Friday, July 16, 2021

Free Friday: I'm not a goddamn stroller

 This is a story from Selina based on the writing prompt:

Bear. That had been his nickname as long as he could remember. As a kid, it was because of his size. In high school, the monster blocks he made as a defensive end on the football field. In college it was a running joke because of his enormous appetite. Now — well, everyone knows that you should stay away from bears. They have a tendency to attack.

“Ben,” Alyssa turned, her auburn hair twirling with her. “Do you still want the phantom berry?”

Bear gripped his wheels and tried to focus on anything but the unintentional cleavage that was right in his face. He instead kept his eyes on the girl hooked over Alyssa's hip. Lily. She had Alyssa's pale blue eyes and jet hair, black like the grave he planned to put Chad in after the shit he pulled on his now ex-wife and daughter.

“Yoo-hoo.” Alyssa waved her hand in front of his face. “Ben Bearkley? Benny bear? You there?

He shook his head – the grizzly brown hair flipped into his eyes.  He really needed to stop putting it off and get a haircut. “Sorry, zoned out for a minute. And yeah, phantom berry.”

“Extra large, waffle cone, and jimmies in the bottom and on top.” Alyssa said with him in unison, grinning. She knew him too well. And that grin could undo him.

It was that grin that had him stripping her under the bleachers when they were 16. Those dimples that brought him to his knees to languish in her taste at 19. And that goddamn flash in those bright blue eyes that kept him going after the accident that changed everything.

He focused again on Lily. Three years old and still sucking her thumb. She clung so tightly to Alyssa, he worried that she might be a permanent growth. Weren't toddlers supposed to be more independent at this age?

Alyssa put her daughter down and whispered in her ear. Alyssa looked at Bear as she did, a knowing look on her face as Lily stepped over to his wheelchair.

“Ben bear. Up.” Lily held out her hands.

Without thinking, he lifted the girl under her armpits and placed her on his lap.  He had spent time with Lily before, but she had never asked to sit on his lap. Lily looked up at him with a huge white grin and wrapped her arms around him. He inhaled and used his hands to adjust the foot that shifted when she wiggled.

He looked to Alyssa who only smirked.

“I'm not a goddamn stroller,” he mouthed to her over Lily's head.

Alyssa shrugged and turned to the clerk to order their ice cream. Ice cream. Why had he thought getting ice cream with his ex and her kid was a good idea?  Especially now that things were officially, legally, and completely over between her and Chad. But... It was Alyssa. And Alyssa was so much more than just an ex.

“Ben bear,” Lily poked his broad chest. “Why do you like to sit down so much?”

This sort of question might have bugged him a few years ago, but coming from Lily it wasn't so bad. He waited a breath and saw Alyssa bite her lip as she waited for his response.

“My legs don't work like yours do anymore, so I get to use this cool chair. Want to see a trick?”

She nodded and he told her to hold on. In a smooth movement, he turned, popped a wheelie and went over the curb. He sped over to a bench, popped a wheelie again, and did a 360° spin.

Lily clutched his neck and screeched with laughter until he came to a stop.

“Again, again!” She demanded.

He obliged as Alyssa moved to the pick-up line.  He wheeled them over to a picnic table, settling himself at the end and depositing Lily on the bench next to him.

Ben couldn't take his eyes off Alyssa. Her teal blue top hugged all the right places and skin peeked out across her midriff. Those inches brought him back to a decade earlier. There were so many nights in the back of a pickup truck, afternoons under the bleachers after practice, frenzied mornings in her childhood treehouse, and the apple orchard.  Always the apple orchard. He looked down at his lap and adjusted. This he could not get used to. With his spinal cord injury, his control over those bodily functions could barely rival a 13-year-old boy discovering masturbation with a lingerie catalog.

He was almost 30 years old. Granted, four years of no action could do that to somebody. But getting a half-mast because of a peek or skin? But Lily pulled him right out of that mind hole.

“Do you love my mommy Ben bear? Mommy loves you.” Lily was observant. She had been watching Ben watch Alyssa.

He cleared his throat. “What makes you think your mom loves me?”

Lily got up from the bench and skipped around the table. She crouched down next to him, examining the spokes of his wheels.

“She said so. To Auntie Cath. She said she never stopped loving you and that she wished she had married you instead of daddy.”

His gut constricted. He wished that too.  After six years of dating through high school and college, they’d agreed to a 6 month “break” to be sure settling down together was what they both wanted.  He knew it would have been, if only Chad hadn’t gotten involved.    

Chad Sutherly. He had been Ben's biggest rival and the ultimate douchebag. When Ben beat him out for captain of the high school football team, Chad swore he would get Ben back. Ben thought nothing of it.  High school football- it wasn’t the end of the world.  It wasn’t even the start.

But Chad had gotten his revenge. He had gotten Alyssa pregnant at what should have been a one-night stand.  Then Ben had landed himself in a wheelchair.  All over a stupid high school football captaincy.

But Alyssa had kept in touch. She had been the first person he saw when he woke up after the crash.  Even though she was pregnant, she swore she would always be in his life. But Ben had pulled back and really lived up to his Bear nickname, especially after she had Lily. He couldn't face the constant living reminder of his failure with Alyssa.

“But Daddy is gone now. Aunt Cath said he is staying with his new skank on whore island.  I don't know where that is."  Lily picked a dandelion from the grass.

Ben had to swallow his gulp of surprise.  Of course Cath would have said that about Chad- Alyssa’s sister had always hated him.  He wondered if she had let Lily overhear that comment on purpose to repeat back to Chad.  It would be a very Cath thing to do.

Lily picked a purple flowering clover and added it to the pile she amassed.  “I wouldn't mind if you are my new Daddy. Especially if you love mommy.” 

Ben tensed.  What could he say?  He didn’t need to bear his soul to a toddler.  But had Alyssa really said those things?  And did that mean that Alyssa might want to talk about what the future might mean for them together? “Your mom is a very special person to me.”

As Lily tied her flowers around his wheel spokes, his heart lightened. Lily might be part Chad, but there was a lot more Alyssa in her. He could see it in her eyes, her curiosity, and in her mischievous grin.

“Can we do another ride? I promise not to squish you.”

Ben laughed and held out a hand to help her to her feet. “Hop on squirt.  You could never squish me.”

Lilly did, then paused. She wrapped her arms around him again and at him with a solemn expression on her face. “I love you Ben bear. Just like Mommy.”

The words hit him. He looked up into the sun for a moment and clenched his jaw.

“You're pretty great too,” he finally managed to get out.

“And I know that Ben bear can be nice, no matter what grandma says about you.”

Ben burst out laughing imagining Alyssa's mother, Pat, saying just that. She was never one to mince words.

He was surprised to hear Alyssa's voice behind them. She had come up with two enormous ice cream cones and a small dish covered in sprinkles.

“I hope you aren’t having too much fun without me.  Phantom berry for the Bear.” She handed over a waffle cone at least 8 inches tall with black raspberry ice cream, cookie fudge swirl, and a heaping portion of chocolate sprinkles. “And a unicorn special for Princess Lily.”

Lily wiggled with anticipation as she leaned forward for her ice cream.

“Come sit next to me, Lil. We should give Ben some space so you aren't blocking his ice cream.” Alyssa patted the bench next to her but Lily stayed put.

Ben shook his head. “She's fine. Not blocking anything at all. Anything.”  He held Alyssa’s gaze.

Alyssa raised an eyebrow skeptically. “I thought you weren't a-“ she cleared her throat “GD stroller?”

Ben shrugged and took a large mouthful of his ice cream. “You know me, I'm just a big teddy bear.”


  1. Ahhhhh, I love it! Good work, Selina. This is sweet as ice cream on a summer day.

  2. I really wish we'd get some more of it... I'm loving this prompt challenge thing. So nice to see so many people sharing their stories!

  3. Omg, so sweet!!! I enjoy this—a LOT! Compelling backstory and characters.

  4. it

  5. Beautiful, thank you!