Saturday, May 1, 2021

Such a Pretty Face, Chapter 5


When I get my weekly phone call from my mother, my heart sinks. I wonder if there’s any chance at all that Camille didn’t tell her about Brody.

“Who is this boy you’re seeing?” my mother asks before she even says hello. So much for hoping Camille didn’t rat me out.

“I met him in my night class,” I say. “He’s really nice.”

“Uh-huh.” Mom sounds skeptical. “Camille says she knew him in high school, and he wasn’t a nice boy.”

I’m still not sure whether or not to believe that. Brody seems nothing like the guy Camille was describing the other night. Maybe she’s mixing him up with somebody else. “People change.”

“I’m just worried, Emily.” Her voice takes on a patronizing tone. “You’ve never been in a relationship with a man before. That makes you a target for somebody to take advantage of you.”

“He’s not taking advantage of me,” I insist. “He…”

I want to tell her about Brody’s disability, but part of me feels like she’ll just use it as another reason I shouldn’t go out with him. Or worse, she’ll assume he’s going out with me because he can’t get anyone else. Well, I don’t know if that’s worse. But it’s just as bad.

“He’s a good guy,” I say. “I promise.”

My mother lets out a sigh. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to doubt you, but it all just seems very suspicious. You just met this boy, and you don’t know much about him. Why does he want to go out with you?”

I flinch. She would never ask that question of Camille. “Because he likes me.”

“But you have to ask yourself why?”

I don’t even know what to say. I’m speechless. Does my own mother feel that I’m so undesirable that any man who agrees to go out with me must be preying on me?

“I’m sorry,” she adds. “It’s just that Camille said he’s very… attractive.”

She’s not making it better. And it also gives me an uneasy feeling that Camille thinks Brody is hot.

“Did he ask you for money?” she asks. “Does he want you to get drugs for him?”

“This is a really insulting conversation,” I say. “He likes me because… He just does. And I like him. A lot.” I squeeze the phone in my hand, thinking about how very much I like Brody Nolan. There’s nothing my mother could say to change that fact. “And I’m going to keep seeing him.”

She’s silent for a moment on the other line. “Fine. I just think you should be careful.”

“I’m careful!”

Of course, she doesn’t believe it. She and Camille both think that Brody is playing me. There’s nothing I can do to change her mind.



I assume that at some point, Brody will expect to see me naked.

I don’t look good naked. When I get undressed at night, I avoid looking in my full-length mirror, because even a glimpse makes me feel horrible about myself. The only positives I could list would be that my breasts are big—they pretty much have to be. But they’re overshadowed by rolls of fat and cellulite. My stomach sticks out almost as much as my boobs do, and now it’s started sagging down over my thighs. My butt is the biggest of all—easily large enough to take up two normal size chairs.

I’m not sure how long I can avoid taking my clothes off in front of him. Honestly, I could probably get away with it for a while. He’s not going to be ripping them off, to say the least. And he can’t undress himself either, so I’m thinking we’re going to stay in our clothes for quite a while.

But it’s going to happen. Eventually.

I need to step up my diet a notch. Granted, I’m always on a diet. But I would love to drop at least fifty pounds before he sees me naked. And I haven’t lost any weight this year. I just keep gaining, despite all my efforts.

A couple of days after my date with Brody, I come home to find Abby cooking in the kitchen. I watch Abby’s lithe body dancing around the stove and feel a flash of envy. My life would be so much easier if I looked like her. I wouldn’t have to worry about people shouting mean things at me when I walk down the street. I wouldn’t have to endure stupid comments from family and friends every time they see me eat so much as a french fry. Nobody would think I’m being targeted just because a man shows interest in me.

I wonder what she’s cooking. It smells horrible, but I’m sure it’s healthy. It will probably help me lose weight, if only because it will make me vomit up everything I’ve eaten today.

“Abby?” I say, before I can change my mind.

Abby looks up at me and smiles. “Hi, Emily! What’s up?”

I sniff the air. “What are you making? It smells… good.”

Abby’s eyes light up. “Does it? It’s bean curd with brussel sprouts.”

It looks like chunky diarrhea. “Oh,” I say.

“Would you like some?” Abby offers.

I push away a wave of revulsion. “Um, sure.”

“Wonderful!” Abby waves her hand over the pan of food to allow the smell to waft up to her nostrils. “Mmm… this smells so good. It’s making my stomach growl.”

She has got to be putting me on. This food smells awful. It smells like somebody left some beans out for a few months, they rotted, and then someone mixed the rotted bean curd with garbage.

Abby spoons her concoction onto two plates while I pour myself a glass of water. I sit down at the table and stare at my plate. I do not want to eat this. But I have to do something drastic. I don’t want Brody to see me naked looking the way I do now.

“Try it,” Abby encourages me. “Honestly, Emily, it’s amazeballs!”

Well, if it’s amazeballs. Whatever the hell that means.

I cautiously dip my fork into the food. Oh God, I really don’t want to eat this. I push the forkful of bean curd into my mouth, then I force myself to chew and swallow.

I clamp my hand over my mouth. It’s the only thing keeping me from vomiting.

“Isn’t it good?” Abby asks me.

I’m saved from having to give a response by the ringing of my cell phone. I pull it out of my pocket and see the number Brody gave me popping up on the screen. Abby’s eyes light up. “Is that the guy you’ve been dating?”

I nod and turn away from her to answer the call: “Hey there.”

“Hey!” It’s Brody’s voice. “I’m calling you on your phone! First time!”

Sometimes he’s too cute for words. “You sure are.”

“Can you talk? Am I interrupting anything?”

I look up at Abby, who is hanging on my every word, curious for information about this guy who is actually willing to go out with me. She’s been trying to pump me for details, but I’ve been avoiding her. “Abby,” I say. “Would you mind if I ate the rest of this in my room?”

Abby’s face falls—I guess she wanted us to bond over bean curd. I grab the plate and run to my room. There’s absolutely no way I’m eating this plate of food—I’ll dump it in the garbage disposal tonight, when Abby is in her room.

“Thank you,” I say into the phone. “You saved me from dinner with my roommate.”

“You never told me you had a roommate,” he says.

“Not much to tell,” I say. “I have a roommate. She’s nice but annoying.”

“Why is she annoying?”

“Let me put it this way,” I say, “she uses the word ‘amazeballs.’ Like, not sarcastically.”

“I didn’t know women used that word.”

“Are you kidding me? Only women use that word.”

“Yeah, but it has the word ‘balls’ in it.”

I laugh into the phone. “I don’t think the ‘balls’ in ‘amazeballs’ necessarily refers to testicles.”

“I always assumed it did.”

I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. But I’m going to mention this to Abby. Maybe I can get her to stop saying it. That would be amazeballs.

“So here’s the deal,” Brody says. “Unfortunately, Mike’s girlfriend is coming into town this weekend from Colorado, so I don’t think he’s going to be able to help me. I’m getting my brother to cover for him on Saturday night, so he won’t be around at all.”

“Oh,” I say.

“I know—it’s frustrating,” he sighs. “But I was thinking, if you’re free, maybe we could do something outside on Saturday? It’s supposed to be a nice day. Like… the Central Park Zoo?”

“All right,” I agree. I haven’t been to the zoo since I was a child. I kind of remember that it used to smell like animals and animal poop.

“Great,” he says. “Do you want to meet by the front entrance at three?”


“I can’t wait,” he says.

I love how Brody doesn’t play games. Even though I’ve never been in an actual relationship before, I’ve been in plenty of online ones and it seemed like there was usually never a good balance of how attentive the guy was. Either he’d be way too aloof and act like he didn’t care at all if we talked, or he’d be way too needy. Brody doesn’t seem worried about waiting X number of days before calling me, or not letting on that he wants to see me. Yet he doesn’t bother me every two seconds with texts and calls. I like that.

“Also,” he says, “I have a question.”


“Why did Camille Davison send me a Facebook message saying, ‘Stay away from my sister’?”

I groan. “She didn’t…”

“Yeah…” He snorts. “I guess you told her we were going out?”

“I did. And… she doesn’t like you very much.”

That makes him laugh. “Even after all these years. Wow. Nice.”

“Actually, she…” I suck in a breath. “She told me that you… you asked her out in high school.”

“I what?”

He sounds surprised, but he’s not denying it. “Did you?”

“No!” he says vehemently. “Definitely not. Believe me, I didn’t like her or want to go out with her. I don’t know why she thinks that. If anything, she was always trying to…”

I wait for him to finish this thought, but he doesn’t. “Trying to what?”

“Nothing.” His voice is subdued. “Hey, did you tell Cammy that… you know, that I use a wheelchair now?”

“No…” I bite my lip. “I don’t know. I didn’t want to gossip or anything.”

“It’s not like it’s a secret.”

I can’t tell if he’s offended or not that I didn’t tell her. “I’ll tell her.”

“Okay.” He hesitates. “But just so you know, no matter what Cammy says, I don’t want to stay away from you. Just the opposite.”

I smile. “Me too.”

“So we agree your sister is full of it?”

I laugh. “Yeah, agreed.”

“Hey, Emily,” Brody says. His voice gets a little husky. “What are you wearing right now?”

I look down at my T-shirt and sweatpants. “I’m in my nightie,” I say. I have no idea what a nightie is, but it sounds way sexier than a T-shirt and sweatpants. Especially since I bought the sweatpants about thirty pounds ago, and they are digging into my belly, making an unsexy red line.

“I wish I were with you,” he says. And he sounds like he really, really means it.

“I could come over now,” I say tentatively. “I mean, if you’d like.”

“Seriously?” Brody sounds some combination of nervous and excited.

“Well, sure,” I say. It’s only eight o’clock. I usually don’t go to sleep till at least midnight, so I could hang out for a few hours at Brody’s apartment.

“The thing is,” he says. “Mike comes at nine-thirty to help me get ready for bed, so… I mean, by the time you got here…” I can hear the frustration in his voice. “Maybe it’s not the best idea, Emily. I’m sorry. I do want to see you. I mean, it would have been awesome. It would have been amazeballs.”

“It’s okay,” I say.

“I’m really sorry,” he says again.

I try to hide my disappointment. “Don’t worry about it.”

We talk about this and that for a while longer. He finally gets off the phone when Mike comes in and it’s time for him to get ready for bed. I’m not even close to ready for bed, so instead, I go out and get myself a real dinner, surreptitiously tossing my bean curd down the garbage disposal on the way out.



Saturday turns out to be a nice, hot day. Maybe the last hot day before fall sets in for real. But I hate hot days. Rain would have been preferable.

If you have a cute little body, I’m sure it’s tons of fun to dress in skimpy clothing and trounce around the city. When you’re morbidly obese, it’s less fun. Gigantic, puffy winter coats are the great equalizer, but during the summer, everything is on display for passers-by to critique.

And of course, I can’t cover up when it gets hot because… big surprise: I sweat. Like a fountain. Even in a T-shirt and shorts, I get sweaty. If I wore anything warmer than that, I’d be drenched. I don’t think I want to have pit stains during my date.

So for our date at the Central Park Zoo, I select a black short-sleeved shirt and shorts that come nearly down to my knees. It’s the best I can do. It’s the skimpiest thing I’ve worn around Brody, and it makes me edgy.

When I get to the zoo, Brody is already waiting outside the entrance. He’s wearing jeans and also had to opt for the rare short-sleeved shirt. I realize I’ve never seen his bare arms before, because every other time, he’s been wearing a sweatshirt or some sort of over-shirt… or a dress shirt on our two dates. I didn’t realize how thin his forearms were. He does have biceps, but his forearms are completely devoid of any sort of muscle or fat or anything. They don’t look functional at all, which I guess is accurate.

“Hey, Emily!” Brody calls out when he spots me. He’s wearing a pair of Ray Bans and his red-tingled hair is wind-tousled—he looks pretty darn adorable.

I walk over to him, and he tilts his head up to me. I realize he wants to kiss me, so after a second of hesitation, I lean in. When I’m close to him, he whispers in my ear, “I had a great dream about you last night.”

My cheeks grow warm. I’ve never had a guy talk to me this way—at least, not in the real world. It makes me both excited and embarrassed. I’m sort of grateful that he doesn’t tell me any more details of his dream, even though part of me is dying to hear.

The line for tickets is insane. Everyone else thought the zoo would be a good idea today too. It’s one of those lines that’s held together by a maze of ropes, and Brody curses when he sees it. “I hate these things.”

Sure enough, he gets in all right, but as he attempts to turn as the line moves forward, he knocks down one of the metal poles. I jump over to grab it, while Brody apologizes. “These things do not allow for a big enough turning radius,” he grumbles. I don’t say anything about it, but I hate those poles too. My butt has knocked over dozens in my lifetime.

As I’m fixing the pole, a young man jogs over to us wearing a staff member shirt. He addresses Brody directly. “Sir,” he says anxiously. “You can enter the zoo free of charge.” He looks over at me. “Your caregiver can enter free of charge as well.”

It’s hard to read Brody’s expression because of his dark glasses, but he just looks up and stares at the guy. “What?”

“We now allow handicapped patrons and their helpers to enter the zoo for free,” the man clarifies, smiling generously.

Brody shakes his head. “I… she’s my girlfriend.”

“Oh!” The staff member seems taken aback. Christ, is it really that hard to believe? “Well, that’s okay. You can still both enter for free.”

Brody looks like he’s debating saying no, but the line isn’t shrinking, and there’s a toddler right ahead of us who just started shrieking. Finally, Brody mumbles, “Okay, thanks.”

We get off the line and follow the man to the front entrance, and he waves us through. “You and your girlfriend have a wonderful time!” he calls to us. “Enjoy the animals!”

An awkward silence hangs between me and Brody as we travel through the zoo. I don’t know why—I mean, the zoo is expensive, and we got in for free. Not that he seems to care about stuff like that.

We’re nearly at the sea lions when he finally breaks the silence: “I didn’t mean to tell him you’re my girlfriend.”

My heart sinks. Why did he say that? He just said that thing about having a dream about me, and I thought he really liked me. Did my shorts and T-shirt change his mind?

“Okay…” I murmur.

“Um…” Brody looks up at me. I wish I could see his eyes. Stupid sunglasses. “That’s not what I meant. Like, we’ve only been on a few dates, so… I mean, I don’t consider you my girlfriend yet or anything.” He rubs his chin with the back of his hand. “Unless you want to be. If you do, then… I mean, that would be okay… more than okay… it would be great. Really great. But like I said, it’s only been a few dates, so I don’t want to pressure you.”

“I do want to be,” I say. “Your girlfriend, that is.”

A smile creeps across his face. “Yeah?”

I return the smile. “Yeah.”

Brody nods, pleased with himself. “Well, then, I’m glad that guy was such an idiot.”

I lean in to kiss him, and my heart is pounding in my chest. Brody is my boyfriend. I have a boyfriend! A real boyfriend who knows what I look like and wants to kiss me. It’s so freaking surreal. I feel like I’m floating on a cloud.

The first animal exhibit we see is the sea lions. We stop and watch for a little while, and inevitably, I hear some little kid say, “Mommy, that lady is fatter than the sea lions.”

And that takes me down from my cloud just like that.

Kids always say what they’re thinking. And they always seem to think that I’m fat. Or else pregnant. I get nervous whenever I’m around them for that reason.

I glance at Brody, to see if he heard. But he seems to be concentrating on fumbling through the pouch on his wheelchair. A minute later, he comes up with a tube of sunscreen.

“I didn’t realize how sunny it was going to be,” he explains. “I don’t want to get fried. I don’t tan well.”

He brings the tube of lotion to his mouth and uses his teeth to pop the cap. He lays the tube on his lap and gives it a squirt, aiming for his other hand, but largely missing and dousing his jeans.

“Crap,” he comments.

“Do you want me to help you put that on?” I ask him.

“No, that’s okay.” Brody looks down at the tube of sunscreen, then back up at me. “Um, well. If you help me, would that be sexy or weird?”

“Sexy,” I assure him. It might be a little weird too. But it’s truly painful to watch him battling with that tube of sunscreen.

“Fine then,” he says, and he lifts his arm to allow me to pick up the sunscreen.

I squirt some of the white sunscreen onto my hands and Brody holds out his left arm to me. He is really white, which makes sense since he’s Irish and hasn’t gotten much sun lately. I spread the cream over his arm, rubbing it into his skin. His lower arms are so withered that I can palpate every single bone. His skin is smooth, but I notice when I get to his wrist, the joint feels a little stiff, as do his fingers. Although as I creep up to his upper arms, I notice his biceps are still pretty much intact.

“Do you want me to do your face?” I ask him, when I finish with his arms.

“Yes, please,” he says.

Brody gets this kind of dopey expression on his face as I spread the cream over the bridge of his nose, then his cheeks, and forehead with their almost-freckles. When I get to his chin, I feel the sharp stubble of his beard under my fingers. If he grew a real beard, it would probably be redder than his hair.

“Thanks,” he says, as I put the cap back on the sunscreen and replace it in his pouch. “That was actually… kind of hot.”

You know what? It really was.



The zoo is fairly accessible, and we end up visiting most of the exhibits. Brody’s favorite seems to be the polar bear. There’s a flight of stairs to get up to see it from above, but we can watch it swimming around through glass on the ground level. He pulls off his sunglasses and watches that polar bear in fascination for several minutes.

Don’t laugh, but I’m delighted he likes the polar bear. Because that polar bear is definitely fatter than I am.

My least favorite exhibit has always been the Tropic Zone. It’s this exhibit that’s set up like a rainforest, complete with stifling humidity. I remember going there as a kid with my parents and my sisters, feeling the sweat accumulating under my armpits, hearing the wooden planks groaning beneath my weight. I remember how narrow the pathway was and how there were always freaking kids everywhere. As we get closer to the Tropic Zone, I grow seriously anxious that I might not fit down the pathway. Or that the planks might break under my weight.

“Um,” I say, once the Tropic Zone looms in front of us. “Did you… want to go in?”

“Hell, no,” Brody says. “Sorry. I know they have the little blue wheelchair sign, but I don’t trust my wheelchair to fit down those pathways. I’d get stuck or something.”

We must be soulmates. Not only is he worried about not being able to navigate through the Tropic Zone, but when it comes to kids saying what’s on their mind, he has gotten it way, way worse than I have today. At least half a dozen kids have loudly asked their parents what’s wrong with him. While we were in the snow leopard exhibit, one boy came right up to Brody and said to him, “Mister, why do you need a wheelchair?”

And that time, the parents didn’t even stop the kid. They just stood there, like this was a totally appropriate question.

“Because I can’t walk,” Brody told the boy. Duh.

“What’s wrong with your arms?” the boy pressed him.

At this point, the boy’s father said, “He’s very curious about things! You don’t mind answering, do you?”

Brody glanced up at me. I got the idea that if I weren’t standing right there, he might not have been so polite or patient. But he’s on his best behavior in front of me. “Uh, sure,” he said. He looked down at the little boy. “I had an injury to my spinal cord, so my arms and my legs don’t work very well.”

“But how do you go to the bathroom?” the boy asked. I swear to God, he really asked that. And at that point, the parents realized he’d gone too far, and pulled him away. Although to be honest, I was kind of wondering about that myself. I made a trip to the ladies’ room and Brody just waited outside for me. How the hell does he do it?

We get dinner at the Dancing Crane Café. Brody orders chicken fingers, which he manages to eat easily. He just scoops them up in his hand, and somehow they stay in there. There’s no salad option, so I get myself a hot dog. Just one hot dog. No french fries.

While we’re finishing up our food, I hear a phone going off. Brody reaches inside his pouch and pulls out his phone. He lays it down on his lap and presses a button with his knuckle to answer.

“Hey, Bro!” A loud, tinny voice booms out from the phone. “What took you so long to answer? You making out with your girlfriend?”

“Shut up, Sean.” Brody rolls his eyes at me. I guess it’s his brother. “Where are you?”

“Dad gave me the keys to the van,” Sean says. “Do you want me to pick you up at the… what fucking lame place did you take her to? The pussy museum?”

“Fuck you,” Brody says good-naturedly. “Emily and I are at the zoo.”

“The zoo!” Sean busts out laughing. “Wow, she’s already got you whipped. Hey, can she hear me?”

“Yeah,” Brody says, glancing up at me nervously.

“Hey, Emily!” Sean calls out. “Tell Brody to pick you up some tampons and bras, okay?”

“Will do,” I say. It’s easy to be playful on the phone. It’s sort of my expertise.

“Oh, I like her!” Sean laughs. “She sounds hot. Nice job, Bro.”

“Thanks,” Brody says, rolling his eyes at me again. “Emily, are you ready to leave?” I nod. “Okay, we’re ready to go. Can you pick me up?”

“Sure. Does Emily need a ride home?”

Brody looks up at me. I would love a ride home, but my stomach clenches up at the idea of meeting Sean. I don’t want to meet Brody’s smartass brother, and hear the comment he makes when he finds out I’m not actually hot. And judging by the way this guy sounds on the phone, he is definitely somebody who will comment.

But now that Brody and I are officially boyfriend and girlfriend, meeting him is unavoidable. He’s Brody’s only brother, after all. I may as well get it over with. And I don’t want to wait at the bus stop for the next half hour.

“Okay, thanks,” I say.

“All right, give me like twenty minutes,” Sean says. I hear honking and cursing in the background. Where is he?

Brody and I make our way slowly back to the entrance of the park. It’s sort of frustrating how the schedule of other people seems to dictate everything we do. Brody must sense I’m thinking about that, because he says to me, “Next weekend, we’ll spend some time alone together. I promise.”

A gray van careens down Fifth Avenue at an almost alarming speed. The van narrowly avoids a collision with a taxi, and there’s an exchange of angry honking and swear words, only about half of which are in English. The van then screeches to a halt in front of us.

The passenger’s side window slides open, and I see the face I recognize from the photo on Brody’s bookcase. Ruddy complexion and red hair. Sean. He’s grinning out at us. “Record time, right?”

“How many little old ladies did you hit on the way over?” Brody asks.

“Hey, if they can’t leap out of the way, they have no business crossing the street.”

The back door of the van opens automatically, and a platform extends slowly. When it’s fully extended, the end lowers to turn it into a ramp onto the van. Brody pushes his hand into the joystick of his chair and boards the van. I open the passenger’s side door next to Sean and climb inside.

“Whoa,” Sean says as I plop down into the seat next to him. He smirks and my cheeks grow hot, waiting for his commentary. “Quite a woman you got here, Bro.”

“Shut the fuck up, Sean,” Brody says. He doesn’t say it like he’s joking around either.

“Easy there, tiger,” Sean laughs. He winks at me. “Nice to meet you, Emily. I’m Sean.”

“Hi,” I mumble.

“Now I’ll drop you off first,” Sean says. “And then I’m going to take your boyfriend to a strip club, if that’s okay with you.”

“He’s joking,” Brody says, shaking his head. I’m glad he said it because I wasn’t entirely certain. “I forgot to tell you, Emily. My brother’s a complete jackass.”

“I take that as a compliment,” Sean says.

I pull on my seatbelt, and for one horrifying moment, I’m frightened it won’t reach around my belly. I can’t even imagine having to explain that one to Sean. Well, I wouldn’t. I’d pretend that it was closed, while secretly holding it in place—I’ve done it before, believe me. Fortunately, it snaps shut, just barely, although I’m not left with much breathing room.

Sean turns back to look at Brody as he starts up the engine. “Nice Ray Bans, Brody. They look a little familiar.”

Brody fingers his sunglasses then grabs them between his thumb and forefinger to pull them off. I missed his clear blue eyes. “Oops, sorry. You want them back?”

“Nah, keep ‘em.” Sean glances at me as we move into traffic. “That’s the problem with having a little brother. He steals all your shit.”

As Sean speaks to me, I can’t help but get a whiff of his breath. Even though it’s early and he’s driving, he stinks of alcohol. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a car before with someone who appeared to be drunk. And Sean is driving like a maniac. They say cab drivers are crazy, but Sean is a million times worse. I’m frightened.

I’ve never had a panic attack before, but I feel one coming on. I look back at Brody, who seems entirely unconcerned. Well, he’s already paralyzed. I grab onto my seat, trying to figure out what to do. Finally, I blurt out, “Actually, can you drop me off right here?”

Sean looks at me in surprise. “What?” he says.

“She’s probably terrified of your reckless driving,” Brody says from the back.

“No, it’s not that.” I’m just terrified of his drunken, reckless driving. “I just remembered I have… something to do.”

They both think I’m crazy, but I can’t relax till I’m out of that car. By the time Sean pulls over at the curb and lets me out, I’m physically shaking. I watch him drive away, feeling guilty that I did nothing to stop him from driving drunk. Was there some sort of intervention I was supposed to do? Take away his car keys?

But I just met the guy, and he’s my boyfriend’s brother. I don’t want him to hate me forever. Or worse, Brody to hate me forever.



I stop at McDonald’s on the way home.

I shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t. But all I had to eat today was that teeny tiny hotdog that somehow cost five bucks. (Although Brody paid for it. He won’t let me contribute a penny.) I’m starving. And I’m feeling horrible about how our date ended. Brody probably hates me now.

There’s nobody else in line at McDonald’s. The cashier is a skinny high school kid who looks me up and down and snickers. “What can I get you?”

“I’ll have a large french fries.”

McDonald’s french fries are one of the best things in the world (although not as good as chocolate). No matter how many times Burger King revamps their fries, they will never be as good as the ones at McDonald’s. I love that crispness on the outside, the saltiness, the way they just melt in your mouth. While I’m eating those delicious fries, all is right in the world.

“Is that all?” the cashier asks.

Well, I’m already ruining my diet. I might as well have what I want. “I’ll also have a quarter pounder with cheese.”

I bring the food back to my room, grateful that Abby isn’t around. She would go nuts if she saw me with a McDonald’s bag. She thinks MacDonald’s is the evilest company in the world. I disagree.

I inhale my quarter pounder and fries in two minutes. I put my phone next to me and wait for Brody to call me.

And wait.

Except he doesn’t. Hours go by and still no call. Not that he told me he was going to call, but somehow I thought he would. Is it over? Was he so angered by my behavior that he doesn’t want to speak to me ever again?

It’s not until ten-thirty that my phone rings and Brody’s number pops up. I nearly crush the phone in my eagerness to answer it. “Hi,” I say.

“Hi.” His voice is low and serious. “Um, Sean is gone. I wanted to talk to you.”

I realize that if Sean is gone, then he must be in bed since he told me his brother was going to help him with his nightly routine. But presumably, he can still make calls, even if he’s in bed.

“Sure. What’s up?” I say, trying to sound casual. Oh my God, he’s going to dump me. I know it.

“I’m so sorry, Emily,” he says. “I know why you left the van.”

“You… you do?”

“Yeah.” Brody’s voice is husky. “I didn’t smell Sean’s breath till we got out of the car. I mean, he always acts like that, so it’s hard to tell from his behavior if he’s been drinking. I’m so pissed off at him.”

“Yeah,” I mumble.

“Well,” Brody sighs. “Now you know what we fight about.”

I stare at the phone. “Are you saying he has a drinking problem?”

“He used to,” Brody admits. “It used to be a huge problem. But he’s been good for a long time. His girlfriend of like three years broke up with him a few months ago though, and it’s been… hard. Not that it’s any excuse for driving drunk. I mean, especially after what happened to me…”

He trails off, and I get this bad feeling in my stomach. I haven’t asked him many details of how he got injured, because I wanted to be respectful of his privacy and all, but I can’t not ask this question. “Brody,” I say. “Was Sean driving drunk when you had your accident?”

He’s quiet for a long time. Finally, he says, “Yeah. He was.”

I’m completely blown away. Brody’s brother is responsible for him being a quadriplegic. How is it possible they’re still speaking to each other? If someone did that to me, family or not, I would never, ever forgive them. “Don’t you hate him?” I blurt out.

“Why?” Brody asks. “Because he ‘ruined’ my life?”

I don’t know what to say, so I keep my mouth shut.

“My life isn’t bad, Emily,” he says. “Yeah, I wish I didn’t have that accident. It makes things harder for me, to say the least. But I’ve got a good life in a lot of ways. I’ve got a great job, great friends, a great apartment, and now I’ve got… you.”

I swallow. “That’s true,” I manage.

“So yeah, I forgive him,” he goes on. “Plus… well, being angry isn’t productive. And Sean helps me out a lot. I’d be in a lot worse shape if I didn’t have him to pitch in when my PCAs need a vacation or something.”

Except he wouldn’t need those PCAs if not for Sean. But I’m not going to point that out to him. If Brody’s made peace with it, then I won’t begrudge him that. But for the record, I don’t like Sean Nolan.

To be continued.... 


  1. Thank you for the new chapter! Wasn't it so that in the first version Sean was very nasty towards Emily? I was dreading their first encounter but Sean's comment - “Quite a woman you got here, Bro.” - was like a a breath of fresh air! :) Maybe I'm wrong to like the nicer version of characters but I can't help it! :)
    Also, I don't remember their visit to the zoo, so whether it is a nice addition or you just made it memorable!
    Can't wait for the next part and the whole story!

    1. I don't think I made Sean nicer in this chapter, but he does end up being kind of a dick later!

  2. I really loved this chapter. I kept wishing it didn't end and fortunately it lasted for a long time. I kept pausing and coming back during the day just to savor it.
    I really liked their trip to the zoo, and my favorite part was, of course, the sunblock part on Brody's arms. Heh. Super sexy and devy scene. I keep finding him hotter and hotter, even though I'm not too into high quads. I guess I am now! You're a witch lol
    I love your writing as always. Thank you for a long update!
    Also, last chapter you said you felt like you've written everything and I gotta say—girl, there's nothing you'd write that I wouldn't read. I love your style and your characters, don't be afraid of doing your thing, even if it's with a supposedly unlikable character like The Bitch. You're amazing! Again, thank you for posting and just generally being amazing. I've been readinf your stuff for yearsss back when I could barely speak any english, and one of the reasons why I pushed myself was that I really wanted to read your books.
    Looking forward to next week!

    1. Wow, what an incredible compliment! You made my day!

  3. Niiiiice! Loved their zoo trip, the sunscreen part was definitely hot. And Brody's brother seems like... Something else lol really looking forward to seeing where this leads.

  4. Oh god, I don't like Sean... Yet. Hahaha Love Brody tho, he seems adorable and well adjusted, boyish but also mature? I really like his character.