Saturday, May 1, 2021

Such a Pretty Face, Chapter 4

After dinner, I take the bus to my Tuesday evening class. After the shitty day I’ve been having, at least I can look forward to seeing Brody. The entire ride over, I keep imagining his face and getting tingly all over. I wish we could go out tonight.

As I’m walking to class, I see Black Bob is just behind me. She jogs a bit to catch up with me. “Hey,” she says. “You’re in Dr. Nichols’s class, right?”

I nod, flattered she’s making an effort to talk to me. “That’s right.”

She chuckles. “I think we’re the only two females in the room.”

“I think there’s one other.”

“Still. We girls have got to stick together, right?” She winks at me. “I’m Ruby, by the way.”

“Emily,” I say.

Ruby peers at me through her tortoiseshell glasses. “Is this your first class here?”

“Actually,” I say proudly, “I’m almost done with my Master’s. Just one more class.”

“You go, girl!” Ruby laughs. “I have a looong way to go. And man, this class is hard. I didn’t think it would be this hard.”

I nod sympathetically. Although truthfully, I don’t think it’s that hard. Maybe because I’ve taken so many other classes. Brody and I were discussing the material during our dinner the other night, and he seemed to think it was a pretty easy class too. He’s clearly a smart guy. “You’ll catch on.”

“Maybe we could get together sometime,” Ruby says. “Have a study session and go over some of the material, you know?”

“Maybe…” I nod. “Or if you want to get drinks sometime…”

Ruby makes a face. “I am just so busy these days. But the study session would be amazing. When do you want to do it?”

I get that uneasy feeling that I have when somebody is taking advantage of me. But maybe that’s unfair. She wants to study together. She wants a partner. She’s not just expecting me to explain the entire course to her.

Is she?

As we go into the classroom, Ruby starts for the corner where Brody usually sits. She almost sits at a desk, but then she stops herself.

“Oh wait,” she says. “This is where that creepy wheelchair guy always sits. I better move.”

I freeze, staring at her. I can’t believe she just referred to Brody that way. Well, I can believe it. But I don’t like it.

“He just kind of sits there every day and he can’t even take his own notes,” she goes on. “I mean, how are you qualified to take a class if you can’t even take your own notes? I can’t believe he suckered you into doing it for him. You are way nicer than me.”

I open my mouth but no sound comes out.

“You were talking to him, right?” she says. “Is he, like, mentally impaired or something?”

“No,” I say weakly.

“Well,” she says, “he looks it. And honestly, it’s such an inconvenience that he comes in here and makes everyone get up and rearrange themselves so he has a spot. Like, how inconsiderate, right? It’s not my problem he’s in that chair.”

I remember how polite he was when he requested my notes. Actually, no, I offered them to him after Ruby refused. But he isn’t really interested in my notes. Not as much as he’s interested in me. Whereas Ruby is only interested in using me to pass this class. I’m old enough to know these things by now.

“He’s actually a really nice guy,” I speak up. “And any decent person would have moved to let him have room to turn around without having to be asked. Also, it sounds like he’s got a better grasp of the material than you do, so maybe you shouldn’t call him mentally impaired.”

Ruby obviously did not expect me to talk back to her. Her mouth is hanging open, and she’s giving me the stink eye. Also, I become aware of a presence behind me. I turn around, and I realize Brody is behind me. He heard the whole damn speech. Great.

I mean, yes, I was defending him. But I didn’t want him to know Ruby called him mentally impaired.

“Well, sorry,” Ruby hisses at me. “Geez. Some people are so touchy.”

I can barely look at Brody as I slide into my chair. Thankfully, the lecture is starting.

I try my best to focus and take good notes, both for my sake and for his. It isn’t until the lecture is over and people start filtering out, he leans in closer to me. “Hey,” he says, “thanks.”

I shift in my chair. Ruby is hurrying across the room, but she turns back to glare at me one last time. I glare right back—screw her. “For what?”

He grins at me. “You stuck up for me. That was really cool.”

My cheeks grow warm. “Well, she was being a bitch. But I didn’t want you to hear what she said.”

He shrugs. “What? That she thought I was mentally impaired? Yeah, I don’t let that sort of thing get to me. When you’re in a wheelchair, people make assumptions. I’m over it. I know I’m crazy smart.”

I laugh, my shoulders relaxing. “Okay, good.”

It’s a relief when we’re out of the room, away from all the stares. I have a sixth sense for when people are looking at me. I can practically feel eyes boring into my back. I wonder if Brody notices things like that too. He may get stared at even more than I do, but probably not for as long as I have. He’s only had ten years of it. I’ve had a lifetime. I don’t know what it’s like to not get stared at.

“I had a great time the other night,” he says to me as we make our way down the hall.

“Me too,” I say.

“I know it’s short notice,” he says, “but would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow night?”

My heart leaps in my chest. “Yeah, sure.”

“Great.” He beams at me. “Would you be okay with coming over to my apartment? We could go out if you’d like, but it’s much easier for me at my own place.”

“Sure,” I say again.

“And this way we can have some privacy,” he says, and then he blushes. “Not that I expect us to… I mean, I’d just like to be alone with you, that’s all. No waitresses interrupting us.”

“It’s okay.” I smile at him. “I’d like to be alone with you too.”

Brody looks floored by my comment. It’s flattering.



Brody kisses me again before we go our separate ways. Some of the other students from the class are outside the building and see us kiss. I hear them murmuring. But I don’t care. I just hope he doesn’t care either.

When I get home, I lie down in my bed and think about Brody. I can’t wait to see him tomorrow night. I can’t focus on anything else.

I’ve never been this excited about a guy in my entire life, and I’ve had some pretty intense crushes before. Like on Norm. But nothing like this. This is real.

My phone rings, and I see Camille’s name on the screen. Truthfully, I usually dread talking to my sister. We only talk about two things. How I need to get a boyfriend or how I need to lose weight. It’s not fun for me.

Well, to be fair, we used to talk a lot about Camille’s wedding, but now that’s over. If she has a baby, I’m sure we’ll talk about the baby most of the time. So I’m looking forward to that. Anything to take the spotlight off of me.

But anyway, now I’m excited to talk to Camille. Because I’m seeing someone. He’s not quite a boyfriend yet, but there’s real potential there. I finally don’t have to go on any more of her pity dates.

I snatch up the phone. “Hi, Camille.”

“Emily!” She sounds surprised that I picked up. “You sound chipper for this hour.”

I smile to myself. “Yeah, maybe.”

“The reason I’m calling,” she says, “is that I met the absolute best guy for you. His name is David, and he is definitely not gay. I’m like a hundred percent sure.”

“Actually,” I say, “I’ve met someone.”

There’s a long silence on the other line. “You did?”

I grip the phone tighter. “Yeah. I met him in my night class. He’s… really nice. I like him a lot.”

“Oh.” Camille doesn’t seem to know what to make of this new development. “And… have you spoken to him?”

Oh my God, does she think I’m delusional? “Yes. We’ve been out on a date. And we’re going out again tomorrow.”

“Emily, that’s amazing!” Camille squeals. “Tell me everything about him!”

“Well…” I don’t know quite where to begin. I need to tell her about his disability, but I’m scared if I do, she’s going to think that’s the only reason he likes me. “Actually, you might have met him before. He was in your class at Townsend Harris.”

“Really?” She sounds utterly intrigued. “What’s his name?”

“Brody Nolan.”

I don’t know what I expected. I thought maybe she wouldn’t remember him. Or if she did, she would say something neutral like, oh, he’s nice. But what I didn’t expect at all is the way her voice fills with disgust as she spits out the words: “Brody Nolan? Are you serious?”

“Um… yeah…”

“Oh God.” I can almost picture her sneer. “You’re not really going out with Brody Nolan, are you?”

“What’s the big deal?”

“You know,” she says, “he asked me out once.”

I get this sudden horrible sinking feeling in my chest, and I wish I hadn’t told Camille about Brody. “He asked you out?”

“It wasn’t a big deal or anything. The strap on my bookbag broke in math class, and he carried my books for me to my next class—he always had a thing for me. It was sweet. And he was… well, he was really hot. As I’m sure you know. Then he asked me to go with him to a party that night.”

My heart is pounding. Oh no, is this a story about how she had sex with Brody? Please God, let that not be the case. Because nothing would end this relationship quicker. “What did you say?”

“I said no,” Camille says. “Of course I said no.”

Of course she said no? “What does that mean?”

“He was wild,” she says. “Nice girls did not go out with Brody Nolan, that’s for sure.”

I bite my tongue to keep from saying what I’m thinking, which is that Camille wasn’t a nice girl in high school. That’s why she felt the need to reinvent herself in college.

“Listen,” Camille says sharply. “Brody was a mess, okay? I don’t even know how he managed to graduate. He was high at least half the time at school. One time in class, he fell asleep at his desk and fell onto the floor. He got suspended during our junior year for having a fistfight in the hallway.” She shakes her head. “Is that the kind of guy you want to have as a boyfriend?”

I can’t believe what I’m hearing. The sweet guy I went to dinner with the other night would never have done any of those things.

“He’s different now,” I tell her. I start to mention the wheelchair, but something stops me. If I tell Camille what happened to him, she’ll assume he got injured because of his own stupidity.

Of course, maybe he did.

“People don’t change,” she says. “Especially not people like that.”

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you,” I say. “He seems like a nice guy. We had a great time the other night. It was… nice.”

There’s a long pause on the other line. “Emily, does he know you’re my sister?”

“Yes… why?”

“I just…” Another long pause. “Like I told you, he used to have a thing for me. But I would never go out with him. I wonder if when he met you, he thought maybe it would be a way to get to me…”

I gasp. “What are you saying?”

“I just think it’s suspicious, that’s all,” she says. “I mean, you are not Brody’s type—trust me. And I just remember how much he seemed to like me. It seems like something he might do…”

“There’s no way that’s true,” I hiss at her. “Brody is a great guy. I’m not going to discuss this with you anymore.”

And then before she can try to convince me otherwise, I hang up the phone.

Somehow, over the course of the conversation, I went from feeling on top of the world to wanting to burst into tears. How could she say something like that? This is even worse than being a gay man’s beard. If Brody is dating me just to get to Camille…

I can’t even think about it. He wouldn’t do that. He couldn’t.

Then again, it’s not like I know Brody so well. I’ve known him for two weeks total. That’s not long at all.

I have no idea what he’s really like.



The next night is my dinner date with Brody at his apartment. I had been looking forward to it so much, but since my conversation with Camille, my excitement has a bitter edge.

I wonder if when he met you, he thought maybe it would be a way to get to me…

Her words are on repeat in my brain. I can’t stop thinking them over and over. And every time, I feel like I’m going to throw up.

Brody lives in the East Village, in a new-appearing building that has a tall, imposing doorman guarding the entrance. He buzzes me up right away when he hears my name, which makes me think Brody alerted him I was coming.

When I get upstairs, Brody greets me at the door. He looks so completely adorable and I love the way his blue eyes light up when he sees me. He can’t be faking that. There’s no way. Nobody is that good an actor.

He’s dressed pretty nice again, in a black button-up shirt, and dark brown slacks. I love how he makes an effort every time we have a date. Again, I wonder who dressed him. No matter what else, there’s no way he could do those buttons.

“Come here,” Brody says as I step inside. He tilts his head up, and I can tell he wants to kiss me, so I lean in for it. It’s not a big dramatic kiss, but I still melt into the feel of his lips on mine, his freshly shaved chin grazing against me. His breath tastes like spearmint, which makes me wish I had popped a Tic Tac before I came up here.

As we kiss, I make a decision. I will not think about Camille anymore. There’s no way Brody is playing me to get to my sister. I don’t believe he would do that.

“So dinner is on the table,” he tells me.

“Did you cook?” I ask.

Brody laughs like I was making a joke, even though I wasn’t. I guess there’s no way he could have cooked us dinner since he could barely feed himself. That was a dumb question.

Brody’s apartment is slightly larger than mine and sparsely furnished. He has only the bare minimum of furniture, including his dining table, a sofa, one bookcase, and a television. One thing I appreciate is how clean it is. A lot of men in their twenties are slobs, but this place is spotless.

The dining table is made up with two plates of roasted chicken with sides of mashed potatoes and baby carrots. I can tell which side is meant to be his because there’s no chair there, the chicken is already cut up into pieces, and there’s a straw in the water glass. Again, no hint of alcohol at the table, dammit. It’s funny because I drink less than most people, but every time I’m with him, I feel like I need something to take the edge off. Maybe some Xanax next time.

I look at him questioningly, and he says, “It was a joint effort. My cleaning woman slash cook brought the food this morning… Usually, she makes me something simple on a plate that I can pop in the microwave. And I had my PCA come in to help me get ready and get the dinner on the table.”

I frown. “Your… what?”

“My PCA,” he repeats. When he sees the confusion on my face, he clarifies: “Sorry, I forget everyone doesn’t know what a personal care assistant is. I have three of them that alternate coming in to help me with… stuff. I always need them first thing in the morning and at night, but they can usually come in if there’s some extra thing I need during the day. Or my brother can help.” He adds, “But that’s rare. I don’t usually need them during the day.”

That’s good to know. If things get more serious with Brody, it’s better if he doesn’t have a personal care assistant hanging around us all the time.

Eyeing the plate of food, I slide into the lone seat, and Brody positions himself across from me. Instead of the cuff he used in the restaurant, he has a cuff with a fork already attached to it. It’s much easier for him to slide that onto his hand and be ready to eat. It takes him seconds, rather than the effort he put into it in the restaurant.

I take a bite of the chicken. It’s okay—not great. I’m not a fan of chicken breast, but it’s pretty much the only protein I eat. Dark meat has too much fat. Anyway, Brody barely ate any of his food yesterday, so I have to follow suit. I can’t clean my plate if he leaves half his food over.

“This is great,” I lie.

Brody nods. “Yeah, Meg is a great cook.”

I push my chicken breast around my plate and glance up at his bookcase. The wooden bookcase is only half-height and has a couple of framed photos resting on it. I point to a picture of a middle-aged couple. “Are those your parents?”

“Uh-huh,” Brody says. “My mom brought me the photos and made me put them there. I’m not that big on pictures, to be honest.”

“It’s sweet to have photos of your family in your house,” I say.

“Oh?” Brody raises his eyebrows and grins. “In that case, I totally put them up there myself.”

I laugh and study the photo more carefully. “You look like your mother.” Mrs. Nolan is beautiful—or at least, looks like she would have been twenty years earlier.

“Yeah, that’s what people tell me,” Brody says.

There’s one other photo, of a redheaded guy about Brody’s age who is balanced inside a canoe on some sort of camping trip. “Who’s that?”

“My brother, Sean,” Brody says. “He’s eleven months older than me. We’re literally Irish twins.”

Despite Brody’s comments the other day about having an Irish face, his brother’s features much more resemble someone from the old country. He’s got red hair, eyes close together, a ruddy complexion, a broad face, and a prominent chin. While Brody looks like a sweet guy, I can’t help but think his brother looks like the type that you’d see in a barroom brawl. “He looks more like your dad,” I say.

Brody nods and takes a bite of mashed potatoes. “That’s what they say.”

“Are you guys close?”

Brody hesitates. “Yes. I mean, he’s my brother and I love him. He’s like my best friend, but… we fight. A lot.”

I’m guessing he’s not referring to fistfights, but rather more cerebral disagreements. “What do you fight about?”

He grins. “Dunno. Brother stuff.”

Brother stuff. Cop out. But it doesn’t seem like Brody wants to tell me what his fights with his brother are about, and I can only imagine. I wonder if they ever fought over a woman. Isn’t that what guys fight over?

“How about you?” he asks. “Just Cammy?”

I bristle at the mention of my sister’s name. Obviously, he hasn’t forgotten about her. “Just Cammy.”

“What is she up to anyway?” he asks.

I study his face. He looks awfully interested. “She just got married. Last year.”

“Oh.” Does he seem disappointed? “Well, good for her.”

“Were you good friends with her?”

“Cammy?” He scoffs. “No. Not at all.”

Were you in love with her? Because she thinks you were. “Why not?”

“Because…” He looks like he’s going to say something, but then he changes his mind. “We just weren’t. Different crowds.”

There’s something he’s not telling me. But I don’t want to sound crazy, demanding to know if he was in love with my sister. So I just let it go. I still have that uneasy feeling though.

I end up clearing the table after dinner, even though Brody firmly insists that his PCA will take care of it. Not that I’m anal or anything, but I just can’t bear to leave a table full of dirty dishes. I know he does it every night, but I’m not disabled. It’s shameful to leave dirty dishes on the table.

“Meg said she left some pastries in the kitchen too,” Brody calls to me as I carry the dishes to the kitchen. “I’m not hungry, but you can help yourself if you’d like.”

I shouldn’t. I really shouldn’t.

But I’m starving. Brody only ate about half of the dinner, so I only ate about a third. And it was dry chicken breast. Not exactly satisfying. I feel like I need something else.

So I rifle around the kitchen counter, looking for the pastries. After a less than exhaustive search, I find a Tupperware bowl of about twenty raspberry tartlets sitting on the microwave.

I pop one in my mouth. And oh my God, these are freaking amazing. How come this woman messed up a simple piece of chicken, but she can make the most delicious tartlets I’ve ever eaten?

Okay, I need another one. Just one more. Okay, two more. Three. And that’s it.

Tomorrow, I’ll skip breakfast.

“Meg’s a great baker,” Brody says when I come back into the room. “Did you try the pastries?”

“Um, no,” I mumble. “I don’t like raspberries.” Hopefully, he won’t notice them missing.

“Oh, too bad,” Brody says. “Meg makes great pastries—I wanted you to try one.”

I can barely look him in the eyes. “That’s okay.”

“Do you want something else?” he asks me. “I think there’s ice cream in the freezer.”

Is he serious?

I can’t believe he offered me ice cream. Nobody offers me ice cream. Everyone figures I shouldn’t be eating it. How is it possible that he could be so okay with my weight?

Unless he isn’t interested in me at all.

I wonder if when he met you, he thought maybe it would be a way to get to me…

“No, thanks,” I mumble.

“Do you want to watch a movie?” He nods at his TV. “I’ve got a ton of DVDs. Pick out whichever one you want.”

I lift my eyebrows at him. “Are you sure you want to give me that kind of power? What if I have terrible taste in movies?”

Brody shrugs and smiles. “Well, they’re my movies. I’m pretty sure they’re all good.”

I check out the selection. It’s not a bad collection, but they’re all “guy flicks” like Old School, The Hangover, The Godfather, Die Hard, and Iron Man. I see he’s got a copy of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which is a funny movie, but might be awkward considering that… well, I’m a virgin. Brody’s not. I’m almost certain of it. Finally, I select The Matrix.

“Awesome,” Brody says. “Long movie. Lots of time to feel you up.”

I laugh nervously. Because I’ve never been felt up before.

I load the movie up in the DVD player while Brody goes to dim the lights. I sit down on his couch and he pulls up next to me in his wheelchair. He’s right next to me, but not as close as I’d like him to be. “Do you want to sit with me on the couch?” I ask him.

“Um,” he says.

He doesn’t want to sit next to me. That’s not a good sign.

“It’s okay,” I blurt out. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

Brody eyes the space on the couch next to me. “I do want to—believe me,” he says. Then he sighs. “Look, Emily, I need to be honest with you.”

My heart speeds up. I’m not sure I want to hear this. But at least he’s telling me the truth now.

“The thing is…” His cheeks turn slightly pink. “I’m not able to get in and out of my wheelchair on my own. So while I’d truly love to sit next to you, I just… can’t.”

I’m such an idiot. How did I not realize that? And here I was, thinking the worst of him. Camille did a number on me.

“Oh,” I breathe. “Um, could I help you?”

He shakes his head. “You’re not trained and I’m not sure how strong you are. I have a bad feeling I’d end up on the floor and then I’d be stuck.” He puts his arm on the couch armrest between us, where my hand was already resting. “We’re still close though. Is this okay?”

“Of course,” I murmur. Even though it’s not entirely true. But he already looks like he feels awful about it. I don’t want him to feel worse.

“You could sit on my lap?” he offers.

I cringe. I think of my weight on his legs and it worries me. I don’t want to injure him. “I probably shouldn’t,” I say. “I’m sort of a… big girl.”

I half-expect Brody to reassure me I’m not, but instead he just frowns and looks a little troubled. “Yeah.”


“No, I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m the one who can’t even sit next to you on the fucking couch.” He takes a shaky breath. “Next time, maybe I’ll… I don’t know…”

“Well, what have you done with other girls?” I ask him.

The red in Brody’s cheeks spreads into his ears. “There haven’t been, you know, many. Honestly? I’ve only had one serious relationship since my injury and she was my former PCA, so she knew how to help me out with this kind of stuff.”

He seems embarrassed about his lack of experience, although he’s still way ahead of me. I don’t want to tell him that though. If he knew he was my first kiss, he’d freak out.

“This isn’t my favorite second date conversation,” Brody sighs. “Next time I’ll get Mike, my evening PCA, to hang out in the bedroom in case we need anything. He told me he’d be willing to stick around, but I thought I’d be okay. He already promised he’d help out in the future if we ever wanted to, you know… be intimate.”

Now he’s really red. Another downside to his fair skin tone. I guess it’s hard on him that he needs help just to have a basic romantic relationship. I want to reach out and give him a hug, but that might be more awkward than reassuring. I do like the fact that Brody is planning for future dates already… and maybe more. I still can’t get over that he thinks of me that way. There’s no way this has anything to do with Camille. I’m convinced.

“Let’s watch the movie, okay?” Brody says.

I nod and squeeze his hand. The skin of his palm is surprisingly soft, although his fingers feel a little stiff. He smiles over at me, so I keep my hand there. Maybe it isn’t as good as cuddling on the couch, but it’s nice.

I have my hand on his through most of the movie, except twice he has to pull away from me. “I have to do a weight shift,” he explains, and then his wheelchair tilts backward in space about forty-five degrees. “Sorry about that.”

“Can you still see?” I ask him.

“Mostly,” he says. “Don’t worry, I’ve seen this movie about a million times. Just… don’t pay attention to me.”

I’d never seen him do anything like that before, but I guess he must have done it right before and after class, so he could pay attention to the lecture. And I guess he didn’t want to do it during our first date, which is understandable. It would have been awkward if he suddenly had to tilt his wheelchair back in the middle of our meal.

It occurs to me he’s got a routine that works for him and allows him to be entirely independent during the day. He’s been doing this for like ten years. And now because he’s dating me, he has to break that routine and ask for extra help. Yet he still feels like it’s worth it to go out with me and be close to me. It’s very sweet.

And then after the movie, I sit down on a chair next to him and we kiss for a little while. In some ways, it’s a relief that Brody’s disability limits how fast we can move in this relationship. I need to take things slow, and slow is the only way he can go these days.

To be continued.... 


  1. Omg I loved this chapter.
    I like it that your characters are so human. Emily feels just very... Parodn my punch, *accessible*. She wants not to feel jealous or doubt Brody but she still does because she's human. I like that.
    And Brody is so adorable. I really want Emily to learn how to move him around so we can have some more steamy making out sessions, hehe. It was a really devy chapter.
    Well, thank you for posting! Amazing chapter and story as always :D

    1. Thanks! They are definitely (eventually) going to get some sexy time!

  2. Love this!! I too wanna see Emily learning how to position brody so they can have more sexy time, hehe

  3. Great characters you have there. Really enjoying it! Brody seems adorable. He seems so adjusted to his life, it's great to read. :D

  4. Thank you for this wonderful chapter!

  5. Really enjoying this story and looking forward to reading the full book.

  6. Fantastic! Really missed your stories in the brief time before you posted it. I even literally reread ALL of your books in less than two weeks, seriously. I was starving for some of yout dev content lol Looking forward to more ;)

    1. Aw, thanks! I'm definitely slowing down a bit on creating new stuff, which is why I've been revising some of my old stuff. It's hard to get up the motivation sometimes... I feel like I've written everything.

    2. My issue is that I seem to have so many ideas that I can't get off my head, but no ability to write them. Maybe we should switch, lol but really, I think it could be really cool to maybe do an interactive kinda thing, where we maybe tip you ideas and you feed us with amazing stories. :D

    3. Hmm. You've given me an idea...