Friday, August 10, 2018

Onde Anda Você — Two


São Paulo Mountain Range, Brazil 

        With the direct light on him, I prove myself once again right; Ben really is pretty cute. Handsome, even. He has a nice face structure, features that are both elegant and mature, in a way that there’s no way they were there ten years ago. There’s no beard, but I wonder if maybe there should have, just so it can add to the whole look. Then again, this is probably too formal for beards. His coffee brown eyes are framed by thick lashes I’d definitely die for and his hair is cut pretty short, which definitely suits him. He can’t be younger than thirty five, or older than forty really, but you never really know it with men.

“Who are you hiding from?” I ask as I watch him from across the table we found near the balcony. His eyes had been wandering around the crowd and they settle on me.

He places one of his hands behind his neck and absentmindedly massages it. He keeps reaching that spot and I wonder if there’s some sort of discomfort in the muscles there.

“My ex.” He blinks. “I didn’t know she was coming, but I should’ve guessed it.”

I search for the straw in my—now water—glass with my tongue and silently thank the fact that he’s not looking at me as I do it.

“Bad breakup?”

Ben removes his arms from the table and crosses them in front of his chest, moving back a bit. He’s wearing a navy blue suit with a nice, expensive texture that seems to be tailor made for him. He moves his head with a touch of uncertainty, sighing heavily.

“I guess you can say so.”

I don’t insist on the subject. In a way, there’s a certain gentlemanliness in the fact that he doesn’t seem too eager to throw his ex under the bus in the first opportunity to get my sympathy. I keep talking, fully aware that my natural inhibitors are numb with alcohol.

“You’re from the City?”

He nods.

“Are you driving back?”

He nods again. I keep talking.

“Do you work at the Institute?”

He confirms it. I shoot my final question.

“You’re not a doctor, are you?” 

Ben knits his eyebrows together and throws me a curious look, if not an irritated one.

“You’d have a problem with that?” My mouth goes sour. I wanna say that the issue wouldn’t be him being a doctor, but him being a doctor. But I don’t say it and settle for a grimace, making him chuckle. I think I have my answer. “Done with the job interview now?”

I shrug and throw a canapé inside my mouth, “Eh…”

He looks amused.

“My turn then.” Ben squints quizzically at me, as if warming up next to the football field. “Who are you hiding from? Any doctors?”

“Bingo." I say, rolling my eyes as theatrically as I can. "You’re running from your ex, I’m running from the guy who wants to be my current boyfriend. We make a good couple.”

“Do tell.”

“But you didn’t tell me anything...”

“There’s nothing to say, I swear,” he says defensively. “Please don’t leave me hanging.”

I roll my eyes again but I’m already leaning over the table, ready to spill the beans. Perhaps I should be less obvious, more discreet—like he is!—but I honestly don’t care.

“A guy from work invited me here today.” I scan the crowd and see him talking to some older men across the hall. He seems to be the very center of all attention—naturally. I release a small grunt and Ben follows my eyes as I point the straw in his direction. “Hector.”


“Yes, double arm transplant dude.” I feel bitter about it. Of course he knows who the star of the night is. “He invited me and I accepted it, but I didn’t know anything about… well, the intentions he had in mind.”

“You didn’t?

“No. I know, I know. Stupid me.” I really wish I was drinking something more inflammable. The idea of sobering up isn’t as good as I wanted it to be. “But he said he was offering me a professional ride. That I’d been invited here to represent the team. Asshole.”

He watches me closely.

“Are you a doctor?”

“Me? Ew, no.” I cringe away from the table, as if he’d just insulted me. He might as well have. “I’m the double arm transplant nurse. I should’ve known they hadn’t really invited me.”

Ben shakes his head.

“They should have, though.”

I laugh, both bitterly and mockingly.

“Yeah, because that’s super realistic. This is the kind of party that’s meant only for old shareholders needing to feel like they make a difference and star-doctors and their massive egos.” I narrow my eyes at him. His suit is so extremely well-cut and tasteful, with just the right amount of the white dress shirt showing under the sleeve and a perfectly appropriate brown leather watch in his left arm. I can’t stand it when men use sports watches in a formal setting, call it a fashion pet peeve. But my point here is—it all looks really expensive. “Which one of them are you?”

Ben is quick to answer. He adjusts his body in his chair, grabbing his wheels and raising his body in the air for a couple seconds before settling back down. I realize he doesn’t seem to have any control of his hips or legs, because then he proceeds to meticulously, but also distractedly, arrange them with his hands.

“None, promise.” When he notices my skeptical look, he adds: “I’m in the legal department.”

Which probably explains his suit.

“Where’s your ex?” I ask.

He points with his head, the quick way he finds her makes me wonder for how long he’s been watching her for as long as I'd been watching Hector from afar.. “The tall one in the red dress, dancing with the singer.” 

Ah shit.

“Suzanna? The orthopedist?” I stifle a laugh behind the glass when he confirms it. “Wow.”

“You know her.”

“Unfortunately.” Alcohol, as I said... “In fact, the fact that you dated her just made me think slightly less of you.”

“Oh, c’mon… She isn’t that bad.”

She is. He’s being nice. He might be too much of a gentleman not to talk shit about her, but I’m no gentleman and there’s nothing I enjoy more than talking shit about lazy, narcissistic doctors. With alcohol rushing through my veins, I feel like it pours off of me so easily.

“Let’s just say I don’t think you did a good job fucking her. Considering what a bitch...”

He gives me a look, “That’s pretty sexist, Liv.”

“Right.” It really is. It’s so sexist that even sober me would scold me for saying it. I’ve nothing against sorority, I just hate everyone equally. And I get some sort of satisfaction in saying it. I know nothing good ever comes from treating other women as one dimensional evil characters, but this is the person who refuses to touch patients who look a little too poor for her taste. I get a fucking pass. “You just don’t really know a person until you work a double hospital shift together.”

Ben agrees, moving his chair back and forth distractedly again. He keeps doing that and I wonder if it’s a replacement for tapping his feet, which he apparently can’t do. Does he have an SCI? He’s around the age range, for sure. Most of the people we roll in the OR with spinal injuries are as young as he is. Most of them are guys, too. 

“Yeah, I guess.” But he doesn’t sound too enthusiastic. I wonder what happened between him and Suzanna, but before I can pry in, he asks: “So basically the guy cornered you here and now you have to go back to the city with him?”

São Paulo City is two hours away. Two hours in a car with Hector Bonfim, only one thing bigger than his ego—his massive fucking bon-

“Unless I find someone else willing to drive me…?” I suggest, jokingly.

“Ok.” Ben says.

“Really?” He catches me by surprise, and nods. I need a second to process what he’s just said. “Wow… Hm, it’s just a ride, ok?”

“Just a ride.” He confirms, eyes on me.

We end up talking through our elbows, which is just another expression for talking a lot. I’m starting to think Bernardo really is super cute when he talks—as if he wasn’t cute enough already. And when he listens, too. He's a great listener. When he smiles his eyes always smile too, and those slight creases in the corners make him seem super likable—sometimes he even smiles with his eyes only and the side of his mouth, which is pretty charming. He’s so genuinely nice that I find myself matching his lighthearted mood and laughing a lot more than I normally would; he probably thinks I’m an idiot at this point. I must be under some sort of spell that’s not alcohol—I’m usually a cranky drunk person.

“Hey, I need to make the rounds, greet some people and do some stuff around.” Ben grabs his wheels and moves back, winking suggestively— or playfully, I can’t tell—at me. “We can hit the road after I’m done if that’s good with you.”

“I’ll be here.” I wink back, getting myself yet another unrecognizable drink. Water. Getting into alcoholic intoxication is no longer a goal. 

The goal is being sober enough to flirt my way to bed with Bernardo.

I watch as he spins and wheels away with enough dexterity to avert the narrow space between some of the tables, politely asking some people to move their chairs a bit, and disappear off my sight. I sit there, contemplating my own existence as the music turns into Cartola’s O Mundo é um Moinho, led by the man this time. It sounds just right in his voice, as if I'm listening to it from my grandma's old vinyl player. This song fills me with a wave of deep nostalgia and regret I'm probably too young to be feeling—that's Cartola for you. 

I don't know how long I sit there, but it's enough for the musicians to switch to another female-led song. Édith Piaf. I love Édith. I love it that they have decided to put her and Cartola at the same level—they're both chanson singers. The feat we never got but we definitely deserved. They share bachan's vinyl shelf, too. And my playlist on Spotify.

I'm doing some deep music analysis despite having only half assed the extra music credits I needed in University, when someone plops down in one of the empty chairs on the table. For a split second, my brain lags and I think it's Ben—but that's silly.

"What a night…" the person says. Suzanna. She flips her long, blond hair over her shoulder. "I'm so tired. But the song is kinda too... carioca, right?"

She'd think that, with her proud german last name and southern accent. We both come from immigrant families, from the same point in brazilian history. President Vargas banned her family from speaking German in public just as it did mine in the 40s, when despite his fascist tendencies he lined up with the Allies and abhorred all things Axis—including their immigrants. But I'm sure she considers me the lesser brazilian. We all know why, wink wink

I don't answer. We might have to interact for the sake of work, but not here. I'm wearing a dress, for fuck's sake. She leans over the table, making me admire what a good job her plastic surgeon did with the boobs. I'd do it too if I had the money, to turn my teenage boy chest into a teenage boy's hentai fantasy. Or maybe I wouldn't. Give me the money and I'll tell you.

"The singer is pretty cute." She continues on, fanning her neck with her hand. "Where do you work?"

She doesn't recognize me! Wow. It shouldn't come as a surprise; she probably thinks all 1.5 million asians in São Paulo look the same, but damn—we work double shifts together all the time. 

"At the Institute," I vaguely answer. I wanna see how far this goes.

Silence for a moment.

"So, tell me… Are you here with that guy?" She asks, sounding overly chipper, as if we were two friends at a gossip table. "The one in the wheelchair."

Of course she wants to know.

"You mean Benny?" I pretend we're more intimate than we really are just so I can see what's her deal. "Yeah."

And I can see it—eating her from the inside out. Jealousy.

"And how long have you been together?" The real question here is: Does she really think she's being subtle?

I pretend I'm counting it in my fingers. Forty minutes? An hour? This is a joke. I hope Ben laughs when I tell him on our way home.

"Oh it's been a while." I eventually say. Again, her face falls. I wonder what happened between the two of them. Did they date before he was in a wheelchair? Has it been a while? Are they really over it? She isn't, by the looks of it. 

"What about the…" she expects me to fill her in, but I don't. "The chair?"

I raise an eyebrow. Thankfully I'm really seriously drunk. I lean forward as if I was about to tell her a secret. "Girl, wheelchair sex is just so good. The positions we come up with… really…"

I'm suddenly interrupted by the loud feedback sound, deus ex machina preventing me from going on with my stupid act. I cover my ears instinctively before a male voice takes over.

"Sorry, guys. It's…" The guy starts, making people fall silent and the music ceases. I twist around to try and have a look at him. "Down here, near the stage. There. Found me? Thank you.'

It's Bernardo, parked near the musicians, untangling himself from the microphone wires they took off the high support to hand him, obviously unable to climb the stage or stand up to reach it.

Suzanna also notices him and I see her cheeks flush bright red, probably thinking about the pictures I just painted in her mind.

I gotta say I am, too.

"Those of you who don't know me, I'm Bernardo and I'm here as Bernstein Foundation's spokesperson to pay our tributes to the institute involved in the biggest medical accomplishment in Latin America in the past decades." He's a great speaker, aside from being really cute. All eyes on him. "I hope you're all having fun, I promise the champagne hasn't been altered."

People break the awkward silence with laughter, and I feel warm at the inside joke I suppose was made just for me. I'm totally convinced of it when he catches my gaze in the crowd and winks, a playful smile in the corner of his lips. 

"Let's begin with the night's brightest stars, the people responsible for the first double arm transplant in Brazil and Latin America, one of the first in the world. The operation was so expertly done by the medical teams at the Athos Institute." He raises a glass I know he's not drinking. "The orthopedic surgeon, Doctor Hector Bonfim… please doc, can you stand up so everyone can take a good look at you… there he is." 

Everyone claps politely at the brown haired, well dressed and not too handsome man, who humbly nods his head like a humble man of the people, even though I'm pretty sure his massive ego just inflated like a pufferfish.

"Thank you."

I roll my eyes as I drink some more. Ben keeps listing people, calling different heads of department as a gorgeous tall brunette follows after, handing over flowers and a small velvet box to each one of them. There were too many teams and departments involved in this. I should know.

"The Foundation would also like to thank the competent and understated nursing team, whose presence is always imperative in all things big and small in the great accomplishments such as this." I can barely believe my own ears. Ben looks at me as if sharing yet another inside joke. "Represented by nurse Livia Nakamura. Can you stand up for a moment, Liv? Thank you.'

I feel like I'm under a spell when I do, brushing my dress down. It goes by too quickly, but I see everything in 0,5x. Ben winks at me before turning his attention to his text again. The tall brunette hands me the flowers and the velvet box and I sit back down putting the bouquet aside. Suzanna is staring at me. She must recognize me now and she doesn't appreciate it—especially because she's not getting any flowers or honorable mentions herself.

"Wow, congrats." She says, her voice no longer trying to earn my sympathy by being high. "I didn't realize you…"

"I know."

I drink some more, appreciating the way her face contorts with distaste. I have no idea what Ben just did, but I gotta say I like it. Speaking of him, he finishes the speech with a round of applause and he’s wheeling towards the table with a satisfied smile. But as soon as he notices the person sitting next to me, I see him tighten the grip around the pushing rims and his jaw twitch. I quickly get my bag, the flowers and the small velvet box, ready to bolt.

Suzanna’s cheeks turn even redder when she sees Ben parking next to me.

“You’re all set?” He asks me, I nod. Only then he refers to the elephant in the room. “Hey.”

Suzanna’s mouth opens and closes as they seem to have lots of things unsaid. Damn. 

“Will you hold my flowers?” I ask while the doctor mumbles something. Ben seems positively surprised and takes the bouquet, placing it on his lap. “Well, it seems we’ll get going.”

“But… already?” She seems to wake up from her stupor. Her eyes quickly dart between us both. “The party is going well into the night, I thought…”

You’d have a chance of stealing him from me? Not that I want Ben. I don’t not want him either. But the idea of her thinking she could simply go over my head and have him irritates me. Also, I get the feeling that Ben isn’t super excited about seeing her either. 

“We still have plans today.” I shoot her a suggestive look, sliding one hand around his surprisingly solid shoulders. “If you know what I mean.”

He gives me a funny look, half intrigued and half amused. I rise up from my chair and feel one of his hands settle on the small of my back, right above my ass. That’s so convenient, I think to myself and can't help but smile.

“So tchau, Suzanna.” I say, perhaps too excitedly. “Such a long night ahead.”

“See you around.” He says, perhaps a bit too constricted. Ben takes his hand from my back so he can move.

I follow right behind him, feeling curious and excited. He wheels around the tables, stationary chairs and dancing people with ease, avoiding feet and tablecloths better than I do. I realize we’re not heading toward the exit.

“Where are we going?”

We still have plans for today?” He inquires with a raised eyebrow. “Such a long night ahead of us?”

I work in the legal department?” I retort, crossing my eyes.

“I wasn't lying.”

“Neither was I.” I respond triumphantly. “Our plan is to hit the road, and the drive is two hours long.”

Ben shakes his head but he’s smiling. I rush to keep up with him until he stops by a double door just as a waiter with a tray full of glasses waltzes by. The kitchen? He’s gotta be noticing my confused look, because he says:

“So you didn’t notice the twenty something steps at the entrance?”

I did notice, because I had to climb all of them as I walked back from my odyssey to retrieve my purse, and probably even cursed a few of them, but I didn’t really notice them.


“The one accessible entrance is through the kitchen. That’s because they gotta bring in supplies all the time.” Ben states that as a simple fact of life—which I suppose it is for him. But I still hear something else in his voice, maybe a bit of resentment. Everyone can go through the majestic 1800s Imperial main entrance, but not him—he’s gotta use the back, with the supplies cart. 

But I don’t comment on that. I hold the double doors open and let him lead the way, following only a few steps behind. I notice, not for the first time, that Ben’s chair is nothing like the hospital wheelchairs I’m so familiar with. It’s sporty, almost slim, as if tailored for his body. The backrest reaches his mid back, but just barely, and has no handles. The black graphite frame amounts to a single footplate, where his feet rest so quietly and perfectly aligned in brown oxfords. I find myself admiring his chair a lot more as a fashion statement and less like a medical device; honestly, the only resemblance it shares with hospital wheelchairs is that they’re both chairs and they both have wheels. And the biggest difference is that the ones at the hospitals were made to move patientients, big and small, and Ben’s so clearly so he can move himself.

We cross the kitchen and the staff looks almost embarrassed to have us there. We finally get to the exit, heavy double wooden doors. I rush in front of it and once again hold it open. Ben doesn’t look too happy about it, but he rolls out with a single stroke in his wheels and waits for me to cross the threshold. The muscles in his arms and shoulders under his suit move almost as if they were teasing me. Advantages of wheeling: exercising your arms all day long, I suppose, and not being a gym rat. 

God, I hope he isn’t a gym rat. 

There’s a paved path going all the way to a parking lot, and I recall that Hector had to give his keys to a valet.

“Isn’t the valet bringing your car?” I stupidly ask him as we walk. Well, I walk. It kinda bothers me that we can’t be side by side, considering the narrowness of the pavement; if I wanted to be right next to him, I’d have to face my heels digging into the grass and risk some serious ankle injuries.

Although I suppose I’d have transportation if that happened.

“Not even if he wanted to.” Ben chuckles, wheeling slightly ahead of me. “My car is modified.’ 

Of course it is. I don’t drive—I believe in bicycle supremacy, and in a financial lifestyle incompatible with owning a vehicle—so that’s not my thing.

The pavement ends just short of reaching the parking lot. I watch as Ben goes from a smooth, apparently effortless wheel, to pushing harder and maneuvering his chair in the uneven surface with a bit more effort, balancing in the back wheels to avoid getting stuck in the grass. I don’t ask if he needs my help, but I get really close to doing it. The goddamn nurse instincts. But before I can, he’s already bumped down the curb to the paved parking lot.

“Ah.” He looks at me, triumphantly. I smile, holding back a condescending praise, and follow him to the one car parked in the one of the handicapped spots.

I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting—a van? When Ben said his car was modified, I expected something less… Sporty? Normal? It’s a graphite-gray car, much like the frame of his chair, cut in a sporty, modern way, one I don’t recognize entirely by my own fault. I don’t know shit about cars. 

“Just let me get in and store my chair, then you can get in.” He says, opening the driver’s door. “So I don’t risk causing you a concussion with my wheels.”

“Yeah, I’ve had enough adventure for today.” I say, leaning against the backseat door next to him. “Give me the flowers.”

He hands it to me and positions his chair at an angle near the seat. I take that as an opportunity to check the velvet box for the first time and avoid staring while he transfers into the car in a single movement.

“Hey, how did you know my full name back there?” I ask.

Ben darts his eyes away from his legs for a moment, pulling them from behind the knees and placing them inside. As I imagined earlier, no movement at all. Paraplegic. Spinal cord injury? The million dollar question…

“Is it that hard to believe you were actually on the list?”

I snort and turn the small and elegant plate from inside the velvet box.

“Doctor José Tenorio Norato?” I laugh, reading the inscription carved into the silver metal plate in an exaggerated font. “Pleasure to meet you.”

He laughs back, rolling his eyes at me. I shamelessly stare at the way he so easily disassembles the chair, disconnecting the wheels from the frame and throwing them in the backseat. The hospital wheelchairs can only fold, so this is entirely my professional curiosity speaking. I swear.

“I talked to Doctor Norato. He was happy to help. Seems to think highly of you.” Ben rips the cushion from the seat and throws it in the back too, folds the backrest and raises the entire chair structure with one single arm. Doctor Norato is one of the good ones. “And I might or might not have checked your name inside your purse earlier to find out your name.”

“So rude, Bernardo.” I wink at him, then find my next question hard to just hold in. “Is that really light or are you really strong?”

He takes a few seconds to realize I’m talking about his chair, and then smirks.

“It’s carbon fibre, so it’s pretty light.” He demonstrates, easily raising it with one arm up and down like gym weights before placing them in the backseat with the wheels and cushion. It makes me wonder if he’d be putting his equipment in the passenger seat if I weren’t here.


Sexy, I think. For some reason. Professional curiosity, as I said.

He catches me staring and nods with his head.

“You can come in now.”

I rush to the opposite side of the car and throw myself inside, which does feel so incredibly unfair, considering all the effort he just had transferring and loading the chair. Granted, he’s pretty fast. Still…

I close the door with a bit of unnecessary strength, “Oops”.

Ben starts the car. I still can’t see anything indicating that the car isn’t perfectly normal even though his legs are tangled and limp, definitely not operating any pedals anytime soon. Once again he catches my curious eyes.

“I use ghost accelerators,” He explains it, demonstrating. Now I see a thin rim under the steering wheel, and the engine roars when he presses it ever so slightly. I wouldn’t have noticed it had he not shown me. “I like the design better than normal hand controls. Usually the brakes go in the same place.”

I lean over him to check the brakes—a lever on the left side of the wheel.

“Nice. Looks like a joystick.” I say. “If the driving school allowed me to use one of those, maybe I would have managed to get my license.”

“You don’t drive?”

“Only on GTA, and my main goal is to run over as many whores as I can.”

Ben laughs, his chest rumbling so close to me I can almost feel. I turn my face around to look at him, only then realizing how close we are, almost lying on top of him. I look right inside his eyes, once again mesmerized by how long his lashes are. He’s really handsome.

“I’m pretty strong too.”

“Hm?” I stare at his mouth in confusion.

“You asked me if the chair was light or I was strong… I’m pretty strong too.” His voice sounds a lot lower.

“I know.”

“You do?”

Liquid courage. I put my hand on his shoulder and slide it all the way to his bicep.

“I know now.”

He opens his mouth then closes it. It feels so hot here. I’m not entirely sure how,  but I catch his lips with mine.

I have to say—he’s a great kisser. I’m not even drunk anymore.

PRÓXIMO Table of Contents


  1. Really enjoyed this chapter. Can't wait to read more.

  2. Woah. Haha, I found myself grinning at the banter the entire read. Excellent work--and super flirty.

    1. Ohhh, thanks for that feedback! I'm glad the dialogue is feeling as cool to read as it is to write, haha

  3. can't wait to read more!

  4. Great writing! I love everything: the setting in Brazil, the protagonists, the banter, the music. Can't wait for the next chapter!

    1. Thank you so much, Nessy! I'm so glad you're enjoying it. I keep having these songs in the background as I write, and I'm definitely loving to share that aside from the writing itself. Thank you for your comment!

  5. Really, great writing! Can't wait for more

  6. Muito obrigada por esse capítulo. Estou hipnotizada por cada palavra. Quanto mais leio mais quero ler. Estou amando os personagens e como tudo está se desenrolando. Ansiosa pelo próximo.

    1. AAhh, eu tô BEM apaixonadinha por esses personagens também, fico feliz que você esteja gostando. Adorei encontrar vocês por aqui, *coraçõezinhos* Tô finalizando a edição do próximo capítulo agora e já vou agendar o post. Até mais!

  7. Ahh, yes! I love a cheeky gal with some confidence! Can't wait to read more about these two. :)

    1. Hahaha Liv really is one of my girls. As for me, I can't wait to share more about them!

  8. Catarina do céu... Volta aqui!!!! Preciso de mais!!! Tô quase me jogando aos seus pés e implorando pra ser leitora beta, se você já tiver uma leitora beta, eu posso ser a leitora alfa, ou ômega, ou gama... Entendeu, né?

    1. hahahahaha! Que honra. Menina, vem no meu email pra gente trocar uma ideia, então.

  9. This is long??? Honey this is torture not long. Long is 60 pages. 59.5 is short.
    I love it.

    1. Hahahaha! I'll try to keep the word count high, then. Thank you!

  10. Fantastic! Haven' read something this entertaining and hot for long time!

    1. I'm glad you feel that way!!! It's definitely entertaining and hot to write, haha

  11. A wonderful new chapter, thank you!