Peter Sitnisky was just as surprised as his officemate was that Lise kept grading the calculus problem sets. He remembered last year, how Elliot tried to pull that same crap with Brent Armstrong, and as a result wound up with a sworn enemy. But when Peter saw Lise leaving the shared office, she was smiling brightly.
Peter walked into the office without knocking and saw Elliot working on his computer. To his surprise, Elliot was smiling too. The bastard actually looked happy. That could only mean one thing.
"You're fucking in love with her, aren't you?" Peter declared.
Elliot jumped and grabbed the wheels of his chair, as if preparing to bolt. He stared at Peter. "Don't you knock?"
"It's my office too, you know," Peter reminded him. "So no kissy kissy with Lise."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Elliot mumbled. He turned back to his computer.
"Oh, come on, Elliot," Peter sighed. "You're into her. You can admit it to me."
In retrospect, it was inevitable that this would have happened. Elliot had virtually no contact with women and Lise was the first girl to show this kind of hero worship toward him. Of course he fell for her.
"She's attractive, I guess," Elliot admitted grudgingly. "But she's going out with Brent. Like she'd pick me over him."
Peter had never heard Elliot talk like that before. A minute ago, Peter would have said Elliot was the most arrogant guy he'd ever met. "You don't know unless you make a move, right?" Peter said.
"Believe me, I know," Elliot said tonelessly. "Let's face it. A girl like that would never go out with me in a million years, even if Brent were out of the picture."
It was true that Lise had her pick of pretty much any guy in the math department (none of whom had any idea of how to please her), but Elliot had to realize that Lise had a huge crush on him. "I think you're wrong."
"Come on, look at me," Elliot snapped. He rubbed his thighs with his hands. For a moment, Peter wondered what it must be like for him, sitting in that chair every day of his life, always getting treated differently. "Girls just don't..."
"Lise isn't just a girl," Peter said firmly. "Lise is..." He smiled slowly, "Lise is a geek like us."
Elliot rolled his eyes, "Hardly."
"Seriously, Meyers," Peter said, leaning against his desk, "if you want to get laid one of these days, you have to be a little more aggressive. I mean, a woman isn't just going to come in here, rip your clothes off, and start sucking you off."
Peter could see Elliot's face turning red. "This is none of your business, you know..."
It was understandable that Elliot didn't want to admit he was a virgin, but it was so fucking obvious. If he would have been willing to swallow his pride for a minute, Peter would have been happy to help him. But Elliot was never going to admit that he needed help, not even with his love life. At this rate, Elliot was still going to be a virgin when he was forty.
Peter shrugged, "Do what you want."
Elliot was looking down at his lap. Peter knew at that moment that Elliot would never have the nerve to make a move with Lise. He was too damn insecure about being in that chair. It was too bad, but sometimes you had to trade something for that kind of genius.
"You seem preoccupied, Lise."
Lise looked up at Brent, startled. She paused between bites of her expensive pasta primavera that Brent was paying for. She laughed uneasily, "Don't be silly."
Brent cocked his head to one side. "Okay, then what was I talking about?"
"Um..." Lise bit her lip. "Math?"
To her surprise, Brent laughed. He reached across the small table and took her hand. "It's okay, Lise," he said. "You don't have to be hanging on my every word. I've got a lot on my mind too."
Lise would have readily admitted she had something on her mind if that something wasn't Elliot Meyers. She didn't think Brent would be too happy about such an admission. She had a dream about Elliot last night. In the dream, she was sitting in front of his desk and she pushed all the papers off the desk to climb across it and pounce on him. She woke up covered in sweat.
"What do you have on your mind?" Lise asked.
"The usual, I guess," Brent said. "I'm worried about my research and if I'll be able to cut it. Also... I've been thinking a lot about you..."
"You have?" This wasn't what Lise wanted to hear. She was treating her relationship with Brent as a casual fling and she had hoped he felt the same way. But it was becoming more and more obvious that Brent wanted more than that from her. He wanted her to be his girlfriend. In fact, Lise got the feeling that Brent thought she already was his girlfriend.
"Do you think about me, Lise?" Brent squeezed her hand gently.
Lise saw the way other women looked at him. Brent was very handsome and extremely smart--she was crazy not to be head over heels in love with him. But all she knew was that she wasn't. "Sure I do."
"I think you're great," Brent went on. "You're... everything I've ever looked for in another human being. You're beautiful, you're brilliant..." He gazed deeply into her eyes. "Lise, I love you."
Lise's breath caught in her throat. Oh no, don't say that! She felt slightly ill. It was one thing if Brent fell in love with her, but there was no way she could say it back. She couldn't lie about something like that.
"You don't have to say it back just because I said it," Brent said quickly. "But I was feeling it and I just wanted to say it to you. I love you, Lise. I really do."
I'm an idiot, Lise thought. Here was a wonderful guy who truly loved her, and all she could think about was Elliot, who mostly treated her like crap. Except when he smiled at her and she felt herself melting...
She had to stop playing these games. After dinner, she was going to march straight to Elliot's office and tell him exactly how she felt about him. He'd probably reject her, but she knew that until she did this, she wouldn't be able to go on with her life.
Brent squeezed her hand again and wouldn't let it go for the rest of the meal.
A little known fact about Elliot was that he was actually able to walk. Not independently, of course, but if he held onto something, he could take a few steps before he completely exhausted his strength. Even though it was a lot of effort, Elliot enjoyed taking those few steps every day. It made him feel a little more normal.
This time Elliot practiced walking in his office. It was late in the evening and nobody was around so he figured he could do it without being disturbed. He pulled his wheelchair up alongside his desk and placed his palms flat on the surface. He took his feet out of the rests so that they were on the floor. Using the strength in his arms, he stood up slowly.
Immediately, Elliot got a spasm in his left leg, which happened sometimes. He hung onto the desk, waiting for the spasm to subside. It took a minute, but his leg finally relaxed.
Elliot clung to the desk as he carefully moved his right foot forward. It was more like shuffling along than actual walking, since he wasn't strong enough to lift his foot off the ground, but at least it was something. He then moved his left foot forward. Not too bad.
Just when Elliot was feeling encouraged, he suddenly felt his wrists give way and he came tumbling down to the ground. He cracked his hip against the floor and yelped with pain on the impact. The fall could have been worse though... it seemed like he was okay and nothing was broken.
But why had he fallen? He had been taking steps like this nearly every single day and never once fallen. His arms were fairly strong and able to support his body without much of a problem. Except this time his wrists seemed to just give out completely. It was the strangest thing... and the worst part was that similar incidents had been happening more and more lately. He was dropping things even more than usual.
"Elliot! Are you all right?"
He looked up and was surprised to see Lise standing in the doorway. "Lise? What are you doing here?"
"I... I was just..."
Elliot stared at Lise. She always looked very pretty but tonight she looked more beautiful than he had ever seen her. She was wearing make-up that complimented her features and a red dress that complimented her figure. Her hair hung loose and soft around her face. He felt a surge of happiness at the sight of her, which faded when he realized why she looked the way she did.
"You were on a date," Elliot stated. When she didn't reply, he added, "With Brent Armstrong."
Lise wrung her fists together. "I..."
"How long were you watching me?" Elliot challenged her. He felt a pins and needles tingling in both his hands and he made fists, trying to get rid of the sensation. He hadn't felt like this since he had his last surgery. And last time it had just been in his fingers--now he felt it all the way up his forearms.
"Not long," Lise said softly.
Elliot pictured her watching him struggling to take those few steps and then crashing to the floor. His face burned. "Did you enjoy the show?"
"Well, did you?" he nearly yelled. He didn't mean to raise his voice at her, but it just came out that way. He was good and angry now.
"What do you want me to say?" Lise shook her head. "Yeah, I saw the whole thing. Are you happy now?"
Elliot's left leg started spasming again on the floor and he massaged it best he could. He wanted to get back in his chair but the last thing he wanted right now was have Lise see him do that. He stared up at her, "You know what? Do me a favor and forget the fucking problem sets. I'll grade them myself from now on."
"You're just a first year," Elliot said, holding up his hand. "You don't know what the hell you're doing. I'm getting too many fucking complaints that they're graded badly. I'd rather just do it myself."
That was a straight out lie. It didn't take a genius to grade a few calculus problem sets and Lise was doing a good job. Not that he cared anyway. What bothered him was the thought that Lise was just doing this because she felt bad for him. He had kidded himself that maybe she was interested in him or something, but it was suddenly obvious that Brent was the one she really cared about. He could see in her eyes that she thought he was pathetic.
Aw fuck, Elliot thought as he saw the tears forming in her eyes. He hadn't wanted to hurt her feelings, but it was inevitable.
"You won't see me again," Lise promised him, her voice breaking. She spun on her heels and left his office.
Elliot let out a breath as Lise slammed the door behind her. He felt a deep sadness come over him like a black cloak and for a moment, he felt that he couldn't move. He sat on the floor, picturing Lise's lovely face. Ever since Peter got disgusted with him, Lise was the only person in the math department who tried to be friendly to Elliot anymore. And now he had pushed her away, just like everyone else.
He finally climbed back into his chair and adjusted himself to get comfortable. He still was feeling pins and needles in his arms. It was scary enough to make him forget all about Lise and her hurt feelings. What if the tumor was back? He didn't want to have another surgery; each surgery left him worse off. The first surgery left him with braces, the second left him stuck in a wheelchair. He was afraid of what the next surgery would do to him. He could wind up like Stephen Hawkings after all.
The pins and needles started to fade a bit and Elliot squeezed his hands into fists. Maybe it wasn't a tumor. Maybe he just had some carpal tunnel from using his hands too much. But he decided to pay a visit to his doctor, just to be on the safe side.
To be continued....