Jamie: “I was in a car accident after my second year of college and I lost both my legs. Honestly, it hasn’t changed my life that much. I’d still be going for my math degree, still probably doing the same things. In terms of relationships, I haven’t had a lot of time for dating because I’ve been pretty wrapped up with my thesis. But Abby seems like a great girl.”
Jamie McDonnell fumbled with his tie in the bathroom mirror until it looked reasonably straight. One thing he liked about being a grad student was that he almost never had to wear a tie. He quickly ran a hand through his dark hair before taking off his glasses and shoving them into his pocket. He could see all right without them, but he tended to wear them all time out of absentmindedness.
Jamie looked down at the stumps of his legs. Both his stumps were very short. His left leg had been basically ripped off near the hip. Initially, he lost only the bottom part of his right leg and still had his knee, but because of infections, they had to take his one remaining knee as well. Even so, his right leg was a little longer, which helped him to balance in his chair. Usually Jamie just cut his pants legs short and let them go loose, since the remainder of his left leg was too short to even tuck the pants underneath, but the producers said they wanted both pants cuffs tucked under his legs.
Jamie didn’t know what the hell he was doing on this show. It wasn’t his kind of thing at all. Really, he should have been back at school, working on his thesis. Abby was nice enough and it would be great to win the money, but relationships and money came a distant second right now.
After nearly five years of being a double amputee, Jamie could honestly say that it hadn’t changed his life very much at all. If anything, things became easier because the university was willing to help him out more because of his disability. He got more money than the other PhD candidates and the university even hired someone to buy his groceries for him. It allowed Jamie to stay in his apartment and do math for days at a time, surfacing only for meetings with his advisor.
That had been the sort of life that Jamie had dreamed of before his accident, but had never been able to have. In high school, there were always girls chasing after him and stupid athletic requirements he had to complete. Then in college, his roommates were always trying to drag him to these social events and the girls who lived next door were constantly coming over to flirt with them. Jamie just wanted to be left alone.
Then after sophomore year, Jamie was driving back from a math talk he had been attending when he was involved in a head-on collision that cost him both his legs. He remembered when they took the bandages off his stumps, his mother had held his hand and sobbed, but Jamie had been indifferent. The doctors told him that maybe someday he’d be able to walk again with prosthetics if he really worked at it, but Jamie said, That’s okay, just give me a wheelchair.
Jamie transferred to a university closer to home, but he still lived on campus, this time in a single room modified for wheelchair access. Initially, he was frustrated that it took him longer to do some things, such as get dressed, and some of the wheelchair entrances weren’t as accessible as he would have hoped. But he quickly realized that people were willing to make a lot of exceptions for him because of his disability. If Jamie couldn’t work on his American history essay because he had a problem set due that he was more interested in, all he had to do was come see the professor in his wheelchair and they were more than understanding.
The only problem was Jamie’s parents, who insisted that life should consist of more than sitting in his room all day, thinking about math. Jamie was 25 years old—it was time to get out there and meet a nice girl. Jamie usually took their nagging with a smile and a nod, but it was Jamie’s sister Cleo who came out to see him at the university and insisted he had to get a social life. “Mom and Dad are so worried about you,” Cleo had told him.
“They shouldn’t worry,” Jamie had said. “I’m really happy.”
But Cleo hadn’t listened. She posted the ad for him on that ridiculous internet dating website. Thanks to the picture of him Cleo put him, he got a lot of replies from women, but Jamie deleted all of them. But HBC had come to his dorm and were not willing to take no for an answer.
Jamie wheeled out of the bathroom and saw Noel lying on his bed, reading a magazine. Noel looked up, “Shit Jamie, don’t look so excited. You’re going on a date with a hot girl, not a funeral.”
Jamie shrugged. “I don’t really know why I’m doing this.”
“I’ve got enough money.”
Noel laughed. “What the hell are you talking about? You’re a grad student, for Christ’s sake. You’re broke by definition.”
“I’ve got enough money to live my lifestyle,” Jamie said.
“You mean sitting around and doing math all day?”
“It’s better than sitting around in front of a computer all day.”
“Ouch,” Noel shook his head. Jamie smiled. He liked Noel, despite his tendency to say the first thing that popped into his head. “Listen, I do sit around all day, but at night… well, I’m still sitting obviously, or possibly lying down, but I go out and have a good time. Which reminds me…”
Jamie raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?”
“Come find me when you’re done with Abby tonight,” Noel said with a wink.
“Hmm, I don’t think you’re supposed to see her before your date…”
“And I really care.”
One of the assistants, a peppy girl named Lynn, came into Jamie and Noel’s room. Lynn squealed when she saw Jamie. “Oh Jamie, you look so cute!”
“Uh, thanks,” Jamie said.
Noel laughed and looked Lynn up and down. “How about me, Linzy?”
Lynn stuck out her tongue at him. “You’re cute too, but not as cute as you think you are.” She looked down at Jamie. “You ready, hon?”
Jamie shrugged. “Sure, let’s go.”
Lynn wheeled Jamie out to a table surrounded by cameras. As soon as he saw the cameras, Jamie’s stomach flip-flopped. He wasn’t used to being on camera. Abby was already seated, looking stunning in a low cut gown. Jamie avoided eye contact with her as they pushed him toward the table.
“Don’t be nervous,” Abby told him, touching his arm gently. “If we screw up, they’ll just edit it out and we can start the date over again.”
Jamie tried to smile. He picked up his wine glass with shaking hands and stared down at the food on his plate.
Abby leaned over and whispered in his ear, “You look really handsome tonight, Jamie.”
He blushed. “You look… stunning,” he said. She really did.
“You guys are on camera… now!”
Abby: “It’s so great that you’re doing what you love to do. You seem to really love doing math.”
Jamie: “Yeah, I do. I’ve loved math as long as I can remember.”
Abby: “You were talking about your thesis before. What did you say it was about?”
Jamie: “Volume minimizing submanifolds?”
Abby: “What are those?”
Jamie: “Well, I just finishing showing that if… uh, a volume minimizer among all the Lagrangian competitors whose boundary lies in the same complex hyper-surface is smooth, then it’s, uh, minimal. And then you can, uh, show in general that these minimizers may have isolated singularities in the interior but they are smooth at the, uh, boundary.”
Abby: “Hmm… fascinating.”
Jamie: “I know it sounds boring to you.”
Abby: “Not boring exactly. More like impossible.”
Jamie: “I’m sorry. We don’t have to talk about volume minimizers.”
Abby: “Well, what would you like to talk about?”
Jamie: “I… I don’t really know. I’m not much of a conversationalist.”
Abby: “How do you think you’re doing so far in the competition?”
Jamie: “Me? Oh, uh, not too good, I guess.”
Abby: “Why not?”
Jamie: “Probably because of the volume minimizers.”
Abby laughed and Jamie found himself starting to relax. This wasn’t so bad really. He took a big bite of his mashed potatoes. “I don’t know about you,” Abby said, leaning forward, “but I think this house could use a volume minimizer. It’s so big and creepy. I had trouble sleeping last night.”
“It’s not so bad,” Jamie said. “I have a roommate to keep me company.”
“Which one is your roommate?”
Abby smiled. “Is he driving you nuts? I thought he was giving some of you guys a hard time. I definitely got the feeling Harrison sort of didn’t like him.”
Harrison: “Noel is the biggest asshole I’ve ever met. Does that guy ever think before he opens his mouth? Everything is joke to him. I don’t care who wins this game as long as he loses. I’d have no respect for Abby at all if she chooses him.”
Jamie laughed. “Noel’s actually really funny. He and Harry just seem to clash.”
“Any idea why?”
“They’re on different planes,” Jamie said thoughtfully. “Noel has been in a wheelchair for half his life and Harry’s only been disabled for the last two years. To Noel, it’s just another part of life, so he feels comfortable cracking jokes about it. Harry is still too sensitive about his disability. Plus I think Harry resents Noel making light of his disability when Noel still can use his arms.”
“How about you?” Abby asked. “Are you sensitive about… being in a wheelchair?”
Jamie shook his head. “Not at all. I’m really happy with my life, Abby. Walking isn’t really a big thing to me.”
Abby smiled. “Do you find it crimps your style with women?”
“Uh…” Jamie’s face flushed. “I don’t really have much time for dating per se. I guess I haven’t really been looking.”
Abby leaned in real close to him so that he could feel her breath. “What do you think of me?”
“You?” Jamie dropped his fork under the table. He didn’t bother to try to retrieve it. “You’re, uh… really beautiful.”
“Am I your type?” she asked.
“I don’t exactly have a ‘type’, I don’t think…”
Abby’s hand was under the table. Jamie felt her fingers searching for the end of his leg stump. She cupped her hand around it and he inhaled deeply. Since his accident, he had only been on a couple of dates that went nowhere, and nobody had ever touched his stumps in a sexual way.
Jamie knew his stumps were very sensitive. He masturbated even less now than he did before the accident, but when he did, he always touched his stumps. In some ways, they were even more sensitive than his dick. And when he came, it was like a million little sparks went off in the tips of his stumps.
But right now, he wasn’t sure if he liked Abby touching his stumps. He didn’t know her very well and it felt like a very private thing to be doing in front of a television camera. Very gently, he took her hand and moved it away.
“I guess that answers my question,” Abby said softly.
Jamie didn’t reply.
Abby: “I don’t think Jamie and I have much of a connection. He’s a very nice person and very smart, but I don’t feel much chemistry between us.”
Jamie: “I guess Abby seemed to like me. I think she’d probably be better off picking one of the other guys though. I don’t think we’re right for each other.”
Ethan and Harrison were in their room watching television. Ethan would have preferred to talk or play on the chessboard instead of watching television, but Harrison seemed pretty negative at the concept of “doing” anything. When Ethan suggested a game of chess, Harrison frowned at him: “How am I going to move the pieces?”
“I’ll move your pieces,” Ethan volunteered.
Harrison made a face. “No thanks.”
So they were stuck watching some dumb show on television. Harrison lay on his bed, his thin arms lying at his side. Ethan sat up, holding the remote control so he could flip through the channels during the commercials. He wondered how much television Harrison watched in an average day and decided the answer was probably a lot.
Ethan felt relieved when Noel wheeled into the room and broke up the boredom. “Anyone up for some pool?” Noel asked.
“Sure!” Ethan answered enthusiastically. “There’s a table in the house?”
Noel nodded. “You play before, Ethan?”
“Not really,” Ethan admitted.
“No problem, I’ll teach you,” Noel said. Ethan reached for his forearm crutches. “Hang on, you better use your wheelchair. You’re not going to be able to play and hold yourself up. I’m not picking your sorry ass up off the floor.”
Ethan nodded. He pulled his wheelchair closer to the bed so that he could easily get in. He was able to stand up with his braces on, as long as he was holding on to something. But Noel was right—he didn’t want to risk falling.
Ethan felt a little self-conscious about the fact that he was the only one of the four of them who didn’t need a wheelchair all the time. He was certain Jamie didn’t care, but he wondered if Noel wasn’t a little bit envious.
“You up for some pool, Harry?” Noel said to Harrison.
Harrison glared at Noel as if to say, Are you out of your fucking mind? Instead, he said, “That’s okay, I’ll pass.”
Noel turned out to be great at pool. He showed Ethan how to hold the pool cue and talked about the geometry of the shots. Ethan had always thought pool would be a difficult game to play, but he found that he was pretty good at it.
“You’re a natural,” Noel told Ethan.
“Yeah?” Ethan grinned.
“Definitely,” Noel said. “I started playing in high school and I found that being in the chair sometimes gives me an extra edge in terms of aiming. You can’t imagine how many people I’ve hustled.”
“Sounds dangerous,” Ethan commented.
Noel shrugged as he sunk the eight ball and won the game.
Ethan was glad Noel was one of the finalists. He felt more of a bond to Noel than he did with either Jamie or Harrison. Both he and Noel had been disabled since childhood, whereas Jamie and Harrison were both new to it. Ethan supposed that it was a little different, since Noel hadn’t been born disabled, but fourteen was still pretty young.
“Do you remember what it was like to be able to walk?” Ethan asked.
Noel stared at him. “Ethan, that’s by far the weirdest question I’ve been asked all week. And I’ve been asked some pretty weird questions this week.”
“Well, do you?”
Noel thought about it. “Maybe a little, I’m not sure,” he replied. “I think you’re supposed to lift your feet up, then put them down, right? Nah, I can’t do that anymore.”
“How long do you think it takes to forget?”
“Ethan, you’re freaking me out,” Noel said in an exasperated voice. “What are you asking this stuff for anyway?”
Ethan shrugged. He had been born with his disability and most of the friends he made during his life had also been born with their disability. He went to school with kids who had cerebral palsy and spina bifida. They were very well adjusted to their disabilities, but they sometimes wondered what it would be like to be able bodied. Even though Noel had been injured when he was young, he at least knew what it was like to be able to walk. “Never mind,” Ethan said.
After playing pool, Noel and Ethan went to the kitchen to get beers to drink. When Ethan confided that he wasn’t much of a drinker, Noel nearly burst out laughing at the obviousness of the statement. Noel thought Ethan was a real sweet kid, but he was definitely out of his element in this place. Still, he was probably more fun than Jamie, who was obsessed with his thesis, and certainly more fun than Harrison.
Ethan’s questions were beginning to get a little unsettling. Noel supposed it was only natural for a guy who was disabled his whole life to wonder what it was like on the other side. The reason the questions bothered him was partially because it made Noel realize that he really didn’t remember much about his life before he was paralyzed. He had been just barely fourteen at the time, but some people are mature at that age and some people are really still kids. Noel was still very much a kid at fourteen. He was still prepubescent with no sign of his growth spurt.
Noel remembered being in the intensive care unit following the accident. Noel had been in a car with his mother’s alcoholic brother Sam as the driver. Sam escaped from the accident with barely a scratch, and Noel overheard his mother screaming at Sam that he had ruined her son’s life.
In many ways, his parents took it harder than he did. Noel simply accepted that this was what had happened to him and there was nothing he could do to change it. His mother broke down into tears every time they brought the wheelchair out to him. “I’m so sorry, Noel,” she would sob.
Finally, Noel said to her, “This is getting a little old, Mom. Just get over it.”
Before the accident, Noel had been an outgoing kid with a “smart mouth” and that didn’t change at all. The doctors warned him he would probably go into a depression at some point, but it had never happened.
Still, it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world being a paraplegic. He used to play softball a lot before the accident and he had to give that up. The high school he went to was accessible, but it was still a nuisance to have to take the elevator to go up one flight for a class, causing him to be late more often than not. And the worst part was having to stick a catheter up his dick in order to take a piss.
Noel was an upbeat person in general, always cracking jokes when he could. That was just his personality. He very rarely thought about what his life would be like now if he wasn’t a paraplegic. But every once in a while, he’d be standing at the bottom of a flight of stairs and the gravity of the fact that he’d never be able to walk ever again hit him. If he lived till 90, he’d be stuck in this wheelchair all that time. And he’d feel bad, at least for a few minutes. Until something else distracted him.
In college, the school paper had interviewed him as part of some article about disabled students. He remembered one question they had asked him was that if he could snap his fingers and be able to walk again, would he do it? His official answer was, “I don’t know. I’d really have to think about it.”
But that wasn’t the truth.
Being in a wheelchair was a part of life for Noel. He really couldn’t imagine things any other way anymore. And there were lots of girls willing to give him head in his chair, just for the novelty of it if nothing else. But if he could snap his fingers? He’d do it in a second.
“I’m still a virgin,” Ethan was telling Noel.
“Really?” Noel said, even though he wasn’t all that surprised. He had lost his own virginity at age sixteen. “Wow, that sucks.”
“Well, I haven’t even had a girlfriend before,” Ethan said.
“So?” Noel grinned.
Ethan blushed. “Even if I did, I’m not sure if I’d be able to… I mean, I have trouble getting it up.”
“Whoa,” Noel said. “Ethan, why are you telling me all this? You’ve got other friends, don’t you?”
“Because…” Ethan said. “Most of my friends are kind of like me… they don’t get much action. But you seem to get a lot of women. I mean, you’re a paraplegic…do you ever have trouble…?”
“Jesus,” Noel buried his face in his hands. “All right, Ethan. Look, sometimes I have trouble, but most of the time I’m okay. It doesn’t feel the same as when I used to jerk off when I was thirteen, but it’s still pretty good. Does that answer your question?”
“Enough then!” Noel held up his hand. “No offense, Ethan, but I’m not having a conversation about what my dick can and can’t do, unless it’s with Abby.”
“Did somebody say my name?”
Noel jerked his head around and saw Abby standing before him. She had changed from her dinner clothes into a tank top and pajama pants. “How long have you been standing there?”
Abby smiled. “Something about what your dick can and can’t do…”
Ethan glanced at his watch. “I better get going…”
“Don’t go,” Abby said. “Come on, we’ll have a toast.”
“Naw, I’m really tired,” Ethan said. He put down his beer and wheeled in the direction of his room.
Now that they were alone, Noel fixed his gaze on Abby. “Finished with Jamie already?” he asked her.
Abby smiled and pulled up a chair next to Noel. “I don’t think he’s that into me.”
“Don’t feel bad,” Noel said, “you just don’t have enough dimensions in R-space.”
Abby laughed and Noel could see the outline of her nipples under her tank top. God, she was hot. “What are you looking at?” Abby said softly.
Noel blinked. “Uh nothing,” he said quickly. He smiled. “So I heard you saying you have a weakness for redheads.”
“Oh, did I?”
“Yeah, I remember stuff like that because… you know, I’m a redhead.”
“I can see that,” Abby said. She reached out and ran a hand through his hair. “That’s quite an interesting color. Is that really natural?”
“Everyone asks me that. It’s natural… my mom’s hair is the same way.”
“It’s sexy,” Abby said, “in a boyish kind of way.”
“Is that good?”
“I don’t know, let me think about it.”
She was still fingering his hair. His scalp started to tingle as she moved her hand down toward his earlobes. “Between Harrison, Jamie, and Ethan,” she said, “I don’t know how I’m gonna get laid in this place.”
“How about me?” Noel teased.
Abby gazed into his eyes. “Yeah, how about you?”
Noel leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers. They kissed for what seemed like an eternity as Abby transferred onto his lap. He slid his hand up her shirt and felt the curves of her breasts. “You wanna give me a ride somewhere more private?” she asked. “Like my bedroom?”
“Yeah, sure,” Noel breathed.
He pushed his chair along the floor. It was hard to wheel himself because he had Abby’s added weight and she was kissing his face as they moved. He felt a dull ache in his biceps by the end of the trip, but the pain in his arms was the last thing on his mind.
Abby got off his chair and sat down on her bed, looking at him expectantly. He pushed her down and tugged at her pajama pants until they were down at her knees. She wasn’t wearing any underwear. He lowered his lips onto her clit and she moaned and grabbed at his red hair. He licked her faster and faster, making circles with his tongue as her legs shook with spasms. Finally, she cried out and her fingers grabbed his hair so tight his scalp burned. Then her body went limp.
Noel pulled away, rubbing his head to ease the pain. Abby lifted her head slightly and looked at him. “Jesus, you are good,” she murmured. “Now fuck me.”
Noel shook his head. “Not tonight.”
Abby frowned and sat up. “What?”
“I said not now, not tonight.”
“You’re kidding me,” she said. “What wrong? Does your dick not work? I mean, if that’s what it is, it’s okay. I know you’re paralyzed and everything. I don’t care. I’d just like to know—”
“Look Abby,” Noel put his hands on her shoulders, “tomorrow night I’ll fuck your brains out, okay? But right now, I am going back to my room and you’re going to go to sleep. Got it?”
Abby reached her hand down in the direction of his penis. He caught her wrist a second before she got there. “Tomorrow, Abby,” he said.
“Fine,” she said softly.
Abby: “Noel and I were both up late last night and we were… uh, talking. He’s very attractive and he impressed me with some of the things he… uh, said. But he was just too secretive. I don’t like it when people hold back too much.”
Noel: “Wow, that Abby, she is… very tenacious. I’m crazy about her, definitely. I think she might have gotten a little pissed off at me last night, but you know, it’s all part of the plan.”
Stay tuned for Abby's second date with a suitor.