at the ankles. They’ve gotten bonny over the years. And although he’s thin, thinner than I would like, he has a gut on account of the lack of muscles on his belly. He’s strapped his chest to the backrest of his chair with a velcro band as well. He doesn’t usually do that, but he needs to in order to keep his torso in place when he’s exercising. I notice now that he’s got a pair of wrist weights wrapped in. He stretches his arms out as far as they’ll go, which is not all the way, and lifts them up about as high as his chest. His arms tremble when he does that, but he holds it a few seconds. I know that’s as high as he can lift them in that position. 

He looks up then and when he sees me, his hands plummet down heavily. 

“Jules,” he says high pitched. 

“Hey, handsome,” I greet him. 

“What are you doing here?” He asks and laboriously moves his hands to his rims. the weights must only be a pound each, but he has a hard time moving his arms without them, so I guess it’s even harder when he’s wearing them. 

“It’s nice to see you, too,” I smirk, sitting on the bed. 

“Sorry,” he smiles back. “I’m just surprised. Are you ok?”

“Yeah,” I say not very convincingly. “I just…” 

He takes his right hand to his face and uses his mouth to unstrap the velcro around the weight. When it's loose enough, he lets it drop to his lap. Then he repeats the procedure with the other hand. He picks them up one by one, using both his palms to lift them, and throws them on the dresser. Once done, he puts his hand to his rims and reaches me in a couple of pushes. 

“Still feeling down?” He asks me.

I nod.

“I’m losing the Valhalla,” I blurt out, unable to hold it in any longer. 


“My landlord came in this afternoon to tell me he’s doubling the rent.”

He tries to lean in to touch me but he’s held back by the strap around his chest. Apparently he forgot about it. He starts pulling at it trying to release the velcro, but he’s having a hard time at it. I know he can do it himself, just not as fast as he’d wish. So I lean in to help him. I ask permission with my eyes and he nods. I unstrapp the velcro band and take it off of him. He then puts his palms on his lap and uses his head to jerk forward. He slides forward in the chair and places a hand on the mattress. He wants to transfer, but he’s attempting it from this position at the foot of the bed, rather than the usual way he does it.

I know Erick can transfer to bed on his own. He does it every night without any help because his mom isn’t strong enough to lift him. I also know that it took him almost three years to learn how to do so. It’s still not an easy process, but he has developed his own technique, and now it takes him only a couple of minutes. However, everything he does requires a series of steps, adaptations, tricks he has learned over the years. He usually transfers from the side of the bed, he has a rail there which he grabs on to. Also, he throws his legs into the mattress first and then his butt. This time, he’s trying to do so with me on the bed, so he can’t throw his legs first, and the rail is too far for him to reach so it won’t be of any help. He scoops his body forward and uses his elbows to sort of swing his body and get it to turn. But at some point, he realizes he’s not in a good position. 

Erick is still young. He’s in good shape for someone with his disability. There are a lot of quadriplegics out there, with similar injuries, who could do this transfer. But Erick can’t fully extend his arms, they’re permanently bent on his elbow, contracted, just like his fingers are. This could all have been avoided if they had been stretched out by wearing splints when he first got injured, but he wasn’t at a specialized hospital, and he didn’t get the best care in that regard. Just one more thing Tony blames me for. Because of that, there are a lot of things that are just short of impossible for him to do. 

“Sorry,” he sighs heavily. 

“That’s ok,” I shrug. 

He scoops back on his chair, but not all the way. I guess what he wanted was to be close enough to hug me or at least touch me to comfort me. He settles for laying a hand over my leg. 

I tell him everything that happened, what Mr. Cohen said, about Tony almost beating him up, what happened afterwards, and how Tony thought that’s why I was upset this morning.  I also tell him about him bringing me home, and then my mother being impossible. He listens attentively all through it. It’s such a load off my chest to talk to Erick. The only thing I leave out is Tony saying he was my husband and calling me his wife. I don’t know why I don’t mention that part, since I trust Erick completely. I know he will understand how I feel, but for some reason I don’t want to share that part. 

“I’m so sorry, Jules,” he says in a soothing tone. “I’m sure Oswald can talk some sense into Mr. Cohen. If he can’t, we’ll get the money.”

I shake my head at him. “Maybe it’s all for the best,” I say. “You know I don’t really make that much money anyway. Maybe it’s just not what I’m supposed to be doing. My mom thinks I should get a real job, you know, put my business degree to use.”

“What do you think?” he asks.

“I think I’m gonna end up singing at a seedy bar.” I’m only half-joking.

“I’d come to see you,” he jokes too. “You’d be the prettiest singer ever. I bet you’d get a crowd.”

“Just pretty, huh? What about my amazing voice?” I ask playfully. 

“Oh, that too. You should try out for America’s got talent.”

I laugh. “Too bad I didn’t become a stripper when I could. Now, that’s a career!” 

“Oh, you could still be a stripper,” he teases. “Wanna practice?”

I swat him in the arm.

“Ouch!” He fakes a pain expression.

I stare at him for a moment, grinning. Then, I impulsively throw myself at him with a bear hug. I make him lose his balance. He falls back against the backrest of his chair, but he hugs me back tight.

Some Things Never Change Chapter III

 I end up spending the night with Erick. I mean, we quite literally sleep together. It’s not the first time Erick and I share a bed, but it’s been a while. I used to stay with him a lot when he first got injured. Lately, I just do it when he’s sick. Today it’s nice, because I can just relax. I’m not looking after him, I don’t have to remain vigilant in case he needs something. We play a movie, but I fall asleep almost immediately. I’m exhausted.

I wake up to his alarm clock at half-past four. Man, he gets up early. Not every day, but I guess today is bowel care day, so he has this whole routine that takes forever. I’m aware of all the awkward details of his disability, so I know what he has to do. But since he doesn’t need me anymore, I don’t have to stay and watch. I feel him move his arms to my side for momentum and then throw himself in the opposite direction so he can catch the rail on the side of the bed. He uses it to pull himself up slightly. He opens the drawer on his nightstand and starts taking out all his medication. I’m tempted to roll over and go back to sleep, but I know he’ll be more comfortable if I leave. Besides, I should attempt to sneak back home undetected rather than walk the walk of shame and have to explain my whereabouts to my mother. So I sit up in bed and say good morning.

“Sorry, Jules,” he starts, “I know it’s early, but I have to… you know.” It's dark, but I can still notice him blushing.

I did his bowel routine for him for years, and yet, he’s still ashamed. Well, I guess even with our kind of relationship, I wouldn’t want Erick to watch me go to the bathroom, so I don’t blame him. 

“It’s ok,” I rub my eyes. “I should go and try to sneak past my mother,” I cringe. 

“Ok,” he nods. 

He turns the lights on and I get up. 

“I’ll see you later,” he says from the bed. There’s something about his expression though, his blue eyes look up at me kind of longingly. Perhaps he wishes he could just get up and walk me to the door. 

I go to him and kiss his cheek. “See you in a bit.”

I let myself out. The street is deserted. My house is less than a block away. When we were teenagers I used to walk it at this hour all the time, although more often from Tony’s place which was two houses down. Now, the place has been sold and a new family lives there. I watch it lit by the dim street light. It brings back memories of the three of us sitting on the sidewalk, drinking cheap alcohol and laughing at stupid jokes. 

I reach my house and walk in as quietly as I can muster, but as I’m crossing the hallway I hear my mother’s voice. 

“Julia? Is that you?”

Damn it.

“Yeah, mom,” I debate whether to pretend I just woke up and I’m going to the bathroom, but of course she knows I’m just getting home. It’s like I’m seventeen all over again.

“Where were you?” I hear her getting out of bed. 

“I was with Erick.” No point in lying.

“Oh,” she sticks her head out the door. “Is he sick?”

“No,” I admit. “We were just watching a movie and I fell asleep.”

She wrinkles her nose disapprovingly. 

Oh well, it’s not like my mother usually approves of my actions. Everything I do seems to be a mistake in her eyes. Not that I make great choices. She’s probably right, and I have done nothing but screw up. 

“It’s a weeknight,” she points out like I’m still in school.

“I know, mom.”

“You could’ve let me know where you were, you know? I was worried.”

“I’m not a kid, mom,” I can’t help but say.

“You sure act like one,” she rants.

Boy, do I wish I had my own place. I shake her off and go into my room to try and get one more hour of sleep. 

I bit Erick to the café for the first time ever. I couldn’t go back to sleep, after all. There’s too much on my mind. When I get there, I stare at the sign: “Valhalla”.

“Are you guys ready for this?” I ask Tony and Erick, a mischievous smile playing on my lips. I feel like a teenager. We’re about to turn the corner into the street where my new coffee shop is located. As soon as we round the corner, the sign will be visible for them. It’s a surprise.

Erick pushes his chair forward and Tony follows. 

“No, you didn’t,” Erick laughs when he sees it.

“Oh, not that cheesy name!” Tony cries out behind him. “I can’t believe we named our band that.”

“Well, it was the nineties,” I say in their defense.

We all have goofy smiles on our faces. 

Erick rolls to me now. “You’re early,” he greets me. His blue eyes have a sad glow in the dim lights. 

“Morning, handsome,” I say.

He parks his chair next to me and grabs my hand with his curled fingers. I press his palm inside mine although I know he can’t feel it. 

Tony is early too. We’re still inside when he walks in. Pink Floyd’s Wish you were here is playing in the background. 

We're just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl, year after year” Tony sings in a low voice. He walks in behind me and holds me by the waist. Erick looks away. He busies himself by grabbing the sugar bowls, he sets them on his lap and rolls among the tables placing them down one by one. I made sure the space between tables is wide enough for him to wheel, still, where it gets tight, he grabs onto chairs and propels himself forward. I untangle myself from Tony’s hands. 

“Your table is ready,” I say.

“Yeah, I can tell. Do you need any help?”

“Thanks, Erick’s got me covered,” I shake my head.

“Hey, man,” he walks back to greet Erick.

“Morning,” Erick says. 

They also linger a little longer when they’re done having breakfast. Tony’s so anal about the whole schedule thing, that I can tell he’s worried about me. I would say it’s sweet but really, I just want him to leave so he stops staring at me with that look on his face like I’m a wounded animal or something.

I’d be lying if I said I'm not feeling down about losing the café, but I’m not terribly sad about it either.  In the grand scale of things, this is nothing when I’ve lost so much already in my life. I feel numb.

Finally, at eight o’clock, Tony gets up and walks to me. 

“Call me if you need anything. Ok, Jules?” he says holding my hand. “Or if that ashole comes by.”

I nod. 

I’m relieved when Jessica arrives at noon. I was worried she might quit after yesterday. The café is busy for a Tuesday morning. I let her take over waiting on customers, and I retreat behind the counter to do the cooking. This is my favorite part of owning the café. I really enjoy preparing food, even if it’s just some sandwiches and the occasional salad. 

I’m in the middle of a cream cheese bagel when a woman in her late sixties walks in. Her hair is as black as it used to be, but a hint of white roots tells me she dyes it now. She’s wearing a skirt suit and low heels. Even at her age, she’s still quite pretty. 

“Oh no, you don’t!” I stop her before she reaches the counter. “You do not just walk into my café like this. What the hell do you want?”

“Hello, Julia,” she greets me like she didn’t wreck my entire life the last time she was around. 

“I should call the police,” I threaten. 

“You do what you have to,” she fakes a remorse look. “I’m ready to atone for my mistakes.”

Atone? She’s ready to atone for her mistakes? Does she think this is a soap opera? Is she serious? How could she possibly repair the damage she did? There’s no amount of penance she could do that would make things right.

“Get out of here,” I say.

“Just hear me out,” she starts. “All I ask is that you let me explain.”

“No way!” No freaking way. The last time I listened to her it ended my marriage, amongst other things. 

“Please, Julia,” she begs. 

“No,” I say roundly. “Jessica, will you take care of things for a while?” I say turning to my employee. “I have to go out for a minute.”

She nods. I take the apron off and grab my coat. 

“Julia, please.”

“Oh,” I say before I leave. “And whatever you do, don’t listen to this woman. She’s not welcome here.”

“Julia,” she calls out to me again, but I’m out the door. 

I arrive at Cross Transports and head straight for the elevator. 

“Mrs. Cross,” Betty says and it stings this time. “Are you here to see Erick?” 

“I’m here for my husband,” I say before the elevator’s door closes.

Erick sees me when I step out. “Jules, hi,” he says. He’s got a folder with papers in his hands and he sets it on his lap to roll towards me. “Are you here for lunch?” He asks.

“No, uh… I’m here to see Tony,” I admit.

He gets a hurt look in his eyes.

“Oh,” he says simply.

I don’t have time to explain, so I just leave him sitting there and head for Tony’s office. He meets me at the door. I guess Betty called him. 

“Jules, what is it?” He asks, concerned. “Did that bastard show up?”

I shake my head no. 

“Your mother.”


I step past him and plummet on a chair. He stares at me for a second, then he closes the door behind him and crouches in front of me. 

“Your mother just showed up at the coffee shop,” I blurt.

“How did she find you?”

“No idea,” I shake my head. She could’ve just googled me.

Tony sighs. “What did she say?”

I puff. “That she wants to atone for her mistakes.”

“What?!” Tony stands up outraged. “Please tell me you didn’t…”

“I didn’t listen to her,” I interrupt him. “I told her to leave, and I came straight here.”

“Do you think she’s still there?”

The Valhalla is roughly a ten-minute drive from Cross Transports, so she could very well still be there.

“I don’t know. Do you want me to call Jessica?” I suggest.

“You just left her there?” 

I’m not sure if it's a reproach I hear in his tone or just surprise. He’s looking down at me from his full height and I feel shorter than ever sitting on this chair. Suddenly I understand how Erick feels always having to look up at people. It’s not a good feeling. I stand up, something Erick can’t do. 

“I didn't know what to do,” I defend myself. Perhaps it would’ve been wiser to call instead of rushing over here. 

“How could you?” I hear Tony in my mind. “I told you not to talk to her. I told you not to listen. How could you be so…” He stops himself but I hear the rest anyway. 

“I… I’m sorry,” I start to apologize all over again. 

“Sorry? You’re sorry? Erick is lying in that awful hospital, and you’re sorry?”

“I should’ve called you. I didn’t think fast enough. I’m sorry,” my voice cracks.

“Jules?” Tony’s voice is strange. 

“Jules, what if he never walks again?”

I know what it is. I know what it sounds like.

“Call 911! Dad, dad talk to me, please.”

It’s fear.

“Jules,” he whispers and his voice is heavy with fear. 

Of what? What is he afraid of? His mother disappearing again? 

“No, no, no, Jules,” he looks baffled. He's shaking his head at me and curling his eyebrows up. He has hunched down slightly to look me in the eye. “I’m not angry at you. Please don’t cry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to… I’m sorry,” he repeats.

His tone had made me suck in my stupid tears, and I thought I had managed to get a hold of myself. But I don’t know what he’s apologizing for right now, and I’ve longed to hear those words for so long that a part of me feels he’s sorry for before, for everything that happened years ago. And that breaks me. 

“Tony, I’m so sorry for everything,” I say when the movers have loaded the last box. We’re standing in our empty house, and it’s not our house anymore. Not just because it has been repossessed by the bank, but because we’re not together anymore. Our furniture is gone, our marriage is gone. Please Tony, please say you’re sorry too and all will be forgiven. We’ll start over and losing the house won’t matter, it will just be a replaceable possession. Say you’re sorry too, and I’ll run to your arms. I will never again think about all the awful things that have happened in the last months. Everything you said to me will be erased from my memory. I swear. We can still fix this.

He stands there quietly. Our eyes are locked together, and I will him to say the words. Please, I beg in silence. 

He takes a deep breath and looks away.

“Let’s go,” he says dryly.

Tony takes a step towards me. Fuck. I dodge him and storm out of there. 

Erick is still in the hallway when I come out of Tony’s office. He has the same papers in his hands again. He’s holding them up between both his palms. I notice he sees me from the corner of his eye. For a second, he pretends to carry on with what he’s doing. But then, he does a double-take and turns to look at me intently. 

“Jules,” he drops the folder and pushes his rims. But I can’t be here right now. I know Tony is still behind me, and I need to leave. The elevator is right next to Erick, so I head for the stairs. If he looked wounded before when I said I was here for Tony and not him, he looks devastated now when he realizes I’m deliberately going where he can’t chase me. It’s as if I have physically shoved him away from me. But I don’t stop. I can’t.

The wind makes the trees dance. Or perhaps it’s not a dance, but a battle. They stand there, stoically, while the wind tackles them over and over again.  One gust after another, the branches bend and the leaves flap, yet the trees withstand. I watch the rhythmic waltz. I listen to the beat waves. Whoosh, whoosh it comes and goes, brushing the sky with a raspy sound, like the salty foam reverberating over the sand on a beach. 

I’m sitting on a bench in a public park. I’ve been here for a while now. I didn’t go back to the café. I couldn’t go home either because my mother would’ve been there, and if Erick’s eyes were any indication, I know I look terrible. I had nowhere to go, so I just kept walking. After a while, I stumbled into this park and just sat down on a bench. I’ve been contemplating the trees since then.

If I were still in my twenties, I would just take the first bus out of town and stay away for a few days. I would get drunk at a cheap bar, maybe even hook up with someone. But I’m not twenty anymore. If I don’t go back to the café, Jessica will leave it open, she doesn’t have the keys to lock up. Someone might break in and steal my coffee machine, the only thing worth a damn in the place. My son will worry about me. So will my mom, but if it were just her, I would say fuck it. No one will take out the clothes I left in the drier. No one will water the plants in the café nor the fern in my room. 

Although perhaps none of that matters.

The tree crowns sway. I close my eyes and the wind hits me too. It feels cold on my cheeks and my nose. I listen to the whooshing sound and let it take me far away. Now it is the ocean breeze I feel.

“You’re so beautiful,” Tony’s voice tickles my stomach. He scratches me with his short beard while he kisses my belly. His heavy palms are pressing down my thighs. “Sooo beautiful,” his warm breath tickles the tender skin. 

I’m lying on the warm sand. The sun has set, and it’s starting to go dark. I can hear the rhythmic sound of the waves crashing against a rock wall, then softer on the shore, and whispering as they arrive bubbling to my bare feet. 

Tony’s lying half next to me and half on top. I grab his broad shoulders and get wet sand on his skin. He turns his face and kisses my hand that’s still on him. We hear a whistle. It’s the lifeguard telling us to clear the beach. Tony curses under his breath and sinks his face in my stomach.

“Hey, love birds,” twenty-three-year-old Erick yells from the distance. “You’ll get arrested.”

I attempt to get up, but Tony pins me down to the sand. He hovers over me with his entire body, and I’m small under him. I can feel his hardness pressed against me. But he doesn’t move. He just looks at me, his black eyes piercing into mine. 

“I love you,” he gasps. 

He holds my eyes for another moment, his sturdy upper body backed up by the sound of the sea and the immense sky above him. He’s not waiting for an answer, he knows I can’t speak. Then, he drops his face to mine and kisses me so deeply that I feel underwater. 

He smiles, his mouth still pressed to mine, and opens his eyes. The solemn stare is now gone, and a mischievous glow plays in them.

“We’re coming,” he yells back to Erick. 

I open my wet eyes. I’m really cold now, and as much as I feel like just staying here staring at the trees, I have to go back. I get up and take my cell phone out to check the time. 

Quarter after six.

I have three missed calls from Jessica. Perhaps she’s thrown the apron away, and the coffee shop is now deserted. Six missed calls from Tony. None from Erick. 

As I walk back to the café, I start to get angry at myself. Furious actually, for a million reasons. Because I didn’t retain Tony’s mother, because I was about to cry yet again like I’m a five-year-old; because I can’t stop thinking about the stupid past, I can’t stop feeling the same pain even after all these years. Because Tony apologized to me for the first time in eight years and I couldn’t even stay to find out what the hell he was apologizing for. Because I just behaved like a crazy person, and because I hurt Erick. Oh, the look on his face! 

When I cross the threshold of the Valhalla, Tony jumps out of his seat. If he’d been on his usual table, I would’ve seen him from the corner and just left. But he was inside, sitting on a table for two, facing the door. There’s an almost empty coffee mug in front of him. He’s been here a while. 

“Christ, Jules,” he puffs. “Are you ok?”

“I’m fine.”

“Where’ve you been?”

I sigh.

“Jules,” he starts, but I interrupt him.

“Did you find your mother?”

That distracts him, and he seems to forget what he was about to say. Which was exactly my intention. 

He shakes his head at me. “I wasn’t looking for her. I…”

“I’m closing early,” I interrupt him again. 

Except the place is packed. There are customers on every table, and there are a couple of girls ordering cappuccinos to go. I can’t believe Jessica held down the fort.  

“Jessica, I’m so sorry,” I say to her, feeling guilty for having left her alone all afternoon. “How did you manage to take care of everything on your own?” I ask because the place looks ok. There are no angry customers, no dirty tables, and everyone looks fairly happy. 

“Oh, Mr. Tony helped,” she looks at him and almost swoons. Then she quickly looks away embarrassed. 

I restrain myself from rolling my eyes. Really? She’s like two years older than my son. However, I could care less if she’s smitten with my husband. I have more pressing matters at the time. 

“How long have you been here?” I ask Tony.

He shrugs.

“He’s been here since you left,” Jessica says with dreamy eyes. 

Since I left? He must have come right after I left his office. 

“Oh,” I say. 

The question is, did he come here to try to catch his mom, or was he chasing after me?

Two more customers arrive at that moment, and our conversation is cut short. Tony stays with me until closing time, and then, he insists on taking me home. We don’t talk about anything though. 

“Can you drop me off here?” I stop him when we turn into my street. “I need to go see Erick.”

“Why?” he asks.

“I… kind of have to explain something to him,” I mumble.

Tony stares at me for a moment while the car is still moving, and I get this nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach. 

“Ok,” he finally says and stops the car. 

I avoid looking at him again as I get out. And although I feel him lingering afterward, I walk to Erick’s door without turning around. I finally hear the car leave when Mrs. Sanders opens the door.

“Julia, good evening,” she greets me.

“Good evening Mrs. Sanders. Can I see Erick?”

“I think he might be in bed already,” she says like last night, but she moves out of the way to let me pass. 

I cross the house all the way to Erick’s room and knock on his door. 

“Can you go away, ma? I had a really bad day,” he yells from across the door. 

I let myself in.

“It’s me,” I announce as if he weren’t looking straight at me.

“Jules,” he composes his expression after the original surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“I… I wanted to apologize,” I take a step towards him. 

He’s on his underwear again and he’s got the same weights on his wrists. He doesn’t take them off this time though. Instead, he grabs a towel and starts to struggle, trying to spread it out on his lap to cover himself. Like I haven’t seen his scrawny legs before. 

“No need,” he says tightly. 

“Erick, I…”

“I asked Lou out,” he blurts out.

“Who?” I ask although I know exactly who he’s talking about. 

He ignores me.

“She said yes.”