We make it to Pittsburgh in a record six hours, including our trip to McDonald’s. Jason drives fast. It’s the one way in which he’s a little reckless, since he seems so careful and conservative in most aspects of his life. Our conversation about sex gets quickly forgotten and we listen to the radio, and he lets me reminisce a little about Nana. I don’t feel so sad anymore because I know she had a long life, but I do miss her.

Jason parks in his own driveway, next door to ours, then transfers himself out of the car. There’s a few layers of bricks that divide his family’s property from my family’s, which I can step over easily, but I know from experience is too high for Jason to jump over in his wheelchair. He’ll have to go around them to get to my house, but I see him hesitating.

“I should probably let you go home yourself,” he says. “I don’t want to intrude.”

“Intrude?” I blink at him. “Jason, you just drove me hundreds of miles, and you’re practically family. You should come inside.”

He frowns at my comment. I don’t know why he’s so reluctant all of a sudden, but I finally convince him to come in. But of course, right after he agrees, I remember what the problem is and why we always used to hang out at Jason’s house and not mine. We’ve got two steps to get up our front porch.

Not that Jason can’t handle two steps or anything. He can. But just barely. I watch him do a wheelie in front of the steps and his front wheels just barely catch the top step and slide off. He tries again and has the same problem. “Fuck,” I hear him mutter under his breath.

On his third try, he makes it, and I’m certain for a second he’s going to slip and fall backwards or something, but I’ve never seen that happen to him before, and it doesn’t happen this time either. As his back wheels land safely on my parents’ porch, I hear him breathe a sigh of relief.

I ring the doorbell because I don’t have the keys anymore, and my mother answers within ten seconds, as if she’s been waiting by the door for us. Her eyes light up at the sight of me and gives me a big hug. “Tasha!” she cries. “It’s so good to see you!”

She doesn’t seem particularly sad about Nana. Of course, Nana wasn’t her mother, and I think she’s a little relieved to finally have her out of the house, one way or another. I don’t think Mom had counted on Nana living so long when she agreed to let Dad move her in with us.

“Jason!” she says. “Oh my god, it’s good to see you too! It’s been over a year, hasn’t it?”

He nods and gives her his half-smile. “It’s nice to see you again, Mrs. Moran.”

“You should call me Jill,” she says to him, even though she’s now told him that at least a dozen times. “After all, you’re all grown up now.”

I know there’s no way Jason will ever call my mother Jill after twenty years of Mrs. Moran.

I walk into the house and see that my mother has re-carpeted the apartment. It’s this fluffy white carpeting that you can only buy after your kids are already grown up and no longer in the phase where they spill every drink you pour them. I notice my mother is in her socks and I quickly take my shoes off at the door. I look behind me and see Jason hesitating in the entrance.

“What’s wrong?” I ask him.

“My wheels are pretty dirty,” he says in a low voice. “I don’t want to mess up your mom’s carpet.”

“Oh,” I say.

He’s running his wheels back and forth over the welcome mat and looking nervous. “Maybe I should just go,” he says.

Mom comes out and sees what the problem is and she insists that he stay, bringing a towel out from the bathroom to given him a longer space to go back and forth over to clean his wheels off. She looks kind of embarrassed and says that nobody was very happy when she got that white carpet, and that it’s been impossible to keep clean. “Also, what about when Lydia has a baby? It’s going to be a mess.”

My face burns. When Lydia has a baby? What about me? I’m going to get married too!

“So where’s Larry?” Mom asks me, as if reading my mind. “I thought we were going to get to meet him.”

“Um, no, not right now,” I mumble. “He… he really wanted to come, but things were extremely busy at work.” I’m not about to tell her that I asked Larry not to come because I felt like I couldn’t deal with both him and my family.

“Oh,” Mom says. She looks at Jason. “But don’t you and Larry work at the same company?”

Damn, when did my mother get so smart?

To my surprise, Jason replies, “No, not anymore.”


“Oh, really?” Mom asks. “Did you move to a different company?”

Jason shakes his head. “No, I quit investment banking. I couldn’t take it anymore.”

“Are you kidding?” I practically yell. “Why didn’t you say something?”

He blinks. “I don’t know. It never came up.”

“Well, when did this happen?” I sputter.

“Last week,” he says. “I got accepted to NYU for a PhD program in computer science and I decided I was sick of being miserable at work. Plus I don’t really want to be a forty year old student. So… you know, now or never.” He adds, “It’s not like I’m going to have a wedding I have to pay for in the near future.”

My mother catches that last statement and says in a gentle voice, “Jason, honey, I’m sure you’ll meet a wonderful woman someday.”

He ignores her patronizing tone. “Anyway, I’m going to start in a few weeks, so I figure I should take a break so I’m not burnt out on my first day.”

I’m blown away. Jason has been talking about doing this for years, but I was beginning to feel pretty sure he’d never actually do it, especially when he said that Melissa wanted him to hold out at the company till he was forty. I figured at this rate, he’d be totally gray by age forty, and way too worn out to consider going back to school. I guess breaking up with Melissa did him some good. I’d noticed he seemed in a good mood during our trip, but I egotistically thought it was because we were spending time together.

“So what do you think?” he asks me. He sounds a little nervous. He always wanted my approval.

“Are you kidding?” I say. “I’ve been telling you to do this for years. I think it’s great.”

Jason smiles and it’s not a half-smile but he gives me the whole smile. In the last few years, I’ve been noticing his eyes crinkle a bit when he smiles. I guess it’s a sign of aging, but to be honest, it’s incredibly sexy. I try not to think about that though as I return his smile.


Jason ends up staying for dinner. Even though Dad is too upset about his mother to say anything, I can tell he’s also wondering why I’m here with Jason instead of Larry. But of course, my family loves Jason and they’ve known him forever, so dinner is spent reminiscing about some of the dumb things the two of us did when we were kids.

After dinner, Jason goes home, and my mother immediately comments, “That poor boy.”

“What are you talking about?” I say.

Mom shakes her head. “Alice keeps saying she thinks he’s lonely,” she says. Alice is Jason’s mother. “I’m sure it’s very hard for him to meet women.”

“You know he had a serious girlfriend for the last year and a half,” I say. “They only recently broke up.”

“You’re kidding?” Mom seems amazed. I’m not sure what’s so amazing. Okay, Jason is disabled, but he’s also pretty good looking. And nice. And funny. What girl wouldn’t want to be with a guy with all those qualities?

Except me, of course. But I’m with Larry.

I help my mother wash the dishes and we watch some television. I’m dreading going to sleep, mostly because sleeping in my old room always creeps me out a little. It gives me this unsettling sense of déjà vu. But I’m exhausted from waking up so early and from the drive here, so I end up turning in early than I usually do.

My old bedroom hasn’t changed much from when I used to live here. Considering I haven’t lived here in fourteen years, that’s a little creepy. Even though I’d be a little insulted, I almost wish my mother would turn it into a sewing room or at least a normal guest room. I just feel ill when I walk into the room and see Kurt Cobain’s face plastered on the wall. I feel like I’ve stepped into a time warp.

I look into the full length mirror where I spent pretty much half my adolescence staring at myself. When I look at myself now, I don’t think I look all that different than I did then. I feel like I could still pass for sixteen, although obviously I probably couldn’t. I don’t have many wrinkles though, and no gray hairs because I’ve yanked them all out. Yet… I know I must look older somehow.

My hand brushes against a dresser and I open the top drawer. Jeans. Ripped jeans. God, did I really ever think it was cool to wear these? Well, it beats eighties fashions, I guess. I pull out a pair of well worn blue jeans and check out the label. Size 2. Size 2?! Was I ever actually a size 2? I’m not even going to attempt to squeeze into these. It would just be depressing.

I remember how I used to obsessively try on all my clothes in front of the mirror and I instinctively glance over at the house across from mine. Jason’s window is just below mine. It never even occurred to me that anyone might be watching me.

I crawl onto my bed next to the window and press my face against the glass to eliminate the reflection of the light in the room. He was right—I’ve got a great view of his room from here. I can see him in there right now, reading some giant book, probably about computers or something. He doesn’t know I’m watching him. I wave but he doesn’t look up.

I keep watching as Jason puts down the book and yawns into his hand. I expect him to disappear and go brush his teeth or something, but instead he grabs the hem of his shirt and lifts it up over his head in one swift motion.

In the past, I can’t say I was ever titillated by seeing my best friend with his shirt off. Like I said, I’ve dated some guys who were incredibly built and Jason… isn’t. He doesn’t work out and even beyond that, he’s got no muscles below the mid-chest so he’s got a gut that he probably doesn’t deserve to have, that seems out of place on a young guy who’s fairly fit. Plus he’s really white. White like the kind of guy who knows he doesn’t have a great chest so doesn’t spend much time exposing it to sunlight.

That said, I’m finding Jason oddly sexy right now. Maybe it’s the fact that he doesn’t know I’m watching him—I’ve never spied on a guy through a window, after all. Or maybe it’s the tight muscles in his arms and upper chest that I’ve felt a few times through his shirt. I don’t know what it is about the feel of a firm biceps that makes me tingle all over, but it’s something I’ve been missing since I’ve been with Larry. As I peer out the window, my hand finds its way into my pants and I discover that I’ve become incredibly wet.

I start to rub myself and then I realize what I’m doing: I’m masturbating while watching Jason undress. Jason.

And it’s so fucking hot, I can hardly breathe.

But at that moment, Jason suddenly looks up and out the window. And he sees me sitting there, watching him.

I expect him to… I don’t know what. Smile knowingly? Cock his finger at me and invite me down? Except he doesn’t do either of those things. A dark look comes over his face and he reaches over and shuts his blinds with a resounding snap I can hear all the way in my room.

What the fuck?

I hesitated, wondering if he knew what I was doing below the lower border of the windowsill. No, he couldn’t have. Except why was he so pissed off?

I pushed my feet into an old pair of comfortable loafers that I hadn’t worn in so long that they felt a bit stiff, then I hurried downstairs. It was a bit late to be knocking on the Foxs’s door, but I felt an almost desperate need to talk to Jason. I stepped over the bricks dividing our lawn from theirs, cut across their grass, trampling it like I used to do as a kid, and knocked on their front door.

After a brief hesitation, Mrs. Fox opened the door dressed in her housecoat. Since I usually came home in the winter, when the Foxs were in Florida, I hadn’t seen her in years. I was a little surprised by how old she looked. Her formerly black hair was threaded with at least 50% gray strands and she had bags under her eyes. I’d always thought Mrs. Fox was very pretty, so it was a bit of a shock.

“Tasha!” Mrs. Fox cried. I almost forgot how I spent the majority of my childhood at her house. “How are you? It’s so great to see you again!” “I’m fine,” I say politely. “How are you, Mrs. Fox?”

“Wonderful,” she says. Then her voice lowers. “Tasha, I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother.”

I nod. “Thank you. Jason was very nice to drive me out here.”

“Yes,” Mrs. Fox says, and I can tell she knows that the reason Jason dropped everything to drive me here went beyond simple niceness or friendship. I guess everyone in the world knew about Jason’s crush on me. Except me.

“Is Jason home?” I ask, even though I know he’s home.

“Of course,” Mrs. Fox says. “I’m sure he’d love to see you, Tasha.”

I wasn’t so sure all of a sudden.

Mrs. Fox leads me down the hall to Jason’s room, despite the fact that I’d probably walked down that hallway a million times in the last 25 years. There’s a knot in my stomach as I knock on Jason’s old bedroom door. When he opens the door, his shirt is back on and I realize I hadn’t imagined the dark look on his face.

“What is it, Tasha?” he mumbles.

“Can I come in?” I ask him.

He shrugs and backs up his chair so I can enter the room. I shut the door behind me. “Look, I’m sorry,” I say. “But I don’t know what you’re so pissed off about. I wouldn’t have even known I could see your room through that window if you hadn’t told me about it.”

“I’m not pissed off, Tasha,” he says, except he sounds pretty pissed off. His voice is practically a monotone.

“Then why are you acting this way?” I say.

He stares at me a minute, then his shoulders sag and he sighs. “I’m not angry at you. I just… realized what a complete idiot I’ve been.”

I look at him blankly.

He sighs again. “I spent my teenage years staring at you out that window and thinking what a goddess you were. And… you still are. When I saw you watching me get underdressed, I just realized… I’m…” He lowers his green eyes.

I have no idea what he’s talking about. “That you’re what?”

He lifts his eyes again. “Do you remember that time when we were about nine years old and our families went to the beach together?”

I get a sinking feeling in my chest. Even though it was a million years ago, I know exactly what he’s talking about. There were a few things in my life that I’m not proud of and that beach trip is one of them.

When we were nine years old, our families decided to take a trip to the beach together. I had begged my mother for a bikini and of course, she’d said no, that I was too young, but she’d bought me a hot pink bathing suit that I thought at time was very adorable.

At the beach, Jason’s mother was fussing and fretting over him as usual, and he was doing his best to try to get her away from him. He finally begged her to let him be, which she agreed to do as soon as she helped him out of his shirt, shoes, and socks.

Jason and I had been friends for over a year at that point, and I’d come to think of him as a mostly normal kid who used a wheelchair. But when he was sitting in his chair, wearing only his swim trunks, it was obvious that wasn’t the case. His legs were much too skinny, practically bony, and the way his belly jutted out didn’t help matters. He looked so disabled. For the first time, I found myself thinking that he didn’t look so different from the kids you’d see in a Jerry Lewis telethon or something. Definitely not the kind of kid a normal girl like me would be friends with.

As Mrs. Fox was digging through her bag for the sunscreen, I sat on our blanket, doing my best to avoid looking at my best friend and trying to distance myself from him as much as possible. I noticed a girl from my class, Ashley, walk by our blanket, and I excitedly called out her name.

“Tasha,” she said, looking at me coolly. Ashley was, in fact, the coolest girl in our class. She had this silky blond hair and she was wearing a bikini, like I had wanted. And she actually had some breasts developing to fill out the top. By her golden tan, I could tell this wasn’t her first beach trip this summer.

“Hey,” I said nervously. “It’s, um, a great day for the beach.”

“I suppose,” Ashley said, shrugging.

“Are you here with your family?” I asked lamely. It seemed like the more I wanted to impress Ashley, the more I seemed like an idiot.

“Yeah,” she said. “But I was just about to play a game of beach volleyball with some friends.”

“Oh,” I said. I took a deep breath. “I love beach volleyball. Could I play?”

Ashley hesitated for a minute, then her eyes fell on Jason. I felt my cheeks turning pink, wondering what she must think of him, looking like that. I wished I had sat somewhere else, so she wouldn’t realize I knew him, much less was friends with him. “Who’s that?”

At least she said “who” and not “what,” but it was obvious that was what she meant by the tone of her voice. And I was embarrassed. Embarrassed to be seen with this weird-looking crippled kid, embarrassed to admit that he was actually my best friend. “Um,” I finally said. “It’s just my neighbor.” I made a face. “My parents asked them along. So lame.”

Ashley nodded in sympathy. “Poor you. Okay, you can play with us.”

I was floored. Ashley was, like I said, the coolest girl in the class. If she liked me, then I would be cool by association. It did occur to me that Jason heard the comments we made, but he didn’t seem that bothered. Anyway, he had to understand that I was doing what I needed to do to be popular.

I did spend the entire time at the beach playing with Ashley, but unfortunately, it didn’t ultimately end up doing much to increase my popularity. But Jason never mentioned what I said again, and it didn’t seem like our friendship was affected. I always felt really guilty about it, but I thought he’d forgotten all about it.

Apparently not.

“Okay, I remember,” I say to him now, avoiding his eyes. “I’m sorry about that. But we were just kids…”

“And you pretended you didn’t know me most of the time when we were in high school together,” he reminds me.

All right, that’s true too. But seriously, I had a reputation to uphold! Jason was a geek in a wheelchair and I was a cool grunge chick.

“Look, what do you want me to say? I feel awful about it and I’m sorry.”

“I know you are,” he says. “But there’s a reason you acted that way.” He shifts in his chair. “Sometimes I forget the way I look, the way other people see me.”

“You look fine,” I insist. Fine enough that I was touching myself as I watched him undress.

He shakes his head. “I don’t ‘look fine.’ I’m disabled and I look it. And to be honest, I feel like an idiot for even suggesting you might have romantic feelings for me.” He bites his lip. “I can’t believe Melissa was crazy enough to actually want to marry me and I broke up with her. I made a huge mistake.”

“Jason, stop it,” I say.

“Stop what?” he says, his voice laced with bitterness. “Everything I’m saying is accurate. You know it.”

“It’s not…”

“You should marry Larry,” he says. “He’ll treat you well, at least. I’m sorry I ever said anything.”

“I don’t want to marry Larry!” I cry.

Jason looks up at me in surprise. As the words leave my mouth, I realize the truth in it. I don’t want to marry Larry. I don’t love him. I might even hate him. But I definitely don’t love him. The truth, which I just realized this second, is that there’s only one man I love. Only one man I’ve ever loved.

And I’m looking right at him.

“Tasha,” he says. “I know you feel guilty right now. I don’t want you to do anything that you don’t feel—”

“Just shut-up,” I say to him.

With those words, I put my arms around his neck and fall into his lap. He looks at me in amazement as I press my lips against his. It occurs to me that we kissed once before, about twenty years ago, but he’s gotten much better at it. I taste his breath, warm and sweet, as he pulls me closer to him and runs his palm up my back and into my hair. “Holy shit, Tasha,” he breathes when our lips separate for a second.

“I know,” I say.

He’s kissing me like he’s been waiting to do this his whole life, which I guess he sort of has. And he is a great kisser. No, not just great. Amazing. I’ve kissed a lot of guys in my life—not hundreds or anything, but a lot, for sure. And of all those guys, this is the most intense kiss I’ve ever been a part of. My lips are tingling and I can feel myself shaking, my heart slamming in my chest like a hammer.

Maybe part of it is that we’re in Jason’s old childhood bedroom. It makes the whole thing feel illicit in a way I haven’t felt in many years. I know that any second, Jason’s mom could do the old one-knock-and-enter bit and catch us like she did when we were eleven. Somehow that knowledge fuels the intensity, and suddenly we’re ripping each other’s clothes off.

Well, actually, he’s mostly ripping my clothes off, and I’m attempting to get his off, but he’s resisting a bit. As he kisses me, he’s wheeling us toward his bed, and when his knees bump against the bed frame, he lifts me up and places me on the bed. Damn, he’s strong. He doesn’t even grunt.

“You don’t know how long I’ve fantasized about this, Tasha,” Jason whispers in my ear. Although I have some idea, obviously.

We kiss a little bit more and then I feel him pushing me down onto the bed and spreading my legs. I feel myself tingling all over my body with excitement because I know what he’s going to do. He kisses my bare knees then the insides of my thighs as his hands caress my buttocks. I’m so wet by this point, I feel like there’s got to be a puddle under me, but he’s taking his time all of a sudden. He’s teasing me, coming close to my pussy with his mouth, then pulling back again.

I’m trembling with anticipation by the time his tongue finally makes contact with my clitoris. My eyes start to water and I gasp. I don’t know what in hell he’s doing down there, but it’s the most incredibly thing I’ve ever experienced. I cannot believe this is happening to me and that Jason is the one doing it.

I’ve never had a guy go down on me who seemed to have so much control. He keeps me on the delicious brink of orgasm for so long that when I finally cum, it’s an explosion of pleasure like nothing I’ve ever felt before. I’ve had thousands of orgasms in my life, but never anything like this before. And just as the first waves of pleasure ebb, I feel another explosion coming, then a third.

When Jason finally lifts his head, I am drenched, literally drenched, with sweat. I feel kind of disgusting and sticky, but he crawls into bed next to me anyway. He puts his arm around me and I wince because I must be cold and clammy to touch. “Sorry, I’m all sweaty,” I say.

“I don’t care,” he says and kisses me on the lips and my sweaty neck and shoulder.

I get Jason to take off his shirt and pants, and I snuggle up to his warm body. I love his naked body. It may not be as perfect as some other guys I’ve dated, but I love it because it’s his. We fit together so well that I barely noticed that Jason’s twin bed is really only big enough for one person. In fact, I feel so cozy that I immediately fall asleep.

To be continued....